When federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his first budget on April 21, the starting gun went off and the official race to the next federal election – on or before Oct. 19, 2015 – was underway.
This is most definitely a cleverly crafted pre-election budget.
There are a few key election planks the Conservative will be using during the election campaign – a balanced budget, benefits for families and seniors, and national security.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo (KTC) MP Cathy McLeod is “delighted” with the budget because it’s taking her government back to the black side of the ledger – with a projected surplus of $1.4 billion this year and up to $4.8 billion in 2019/20.
Much of this year’s black ink comes from the Prime Minister Stephen Harper government’s sale of General Motors shares ($2.1 billion) that it purchased to help bail out the auto industry during the 2008 recession.
Last October, Harper introduced a five-year, $27-billion family benefit and tax-cut package, so every Canadian family with a child under 18 years (retroactive to Jan. 1) will receive a government cheque this July – before the October election.
McLeod notes her government is relaxing the mandatory withdrawals when retirement saving are converted to registered retirement income funds (RIFs) at age 71. Some seniors will also benefit from the increase in the annual contribution to tax-free savings limit going from $5,500 to $10,000.
Seniors have immense voting power, so greasing these palms might work.
The Tories are putting an additional $11.8 billion into the Canadian military over 10 years, starting in 2017, and close to $370 million in the missions in Iraq, the Levant and the Ukraine.
The government is spending around $1 billion to beef up for national security.
There are a number of other goodies in the election hand-out package, which will likely attract voters, some of whom have been feeling marginalized by the government over the years.
The Opposition parties know this is a game-changing pre-election budget.
They don’t like it because it will rally the Tory supporters and attract voters who are receiving handouts
Liberal KTC candidate Steve Powrie says the budget doesn’t go far enough in helping poor seniors. He will be trying to convince the electorate to look through the goodies being offered to see what the Tory government is really doing – buying votes.
NDP KTC candidate Bill Sundhu says the budget is “underwhelming” and it does very little for working families, single parents, and poor, young and indigenous people.
The opposition parties have an uphill battle in front of them if they want to put cracks in this budget.