Andrew Willis: A budget that will play well at Tim Hortons

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Andrew Willis, a columnist with the Globe and Mail
(Listen to the original audio)

The federal Conservatives talk about voters in terms of their coffee tastes. I am not making this up.
Stephen Harper and his gang sit around in meetings, sipping their own java, and discuss how to win the hearts and minds of the people who line up at Tim Hortons every day.

That's the vast middle class. They drink double-doubles.They indulge in the occasional cruller. And if they start voting Tory, then Prime Minister Harper gets the majority government he so desparately wants.

Which brings us to the latest budget, and the Tax-Free Savings Account. The new savings plan was the centrepiece of the budget. It allows Canadian to set aside $5,000 annually, and pay no tax on the income. They can take out the money any time they wish.

Wealthy Canadians couldn't care less about this tax break.They drop five grand a year at Starbucks. It's pocket money.

The only meaningful tax break for the rich would have been elimination of the capital gains tax. That would have been huge for anyone with a serious investment portfolio.

But killing the capital gains tax is just too expensive to consider right now, even though the Conservatives promised to do just that a few years back.

And it wouldn't play as well in Tim Hortons.

Now the Tax-Free Savings Account, that's something any double-double drinker can embrace. It's a middle class tax break. It's a better way to set aside money for a new car, or a cottage. Things that rich Canadians buy without even dipping into their savings.

The latte drinkers on Bay Street didn't get much in this budget. They don't much care for Stephen Harper.
But the $5,000 savings plan was aimed right at the folks in Tims. As this tax break registers with voters, the Conservatives should pick up support.

-- For the Business Network, I'm Andrew Willis in Toronto

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