A light rail network in Surrey is one of the transit projects that could get money from a new billion-dollar-a-year federal Public Transit Fund.

Federal budget rewards ‘rich’ seniors, funds transit

TFSA, RRIF changes help well-off retirees, while a $1-billion-year fund is earmarked for public transit

Seniors and savers are the big winners in the federal budget, while the Conservative government also pledged money for transit upgrades and a new maritime centre in Vancouver to shore up votes in B.C.

A new $1-billion-a-year Public Transit Fund was unveiled that along with other infrastructure funds could deliver the federal share of money for the Metro Vancouver mayors’ proposed transit expansion plan, including new rapid transit lines in Surrey and Vancouver.

Metro mayors say the new fund should ensure the more than $1.5 billion in federal contributions assumed under their plan will materialize, provided area voters pass a referendum to raise their share through a sales tax hike.

“The fact there is new federal money focused on transit is excellent for this region,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said. “However we have to make sure we can bring our regional portion to the table.”

RELATED:Federal budget costs Coast Guard, B.C. revenues

The big personal finance change in the budget is an increase in the annual contribution limit from $5,500 to $10,000 for Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) effective immediately.

TFSA contributions don’t generate a tax deduction but the interest, stock dividends and capital gains earned within them aren’t taxed and the money can be withdrawn at any time.

The higher limit will be useful to well-off seniors who must withdraw more than they need from retirement accounts. They and others will be able to gradually shield more money from tax within TFSAs rather than taxable investment accounts.

Critics say the change mainly benefits the wealthy and will threaten federal tax flows over time as more Canadian wealth is tax sheltered.

“This is so blatantly for the very rich,” said Lorraine Logan, president of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of B.C.

She said the budget will appeal to wealthy retirees but is silent on the concerns of lower-income seniors, from affordable housing to sustaining federal health transfers to the provinces.

A second key change will give more flexibility to retirees with Registered Retirement Income Funds. While RRSP contributions earn a tax deduction, seniors later pay tax on RRIF withdrawals and there’s a minimum withdrawal rates that rise each year after age 71.

The budget reduces those minimum withdrawals modestly, allowing seniors to keep more money tax shielded in RRIFs longer.

People caring for a terminally ill family member will now be able tap compassionate care benefits under Employment Insurance for six months instead of six weeks.

The Tories also pledged to cut the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent by 2019 on the first $500,000 earned.

The federal budget is balanced for the first time since 2008, with a $1.4-billion surplus that will go to pay down the debt.

Home builders applauded a targeted home renovation tax credit for seniors to help them make their homes more accessible. It rebates up to $1,500 out of $10,000 of spending on items like wheelchair ramps and walk-in bathtubs.

On the spending site, items for B.C. include $3 million to match provincial contributions to develop an International Maritime Centre in Vancouver to promote B.C. as a maritime centre and best-in-class transportation and logistics hub.

And $2 million is pledged to help the Pacific Salmon Foundation study survival problems of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Salish Sea.

Part of the budget touts federal oil spill response preparedness but also commits to fund nearly $14 million in scientific research over five years on “the behaviour of oil in freshwater in order to contribute to the knowledge base to effectively respond to oil spills in some of the highest risk areas in Canada.”

Just Posted

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

UPDATE: Wind warning ends for Metro Vancouver after thousands lose power

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Agassiz tech training to connect generations

Upcoming event will have youth teaching technology to older residents

UPDATE: 24-year-old Lovepreet Dhaliwal ID’d as victim in targeted Abbotsford shooting

Location of shooting the same as where innocent bystander Ping Shun Ao killed in 2015

Week in Review – January 19

Movie filming, water upgrades and more

Cougar window shops at Banff grocery store

An RCMP officer spots a cougar outside an Alberta grocery store

Chilliwack’s David Lee Roth wannabe denied bail on underage sex crime charges

Unusual history of David Kuntz-Angel includes being known for impersonating the rock star

Police fear fewer fentanyl imports don’t signal the end of the overdose crisis

RCMP say it’s just as likely that criminal are getting more clever

UPDATE: Two people die in ATV accident south of Campbell River

Third person survived attempt to cross a creek

Justice group, fellow trustee, defending B.C. school trustee

Chilliwack school trustee facing increasing pressure to resign over LGBTQ beliefs

Coal dust escaping rail cars spurs B.C. petition

Local governments are on board with Shuswap resident’s request for better control of escaping particulate

Lawyers slam ‘de facto expulsion’ of student guilty of sexual interference

Calgary student guilty of sexual assault of a minor allowed to finish semester

B.C. NDP set to restructure union bargaining

School trustees to regain control over employer group

Most Read