Budget 2017 Represents a Lack of the Real Change the Government Promised

As part of the Official Opposition, when we see the federal budget, we are naturally going to look for places to criticize.  Budget 2017 doesn’t give me a lot of opportunities to do that – not because the measures it takes aren’t questionable – but instead it refuses to make nearly any choices or take nearly any measures at all. 

Most of the funding is being earmarked away for things that most of us would find difficult to even understand – like funding for innovation “superclusters “ (pg. 79), or an “infrastructure bank” (pg. 129).  The initiatives that we do understand won’t see actual dollars being spent until 2019 or later.

Nevertheless here are a few tangible takeaways from the budget:

  • No plan to balance the budget before 2050-2051. 
  • Forecasted, structural deficits of around $20 billion per year for the next five years.
  • $8.4 billion cut to defense procurement. 
  • An acknowledgement that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was significantly below the expectations of the last budget.
  • A plan with more funding for the CRA to continue to target small businesses for additional audits, as well as new restrictions on how family members can be involved in small businesses.
  • Taxes on alcohol rise by 2%
  • GST will now be collected on ride sharing services, such as Uber.

I’m disappointed not only that Budget 2017 doesn’t represent the priorities of Albertan families, nor does it provide any tangible relief for those who are unemployed (a $30 million one-time grant to the Alberta is offset with higher taxes on oil and gas drilling), but even more so that the Government doesn’t really seem to care.  The Finance Committee, which I am Vice Chair of, had its meetings typically devoted to pre-budget preparation cancelled because the Government put forward no business to study, and used their majority to defeat multiple motions from myself and my colleagues to study both the long term financial impact of the last budget, and Alberta unemployment. 

The media has been equally negative in its assessment of the budget.  Here are two quotes that have stood out to me:

  • Andrew Coyne (National Post): “I have read a good many tedious, empty budgets in my time. I cannot recall ever reading one quite as mind-bendingly empty as this one.”
  • Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail): “… barely 18 months into their mandate – the Liberals are stuck. They can neither move ahead with their progressive agenda – all Mr. Morneau’s recent talk about soaking even more the rich turned out to be just talk – nor turn off the spending taps they opened last year, lest they repudiate more or less everything they proclaim to stand for.”