Finance Minister Jim Flaherty revealed the federal budget Tuesday. With a $2.9 billion deficit and a $3 billion contingency fund, the budget is close to being balanced. Flaherty says it will be by 2015. A lot of the spending in the budget is focused on job creation initiatives, like $75 million over three years to assist unemployed older workers and $15 million over three years to help employ people with developmental disabilities.
However, Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder says the budget missed the mark in many ways, and much of the funding announced won’t kick in until 2015.
There aren’t a lot of really high profile items in the budget and West Vancouver Sunshine Coast Conservative John Weston says that’s become the hallmark of this finance minister.
The federal budget does include $1.5 billion dollars over the next decade for post-secondary institutions to fund research that creates “long-term economic advantages for Canada”. Dan Hurley, executive director of University Relations at VIU says that’s good news. Hurley says he’s also happy to see a modification to the Canada Apprenticeship Loan program that will offer interest-free loans to students learning Red Seal trades.
There isn’t a lot of infrastructure spending in the budget, but Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney says the $391 million over five years to repair aging infrastructure at Canada’s National Parks is likely to benefit the Island.
Lunney also says he’s pleased to see his government extending a tax break offered in 2011 to volunteer firefighters to cover volunteers working with ground search and rescue teams and the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue. Volunteers have to spend at least 200 on the job to qualify. Nanaimo Search and Rescue Team Leader Kyle Van Delft says that’s great news, since 200 hours is the minimum their members have to commit to every year.
Finally, for the first time in a long time, the so-called sin taxes featured prominently in the federal budget. Higher excise taxes on tobacco will bring the government $685 million in 2014-15. They’ll also be adjusted automatically every five years depending on inflation.