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Editorials

Federal Budget 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014   by: Mac Headrick

 On Tuesday the Conservatives in Ottawa released their latest budget. Did you know the budget is a 419 page document? I wonder how anyone beside newspaper or think tanks with large staffs can really process budgets. Actually I doubt that most politicians and the Prime Minister staff really grasp anymore than the bare essentials of such vast economic statements. In today’s column I will present my (very limited but insightful) views on the budget. 

The budget was described as boring, signifying little, with its main purpose being to set things up for the next election. If this was the reason for this budget it doesn’t bother me. In a democracy the elected party has the right to determine and try to influence the economy. Canadians will eventually have the opportunity to pass judgment. 

There were several things I liked about Tuesday’s budget. I will list them below. 

  1. 1.5 billion over ten years to support research and invocation at post-secondary institutions.
  2. 11.4 million over four years to expand vocational training for Canadians with autism spectrum disorder. I know 11.4 million isn’t a lot of money but it is a start.
  3. $305 million over five years to expand and upgrade broadband service in rural areas.
  4. The following item hasn’t received much attention but I strongly support it. The Canadian government is committed to establishing a national missing person DNA data base.

 I had a career in education, grew up in the country, and have an autistic son, and support the use of DNA. My point is that even a “boring” budget can do some good. 

This past Thursday David Orazietti issued a press release stating the federal government is short changing the people of Ontario by failing to provide $641 million dollars in support of public programs. Now, our federal Conservative representative Bryan Hayes dismissed this view as just political posturing by the provincial Liberals. Who is right in these opposing views? In this case I support Bryan Hayes. I reached this conclusion by using deductive reasoning. 

Ontario’s Liberal government spent $1.2 billion dollars to cancel the construction of two gas plants to win two seats in the last provincial election. In a failed attempt to win the by-election in Niagara last week Premier Wynne announced $100 million in new spending. We have public servants earning $1.7 million a year. One billion dollars was wasted at eHealth Ontario according to an Auditor General’s report. There is not enough room in this column to outline the money misspent by successive Liberal governments in Ontario. My point is how much credibility and/or sympathy can anyone have when Premier Wynne complains of Ontario not “getting its fair share” but then making flagrant statements of new spending? 

I noticed our local federal member Bryan Hayes made it a point to announce that he doesn’t feel there will be any further job reduction in Sault Ste Marie due to Conservative spending cuts. A major point of Tuesday’s budget is there will be further $3 billion dollar spending cuts over the next two years. I believe Mr. Hayes has become very sensitive to local job losses experienced due to federal spending reductions. The following is just my opinion. In a small community any job loss is more significant, than for example in Toronto or other largely populated areas. Forget that Sault Ste Marie is represented by a Conservative or any other party. The question remains will our city be situated to participate in an improved economy? 

Of course the opposition in Ottawa criticized the Conservative budget but it really doesn’t have much impact. The Liberal Party stated the Conservatives do not have a plan for the middle class. Fair enough but what is the Liberal plan? This is a trick question because the Liberal Party at this time has no plan. Now this statement isn’t a criticism but a fact. According to Justin Trudeau whenever he is asked about the Liberal economic plan he states it will be revealed in time for the next election. Now you may disagree or approve of the direction the Conservatives economic direction but at least you know what it is. 

Of course the NDP have stated their economic focus. For the record in a lot of areas the NDP isn’t that much different than the Conservatives. For the specifics on the above statement I recommend Toronto Stars columnist Thomas Walkom’s column from September 10/2013. The problem for the NDP is whenever they come up with a popular idea it will be stolen and repackaged by either the Conservatives or Liberals. In addition the NDP doesn’t have the credibility of the Conservatives (right or wrong) when it comes to economic matters. 

The budget eliminated a hiring credit for small businesses to help offset the cost of employment insurance premiums. It also outlines plans to keep unemployment insurance premiums at higher levels than needed so that will raise an additional $13.7 billion dollars from 2015-18. Conservatives love to state they are the masters at reducing personal taxes. The reality is the average working Canadian, through unnecessary increased unemployment insurance premiums (taxes), will fund the Conservative surplus. 

The following two observations on Tuesday’s budget may prove to be significant or irrelevant in the future, only time will tell. The Conservatives are banking on a robust economy to insure electoral success in the next federal election. I believe this is smart politics. Less we forget Paul Martin had a balanced budget and a large surplus when he loss the election to the Conservatives in 2006. Jim Flaherty has expressed some reservations on the Conservative commitment to income splitting. I agree with Mr. Flaherty’s concerns on this. Is there the beginning of a split in the Conservative fortress? I never believed the loss of the government by Paul Martin was as much to do with Liberal policies as the Martin/Chretien feud. 

As I see it the Conservative Party accomplished what it set out to do with Tuesday’s budget. Perhaps it was boring but it wasn’t without some positives (in my opinion). I have a confession to make. I like finance minister Jim Flaherty. I may disagree on some things but Mr. Flaherty supports Community Living Associations. Apparently he is not afraid to publicly state his opinion which is very rare in the Stephen Harper led Conservatives.

Comments
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Javaman 2/15/2014 11:05:46 AM Report

Canadians are not ready for Mr. Mulcair. Canadians will really take a hard look at Mr. Trudeau as the election get closer. In the end I suspect the conservatives will win a MINORITY government and Mr. Mulcair and the NDP will be totally embarrassed at how poorly they did. What is your hunch ??
mac headrick 2/15/2014 11:29:08 AM Report

I know that it isn't publicly stated by the NDP but as I predicted the day after the last election the Orange Wave in Quebec wasn't realistic. The NDP would need four years to try and to hold on to some of the seats.

If Canadians take a "hard" look at Justin then the Liberals are in trouble. Trudeau has to avoid directly debating either Harper or Mulcair.I suspect the Liberal message will be as follows "I feel your pain; Canadians deserve better; I can help". It will be successful.

To directly answer your question Conservative minority that may be a possibility. The Conservatives are afraid of Justin Trudeau and plan to personally attack (ad wise).So I agree with you.

The NDP embarassed, of course not who can actually embarass a politician; reduced seat numbers yes.

I have read that the NDP seems to be getting a positive response to their issues you know the small ones band fees, atms etc. I personally do not understand this but time will tell.
Oldie Goldie 2/16/2014 8:18:46 AM Report

Javaman- Mulcair is the only one that asks the tough questions of Harper in Parliament. Trudeau seems to be a follower rather than a Leader.

If Trudeau does not come out with clear Policies that reach the Voters then Harper will win a Minority Government with Mulcair as the Official Opposition and Trudeau the Leader of the third Party again.

Perhaps we might be looking at a New Democrat--Liberal Coalition to get Harper out !
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