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Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (R) delivers the provincial budget as Premier Dalton McGuinty looks on at Queens Park in Toronto, March 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch/REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (R) delivers the provincial budget as Premier Dalton McGuinty looks on at Queens Park in Toronto, March 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch/REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Love it or hate it: Provinces react to federal budget Add to ...

The federal budget incited diverse reaction from the provinces on Thursday, from sharp criticism to plaudits. Here is how it was received:

Alberta

Alberta seemed to get everything it wanted in the budget. Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford, who is running for re-election, said the budget is on the right track – in particular because it clears hurdles for energy projects, smoothes immigration processes for the labour-starved province, doesn’t raise taxes and eases in changes to Old Age Security.

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“There’s much good news in the budget for Alberta,” Ms. Redford said.

The budget also followed through on a pledge made four months ago to change Canada’s health transfer formula to equal per-capita funding for provinces, regardless if they’re have or have-not. It means an additional $1-billion annually for Alberta.

“I’m very pleased, as are Albertans, that we will be treated equally after so many years,” Ms. Redford said.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith also praised the budget. “It is great to see the Harper government lead by example and cut billions in wasteful government spending. This demonstrates more respect for taxpayer dollars and is a move in the right direction,” she said. “The commitment to cutting red tape is particularly good news for Alberta’s energy sector and means more jobs and investment opportunities.” - Josh Wingrove

Ontario

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is decidedly less enamoured by the budget. Making Canadians wait until they are 67 before they begin collecting Old Age Security is going to cause “enormous” challenges for society, he said.

The change will hit middle-income earners the hardest because they are not saving enough for their retirement and they are not eligible for other supplements, he added.

“That is going to cause enormous challenges for society in the coming years,” he said. “I don’t think we are taking this seriously enough as a society. I don’t mean just the federal government.”

Ontario has long advocated for an expanded Canada Pension Plan as its preferred option for improving pension coverage. But some other provinces oppose CPP premium hikes and the federal government cannot unilaterally change the program.

Ottawa needs to “reignite” debate with the provinces about enhancing the CPP, Mr. Duncan said. The federal government’s proposal to create pooled registered pension plans, he said, is a “weak-kneed” response.

“My fear is that the current federal government has just too easily moved off looking at enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan,” he said. “Penny wise and pound foolish. That’s Jim,” he said, referring to Jim Flaherty, his federal counterpart. - Karen Howlett

British Columbia

B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon welcomed the federal budget. “I think they struck the balance between some modest spending discipline without going overboard and jeopardizing a very fragile economic situation in the country,” he said

However, B.C. did not win changes to the Canada Health Transfers to provide more health dollars for seniors.

The biggest victory for B.C. was a change to the environmental assessment process, which will allow for faster decisions on major projects.

“We have many major projects on the table today that are in the billions of dollars that could have important ramifications for jobs and employment and revenues,” Mr. Falcon, a Liberal, told reporters. “That is a very positive response.” - Justine Hunter

Saskatchewan

“One of the concerns in the province of Saskatchewan for decades has been the gap between aboriginal students on reserves, and those who aren’t,” Finance Minister Ken Krawetz said. “That gap needs to be eliminated.”

“There is a commitment from the federal government to move to create a First Nations Act, which will help to ensure on-reserve schools can make their commitments.”

Mr. Krawetz, whose Saskatchewan Party tabled a balanced budget last week, was encouraged by the spending restraint in the federal budget.

“We understand the need to ensure that revenue exceeds expenditures. The federal government is moving in that direction.”

Mr. Krawetz said Saskatchewan and the other western provinces welcome the move to streamline environmental assessments on resource projects.

“That will be a benefit, especially for Western Canada. ... We’re pleased with that.”

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