Booooooooooring. It's called the "Boring Budget," but the 2014 Federal Budget has a great many interesting implications for the nation was he head into an election year in 2015.
First things first, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty played up the fact that next year we'll be in surplus to the tune of nearly $6.5 billion. Further, the budget is technically balanced this year, but the nearly $3 billion deficit for fiscal 2014-15 accounts for a $3 billion "cushion" created by the department. If you think this is really well timed, you're not alone, and the Conservatives seemed reticent to revel in the (apparent) good timing of this fiscal news. Still, the government offered no new tax cuts, and introduced no new service cuts in the 2014 budget.
There was, however, some new spending, and it was nothing overly lavish or controversial. There was money for national parks, snow mobile trails, bridges, wireless infrastructure and R&D for the auto sector. There were also promises to look into the price gap of products cross-border, a move to cap roaming charges, and to stop senators from putting their suspended time off towards the collection of their pension. All of those will be introduced in later legislative measures in the House.
Amongst the things not in the budget is new money for veterans affairs, in either the form of expanded mental health services or the re-opening of several regional offices that were closed under heavy protest. What was there, however, was an expansion of funeral reimbursements for veterans of limited means and a couple of billion dollars to update and expand the veterans affairs website, which will undoubtedly mean a lot to all those seniors who were out in force and fighting mad about the office closures.
The government is also doubling down on the controversial Canada Jobs Grant program with a start dat of April 1 despite the fact that not a single province or territory has agreed to the program and created a framework to implement it.
The CBC outlined the main highlights from the budget, which are listed below:
- No major tax cuts, spending falls for 3rd year in a row.
- $2.9 billion deficit this year, $6.4 billion surplus next year (2015-16).
- New Canada Job Grant starts April 1, with or without agreement of the provinces and territories.
- Retired public sector workers will pay twice as much for voluntary medical benefits.
- $500 million over 2 years to an Automotive Innovation Fund for research and development.
- $1.5 billion over 10 years for a Canada First Research Excellence Fund to fund research at post-secondary institutions.
- $391.5 million over 5 years for highways, bridges, dams in National Parks.
- Interest-free loans for apprentices and funding for new internships where skilled workers are needed.
- Money for bridges in Windsor and Montreal but details for Building Canada infrastructure fund still to come.
- $10 million more over 2 years for snowmobile and recreational trails.
- Legislation to cap wholesale domestic wireless roaming costs.
- $305 million over 5 years to expand rural high-speed internet.
- Legislation promised to tackle cross-border price gaps — but no details.
- Tax on cigarettes rises $4 to $21 a carton — a jump of about 50 cents per pack.
- Government will bring regulation to Bitcoin, the virtual currency, to ensure it isn't used for money laundering.
- Online casinos, charities and amateur sport groups will be scrutinized to prevent links to organized crime and foreign terrorists.
- Legislation promised to stop suspended senators from accruing pension time.
- Creation of a DNA-based missing persons index.