Politics on TV: Budget Day extravaganza

Recapping Budget Day coverage

Highlights from Budget Day coverage:

  1. Thomas Mulcair
  2. Bob Rae
  3. Jim Flaherty

Thomas Mulcair:

In his reaction scrum, Mulcair decried that 240,000 young Canadians don’t have jobs, that the Conservatives have created a huge debt for the provinces, and that there was a proposed “workfare” program for First Nations, which he called a slap in the face and paternalistic. (Note: Evan Solomon and Amanda Lang couldn’t find reference to this in the budget documents). “You cannot austere your way out of a crisis,” Mulcair said, and said it was wrong to put all of their eggs into the “extraction basket” while emptying out the “balanced economy.” He did like that FedNor is being made a ministerial-level institution, which he credited to the actions of his Northern Ontario caucus. He added that Flaherty’s growth projections were wrong last year, and that they’d be wrong again next year. In response to a question, he said that an NDP government would take a different approach by looking at the long-term social and economic effects of their policies.

On Power & Politics, Mulcair added that it’s a good thing there is more money for cities, but that it’s a bit of a shell game because it doesn’t account for inflation. He said the skills training program was poor public administration because it simply took some of the money back that they were giving to the provinces in order to put a Canadian flag on it. He elaborated on his First Nations “workfare” comments, and said that they refer to the investments in training for on-reserve Aboriginals on income assistance, but which are only available if participation is mandatory. Regarding the news that CIDA is being amalgamated under Foreign Affairs, Mulcair said it could make sense if the money flows, but he is concerned it is simply masking a cut.

On Power Play, Mulcair said that the budget puts up numbers that are unrealistic, and that this is a “transitional budget,” which makes nice with the public after the budgets where they gutted programs and services. Mulcair said that if he could make one change to the budget, it would be to make real investments for First Nations.

Bob Rae:

In his reaction scrum, Rae said that the propaganda machine was working overtime in order to repackage and re-announce programs to make it looks like there is more there than there is. “It’s a rhetorical document, and about politics instead of economics,” Rae said. In particular, he was critical that there was no real new money for skills training, that the $15,000 job grant was only $5000 of reallocated funds from the federal government, with the other $10,000 expected to come from the provinces and the private sector, which he said was not enough to address the problem.

On Power & Politics, Rae said the budget has less for cities than they asked for, and that the government used a ten-year figure to hide the fact that the number is low. He noted that the capital cost allowance tax credits are not refundable, so they don’t benefit companies that aren’t turning a profit and only help those companies that are doing well, just like the adoption expenses tax credit. Rae said that the skills training program is the government doing as little as possible while taking most of the credit, and that the merger of CIDA into Foreign Affairs is a signal that it props up Minister Baird, because it gives him more influence.

On Power Play, Rae considered the budget to be minimalist, where they presented as few targets as possible. Rae said the government is investing less in real dollar terms over time, and that it was arrogant to announce the skills training program before negotiating with the provinces for their participation.

Jim Flaherty:

On Power Play, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that if last year’s budget was transformative, this year’s is a consistent and steady budget, and while there are no big announcements, they do have priorities. He called the skills training program a major change that is part of the incentives for economic growth. Flaherty said he remains concerned about the delays to reforms in Europe and that the Americans are tending back to some of their bad habits. Regarding the amalgamation of CIDA into Foreign Affairs, Flaherty said that there was some awkwardness about the way that CIDA is run and who reports to whom, and that the change is a better “corporate structure” for lack of a better description.

On Power & Politics, Flaherty said that the Building Canada Fund for infrastructure is weighted more heavily in the later years in order to give time for things like environmental assessments for new projects. He also said that there would be negotiation with the provinces over the skills training program, and said that some of what they will be cutting will include travel expenses in favour of more video conferencing.

Worth Noting:

  • Elizabeth May said there was nothing about a climate plan to help meet GHG targets, and was concerned about what will be in the omnibus budget bill that will follow, as well as the fact that there are no numbers for any of the departments. She was relieved that sustainable development got new funding, but not enough.
  • Edmonton city councillor Karen Liebovici was pleased that the indexing of the gas tax fund means it’s a permanent fund that they can count on as a stable measure. She was also pleased that the Building Canada Fund is maintained and enhanced in terms of the types of projects that cities can use it for.
  • Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said that the inflationary escalator in the gas tax and the long-term number of the Building Canada Fund were good news, but that they were looking for more. Watson said that the need for infrastructure funds were about more than quality of life, but rather about increased productivity.

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