Jim Flaherty likes the Senate’s shiny objects

Tease the day: The upper chamber is on a budget-related winning streak

Nathan Denette/CP

The penny stole the show last year, as was the plan, when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stood in the House of Commons on March 29, 2012 and delivered his budget speech. Forget about all that other stuff, we collectively exclaimed, preparing to rid ourselves of the copper menace that had for so many years filled our piggy banks. That shiny object was, indeed, shiny enough to distract, at least for a little while, from the planned cuts elsewhere in the budget.

This year, we don’t have to wait until 4 p.m. to hear about this year’s shiny object. Both of our national newspapers, here and here, have already splashed it all over their front pages. The thing meant to distract, or at least entertain, Canadian families while they absorb whatever other life-altering details reside within Budget 2013? Cheap hockey equipment. The Globe and Mail reports that the government will announce it is “cutting tariffs on imported hockey gear as part of a pilot project to see whether the money the government loses in customs revenue is recouped in sales tax.”

What’s the motivation of this idea? None other than a well-received Senate report from last month relating to a price gap between goods sold on either side of the Canada-U.S. border. “The differences in tariff rates between Canada and United States for some hockey-related products vary between 5% for helmet facial protection to as high as 15.1% for ice hockey pants,” reads the report, which goes on to claim that “high tariffs on some products in Canada increase the retail prices to Canadian consumers by more than the value of the tariffs.”

So there you have it: a pilot project that both gives hockey families a break and, as it happens, demonstrates the value of the Senate. The upper chamber’s on a bit of a budget-related roll, having also suggested eliminating the penny in 2010. What’s the Senate working on these days, anyway? We know that’s where to look for the shiniest objects in Parliament.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s jobs-focused budget with a nod to hockey parents. The National Post fronts the shiny object in this year’s budget: cheaper hockey equipment. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the city’s increasingly doomed downtown casino proposal. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the government’s rising criminal justice costs in the wake of falling crime rates. iPolitics fronts the many risks Flaherty faces when he tables his budget today. leads with five items to watch for in the budget. National Newswatch showcases a CBC News story about criticism of Flaherty’s moves to discourage banks from lowering mortgage rates.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Enbridge. The clean-up cost of the largest on-shore oil spill in U.S. history could mean a $1-billion hit to Enbridge, the company behind the ruptured pipeline in Michigan. 2. Nuclear cleanup. Canada’s atomic energy agency released new numbers regarding the cost of nuclear cleanup, now claiming long-term costs will rise to $6 billion.
3. Doctor shortage. Rural Canada faces such demand for general practitioners that several provinces are offering substantial cash incentives to recent medical graduates willing to leave cities. 4. Charbonneau. Frank Zampino, the right-hand man of former Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, was the ringleader of collusion in the city’s construction industry, according to testimony.

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