Your eyes might glaze over at conversations about the intricacies of federal budgeting, the virtues of fiscal restraint, or the reliability of government revenue projections. That stuff is not everyone’s cup of tea. But Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s first budget, released in an election year and claiming to be balanced, matters to you.
Maclean’s gathered our Ottawa bureau and Econowatch team in the budget lock-up, where we pored over the document in the hours before Oliver’s budget speech. Here are five reasons all those conversations about federal budgeting you might otherwise avoid are worth your time.
1. The budget is a massive campaign pamphlet.
Canadians will send a new crop of politicians to Ottawa after this year’s election. Conservatives want to stay in power, and Oliver’s budget provides the government—and the party—a massive platform to make their pitch. Maclean’s political editor Paul Wells explains the government’s intent.
2. There might be something for you in there.
As a political document, the budget serves two purposes: to contrast the Tories with their opposition, as Wells explained in Video No. 1; and to make a pitch to the common folk about what their government is doing for them. Maclean’s Ottawa Bureau Chief John Geddes picks out some of the goodies spread far and wide.
3. There might be something for your parents in the budget.
Seniors vote, and they control ever more real estate on Canada’s population pyramid. Maclean’s Business Editor Jason Kirby dives into the biggest benefit for older Canadians in the budget: changes to rules governing Registered Retirement Income Funds. Odds are high that either you can take advantage of RRIF changes yourself, or you know a parent or grandparent who can. Kirby breaks down what this means for them.
4. There’s something for manufacturers in the budget.
The budget lays blame for the steep drop in oil prices at the feet of American oil producers. That oil crash drove down the price of the loonie and forced Oliver to rethink the numbers and push his budget speech into a new fiscal year. He responded by paying attention to a sector of the economy that benefits from a low dollar and has some bounce in its step these days: manufacturers. Mike Moffatt, an assistant professor at the Ivey Business School, lays out the measures that will help southwestern Ontario’s manufacturing heartland.
5. You might not see much of yourself in the budget.
Geddes spoke of the wide swath of benefits Oliver found for so many Canadians, not by accident, a few months before a federal election. But much of the big-ticket stuff is for the kinds of families who typically grace government advertising. Low-income Canadians, for example, can’t expect the same attention. Jennifer Robson, an assistant professor of political management at Carleton University, had her eye on the goodies for atypical target groups.