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Mixed BC reactions to Flaherty budget

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty didn’t see BC fall into line behind him after he presented his 2009 budget. The Fraser Institute was especially disappointed.

In a news release published almost before Flaherty stopped speaking, senior economist Niels Veldhuis complained:

“This budget is simply irresponsible given Canada’s current economic climate. Massive increases in government spending and $85 billion in deficits over the next five years will do little, if anything, to boost economic activity and instead will saddle Canadians with higher taxes in the future.

“The government has caved in to the special interest groups lining up in Ottawa with their hands out for federal cash. This budget will do little in the way of improving the economy and sends a negative signal to the real generators of economic activity: skilled and talented Canadians, entrepreneurs and successful businesses. ...

“All in all, this entire budget was an enormous missed opportunity. If Finance Minister Jim Flaherty truly wanted to have a positive impact on the Canadian economy, he should have reduced government spending, eliminated the capital gains tax, and aggressively decreased personal income and business taxes.”

The Business Council of BC, in a news release sent to The Tyee, was cautiously positive. According to Business Council President and CEO Virginia Greene,

“While it is regrettable that the era of budget surpluses has ended abruptly, the government rightly chose to stimulate demand in the economy and to take strong action to lessen the likelihood of a prolonged recession.

“Today’s budget will deliver a timely boost to Canada’s economy and help businesses and workers weather the downturn. However, it is critical that the government stick with its plan to return to a balanced budget no later than 2013.”

From Sointula on Malcolm Island, Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society fired off another news release to The Tyee:

“Canada’s ocean resources contribute $23 billion dollars to our GNP every year. Planning and effective management, budgeting for fisheries recovery and investing in a future of ocean health and wealth should be a central component of a national budget. Mr. Harper’s government has failed to deliver either vision or hope for our oceans.”

Jim Sinclair, president of the BC Federation of Labour, wasn’t impressed. In a news release posted on the Fed website, Sinclair said:

“The Harper government has once again reverted to its tax-cutting ideology even though economists are nearly unanimous that tax cuts produce far fewer jobs than would be created through targeted infrastructure spending ...

“This budget turns a blind eye to tens of thousands of British Columbians who find themselves laid-off and unable to collect EI because of increased restrictions brought in by Conservative and Liberal governments. Five extra weeks of benefits will do nothing to give real aid and real hope to those who need it the most. The EI system is broken.”

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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