Canada’s annual budgetary blues

Canadian federal budget for 2022 is a mockery to end all mockeries.

Oldtimers may remember that finance ministers would distribute a few spreadsheets, speak for a few minutes in the House of Commons, and be done with it.

With the exception of Marc Lalonde’s infamous accident in 1983, of course. That’s when Trudeau the Elder’s finance minister donned a pair of new shoes, as he was supposed to do, according to a relatively young (and purely Canadian) tradition.

A CHCH Hamilton television camera guy stood behind Lalonde and filmed a few pages of the document, a no-no if there ever was one. Budgets deal with matters such as taxation, and anyone who knows how the government are getting ready to use new ways to rob the poor taxpayers is in an advantage: they can adjust before the hit comes down.

The secrecy is almost as tight as that of a newest nuclear missile: reporters covering the budget are locked in a room on Parliament Hill, deprived of whatever connection they can have with the outside world. They do get the budget and can study it at their leisure, but not a whiff of a word can get out until the finance minister sits down, to applause from his own side, and to stony silence from parties opposite.

Not that Lalonde could re-write the thing overnight, but he could (and apparently did) make a few changes on those pages the CHCH shared with their viewing audience. Minor, perhaps, but changes nevertheless.

In any case, Lalonde’s budget, including all the documents attached, consisted of 99 pages.

Another Liberal finance minister, Paul Martin, presented a budget that took only 94 pages to prescribe deep slashes to the deficit.

Trudeau Junior government’s budget for 2022 is 304 pages long, and economics, that is, the stuff budgets are supposed to consist of, don’t take as much space as all kinds of platitudes, soliloquies, and buzzwords.

Tristin Hopper, a National Post reporter, compared this year’s document with its Trudeau Jr.-era predecessors, and it inspired her to compile a list of non-senses.

Here’s her selection of this year’s empty words:

“Everyone should have a safe and affordable place to call home.”

“In Canada, diversity is a fact.”

“Canada has been a steadfast defender of the rules-based international order.”

“The global economy is changing.”

But in all seriousness …

Canada is, yet again, not capable of paying for what she’s getting. The country’s deficit is calculated at a staggering $147 billion. As of Monday, April 4, 2022, Canada’s population stood at 38,321,435 souls. That means that each of us, including new-born babies, has added almost $4,000 to our individual share of money owing, thanks to our Canada.

And remember: Canada’s debt stood at more than a trillion before this budget was tabled.

A member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada is usually compared to 18 countries with similar economies. In the calculations of average potential growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita Canada ranks last. She used to in the top percentiles.

Staying with OECD comparisons, Canada ranks 21st out of 37 countries in the field of expenditures for Research and Development Business expenditures as a per cent of GDP.

You can see similar nuggets of failure all across the board, and all racked up during the Trudeau Jr. era.

Strange priorities

The following items will, in Canada’s government’s considered view help stimulate economic growth:

  • $8 billion to transform and decarbonize industry and invest in clean technologies and batteries;
  • $4 billion for the Canada Digital Adoption Program, which launched in March 2022 to help businesses move online, boost their e-commerce presence, and digitalize their businesses;
  • $1.2 billion to support life sciences and bio-manufacturing in Canada, including investments in clinical trials, bio-medical research, and research infrastructure;
  • $1 billion to the Strategic Innovation Fund to support life sciences and bio-manufacturing firms in Canada and develop more resilient supply chains. This builds on investments made throughout the pandemic with manufacturers of vaccines and therapeutics like Sanofi, Medicago, and Moderna;
  • $1.9 billion for the National Trade Corridors Fund to make Canada’s transportation infrastructure more efficient and more effective, like twinning parts of the Trans-Canada Highway in Nova Scotia and road and rail improvements at the Port of Vancouver;
  • $1.5 billion for regional development agencies to support the country’s economic recovery through programs like the Jobs and Growth Fund and the Canada Community Revitalization Fund;
  • $1 billion for the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), bringing the total available through the UBF to $2.75 billion, to improve high-speed Internet access and support economic development in rural and remote areas of Canada;
  • Enhancing the Canada Small Business Financing Program, increasing annual financing to small businesses by an estimated $560 million;
  • $1.2 billion to launch the National Quantum Strategy, Pan-Canadian Genomics Strategy, and the next phase of Canada’s Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy to capitalize on emerging technologies of the future;
  • $1 billion to revitalize the tourism sector;
  • Helping small and medium-sized businesses to invest in new technologies and capital projects by allowing for the immediate expensing of up to $1.5 million of eligible investments (that has begun in 2021);
  • Continuing to work with partners to support the revitalization of East Montreal, including projects that promote innovation, development, and a green and inclusive transition of the area; and
  • Cutting tax rates in half for businesses that manufacture zero-emission technologies

And in 2022:

  • A New Growth Fund of $15 billion;
  • And a new Innovation and Investment Agency — $1Billion.

