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By Chris Hannay (@channay)
Three different Liberal governments, three different fiscal pictures. As budget season kicked off in B.C., here’s a look at what governments across the country are doing.
> British Columbia: B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled a budget – with a projected surplus of $264-million for 2016-17 – that anticipates the highest economic growth rate in the country and takes measures to try to cool Vancouver’s real estate market (though experts aren’t expecting it to help renters). In response to concerns about foreign ownership in the housing market, the B.C. Liberals also said they would begin asking home buyers to declare their citizenship.
> Ontario: The Ontario Liberals will release their budget early – next Thursday, Feb. 25 – but it will be missing one major piece: a provincial pension plan. Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Tuesday that the initiative, which aims to be one of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s legacy policies, will be delayed for a year to give corporations more time to get ready. The province will go ahead with implementing a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by January, 2017.
> Ottawa: During the federal election, the Liberals pledged to make major infrastructure investments and run deficits of up to $10-billion for two years, before returning to balance by the end of their four-year mandate. Since then, the economy has dragged and the Liberals have slowly changed tack. The latest signal of a deepening deficit came Tuesday, when Finance Minister Bill Morneau described a balanced budget only as a “long-term” goal. The Liberals say their budget will include some stimulus for the economy and that the country’s overall debt-to-GDP will not grow.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING
> The Liberal government says it will look into finally making public a list of 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women, after ministers said the number could be much higher. Campbell Clark (for subscribers) says Ottawa is right to question the number.
> The European Parliament will vote next week on whether to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as Canada continues its $15-billion deal.
> A handful of Canadian women have joined the Islamic State overseas to conceive children with fighters, researchers say.
> An administrative error may have given government lawyers a total of up to $50-million for time off they didn’t deserve, the CBC is reporting.
> Alberta’s NDP government has banned The Rebel, a media outlet started by conservative commentator Ezra Levant, from attending news conferences and events because it says it doesn’t consider its employees to be journalists.
> The Manitoba Progressive Conservatives are favoured to beat the governing NDP in April’s election, but as Adam Radwanski writes, the province’s Liberals are on track to get the most support they’ve won in a generation.
> And former NDP MP Ryan Cleary shares his experience running for re-election last year and why he joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservatives. “As a NDP MP...there was an unspoken rule that I could not take a public stand on a fishery issue without first running it by the [Fish, Food and Allied Workers] for the union’s approval. In the case of the cod “food” fishery and the call for an extended season (which I championed), the FFAW would agree with it, but only if a tagging system was brought in at the same time to keep track of the fish that were taken. I didn’t disagree with the stand. My problem was reporting to the FFAW in the first place, especially when I saw the union in a conflict over the funding it received from the federal government for administering programs.”
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WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT
“In the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and in the Canada-European Union free-trade deal the large pharmaceutical companies more or less got what they sought by way of patent protection. The Trudeau government, with its push for a more innovative economy, should call out the brand-name companies publicly and ask what’s been happening and why.” – Jeffrey Simpson (for subscribers).
Gerald Caplan (Globe and Mail): “I keep being asked if New Democrats who attend the coming party convention in Edmonton in April will give Mr. Mulcair a vote of confidence. After much thought, my answer surprises even myself: I don’t much care. Given the absence of any obvious alternatives – although you can be sure some would emerge if the need called for it – I guess he may as well stay for a while longer and show us what he can do. But I feel little enthusiasm.”
Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock (Globe and Mail): “By relinquishing the role of front-line combatant [in Iraq and Syria], Canada has enhanced its capacity to “wage diplomacy,” and to deploy its considerable diplomatic resources in an effort to find both interim and more durable solutions in the region.”
Aaron Wherry (CBC): “And so the Liberal government stands accused of not fighting and of being too closely involved in the fight, of not doing enough of this and of doing too much of that. The government will take Canadians out of the air, but will put more Canadians on the ground. That the Liberals should find themselves somewhere between the Conservatives and New Democrats might make a certain kind of sense. But it also means a fight on two fronts. ”
Tim Harper (Toronto Star): “The issue here is not necessarily the size of this year’s [federal] deficit. It is far more troubling that Trudeau and Morneau have backed away from a pledge to balance the budget at the end of this mandate.”
Barbara Yaffe (Vancouver Sun): “The [B.C.] government is caught between a rock and a hard place. Liberals recognize that, a year before an election, housing has become an incendiary political issue and are willing to empathize with a fretful and infuriated public, many of whom are shut out of the property market. But they are not willing, as they see it, to kill the golden goose.”
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