Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the budget he will table this afternoon will be “moderate, modest.” There is however the old political rule of thumb that a government should take its least popular steps early in its mandate and this budget is the first of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority rule.
Here are five items Mr. Flaherty is expected to announce:
(1) Eligibility to Old Age Security benefits will be delayed from age 65 to 67.
The change, affecting the retirement age for millions of Canadians now under 50, will be phased in over a number of years.
(2) Basic details of the overall program spending cuts that could total $4-billion to $6-billion.
All federal departments have been asked to submit two proposals for cuts: one at 5 per cent and one at 10 per cent.
Some will get deeper cuts than others. Most likely to be hit hard are the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and National Defence, which benefited from past budgetary largesse but now no longer has to conduct combat operations in Afghanistan or Libya.
(3) Measures to show that lawmakers will also share the pain. Pension benefits for members of Parliament will be scaled back. The budget for the House of Commons will be cut by 6.9 per cent – or $30.8-million – by 2014-15. MPs will no longer fly first-class on short-haul routes.
(4) Revamping immigration rules to ensure newcomers meet the needs of Canada’s aging labour market. There will be changes to the temporary foreign workers program, allowing short-term workers to address looming skills shortages in the resource sector.
(5) Changes in the way Ottawa subsidizes research. Part of the National Research Council’s $700-million budget will be off-loaded on the private sector. The $3.5 billion-a-year R&D tax credit will be overhauled.