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10 things to know about the 2017-2018 federal budget

Mike Eppel | posted Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017

Here are ten things to know about the Liberals government’s 2017-18 budget:

No signs of getting back to balance

Updated numbers show the government has yet to come up with a plan to get back in the black. The deficit for this year will be $23-billion, slightly higher than what was expected in the Fall Economic Statement. But by 2022 Canada will still be in red to the tune of $18.8-billion.

Overall, the budgets for the next five years should be lower than what was predicted in the 2016 budget, but the numbers will appear higher since the government has brought back the $3-billion contingency fund, which the government can access to address emergency situations or unforeseen fiscal problems.

Very little new spending

Many of the spending announcements in this budget are actually being taken out of funds that were already committed in last year’s budget. All of the funding announced for child care spaces, green buildings, affordable housing and public transit will be coming from the infrastructure funds already allocated in their initial fiscal plan.

Child care

The government is investing $7-billion over 10 years to support and create new child care spaces in Canada. It’s believed this could create up to 40,000 new spaces for low-modest income families. The money will start flowing next year and builds on the $500-million which has already been committed for this year.

Maternity and parental leave

The government is extending the period in which Canadians can claim maternity and parental benefits. On the front end, expectant women will be allowed to start claiming employment insurance maternity benefits 12 weeks before their due date rather than the current eight weeks.

After the child is born, parents will be able to claim EI benefits for a full year and a half, instead of a year under the current system.

The catch is, after 12 months the amount you will be able to claim will drop from 55 per cent of your average weekly earnings, to 33 per cent. That means you’ll be getting a lot less back if you decide to take the extra six months.

Affordable housing

The government will be investing $11.2-billion over 11 years to a range of initiatives in order to build and refurbish Canada’s affordable housing units.

Innovation economy

The budget targets the creation of new economy jobs in six key areas to grow the Canada of the future –advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital industries, health/bio-sciences and clean resources.

Taxing your Friday night

The government will be raising taxes/levies on products and services that could impact your weekend fun. The excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco are being changed and will be increased by up to two per cent. This means you will be paying more for your beers and smokes.

At the end of the evening ride sharing programs like Uber will cost you more since they will be hit with the same GST and HST as taxi cabs. But if you decide to bus it home that could cost you too. The government is eliminating the transit tax credit, which allowed you to claim your bus/subway/LRT passes at tax time.

Crackdown on tax cheats and loopholes

The government is committing to closing tax loopholes and tax planning schemes that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. It is also committing more than $520-million over five years to prevent tax evasion. The Liberals expect to recoup $2.5-billion with these new measures.

Skills training for youth

Expansion of the Youth Employment Strategy — $400-million over three years for skills development and job training for young adults aged 15 to 30 — as well as 15,000 new jobs for youth in the Green Economy.

Defence spending going up … eventually

The budget says the Federal Defence Department can expect an increase in funding but the policy is still under review. An official announcement is due within the coming months.

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