by Kait Morris
The federal budget will be unveiled Feb. 11.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters on Friday the priority for the 2014 budget is to continue focusing on spending restraint so that the $17.9-billion deficit can be eliminated by the 2015-16 budget.
In the pre-budget meeting information packet, the 2014 budget was referred to as being expected to be a “steady-as-she-goes, low key document.”
Critics refer to it as a “do-nothing” federal budget and the Canadian Centre for policy Alternatives (CCPA) warns that it is likely to worsen Canada’s slowing economy.
The CCPA alternative budget focuses on reducing inequality in Canada.
“Instead, the federal government is pledging to increase inequality by continued cuts to services in 2014, paving the way for tax cuts, such as income splitting, that will provide the greatest benefit to those who need it least,” Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist for the CCPA, said in a press release.
The announcement of the 2014 federal budget comes early this year, in the middle of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Some claim this is to detract attention from the lack-lustre budget, while others claim that the earlier the budget is released, the better.
“I think too many people attribute too much significance to this,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at University of Toronto. “Everything that a politician does is by definition a political manoeuvre, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything bad behind it.”
Ted Glenn, program co-ordinator for Humber’s Public Administration program, agreed, saying that February is budget time regardless of the Winter Games.
Some people who aren’t interested in bobsled may be interested in the budget, said Wiseman. There are people interested in the games who don’t even know that the budget is being released tomorrow, he said.
There have been calls for Flaherty to shift focus on the budget towards boosting the economy and job creation after December’s reports of job losses, but January’s statistics helped mitigate this.
Flaherty’s budget is expected to include a freeze on government operating spending, a review and possible selling off of Crown assets, and closing of tax loopholes as well as increased accountability for charity groups and new pledges for long-term spending in infrastructure.
The projected surplus for 2015-16 is $3.7 billion, according to the November Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections, which is up from the projected $800 million in 2013’s budget.
Highlights from last year’s budget include:
The creation of the Canada Job grant, which offers a maximum of $5,000 for training per person.
$241 million for skills training for First Nations over the next five years.
Elimination of tariffs for most children’s clothing and imported sports goods.
An expanded tax credit for expenses related to adoption.