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P.E.I. finance minister pleased with new federal budget

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-03-20 Tony Davis
a man wearing a suit and tie: 'We have some really good programs on the move now right here in P.E.I. so we want to make sure that everything we are doing we can complement them, or add on,' says Finance Minister Heath MacDonald. © CBC News: Compass 'We have some really good programs on the move now right here in P.E.I. so we want to make sure that everything we are doing we can complement them, or add on,' says Finance Minister Heath MacDonald.

P.E.I's Finance Minister Heath MacDonald says he thinks measures announced in Tuesday's new federal budget align well with what the province is doing. 

The budget announced new programs to expand rental housing and make first-time home ownership easier — which MacDonald hopes will help address P.E.I.'s housing crisis. 

"It actually is aligning ourselves very well with what the federal government is doing, some of the initiatives," MacDonald told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier in an interview Wednesday.

"There's lots in here to digest and over the next few days we will be taking a deep dive into this and seeing where we can collaborate as much as possible to give Islanders the most benefit." 

Possibility of collaboration

MacDonald said it is yet to be determined how money will be spent on programs and how much will go to build new housing. 

The new program announced in the budget, the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, is for those with an annual household income less than $120,000 per who can put down a five per cent down payment. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will pay up to 10 per cent of the value of a newly-built home in return for an equity stake in the home repayable in the future. 

Right now, the province has a down payment assistance program Islanders have been using, MacDonald said. In the next few days his department will look into how the two programs can mesh, including talking to CMHC. 

"We want to look to see if there are any possibility we can collaborate with this program and with the existing program we have."

Money for municipalities 

Provinces won't be the only ones who could receive assistance. There is also a $2.2 billion gas fund where cash will flow directly to municipalities and the provinces don't have a say.

MacDonald said the province will likely end up partnering with those municipalities on their infrastructure projects anyway.

"I think it's a great announcement for the municipalities," he said. "With growth comes those obstacles and impediments, so alleviating some of that pressure through the federal government on this budget should help those municipalities overcome those."

'We're in a good position'

MacDonald said the new budget touched on pretty much everything including arts and culture, tourism, supply management, income loss for trade arrangements, and skills training.

He's now working on preparing the provincial budget and said the federal budget has set him up for success.

"We're in a good position," he said. "It's a good time to be finance minister on P.E.I., I can tell you that, things are booming, things that we are doing seems to be working and growing the economy."

MacDonald will likely deliver his budget the first week of April, he said.

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