Beware budgets in election year

Federal budget was more of a campaign speech than a financial plan

The federal Conservatives put forth their budget Tuesday, and few politics watchers were surprised by what it contained. Many of the promises and appropriations contained therein were spelled out well before the budget hit the floor of Parliament.

While every budget can (and should) be seen as a campaign document – in that being responsible for the public’s financial contributions to our society is a government’s main role – we should be wary of budgets that directly precede elections.

While there are things in this budget which will add economic benefit to people’s lives, many of the promises in this particular Conservative government’s budget only happen if they are re-elected, making them less budget items and more of a platform on which they are campaigning.

An example is the additional funding being made available to municipalities to improve transit infrastructure, which is slated to begin flowing in 2017.

They also announced they have lowered the tax rate on small businesses, and teased that “our government will reduce the tax rate further, all the way down to nine per cent by 2019,” Finance Minister Joe Oliver said in his speech, again, assuming his party is re-elected.

Similarly, they have introduced “a 10-year investment incentive that will allow for a faster write-off for machinery and equipment,” Oliver said, to help the manufacturing sector, as long as the Conservatives are still around to continue the plan.

They have also committed to increasing their spending on national defence – beginning in 2017.

It might have been nice to see some commitment from the federal government in terms of diversifying our energy sector, so we’re not relying so heavily on the price of oil to drive our economy. The federal government’s coffers are so heavily dependant on contributions from the oil and gas sector that dropping oil prices demanded a recalculation of the entire structure of the budget, delaying its release, in fact. Then again, diversifying doesn’t play well with the Conservative base.

And that’s what this budget is. It’s the government saying, “If you like these things, make sure you do your part to help us get re-elected.”

It’s not a budget, really.

It’s more of a campaign speech.

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