Federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty presented a new budget last month, causing a wave of reaction ranging from praise to disgust to indifference.
Business groups were slapping high fives with the extra bills that will pad their pockets through Employment Insurance reforms and a focus on innovation.
Canadian youth and workers, who will turn 65 after the eligibility of Old Age Security shifts to 67 in 11 years, are drooping their heads in defeat.
Fish harvesters are shaking their fists in the air as they will see the money they depend on from EI in the off-season drop under the new system.
Employees at the CBC, Marine Atlantic and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are all looking around their offices to determine their cuts.
What does this all mean?
First, a long-term budget such as this one is necessary, given the uncertainty associated with a changing policy every year or two under a minority government. Long-term vision is an under appreciated but vital requirement for effective government.
This budget extends a decade down the road, giving government planners, private investors and trade partners a basis to make their decisions on.
However, there are also shortsighted measures in the 500-page document.
For example, the government is pledging to save money through cuts to pensions and old age security, however, it is doing so only after the baby boom generation is retired, essentially making their claim ring hollow.
No doubt, most of the government officials who proposed this change will retire long before the changes take place.
But it won’t ring hollow when these cuts kick in the next decade.
Another major oversight is the proclamation we will save over $5 billion through cuts.
What isn’t mentioned is we could also be spending $9 billion for a multitude of F-35 fighter jets, and $7 billion over decades to maintain them, if the controversial contract with Lockhead Martin is signed.
That’s $16 billion for fighter jets compared to $5 billion in cuts to seniors, fishermen and workers.
Although some of that money will be used to create jobs and growth for Canadian businesses - how much of that will actually trickle down to the average Canadian?
The Governor General will finally start paying taxes, but only after receiving an increase in pay to offset the cost. This seems like a highly symbolic and useless measure for a highly symbolic and utterly useless position - all at the taxpayers’ expense.
A budget focussing on innovation is indeed necessary in our increasingly globalized world. But perhaps Mr. Flaherty could be a little more innovative by making sure average Canadians are better off, without short changing our future.
There may be no pennies to go around in 10 years. But government may have to reintroduce them into the system to pay for our measly pensions.
Reprinted from The Northern Pen