The Official Opposition NDP laid out its hopes for next week's federal budget, calling for tax credits to boost hiring and home renovations, limits on ATM fees and an approach that puts economic growth ahead of balanced books.
The governing Conservatives have a majority in Parliament, meaning they will not need the support of any opposition MPs in order to pass Tuesday's 2014 budget into law. Nonetheless, the NDP held a news conference Wednesday morning to stake out its priorities.
NDP finance critic Peggy Nash repeated her party's call for Ottawa to bring back the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which was a popular program that ran from 2007 until 2012. With an estimated price tag of between $250-million and $300-million in lost tax revenue, it is the most expensive of the NDP's requests. The program provided tax credits worth up to $5,000 toward home renovations that increased energy efficiency. Conservatives have acknowledged that ending the program was a difficult decision given its popularity.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has signalled that the focus of the 2014 budget will be to follow through with planned restraint measures and avoid major new spending in order to balance the books by the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The NDP argues this approach amounts to a "do nothing" budget that places a political target for erasing the deficit in time for the 2015 election ahead of measures to promote economic growth and jobs.
"If you rush too quickly to balance the books through austerity measures, you risk slowing the economy, maintaining or increasing higher unemployment and you delay in fact a return to the normal growth cycle of the economy," said Ms. Nash. "We believe that the government's not taking a balanced approach right now."
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said in a statement that the NDP's support of the home retrofit program was "strange" given that the NDP voted against the budgets that approved the program.
"The ecoENERGY Homes program successfully created jobs across this country and helped Canadians make their homes more energy efficient," he said in a statement, adding that Ottawa spent almost $1-billion on the program and that it was used by over 6 million homeowners.
His office would not comment on why the program came to an end or whether Ottawa is looking at reviving the incentive.