QUEBEC - The Quebec government has formally requested to be excluded from the new federal skills-training program.
The province's pro-independence government is particularly livid about the budget, and has held two news conferences 18 hours apart in order to blast it.
It stresses that labour training was transferred to the provinces after a hard-won battle in the wake of the 1995 Quebec independence vote.
And it says its program works.
"We're asking for Quebec to be excused from this federal program," Labour Minister Agnes Maltais said Friday.
"We refuse to go 15 years backward."
The skills-training change has drawn a mixed reaction from provinces.Story continues below slideshow
2013 BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
Revenues for 2013-14 forecast at $263.9 billion, spending at $282.6 billion, deficit at $18.7 billion. Deficit projected to drop to $6.6 billion in 2014-15 and become an $800-million surplus in 2015-16. With files from Althia Raj and The Canadian Press.
Tackling The Skills Gap
The Tories plan to create a Canada Job Grant that will provide $15,000 or more per person -- up to $5,000 provided by the federal government, the rest matched by the province/territory and the employer. Nearly 130,000 Canadians are expected to benefit when the new grant is fully implemented in 2017-2018. Essentially, this is the government saying it is taking training out of the hands of provincial governments because it hasn’t worked and placing it in the hands of individuals. The Canada Job Grant will replace the Labour Market Agreements the feds signed with the provinces, which expire in 2014.
Manufacturing and small business get tax-credits introduced in past budgets extended to help spur investment and growth. There will be $1.4 billion in tax relief for manufacturers by extending the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for new investment in machinery and equipment. And hundreds of millions for small business owners.
The government has pledged more than $53 billion in infrastructure spending, including $47 billion in new funding over 10 years. This includes $32.2 billion over 10 years for a “Community Improvement Fund” to build roads and public transit as well as recreational facilities and other community infrastructure projects. The Fund will consist of an index Gas Tax Fund and the incremental GST Rebate for Municipalities.
Military spending will be re-jigged that it is modeled on the ship building strategy and aimed at creating more jobs in Canada and key domestic capabilities with an eye towards exports.
Foreign Affairs - Aid Agency Cancelled
The budget has cancelled the Canadian International Development Agency, the primary agency responsible for foreign aid. Its duties will be merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Tax Evasion Snitch Line
The government says it is aggressively going after tax avoiders/and closing tax loopholes. They are launching a “Stop International Tax Evasion Program” where the Canada Revenue Agency will pay individuals with knowledge of “major international tax non-compliance” a percentage of the tax collected as a result of information provided. The CRA will only pay a reward if the information results in total additional assessments exceeding $100,000 in federal tax.
Public Service Cuts
Two departments -- Canada Revenue Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans -- will see big cuts. Departments will see a 5 per cent cut in their travel budgets. The government also says in the budget it intends to work with the public sector unions to “further align overall compensation with other public and private sector employers.”
The federal budget says new projects related to Canada's perimeter security deal with the United States will go ahead as planned, despite budget woes south of the border. The federal budget has given the green light to almost a dozen information-sharing and infrastructure projects related to the Beyond the Border initiative between the two countries. The vaunted deal was announced with fanfare by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in December 2011 at the White House. The plan aims to speed the flow of goods and people across the 49th parallel while protecting the continent from a terrorist attack.
Tobacco Prices Going Up
The government wants to reduce import tariffs on a number of goods including baby clothing, skis, snowboards and gold clubs. But it plans to offset the $76-million revenue loss from that by hiking excise taxes on chewing tobacco and other manufactured tobaccos, to bring them in line with cigarette taxes.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's spring budget commits Ottawa to five more years of funding through the Investment in Affordable Housing program. The level of commitment is the same as in the past: $253 million a year over five years, which needs to be matched by the provinces and territories and can be spent on new construction, renovation, home ownership assistance, rent supplements, shelters and homes for battered spouses. But there's a new twist to the funding. Home construction in the program will support the use of apprentices so that newcomers to the construction trades can build up crucial experience. The budget also commits $100 million over two years to build 250 more units of affordable housing in Nunavut, where homes are so crowded that illness spreads easily and poverty abounds.
Ontario calls it a shell game that might hurt the workers who need it most. British Columbia says it's concerned about being asked to foot the bill for a new federal program. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have asked for more information before jumping on board.
But the reaction in Quebec City is strongest.
Perhaps even more than the labour-training change, the Parti Quebecois government is furious about the end of a tax credit for union venture-capital funds.
The change will almost exclusively hit Quebec, where the investment vehicle is popular.
The provincial government links the disappearance of that credit to a new economic development fund for Ontario worth nearly $1 billion.
"While Ontario is getting $900 million for its manufacturing industry," said federal-provincial minister Alexandre Cloutier, "Quebec is getting peanuts from Ottawa."
It has called the federal budget an act of economic sabotage against Quebec and an attack on the province, which gave the federal Conservatives few seats in the last election.
The opposition parties in Quebec are also upset about the budget, but they're trying to pin their disappointment on the provincial government. They say the PQ is more determined to pick fights with Ottawa than work with it and, as a result, has no leverage whatsoever.
The PQ scoffs at that notion.
Cloutier says other provinces don't have sovereigntist governments, and the program was imposed on them anyway, and he also notes that the last Quebec government had plenty of policies forced on it by the Harper Tories.
Quebec's main business lobby, the Conseil du patronat, was more favourable toward the budget. However, it urged caution in revamping the skills-training system.