Wednesday, February 27

Comments on the Conservative's Third Budget, Feb. 26

Hi again friends:
Thought I should share with you Mr. Dion’s letter to me on the latest budget tabled for Canada for 2007-8. There’s not much that I can add other than that I wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Dion. Seems like most of the budget shows the Conservatives' acceptance of what had already been proposed by us though “watered down”. Obviously it's their continued attempt to capture Canadian imagination and votes; but, hopefully Canadians will see through it. The only new initiative appears to be the tax-free savings plan. My immediate reaction is; how will it benefit the many Canadians below the poverty-line struggling with a couple or more low-paying jobs to obtain enough to get by. Hopefully, the change to UI will help though we’re left in a scary situation if the slowdown in the economy increases and they’ve still done little to deal with aging and crumbling infrastructures. Today it's worth checking what the various news sources, political commentators and business leaders including Jayson Meyers, President of the Canadian Manufacturing and Exporters’ Association had to say about this budget. It looks like they’re not very positive about it. Also, see letter below:
Letter from Mr. Dion on the Conservative Government's Third Budget February 26, 2008
Dear Michael:
As you know, earlier today the Conservative government tabled its third budget. Immediately following the Budget speech in the House of Commons, our Leader Stéphane Dion declared that the Liberal Opposition will not give the Conservatives the election they so badly want based on their latest budget because it adopts many of the measures that Liberals have championed.
The Conservatives have in effect presented a watered-down version of pre-existing Liberal policies. In fact, they appear to have repackaged many Liberal initiatives and commitments including:
• making the Gas Tax Transfer permanent, as we committed in February 2007;
• providing direct support to the auto sector, as we called for in January 2008;
• creating jobs and improving public transit through additional investments in infrastructure, as we advocated in February 2008;
• increasing the Northern Residents Deduction, as we committed to doing in December 2007;
• providing funding to hire more police, as we committed in March 2007;
• improving cash-flow support for livestock producers, and providing direct payments for hog farmers, as we recommended;
• reversing some of the Conservatives’ previous cuts to university granting councils and the indirect costs of research program, which would have grown substantially under the Liberal Economic Update of 2005; and,
• replacing some of the funding from the Liberals’ 2005 Update for Student Grants and modernizing the Canada Student Loans program.
Despite these announcements, this budget would have been more effective if the Conservatives had not already spent the cupboard bare with their previous budgets and Fall Economic and Fiscal Update. As Liberals, we worry that the government is now left with a razor-thin surplus to protect Canada’s economy should it continue to falter. In fact, we are concerned that the Conservatives’ projected surpluses of $2.3 billion for this year and $1.3 billion for next year are well below the $3-billion contingency fund that we Liberals consider the bare minimum to cushion against unanticipated economic shocks. In addition to exercising questionable judgment, the government lost an opportunity to address Canada’s infrastructure deficit through acting on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s proposal to use the $7 billion of this year’s debt pay-down to fund infrastructure projects across the country.
Nevertheless, there is nothing in this budget that warrants an election that Canadians don’t want, particularly at a time when so much remains to be done in this Parliament. This includes the debate of the motion respecting Canada’s Afghan mission, getting to the bottom of the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and the long-anticipated ruling by Elections Canada on the Conservative Party’s in-and-out election financing scandal.
An important measure of how Canadians assess the Conservative government's performance will soon be available for all to see when the results are in from four upcoming by-elections. We look forward to this measure of the relative support for the competing visions of Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper.
Though we remain ready to fight a general election at any time, as Liberals we will focus on how best to make Parliament work for all Canadians. If the Prime Minister insists on making this impossible, then it will be clear that he alone will be responsible for starting an election.

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