Imagine that, Stephen Harper, Canada’s 10th Liberal Prime Minister?
After taking a glance at the 2009 Federal Budget released this afternoon, I’ve come to the conclusion that if didn’t know much about Canadian politics, I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
And though it was presented by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the increased spending, tax-cuts, and bailout funding for declining industries made it easy to imagine that this budget could have been presented by past Liberal Finance Ministers John Manley or Ralph Goodale.
Partisan gender-bending aside, it’s not difficult to understand why the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are opposing the budget, but it may be more difficult for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to effectively oppose it.
A weakness Ignatieff may be able to grab onto is the funding of municipal infrastructure development, of which many projects are set up on a 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 funding arrangement between the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments. This will pose a challenge to many municipalities who cannot afford the 1/3 (or are located in provinces unwilling or unable to provide their 1/3 of the funding). This afternoon on CBC Newsworld, Flaherty suggested that in certain cases, the Federal Government could provide up to 1/2 of the funding in order to fill the gap.
A positive solution to this problem would be for the Feds to provide a loan financing or transfer program for municipalities in these situations (I’m not competely sure that one does’t already exist).
Here is a short list of some points in Budget 2009 that caught my eye:
– $12 billion infrastructure building program (including new and accelerated funds)
– $225 million over the next 3 years for broadband to unserved communities. According to University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, Australia has committed $4.7 billion to a similar project.
– $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, and $14.3 million annually thereafter.
– $30 million to community newspapers and magazines (not known how much will go to CanWest)
– National Securities Regulator: The Conservative Government will be moving forward with willing provinces (8 provinces, minus Alberta and Quebec) in creating a new National Securities Regulator.
– Up to $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at Post-Secondary Institutions
Some Alberta Related:
– $130 million for twinning of Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park
– $37.6 million for Mackenzie Valley Gas Project (environmental assessments, coordination, and Aboriginal consultations).
– $81 million over the next two years for program management and additional assessments of federal contaminated sites, which may include Edmonton International Airport.
– Provincial-Federal Cost-sharing priority project: Telus World of Science in Calgary.
– No funding for the twinning of Highway 63 to Fort McMurray.
– Budget Speech: Economy (29), businesses (27), recession (17), tax relief (15), stimulate (12), hope (1) (h/t the Hook)
– Mike Soron has created an entertaining wordmap of the budget speech.