After receiving budget suggestions from hundreds of witnesses over several months, the Conservative-led House of Commons finance committee is calling on the government to keep up the good work.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver has said he only wants to hear ideas for next year's federal budget that have a low cost or no cost, and all the recommendations the committee released on Wednesday meet that test. Most of them call on the government to maintain or continue initiatives that are already in place.
The committee's government-friendly tone and conclusions are not surprising given that the Conservative majority on the committee had the final say on what made it into the 47 recommendations.
Still, a few suggestions could provide a hint of what new measures the Conservative government might include in the 2015 budget.
For instance, the committee calls on the government to "examine ways to help Canadians save for long-term care." The committee noted that the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association proposed creating a 15 per cent non-refundable tax credit for premiums paid for long-term-care insurance.
The committee also suggests changes to the withdrawal rates for Canadians using registered retirement income funds.
In one of the rare calls for more spending, the committee says Ottawa should consider "an increase" in the College and Community Innovation Program for polytechnics and colleges.
Calls for a greater focus on natural gas appear to have won over the committee. There is a recommendation that the federal government consider ways to encourage private-sector investment "in natural gas vehicles and related infrastructure."
Other recommendations include a call to simplify the tax code and to further reduce or eliminate tariffs on retail goods.
The committee also recommends that "the federal government maintain its strong support for veterans by providing key investments and services, and by exploring new ways to connect veterans with jobs after their service."
The NDP and Liberal members of the committee issued dissenting reports. Both parties criticized the government's recent income-spitting tax cut for families with children under 18 and the effectiveness of the recent tax credit for small business. Both parties also called for increased funding for veterans.
The NDP said Ottawa should pledge to maintain the annual six per cent increases in health transfers to the provinces, which are scheduled to be scaled back to grow in line with the economy starting in 2017-18 with a minimum guaranteed increase of three per cent.
The Liberal recommendations included a call that "the federal government cease its undemocratic use of omnibus budget legislation."
Bill C-43, the second omnibus bill implementing the 2014 budget and other unrelated measures, received its final vote of approval in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Mr. Oliver met privately with NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen and Liberal finance critic Scott Brison to discuss the budget.