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Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold copies of the federal budget on their way to the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold copies of the federal budget on their way to the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Morning update

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Breaking down the federal budget

No major tax changes, no plans to balance the books, and funding for skills training are just a few of the major takeaways from this year’s federal budget. Here’s what you need to know:

Personal finances: The Liberals didn’t raise the capital gains rate (but they also didn’t rule out future changes). Also, say goodbye to the transit tax credit; you won’t be able to claim it after June 30. Another change on the transportation front: You’ll soon need to start paying GST and HST when taking an Uber. Meanwhile, Canada Savings Bonds are being discontinued, but all outstanding bonds will be honoured. And adults going back to school will soon be able to qualify for student loans more easily.

Gender-based violence: The Liberals are creating a national strategy to prevent gender-based violence. They’ll be investing $100-million over five years. Another $2.7-million is earmarked for education and training for judges to ensure they’re sensitive to the “evolving nature of Canadian society.” The funding comes after The Globe and Mail’s unfounded investigation into sexual-assaults, which found one in five complaints are dismissed by police as baseless – in other words, that no crime occurred.

The Trump factor: Donald Trump’s pledge of major tax breaks likely caused the Liberals to hold off on big changes until the U.S. plans become apparent. As well, the budget noted that a border tax or other trade restrictions would hurt the Canadian economy. But the Liberals also used the budget to highlight their climate-change plans, a sharp contrast to Trump’s administration.

Deficit: The Liberals are projecting a deficit of $28.5-billion for 2017-18, before going down to $18.8-billion by 2021-22. Economists are expressing concern that without a timeline for eliminating the deficit, Ottawa’s finances are vulnerable if there’s a recession or if growth slows.

Odds and ends: The government is setting aside $7-billion for child-care spaces and $11.2-billion for affordable housing. Those funds will be spread out over a decade. The Liberals also allocated $3.4-billion over five years toward Indigenous communities. On the business front, Ottawa laid out a more detailed plan for its Canadian Infrastructure Bank.

Opinion: John Ibbitson: Liberal budget touts innovation, but really offers nothing (The Globe and Mail)

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Four dead in London terror attack

Four people are dead and least 27 injured in a terror attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London. A man reportedly drove a large sport utility vehicle into a big crowd along Westminster Bridge, before crashing into a fence by Parliament. He then ran toward the House of Commons, stabbing an unarmed police officer to death. He was then shot dead by police. The attacker appeared to be “inspired by international terrorism,” police said. The attack happened exactly one year after the Brussels airport and subway bombings. And it bears similarities to the attacks in Nice and Berlin where assailants rammed heavy vehicles into large crowds.

HEALTH PRIMER

Beware the hype on stem-cell breakthroughs

“Doubt every claim that suggests a significant breakthrough. Doubt everything,” writes Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta. While medical breakthroughs do happen, they are rare, he says. Take, for example, a recent incident at a Florida clinic where patients went blind after undergoing an unproven stem-cell procedure to treat macular degeneration. While stem-cell research gets a lot of attention, he says, there are barely any related therapies that have proven effective. We need more regulatory oversight to prevent things like what happened in Florida, and prospective patients should be wary of stem-cell therapies, Caulfield writes.

MORNING MARKETS

Investors worldwide were nervously awaiting the vote on U.S. President Donald Trump’s health-care proposal. Earlier in the week, markets sold off on concerns that the U.S. administration’s tax reform plan would be delayed, highlighting the fragile nature of the Trump rally. On Thursday, Tokyo’s Nikkei edged up 0.2 per cent, and the Shanghai composite rose 0.1 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up marginally. Major indexes were mixed across Europe in the wake of Wednesday's London attack, with the Paris CAC 40 down 0.1 per cent, London’s FTSE 100 down slightly, and Germany’s DAX up 0.1 per cent. Wall Street futures were modestly higher and crude oil prices bounced off four-month lows, although traders remained cautious amid concern that OPEC supply cuts were not yet making a dent in record U.S. inventories.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Budget 2017: Move along, nothing to see here – but just wait until next year

“Are there new measures to cool hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto? Not yet. An increase in military spending, to head off criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump? Not in 2017. More detail on the decade-long infrastructure program? Not really. The fine print on the new national infrastructure bank? Coming soon. Budget 2017’s hundreds of thin pages are filled with buzzwords and buzzy ideas; beyond that, it exhausts itself enumerating what the government did last year, and teasing out what it might do next. There are a couple of reasons for that. Given a four-year electoral cycle, governments want big announcements in Year One, fulfilling recently-made electoral promises, and Years Three and Four – teeing up the next date with voters. There are no Christmas presents in Year Two.” – Globe editorial

Liberals fall short with first gender-based federal budget

“Give the Liberals kudos for referring to women on nearly every page of the budget, for showing that the federal government knows its own statistics. But Canadian families – especially low-income mothers striving to join the middle class – already know where they’re crunched and what might help. They should expect Canada’s first feminist government to pick up a gender-balanced share of the check where it will help most and provide the analysis to back it up. There’s always next year.” – Erin Anderssen

The new wave of terrorism in Britain

“Britain has invested in a lavish and discreet system of concrete moats, high gates, security tunnels and stealth surveillance that surround Westminster today and theoretically make it impervious to such traditional high-explosive terrorist attacks. In Wednesday’s attack, an unknown man circumvented those protections by employing the new, extremely low-technology form of terrorism that has flourished in Britain since 2013. It uses no more than knives and motor vehicles, and instead of attempting to breach secure symbolic sites, it kills people on the sidewalk in seemingly random attacks. And the men who carry out these attacks generally tend to be local, unstable and unaffiliated with movements or organizations, except through personal sympathies.” – Doug Saunders

MOMENT IN TIME

The first elevator installed

March 23, 1857: Like most entrepreneurial inventors, Elisha Otis was a bit of a showman, too. Otis had invented an automatic safety device – a wagon spring, really – to keep an elevator from falling if its cable broke. With few orders, he took his “safety hoist” to New York’s Crystal Palace in May, 1854, and rode a platform high into the air – then ordered the rope cut. As people gasped, his assistant swung an axe, the hoisting line was severed, the spring snapped into place and grabbed the rails on either side – and the platform came to a sudden stop. His first safety elevator for passengers was for a building just five storeys high, the E.V. Haughwout & Co. store in New York. But his invention would make the skyscraper possible, transforming skylines around the world. – Massimo Commanducci

Morning Update is written by Arik Ligeti.

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