The second time is hardly twice as nice as we found with a barely warmed-over rehash of the previous budget, which was released some 76 days ago. There were only three minor variations: booking the $2.2 billion in Quebec's tax harmonization “compensation” for the deal expected by September, the end to the per-vote subsidy by reducing it by 50 cents per year over the next four years, and a pledge to find those billions in savings to balance the budget sooner than expected (once again, with no details as to how it's going to happen). Otherwise, it was the same budget. The government might as well have just printed an errata leaflet as opposed to the whole document with the three changes highlighted in blue.
Political reaction was fairly predictable. Jack Layton lamented the things that were not in it, such as a commitment to lift every senior out of poverty and the host of other promises made during the campaign. He let it be known that the NDP will have an amendment for the budget to bring some of these things forward in the spirit of “working together.” Bob Rae, meanwhile, was a bit more realistic about the fact that, from this point forward, everything will be pro forma in terms of proposals and votes. He did return to a statement he made during question period on poverty reduction by making the very simple but serious point that all of the Conservatives' boutique tax cuts do nothing for low-income families because they’re non-refundable: you need to have paid income tax to get the credits, leaving families below the poverty line ineligible. Rae talked about making those credits refundable, which would allow even those who did not pay taxes to still take advantage of them. (Refundable tax credits were an idea that the Liberals often put forward in their platform.) And Elizabeth May? She is thrilled that the ecoEnergy home retrofit program is back but wants to see it made permanent. Not that we’ll expect any of these changes to happen, but at least there are a few ideas on the table.
The CBC’s Greg Weston savages the budget here.
Politics are coming into the massive shipbuilding contracting process that the government is embarking on? You don’t say!
As mentioned in my previous post, Harper was not in QP yesterday because he was off surveying flood damage in Quebec – sans hip waders and ringed by security. And wouldn’t you know it, the mayors of those towns had the audacity to grumble about it.
Of course, Harper’s visit, let alone his budget, didn’t make the top headlines in Quebec. Those spots were taken by three high-profile PQ MNAs who quit the party in a fit of pique over both a private member’s bill on the Quebec City Arena and Pauline Marois’ leadership. The Bloc was swept out and now the PQ is imploding? Could there be a shift happening in Quebec politics? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
On Friday, just after the speech from the throne, the government passed what appeared to be an innocuous motion in the House of Commons. Lo and behold, it looks like the Standing Committee on Government Operations has the sole responsibility of passing the last round of supplementary estimates and a whole three days to do so before they're deemed to be passed – in other words, turning it into a rubber stamp. And so it begins? Quite possibly.
And it looks like Conservative delegates are trying to broker a compromise over the one-member/one-vote motion at the upcoming convention. This could shake the principles of the merger that created the party, which would give rise to a mechanism that would allow more populous Western riding associations to swamp those smaller ones in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Could this head for drama on the convention floor this weekend? Stay tuned.