Excessive federal government spending, a growing national debt, and the need to overhaul the tax system were top of mind for those attending pre-budget consultations of local MP Blake Richards.

Richards wrapped up his annual pre-budget consultations on Jan. 17 and found many residents across the constituency expressed common concerns.

"The primary thing, without a doubt, was a general feeling that there's a lack of responsibility in how our tax dollars are spent," says Richards, "and lack of accountability, and transparency around that. That absolutely underpins everything. People ask, where's the money being spent? We're sure paying a lot of tax, and we don't see its results."

Participants overwhelmingly supported the return to balanced budgets. They also expressed a desire to see the health care crisis addressed, a reduction of government red tape, and eliminating the barriers for small businesses and major projects in our oil and gas sector.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadians will see five federal tax hikes in 2023. That includes the carbon tax, climbing to $65 per tonne from $50. At the pumps alone, that's a three cents per litre increase in the price of gasoline and diesel on Apr. 1.

"We're seeing that triple over time, and I think when you talk about heating your home and driving your car to work, these are necessities in our communities, so it's pretty concerning," says Richards.

Richards believes the growing debt and out-of-control spending of the federal government is a major cause of record-high inflation. He says we're feeling the ill effects of the government introducing more money into the economy

"Now the government has decided to fight inflation with interest rate increases. Well, what that does is lead to a recession, and has a major impact on all Canadians."

It's particularly concerning for those retired or preparing for retirement.

"For someone who's just retired and is now on a fixed income, when groceries go up 20-30 per cent, that's a pretty big increase on what is a big portion of your budget. It's a difficult thing to manage."

Richards says concern over government spending has been repeatedly expressed in recent pre-budget consultations.

"It's certainly has been something I've heard over the last five or six years since the first budget the Trudeau government put out, and it seems to be getting worse over time. Taxes keep going up, debt keeps piling on, and people have less and less hope for the future, so we need some solutions."

Richards says there was support for the Conservative's "Pay As You Go" plan he says equates to how Canadians handle their household budget

"If you have a new expenditure that you have to add, you've got to find some savings somewhere else to pay for that. You can't keep putting it on your credit card over and over again. That's really what the government is doing. They're putting the cost of the government on their credit card, and that's not sustainable. You can't do that forever, so something's got to change."

Richards says the Conservatives will continue to advocate for lowering expenditures before the budget is tabled. No firm date has been announced for the budget address. Last year, it took place on Apr. 7. 

"We're going to continue to advocate that the government needs to show some respect for taxpayers' dollars, make sure they're spending it wisely, and find ways to ensure that we provide all the services needed but do it in the least expensive ways so Canadians can keep a little more money in their pocket."

Richards’ online survey continues to be accessible online here for those who wish to provide input.

The Canadian Government's public consultation continues until Feb. 10. The link is here.

Richards held three sessions across the constituency, including one in Cochrane on Jan. 16.