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Editorials and opinion on the federal budget

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Verbatim excerpts from commentary, editorials and news releases on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's federal budget:

Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail. The centrepiece of the Conservatives’ effort is something called a Canada Job Grant that will offer $5,000 from Ottawa and matching funds from the provinces and business for an amount up to $15,000 for training. The ambition is laudable; the realization will be difficult and quite likely inadequate. Some provinces will be stretched to find the money and many businesses, especially small ones, will not be interested. Ottawa’s ability to influence provincial behaviour is limited, and in the case of Quebec, non-existent.

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Tim Harper, The Toronto Star: And that is the nub of Thursday’s effort — it is all about the next election and another four years of Conservative rule. It is a budget larded with program renewals and extensions, the spending of the nickel-and-dime variety, the savings the governmental equivalent of finding loose change under the cushion on the couch.

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Ottawa Citizen editorial _ Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he’s committed to balancing the budget by 2015-’16. There’s a lot that could go wrong in the next few years, and the government hasn’t left itself a lot of wiggle room. Let’s hope he’s able to keep his promise.

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Halifax Chronicle Herald editorial _ The main stimulus tweak is an extension of infrastructure funding for municipalities. They wanted a 20-year deal to spend $5.7 billion annually; they’re getting a 10-year commitment of $47 billion. The government has also extended an EI hiring credit for business and a provision that allows manufacturers to write off new investments in production assets against taxes in two years instead of 14. Supporting useful public and private investments while interest rates are low is a reasonable approach to stimulus, even if we’ve seen it before. But Mr. Flaherty should be open to more than standing pat if the slowdown worsens.

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Peter Coleman, President and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition: This budget plan seeks to grab headlines for relatively minor initiatives. It is a certainly a positive step to eliminate tariffs on baby clothes and sporting equipment, yet it is discouraging that this government was not willing to commit to more far-reaching tariff reform.

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Clare Demerse, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute: Jim Flaherty delivered his eighth budget at a time when the federal government’s track record on the environment and climate change is under heightened scrutiny, and when the cuts to environmental protection contained in last year’s budget bills are starting to take effect. The big picture from Budget 2013 is that the federal government largely missed an opportunity to invest in the clean energy transition we need to make to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to compete globally. Indeed, the 433-page budget plan fails to mention climate change even once.

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John Manley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the the Canadian Council of Chief Executives: Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has put his finger squarely on the problem: far too many well-paid jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find people with the right skills ... Companies across the country, in sectors ranging from energy and natural resources to construction, manufacturing and services, are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit employees with the right qualifications. It’s a problem today, and if left unchecked it will only get worse, undermining opportunities for Canadian workers and contributing to slower economic growth.

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Andrew Coyne, National Post: It’s hard to hate this budget: there’s just so little there to hate. To be sure, the budget is bloated, cynical, dirigiste and incoherent, but it is bloated, cynical, dirigiste and incoherent in ways that for the most part have already been announced. Hate, like love, is most passionate in first bloom.The absence of fresh disasters might in fact be occasion for a little discreet celebration. So much of what is wrong with this budget — the handouts to the manufacturing sector, the regional development pork-barrels, the hugely expensive sheltered workshops disguised as aerospace and shipbuilding programs, the needless intrusion of the federal government into funding municipal infrastructure — simply amounts to extending previous programs, or implementing past initiatives.

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Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress: The culture of providing good skills training has not caught on with business and governments in Canada. It is disappointing that only 16% of investments for skills and jobs is new money, with the rest an extension or reallocation of existing funds. Money has been taken out of the hands of provinces and low-skilled workers, and put into the hands of employers to do what they should have been doing already. Money is being channelled to specific employers with no guarantee that training will meet broader labour market needs.

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Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada: "Like Budget 2012, which undid decades of public programs and provided next to no details the night of its release, Budget 2013 adds to the federal government's poor record on accountability. This year's budget puts additional cuts on top of the deep program and spending cuts implemented under the so-called omni-budget of 2012. Budget 2013 also continues to deny Canadians information about the effects these cuts will have on frontline services and on the health of Canada's people, the environment, and the economy.

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