Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Budget Falls Short

Paul Martin's minority government delivered its first budget today amidst great fanfare and ceremony. For weeks it had been known that the government would have to compromise in order to get the budget through commons. Ralph Goodale held dozens of meetings with opposition MPs in an effort to reach an agreement. And that they did. The Liberals made a deal with the devil.

Paul Martin's government needed twenty votes from outside the party for the budget to pass and the government to survive. That number could have easily been met from the NDP and the Bloc, but instead Canada's left will be voting against the Liberal budget en masse. Paul Martin will pick up the votes he needs from the Conservatives.

"There's nothing in this budget that would justify an election at this time," Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said before Goodale had even finished reading the budget speech in the House of Commons.

"In fact, I'm a lot happier than I thought I'd be. The major priorities in this budget are Conservative priorities."
That's definetly what I want to hear, that the priorities of the Liberal budget are Conservative priorities. The left is, obviously, furious:

"A lot of money for the army but nothing for the unemployed," groused Gilles Duceppe, leader of the 44-MP Bloc Quebecois.

"We can't support that. We'll be against that budget."

NDP Leader Jack Layton said corporate tax cuts "came completely out of the blue," while money for cities is being rolled out painfully slowly.
The highlites of Ralph Goodale's budget read like something from the Conservative platform: $7B in tax cuts that only provide an $400 to middle income families. $13B in new military spending, a 2% corporate tax cut, increased RRSP limits etcetera etcetera.

Well that's excellent. Let's hand some more money over to the wealthiest Canadians and huge multinationals. And let's give the military more money, that way we might be able to stand up to an invasion by Luxenbourg. Let's not spend money where it's needed, let's not make sure Kyoto is enforced properly, let's not give real money to the cities, let's not give a real tax cut to our poorest citizens, let's just throw away the surplus.

On top of that, much of the new spending is backloaded, not actually coming today but promised for the future. This is the first budget in years that includes spending to occur five years from now. Of particular concern in this regard is municipal spending which will be handed out at a snail's pace over the next half decade. The vaunted $1B 'Clean Fund' actually only gets $10M of funding this year and $50M next year. Spending on Kyoto is only $86M this year and $166M next year before jumping to $511M. All of this spending is, of course, tied to the promise of the Liberals being re-elected, because a Conservative government would certainly want to create their own financial targets. Therefore, this budget is more of a campaign promise than an honest attempt to use our surplus to make the country a better place.

In the end, it was Jack Layton who best summed up the feelings of many Canadians tonight.

"There's a certain sense of betrayal right now setting in."
You're telling me...


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