Canadians will see little new spending from Ottawa this year as the government stays on target to get rid of the deficit by 2015, although resources are being reshuffled to boost skills training, infrastructure projects and manufacturing.
“It’s staying the course of creating jobs, long-term growth and economic prosperity,” Randy Kamp, member of parliament for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, said following Thursday’s budget speech.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2013 federal budget commits $900 million in new spending, with no new taxes or tax cuts.
It also introduced a new Canada Job Grant that will hand out up to $5,000 per person for job training.
That amount must be matched by provinces or territories and employers for a total of $15,000.
The budget projects the grant program will help provide 130,000 people a year with skills and training once the agreements are signed with all provinces and territories.
“We’ve done fairly well in uncertain times and are up to about 950,000 jobs since the end of the recession,” Kamp added.
“We are encouraged by that and want it to continue by not raising taxes.”
Kamp added the new Canada Jobs Grant is to help more Canadians connect with jobs and get the training they need .
“It’s quite an interesting problem that we have. We have both unemployment as well as jobs that are going unfilled because of a lack of [trained] people.”
To offset new spending, the government intends to find $100 million by spending less and an additional $400 million by closing tax loopholes and catching tax cheats.
There will be more cash for infrastructure projects – over $47 billion in new funding over 10 years starting in 2014. It includes $32.2 billion through a Community Improvement Fund, partly funded by an indexed Gas Tax Fund, which was recommended by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The budget also lowered tariffs on baby clothes and hockey equipment.
As parliamentary sectary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Kamp was pleased to see a few fisheries-related goodies in the budget. Since 1996, the foundation has received $1 from the sale of each $6 adult stamp, and $4 from each stamp purchased by anglers under 16 years.
The budget now dedicates all funds collected through the sale of the Salmon Conservation Stamp to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
“That money can now go to community projects. I’m pretty pleased with that,” Kamp added.
There is also $10 million over two years to improve the conservation of fisheries habitat by supporting partnerships with local groups. The budget proposes $57.5-million over five years to support aquaculture – fish farms.
Despite continued uncertainty in the global economy, the federal government claims it is on track to return to balanced budgets by 2015–16.
The official opposition accused the federal government of playing a “shell game “ with skills training money, while killing jobs with austerity cuts.
“There is nothing in this budget to prepare Canada for a 21st Century economy. The Conservatives are leaving a huge environmental, social and fiscal debt to our children,” said opposition leader Tom Mulcair.
The NDP also reminded that, last year, Conservatives predicted economic growth that never came – overestimating growth figures by more than 35 per cent and failing to contain the current account deficit – which has now reached $67 billion.
“Economists predict this year will be even worse than last year. Austerity and reckless cuts are not the path to sustainable prosperity,” said the NDP’s finance critic Peggy Nash. “We need a real plan, not more smoke and mirrors.”