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Harper's Pre-Election Budget Delivers Surplus, But Few Jobs

Best ideas lifted from NDP, says Mulcair.

By Jeremy J. Nuttall 22 Apr 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

This coverage of Canadian national issues is made possible because of generous financial support from our Tyee Builders.

With a federal election looming in the fall, the Harper government tabled a budget in Ottawa on Tuesday with a $1.4 billion surplus.

Amid falling oil prices, the surplus was achieved in part by setting aside $1 billion for contingencies rather than the usual $3 billion.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the budget, the first surplus budget since 2007, would help ensure a secure future for the country.

"The federal budget is, on the face of it, about dollars and cents," Oliver said in his speech to the House. "But on a more fundamental level, it is a path to opportunity."

However, the Opposition New Democrats said the Tories missed opportunities to create jobs, child-care spaces and full-time employment.

In a news release, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said the budget spent billions on the wealthy.

Mulcair also argued that the only decent job creation provisions were lifted from the NDP, referring to the small business tax cut the party has called for since 2011.

"The only ideas to create jobs in this budget came from recommendations of the NDP, which is committed to improving the lives of those who need a helping hand," Mulcair said.

Oliver's budget includes a tax decrease for small business by 2019 and a promised tax break amounting to $45 million by 2020 for liquefied natural gas companies to help them recover the costs of infrastructure.

No jobs created

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives echoed the NDP, noting the dearth of job creation plans.

"The federal government could be proactive to mitigate Canada's fragile economy, but has chosen to create budget surpluses instead of jobs," the CCPA's senior economist, David Macdonald, said in a news release.

"In order to boost the economy and create jobs, we need a real commitment to infrastructure today, not in five years time.

"The government delayed the budget, claiming it needed to assess the impact of the plunge in oil prices, but there is little in the budget to suggest the wait made any difference," Macdonald added.

Some of the budget's other highlights include:

Transit

The government has allocated $1.75 billion to transit infrastructure across the country, including $417 million for the Evergreen Line linking Metro Vancouver's northeast sector with SkyTrain. However, the money won't start flowing until 2017. Another $700 million in funding went to Toronto's York-Spadina subway expansion in Toronto.

Manufacturing

In a bid to boost manufacturing the government has set aside $50 million over the next five years for a new program aiming to help small and medium-sized business foster new export opportunities. Suppliers of auto parts will be eligible for $100 million worth of funding over five years to support product development and technology demonstration.

Social Housing

The budget said it aims to make it easier for social housing operations to prepay their long-term, non-renewable mortgages without having to pay penalties. The move will help providers of social housing refinance their mortgages at lower rates through the private sector.

Seniors

Over the next five years, $42 million will be allocated to establish the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation to research the causes and treatment for illness such as dementia. The funding will go to Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.

Savings

The government nearly doubled the maximum amount Canadians can contribute to Tax Free Savings Account contributions, raising the limit from $5,500 to $10,000.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics,

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