Well, it's not like I was expecting great things from the Harper government's return to work. I'm of the opinion that 'stimulus packages' aren't going to do much to improve the economy anyway, so it was out of curiosity, not hope, that I paid any attention to the budget presented by Finance Minister Flaherty yesterday.
But even my lowered expectations were too high, apparently. The budget is more of the same old same old, but with a huge deficit thrown in to the mix. The ceiling on some tax brackets have been changed, with the result that people (who still have jobs) will pay about $100 - $150 less tax per year. If the government thinks I'm going to go on a spending spree with that, they are quite out of touch. That money is going straight to debt repayment.
Oh, I'll get another tax break if I build a deck or maybe an addition to my house (Like the PM seems to be doing in this convenient photo-op - who thinks up these lame poses anyway?). That is, if I spend up to $1350 on renos, I can reduce my taxes by 15% of that, a whopping $202.50. Wow. I think I'll pass. I'm not spending $ 1350 to get $200 back - do the math! (NOTE - see my correction of these numbers below.)
And infrastructure spending - there's billions of dollars promised, but they all hinge on whether municipalities and provincial governments kick in equivalent amounts. What good is that? A lot of provinces and municipalities can't afford to pay for even part of these projects, so that money will just sit there and not 'stimulate' anything. And, projects that do get the funding are subject to fewer environmental impact assessments than previously - this is all done in the name of expediency, but really it just allows the government an excuse to cut back on already poor environmental regulation.
This could have been an opportunity for the government to be bold, seize the moment, and do things like provide grants to insulate houses, or target money to the auto industry to re-tool for things like buses, and light rail cars. Harper could have used some stimulus money to foster development of solar or wind power, but instead he pretends to be 'green' by supporting things like carbon capture and storage. (If we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions through alternative energies and conservation, we wouldn't need to 'capture' and 'store' them!) But Harper's not a 'seize-the-moment' kind of guy. He's a 'how-can-I-craft-this-to-serve-my-purposes' kind of guy.
The new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, has already decided to ask for amendments to the budget rather than voting against it and toppling the government. I was all for a coalition government taking over before this whole prorogue debacle started, but now I don't even care. Partly because I'm trying not to get so caught up in such things anymore, but partly because if this is the kind of thing Harper is going to propose as a solution to Canada's economic problems, then he can darn well live with the consequences.
NOTE: According to the CBC this morning (January 29, 2008), individuals can claim up to $9000 in reno costs and then receive 15% of this back, or $1350. The numbers are different, but the rate of return is the same. Plus, I don't know too many people who have nine grand floating around to sink into renovations - not without going into more debt anyway.
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