The Federal Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, presented the budget last week, causing a wave of reaction ranging from praise to disgust to indifference.
Business groups were slapping high fives and patting each other on the back 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 dropping 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, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Marine Atlantic are all looking around their offices, taking in the view while they still have them.
Penny collectors will go from seeing an over abundance of their prize to a dwindling supply. 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 underappreciated 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 some shortsighted measures taken 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.
It was only two years ago that French citizens stormed the streets of Paris, rioting over increasing the minimum age for retirement benefits.
Will Canadians do the same? Most likely not, although we will have to start saving more with smaller pensions to bank on, which could also negatively impact the economy.
Another major oversight is the proclamation that we will save over five billion dollars through cuts.
What isn’t mentioned is that we could also be spending nine billion dollars for a multitude of F-35 fighter jets and seven billion dollars over decades to come to maintain them, if the controversial contract with Lockhead Martin is signed.
That’s 16 billion dollars spent for fighter jets compared to five 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 average Canadians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
The Governor General will finally start paying taxes, although they will receive an increase in pay to offset the cost.
This seems like a highly symbolic and utterly useless measure for a highly symbolic and utterly useless position – all at the tax payer’s expense.
A budget that focuses on innovation is indeed necessary in our increasingly globalized world.
But perhaps Mr. Flaherty could be a little more innovative by making sure that average Canadians are better off while not short changing our future. There may be no pennies to go around in 10 years. They may have to reintroduce them into the system to pay our measly pensions.
The Northern Pen