2017 Federal Budget: Give a little, gain nothing

By: Laura Steiner

Cast your minds back to October, 2016.  Finance Minister Bill Morneau is addressing the Ontario wing of the federal party in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  He tells Canadians they should “get used to job churn.”  The precarious work being experienced by young people will continue in their lives, and governments should be preparing for it.  If a Finance Minister makes a comment like that, you might imagine he’d consider looking at measures for the 2017 federal budget that would address these concerns.

You’d be wrong.  This budget gives $1.18 billion to innovation , most of which has already been announced.  $950 million of that will go to creating “super clusters.”  Retraining gets $132 million over 4 years.  The money will allow people on Employment Insurance (EI) to take courses, and re-train for other jobs.  It’s a good start, and it addresses the problem of jobs being made obsolete because of automation.  But it breaks down to roughly $33 million/ yr.  It’s peanuts when you take into account the amount of people who are victims of the “job churn” and the underpaid/ underemployed.

This budget makes life more expensive.  It forces Uber and other ride-sharing services to add GST/HST to each ride.  It adds 2 cents/ litre on wine, and spirits; 5 cents for a case of 24 beer, and .53 cents/ case of 200 cigarettes.  It increases employment insurance (EI) to $1.68/ $100 of insurable earnings.  Probably the most contentious cut is the Public Transit Tax Credit (PTTC).  It amounts to a “give a little, gain nothing” budget.  This is especially a problem among Millennials, who were a big part of putting the party there.

Where is the job creation? Where are the nudges to the business community? There aren’t any. Infrastructure projects are usually easy job creators, but there is nothing besides measures to create the Canada Infrastructure Bank.  That’s a promise worth approximately $35 billion, but it doesn’t create shovel-ready projects.  A lot of this money has to pass through provincial hands; cynically put, this may never see the light of day.  Some of this can be legitimately be blamed on the US, and NAFTA’s status.  Canada-US trade is worth $2 billion/ day in goods and services.  Ontario alone, serves as the main export market for New York State. But this excuse only goes so far.  There comes a point where you have proceed no matter what the USA does.  That’s what needed to happen here, and it didn’t.

Defence spending is another question mark.  There was a lot made of a plan to replace CF-18’s with “super hornet” aircraft.  Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is tasked with picking a peacekeeping mission in Africa.  This isn’t expected before the end of the year.  Why? The official reason is they want to do their homework. And it’s starting to look like  Canada will remain “committed” to the mission against ISIS for a while.  There are also multiple peacekeeping missions in Eastern Europe against Russian aggression.  It’s going to be interesting watching this all happen without additional money in the defence budget.

With this budget Canadians give a little, and get nothing.