The federal budget, brought down by Finance Minister Joe Oliver on Tuesday, is more of a political document than an economic one. This isn’t surprising, with a federal election planned for this October.
The governing Conservatives have made a clear statement of their political philosophy in the document. It contrasts sharply with the campaign platform offered up by the NDP, the Official Opposition.
Meanwhile, the Liberals have yet to release their election platform, and were left on Tuesday mouthing platitudes about how the budget “caters to the rich.” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made it clear that he won’t support the budget, as he obviously disagrees with its contents.
The Conservative philosophy, as stated in the budget, calls for a multitude of tax breaks, particularly for families with children and seniors. It continues the emphasis on tax reduction and credits that has been part of virtually every Conservative budget since the party was first elected in 2006. It also continued the trend of making multi-year promises, but not funding many of them for years to come.
It is very much in line with the approach taken by the late Jim Flaherty, finance minister from 2006-2014.
The Conservatives claim the budget is balanced, but it is only balanced because of a raid on the reserve fund and the sale of General Motors stock. Nonetheless, the party does believe in keeping revenue and spending roughly in balance, and it is clearly not a “big government” party.
The NDP, by contrast, have also been clear that their philosophy calls for much more government activity — particularly in the area of child care. Leader Thomas Mulcair has promised that an NDP government would institute $15 per day daycare across Canada, at a cost of about $5 billion.
It also would reverse the Conservative plan which would allow spouses to split income for tax purposes. The NDP decries this as a “break for the rich,” and on Tuesday was also critical of an increase to $10,000 in allowable contributions to Tax Free Savings Accounts each year.
As voters prepare for plenty of political spin and manipulation over the next few months, (to say nothing of intensive advertising campaigns), a focus on the basic philosophies put forward by each party can be helpful in clearing up the confusion.