An election year budget
You can tell it’s an election year.
The federal government handed down the 2019 budget last week and with the election just months away it came as no surprise that it included plenty of spending promises. Reading the budget highlights was a little like watching episodes of Oprah where she unveiled her favourite things for the year and then gave them out to her audience members – “You get a big screen TV and you get a big screen TV!” I could imagine Finance Minister Bill Morneau announcing, “You get money for a new home and you get money for a new home!”
The 2019 budget, titled Investing in the Middle Class, contains plenty of incentives and investments aimed at “hardworking Canadians”, ie. voters. They include a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation First-time Home Buyers Incentive providing a percentage of the home cost to first-time homebuyers, lower interest rates on Canada Student Loans, funding for energy efficient retrofits, a job training credit and more allowable income for seniors without an impact impacting their GIS benefits.
There is plenty in this year’s budget that should appeal to voters in this year, including a one-time doubling of infrastructure funding to municipalities through gas tax revenue and spending for skilled trades training.
In all, the federal budget includes $22.8 billion in spending over the next five years. As is to be expected, the opposition parties have been critical – the Conservatives accuse the Liberal government of leading the country into a massive deficit, while the NDP says feds aren’t spending enough.
There’s no doubt the budget is one that panders to the middle class voters the Liberals are hoping to win over for the October election. We’ve become accustomed to seeing a wave of spending in election years. The question is, if the Liberals are re-elected, what will next year’s budget look like? Will we continue to see the same kind of incentives or will the government tighten the purse strings? If there’s a change in government will these programs and incentives disappear or will there be new ones?
To date, we have heard very little from party leaders about their election platforms. But you can be sure their plans will be miles apart, and that is unfortunate. We don’t need a government that will spend us into a deficit that will ultimately end up in deep cuts to get out of, nor do we need a government that wants to balance the budget at any cost. If those are the choices the best case scenario might be a minority government.
*Our local MPP, Ontario’s education minister, has certainly been thrust into the spotlight lately with a wave of announcements about changes to education curriculum and class sizes.
Some of the changes are, in my opinion, very positive – specifically a revision of the math curriculum and greater emphasis on skilled trades and financial literacy. What greatly concerns me is the decision to increase high school classroom sizes from an average of 22 students to 28. The province has promised that there will be no job losses but the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said while there may not be layoffs, there will be thousands of positions eliminated through attrition. A reduction in high school teaching staff will inevitably lead to program cuts and a loss of extra curriculars.
What does the future hold for young people entering teachers college? After several years where full-time teaching jobs were hard to come by and new graduates languished on supply lists, there now seems to be an abundance of positions available. Increasing class sizes will change all that. My son, currently in Grade 9, has his sights set on a career as a high school teacher. He now may need to rethink his future.