The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Tories tying up loose ends and doing damage control from last year's budget

  • Print

OTTAWA - The federal Conservatives appear to be tying up loose ends — and doing some damage control — from last year's budget as they look ahead to deliver this year's austerity-driven fiscal blueprint.

From installing long-promised defibrillators in hockey arenas to extending an olive branch to small lending institutions and hospitals that were hit with tax hikes, the Tories are playing catch up, said Ian Lee, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Ottawa's Carleton University.

"At the same time, it's little things that can also turn people away from them," he said.

When every vote counts, it's a bad idea to target non-profits like credit unions and caisses populaires, which are prominent in Western Canada and Quebec and fiercely supported by their members, he said.

Those small lenders got a big surprise in the last budget, which included a measure to have them pay the same tax rates as other corporations.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty moved to reduce the sting over the changes Friday by announcing some temporary transitional support, including extended deposit insurance.

"I see it as both cleaning up loose ends, but also it's a little bit political in the sense that they're trying to reduce the anger of those people who were affected," Lee said.

Flaherty was also doing some damage control over a budget measure that ended a special tax break on hospital parking charges where the lot was run by a non-profit partner. At the time, the government said it wanted to ensure consistent tax treatment.

But hospitals complained that it would reduce the money that supplements their annual health care funding, and on Friday, Flaherty promised to stop charging GST or HST on the parking fees.

"You don't want to be seen to be going after sick people or people caring for sick people: the families," Lee said.

"So I think that this is again sort of like those boutique tax credits, it's going to make people feel that the government's noticing and looking after them, so there's probably a little bit of politics in it as well."

The Tories are also trying to lock down a deal to get their marquee job training program off the ground.

They touted the Canada Job Grant in last year's budget — as well as October's throne speech — and have spent millions of dollars advertising it, all without reaching an agreement with the provinces and territories.

Provincial governments slammed the proposal, saying it would divert millions of federal dollars from programs the provinces already run, while asking them to pony up another $300 million.

Even though the existing labour-market agreement expires in March, Employment Minister Jason Kenney only sat down with his provincial and territorial counterparts in November to talk about the plan. Facing a wall of resistance, he offered a compromise at Christmas which the provinces have yet to accept.

Though the program is a good one, Kenney was perhaps overconfident in thinking the provinces and territories would acquiesce, Lee said.

"Then he realized that you can't bluff your way through, you can't use braggadocio to get the deal, to force the deal through, because there was such serious resistance from the provinces and pretty monolithic," he said.

"I think he thought he was going to be able to bull it through, brute it through, and then it didn't happen. So then he belatedly came to the table with some compromises."

There's also been little movement a new $14.4-billion Building Canada infrastructure fund announced in the last budget, which is set to start this year. Municipal leaders voiced concerns in December that they could lose out on infrastructure projects for the upcoming summer because of confusion around the new funding.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Dustin Byfuglien reflects on season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google