Looks impressive?

It isn’t. It doesn’t deal with what ails Canada in the first place. Minor details of major proportions, such as the indisputable fact that the government of Canada are the largest employer in the country. Not only that: they are proud of it, as witnessed by their own statement when they were announcing a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for all federal government employees and contractors.

What never made the headlines

The abovementioned Tristin Hopper had a closer look at budgetary items that didn’t attract sufficient attention, neither from the media, nor from the public.

It wasn’t that difficult, it only took a bit of patience. Our elected officials in Ottawa spend roughly a million every single minute (yes, that’s a million every 60 seconds), after all.

Herewith an overview of the intrepid Tristin Hopper’s findings:

Sperm goes tax-free

To help Canada grow, her birth-rate has to be at least 2.1 children per family. It isn’t, and not even the 400,000 immigrants a year have changed it. So, Budget 2022 now includes a few tax credits on the domestic baby-making industry, such as tax credits on surrogate mothers, in-vitro fertilization and expenses related to sperm or ova donation.

Mini-nukes

Carbon – shmarbon, this government has been strangely silent on nuclear power. Now, they have a new idea: why not change Canada into a maker of “small modular reactors” – you can load them onto the back of your truck, and off you go to visit a National Park, with electric power going straight into your tent or RV. It’s only going to cost $70 million for Natural Resources Canada to research these gadgets, while the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expected to find out how to make sure they don’t blow up for a mere $50 million.

In vino veritas

The Aussies didn’t like it that Canada slaps a 52 cent-per-bottle excise tax on wine that comes from elsewhere, while the domestics get off scot-free. A quick complaint to the World Trade Organisation, and Canada has lost again. The government could have fixed the issue by stopping taxing all wines indiscriminately, but 52 cents a bottle was too enticing.

Near-beer win for NDP MP

Thanks are due to NDP MP Richard Cannings: alcohol-free wine and spirits have been free of the federal excise tax. Yet, somehow it happened that near beers didn’t escape Revenue Canada’s vigilance. The good socialist managed to push his private member bill through, and near beers got cheaper. Three cheers!

Fly me to the moon, eh?

Canada, a partner for Lunar Gateway, a NASA-led plan to put a manned space station in orbit around the moon, will build a robotic arm for the thing. A Canadian flying on the program’s first trip would be our reward.

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum

MV Schiedyk was a cargo ship that sank in 1968 in the waters off Canada’s Pacific Coast. A mysterious fuel slick in Nootka Sound was traced to its wreck in 2020. The plan was to suck any remaining diesel fuel out of the Schiedyk for about $6 million. How it happened that the figure now stands at $33 million (400 per cent more), this year’s budget doesn’t say. It merely states it as a fact to contend with.

Milking it like nobody’s business

Farmers who are working too hard and are productive ought to be ashamed of themselves. They’re interfering with the so-called supply management, a federal program that imposes import and agricultural controls to limit the production of eggs and milk. That this makes them more expensive? So what? Free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, give foreign cheese producers freer access to Canadian markets. In exchange, Canadian dairy sector has already got $2.7 billion in compensation thus far, with more coming.

A bypass to end all bypasses

About nine years ago an oil train exploded in the centre of Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people. It took three years for freight trains to get an OK to return. The demand has been going up: our neighbours south of 49th have out every obstacle on earth to pipelines to carry Canada’s oil their way. So, it’s railways’ time again. To make sure these trains avoid going through Lac-Mégantic, this year’s budget has set aside $237.2 million to build a rail bypass.

If you don’t like any of these items, tough. While, factually, a minority, Trudeau Jr. has taken to behaving as if he had Brian Mulroney-style majority in the House of Commons. What he promised the NDP socialists in exchange for their support all the way to 2025, who knows.

It’s called coalition across party lines, and it’s going to cost us all. Dearly.

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