The federal Conservatives yesterday tabled Canada’s budget for 2014: Here are some highlights.
The Defence Department was effectively stripped of more than $3 billion it had planned to spend on major new military purchases in the near future, in what amounts to the second major setback it’s faced in as many weeks.
In its latest budget, the Conservative government announced it will reclaim the $3.1 billion in cash it had planned to allocate to the military over the coming years but restore in four years, so the gear can be bought then.
Here is a look at some of the budget's main points:
- 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.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair noted the budget lays out plans to hire "hundreds of food inspectors" and spend "hundreds of millions of dollars on food inspection" after cutting from those areas in past budgets.
"It's never too late to do the right thing, but actually is too late for some of the people who've gotten sick, and in the case of the listeriosis crisis, lost their lives," Mulcair said.
Lack of details
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says the budget has very little vision.
"But ultimately there is no plan that is going to respond to the concerns of middle-class Canadians, who are worried about their jobs, worried about their children's future and worried about their retirements," Trudeau said.
"This government has run out of ideas and is demonstrating it once again."
Despite advance hints of consumer-driven measures and help for youth employment, the budget contains mostly vague promises and small programs aimed at big problems, with most spending set to start after 2014.
Big investments include $500 million over two years to an auto sector innovation fund, $1.5 billion over 10 years for research post-secondary institutions and $391 million over five years to repair aging infrastructure at Canada's National Parks.
The free-market Conservatives promise to make it illegal to charge Canadians more for products that are cheaper in the U.S. by giving the Competition Bureau the mandate and powers to go after clear price gouging. It’s not clear what would qualify as price gouging, but details are expected in the next few months.
On youth unemployment, the government promises to “review the Youth Employment Strategy to better align it” with the modern job market and is continuing its focus on apprenticeships and careers in the skilled trades. The budget promises a Canada Apprentice Loan to provide interest-free loans to apprentices registered in certain trades, as well as $40 million for up to 3,000 internships in high-demand fields over the next two years.
Mulcair said there are 300,000 more Canadians looking for work now than in 2008, with 260,000 young people looking for a job.
"They would have liked to have seen something like a hiring tax credit in this budget," Mulcair said outside the House of Commons.
"There's simply not very much in this budget."