Flaherty: “We will not spend recklessly”

Jim Flaherty has just released his eighth and – with a cabinet shuffle expected this summer – likely final budget.

Flaherty said it was the right budget for the right time. “In uncertain global economic times, the most important contribution a government can make to bolster confidence and growth is to maintain a sound fiscal position.”

The focuses of the finance minister’s 400-plus page document were to knock down Canada’s $25 billion federal deficit, curtail spending and create new jobs.

The quick analysis shows there’s very little in the way of new spending – less than $1 billion – according to the CBC. The Conservatives estimate that spending controls will shrink the deficit down to $18 billion by 2014.

The highlight of the budget is The Canada Jobs Grant, which promises to train and match people to real jobs. Each trainee will get $5,000 from the government, plus matching $5,000 grants from provinces and employers. There will also be a continuation of tax breaks for small businesses, including hiring incentives for companies and extended breaks for the manufacturing sector.

The other big announcement was the Building Canada Fund – $47 billion in infrastructure spending that will allow cities to repair crumbling sewer systems, roads and sidewalks. This money is  expected to create new jobs. (For more a detailed budget breakdown, click here.)

For older Canadians, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy Susan Eng said that while the budget did have some modest measures for older Canadians, it “contained little to address their priority concerns: retirement security, seniors’ poverty and equitable access to healthcare, affordable drugs and home care.”

Eng identified the measures that should help Canadians, including:

  • The GST/HST exemption for publicly funded home care services will now extend to personal care services. While this will make it easier for the provinces to afford to provide more such services, it will depend on the provinces to choose to offer such services. This a priority need for older Canadians and their family caregivers – so every bit helps. More direct income support for the family caregivers would have been better. Nonetheless, $5 million in foregone GST/HST revenues is budgeted for each of 2013-14 and 2014-15.
  • Funding for training in palliative care to front line health care providers to the extent of $3 million over three years. Palliative care as part of the whole care continuum is a critical need and more training is an important first step. Much more resources need to be allocated to the sector immediately so that those getting the training will have the jobs and programs to actually provide more palliative care to Canadians.
  • Protection against Financial Fraud, especially for seniors is a welcome measure although it consists of plans for consultations, raising awareness and improving financial literacy for seniors. While attention to this issue is commendable, the government failed to bolster the one existing agency, OBSI, which had the investor protection mandate. No other investor protection agency exists that would champion investor rights including being able to get restitution for losses due to predatory practices or inappropriate advice. The government’s proposed Common Securities Regulator held the promise of creating such an investor protection agency and remains a needed measure.
  • Older workers can also benefit from the Canada Job Grant providing matching funds for needed training. Together with the job match programs under the Third Quarter initiative from the 2012 budget, older workers will have a better chance at getting and keeping needed jobs.