Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered, as he’d repeatedly vowed to, a balanced budget—although his projected $1.4-billion surplus this year relied on cutting the annual contingency cushion built into the budget from $3 billion to just $1 billion.
Beyond that $2-billion bit of budget craft, here are the big-ticket items among Economic Action Plan 2015’s measures:
1. As announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last fall, about $2 billion a year on an ongoing basis for the Family Tax Cut (income-splitting) and more than $4 billion a year for a bigger Universal Child Care Benefit (monthly cheques to families with kids).
2. A pledge to increase National Defence spending by $11.8 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017. To extend the non-combat military mission in Iraq and Syria, up to $360.3 million, plus $7.1 million for the Armed Forces participation in military training in Ukraine.
3. On the domestic anti-terrorism front, $292.6 million over five years for the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Communications Security Establishment.
4. Reducing the minimum withdrawal rules for seniors with registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs, allowing them to save about $140 million in 2015-16.
5. Increasing the annual contribution limit on Tax Free Savings Accounts to $10,000 from $5,500, at a cost of $85 million in 2015-16, rising to $160 million in 2016-17.
6. A new fund to help pay for public transit systems, starting with, in 2017-18, $750 million over two years, and $1 billion a year after that.
7. Up to $100 million over five years to subsidize innovation by Canadian auto-parts suppliers.
8. An injection of $1.33 billion over six years, but again, not starting until 2017–18, for research infrastructure at universities, colleges and research hospitals.
9. And with Canada’s 150th anniversary coming up in 2017, the government is budgeting $210 million over four years for the celebrations, starting in 2015-16.