Ahh, spring is in the air, and so is federal budget fever.
Smoke is almost visible across the country as many people have some coming out of their ears as they shout outrage at proposed cuts which will see a 10 per cent cut to CBC, the elimination of the Katimavik Program for youth, changes to eligibility for pensions and the elimination of over 19,000 federal public sector jobs in the next three years.
There is always protest, anger and a whole lot of disgruntled reaction to any federal budget, after all, comfortable in our existence as we sometimes are in North America, change scares us. It can intimidate us as we peer down the road towards our future retirement or, in the case of people my age and younger, we dread retirement because while we will pay our entire lives into the national pension plan, the likelihood of our generations seeing any of it is not high, and the ratio of incomes to home purchase costs are not exactly promising us extra cash to work with. But on the bright side, we’ll have more years to save for it now, as eligible age increases take effect.
The entire budgetary process seems like such an orchestrated event to create drama, intrigue and distraction, starting at the annual photo op for the federal finance minister buying new shoes. What a strange tradition (I thought with all the budget cuts, buying new shoes for the finance minister would be history, no?).
Alas, this year, all the outcry and jumping up and down will once again take place, but Harper’s majority will also once again likely fail to respond to any critics or opposition demands, and use their majority to push through another Conservative mandate, F-35s and all.
With changes to Old Age Security, the cries will be loud and they will be long, but perhaps this is just what the government wants.
Old Age Security is a handy noisemaker, as the most active participants in our democracy tend to be of the older generations, and everyone knows the Official Opposition of the NDP has a strong support base in the seniors category.
But on the positive side, no one will likely find fault with the closing of the gap between eligible ages for pensions between federal employees and the rest of us, from a five-year gap (60-65) to now a two-year gap (65-67).
Nor will anyone in the public mind public servants will have to share more of the cost of their own pensions than they did before, after all, most of the rest of us have to save our own money, why not federal employees?
The elimination of the penny is another bonus which will brighten most people’s days. Only the truly sentimental should see a real benefit to the obsolete coin, one I have watched thrown in the garbage too many times to lament its loss. Why spend money and energy to make something most people can’t be bothered to pick up when they sweep the floor?
The responses after the budget was read were coming in fast and furious to my inbox, with seniors groups, veterans groups, environmental organizations and youth organizations releasing instant condemnation of the budget while Enbridge, the Certified Management Accountants, the Mining Association of Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce were all busy putting out releases in high praise of the budget.
I am no financier, in fact, finances are a major weakness of mine – I am a journalist after all, no one with money sense goes into journalism – but just from looking at the responses, the benefits in this budget seem quite clearly in favour of business.
It also seems like an Alberta-tailored budget, something any Albertan could love. Oil subsidies are reportedly being maintained at this point, but environmental processes and scrutiny are being cut on all fronts, good news for those poor, haggard oil companies, we don’t want to make them work any harder than they have to after all. Federal food inspection funding will be cut, which is great news for slaughterhouses, large-scale ranching and meat production, another Alberta tradition.
Another little bonus for the west, there will be deep cuts to Ottawa. Nothing makes westerners happier than seeing the “Ottawa elite” bleed from cuts to what are often seen as cushy government jobs – unlike us rugged westerners.
Strangely enough, the budget talk seems to have drowned out much of the recent hubbub about the “robo-calling” investigation, but have no fear, Harper didn’t forget.
Or perhaps it is just a coincidence he has cut back Elections Canada Officers at a rate seven times greater than any of the other officers of parliament’s budgets(reported by Nathan Cullen). Should have all the cuts in place just before the next election, happy chance or further erosion of our democracy? Petrostate here we come?
I eagerly await further details of the budget, like a starving and beaten child waiting for a crumb of nourishment, those of us lingering near the poverty line would take any bright spot right about now.