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Living Today by Roldan Sevillano Jr.Federal Budget 2013

Federal FInance Minister, Jim Flaherty - photo by JOSHUA SHERURCIJ, WIKIPEDIA
Federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty
photo by Joshua Sherurcij, from Wikipedia
Recently the Federal Government released their latest budget entitled the Economic Action Plan 2013 and with it a flurry of programs, some old, some new and some rebranded in hopes of stimulating the economy and taking Canada out of a 25 billion dollar deficit by 2015.

This year’s budget focuses on four priorities: Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Skills Training and improving the integrity of Canada’s tax system. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promises to balance Canada’s books without digging into the pockets of taxpayers, a bold promise considering that Canada is far from a stable recessional recovery.

Skills Training

One of the centerpieces of this budget is a program called The Canada Jobs Grant. In essence, the Federal Government is prepared to provide an individual with as much as $5,000 towards skills training and hopes to seek cooperation with the provinces, territories and employers to match the contribution to a maximum benefit of $15,000. This program aims to connect unemployed Canadians with 220,000 job vacancies across the country with emphasis on employment opportunities for the disabled, youth and aboriginals. In principle, it’s always encouraging to see federal and provincial governments working together alongside the private sector to ensure Canadians are able to access the training they need to get jobs in high-demand fields. Having said that, this grant requires provinces and territories to match federal contributions. If they cannot contribute, provinces and territories are barred from accessing the program. In addition, this program will not be available for five years. I think it’s a step in the right direction but there needs to be provisions in place to ensure that cash-strapped provinces like Manitoba, a province that already relies heavily on transfer and equalization payments, a fair opportunity to benefit from this potentially helpful program.

Infrastructure

Economic Action Plan 2013 has introduced a new 10-year infrastructure funding commitment starting next year with particular emphasis on investments towards First Nations communities. What is not mentioned is that in the short term, Budget 2013 dramatically cuts new infrastructure funding for provinces, territories and municipalities. We will see a drop in new funding for the Building Canada Fund from $1.7 billion in 2013-14 to $210 million for each of 2014-15 and 2015-16. On the flipside, it’s good to see that the government recognizes the need to revitalize Canada’s infrastructure as a strong priority reflected in their budget. Communities all across the country will inevitably benefit from this funding and jobs will be created. My only beef is that from the 53 billion of dollars the government has allocated to infrastructure investment, this budget only offers 3.3 billion dollars in new funding for each of 2014-15 and 2015-16, a figure that I believe in the short-term falls short in realistically addressing Canada’s infrastructure demands today.

Baby clothes and hockey sticks

One encouraging item that Budget 2013 proposes is a 76 million dollar relief on sporting goods and kids clothing tariffs. In effect, this will likely reduce the retail cost of these items being sold in Canada and will bring us closer to the often cheaper prices found south of the border. I don’t know if this will translate to fewer road trips to the Mall of America but it will certainly provide parents of young families, especially new immigrant families who are unable to travel to the States, with prices closer to the competitive US market right here in Canada.

Deficit

Minister Flaherty projects Canada’s current 25.9 billion dollar deficit will be reduced to 18.6 billion by the next budget, 6.6 billion the year after and a surplus of 800 million by 2015. Further government estimates put Canada at a 5.6 billion dollar surplus by 2018. Only time will tell if these numbers truly do hold up. At the end of the day, economic forecasts are often as accurate as spring flooding forecasts. With this in mind I would hope that this encourages us to always be prepared and exercise financial responsibility in our own personal economies.

Other notable mentions:

  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will be amalgamated with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
  • $1 billion over five years for aerospace and research, a fund that will hopefully benefit Manitoba’s aerospace industry.
  • Gas tax fund for cities to increase two per cent each year.
  • $119 million over five years to transition homeless off the streets.
  • Refund for veterans’ funerals and burials doubled to $7,376.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty read this year’s budget inside the House of Commons on Thursday, March 21st. Opposition MP’s had until the end of March to debate and table amendments before the major confidence vote. The final stage of the budget is the passing of implementation legislation, which is set to happen some time in April, possibly May.

For a more detailed version of Budget 2013, visit www.budget.gc.ca.

Sources:

http://www.budget.gc.ca

Roldan Sevillano is the Executive Assistant to Kevin Lamoureux, MP Winnipeg North. For questions or comments on this article, you can e-mail him at roldan@4kevin.ca

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