Stephen Harper Makes Voters an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took to the floor of the Commons yesterday to present Canada’s budget for the 07-08 fiscal year. As expected, the Harper government will go on a spending spree that it hopes will help them gain the majority status that the PM so desperately craves.

Another concern, that the government may fall over the budget and lead to a snap election, seems to have been dispelled; although both the Liberals and the NDP have vowed to vote against the budget as presented, the Bloc Québecois has already said that they will back it, giving Harper the necessary number of votes to see it through.

The document itself reads like a catalogue of tax breaks for the suburban middle-class and working families that Harper needs to woo to give him a majority. Worried about the environment? There’s a tax break for your hybrid and a tax penalty for SUVs. Do you have young children? A tax break per child is on the way. Want to see said young children through university? You can now shelter more money under your RESP. Are you by any chance the fair province of Québec? Then it’s your lucky day, because you’re getting two or three billion in transfer payments to ensure you keep helping Harper out in federal politics.

In a calculated move, Harper has also chosen to somewhat neglect his base in Western Canada in favour of some coveted Ontario seats. The resource-rich provinces (aka those with oil) will see a cap on their equalization payments that will not allow them to reap the full benefits from their endowments. Even some of the Tories’ pet peeves from last year’s election are on the way out: the provinces will be getting some money for the creation of new and public child care spaces.

As for post-secondary education, the news is both good and bad. The good is that universities and colleges are getting $800 million in earmarked funds. The bad, besides the fact that this figure does not even come close to closing the tuition gap, is that the provinces and the federal government have to agree on distribution and accountability mechanisms before the funds will actually trickle down to the schools. Most observers believe it will be at least a year before the effects of the $800 million are felt in its intended destination.

"The budget should inject new money for post-secondary education in the form of transfer payments. While this new money is most welcomed in these most desperately underfunded times, it is not enough," CSA External Commissioner John Coombs told Thecannon.ca.

The Office of the President of UoG was unavailable for comment about the budget at the time of the writing of this article. Vice-President Maureen Mancuso said on a press release on the university’s website that the budget was “promising,” pending a similar increase in investment by the province in its almost finalized provincial budget. Regarding provincial authorities, Coombs added that, "while [the money] is 'earmarked' for Post Secondary Education, it can essentially be spent on anything the province chooses and it will be VERY important for students to continue to pressure the province to ensure the money goes where it is intended."

Thecannon.ca will provide updates on Ontario’s provincial budget after it is released this Thursday.

Reporter's Note: This article has been edited with additional information that was not made available to Thecannon.ca at the time of its original publication.

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