I'm a day or so behind in putting down my thoughts about the Conservative Government budget that was tabled this week.
The first, and fairly obvious analysis of the budget is that it is fundamentally an "election budget". It is perhaps somewhat unique in that it is designed to influence not one, but two elections. In the first, and most immediate sense, it is intended to back up Jean Charest in the provincial election currently going on in Quebec, and second, the Conservatives obviously are anticipating a federal election sometime soon.
This budget is notable not for any ground breaking programs, or significant announcements, but rather for the way it tries to ladle a little something into the bowls of as many voters as possible. (what else is news? - most governments do this kind of thing as they move into election mode)
I think the "Con" in this budget is that is does not reflect the ideological make-up of the Harper government one bit. A little like the Wizard of Oz, it's really a small little man pulling a lot of levers - trying to appear as though they are something they aren't.
Most of what they are putting forward is in the form of new spending and tax credits, not tax cuts, or strategies such as "income splitting". Tax credits, as we should all know by now, turn out to be fairly limited gain moments for most taxpayers. (For example, the transit tax credit introduced last budget turns out to be quite limited - giving a credit equal to (maybe) a month or two's bus passes in a major urban center. What's that? $150 in a municipality such as Calgary -roughly. So - that's $120 off your taxes - which certainly isn't all bad, but does little to make most of us care when city transit access is so thoroughly brain damaged to begin with.
Or, let's consider last budget's $100/month childcare allowance. The Cons claimed that the market would easily step forward and create much needed new spaces. The real impact? Not a single new child care space created by that "market", and increased childcare costs for parents that must work to pay the bills. They've apparently tried to remedy this by funneling money to the provinces specifically for childcare spaces. (Hmmm...waitasec, doesn't this sound like the Liberal policy and direction for Universal Childcare coming back from the grave the Cons tossed it into?)
Perhaps what should have taxpayers most concerned is that the Cons continue to increase spending - at a profligate rate - while attempting to reduce government revenues through half-baked tax cut regimes.
At a time when the overall performance of the North American economy is a little shaky to begin with, it seems to me that dramatically increasing government spending without a clear focus on the people and their benefit is a poorly designed bit of policy that mimics George W. Bush's economic savvy as he mires his nation in both war and debt.