BUSINESS

Environment, First Nations Get Small Slices Of Budget Pie

04/22/2015 08:06 EDT | Updated 04/23/2015 08:59 EDT

Tuesday’s budget made it clear that doling out tax breaks to Canadians was the Conservatives’ top pre-election priority, but with not much cash to go around, that generosity left little room for spending in other areas.

The chart below shows the money allocated to different areas from 2014 to 2020, as outlined in the “Prosperous Families and Strong, Secure Communities” section of the 2015 budget. Scroll over the chart to see how much money the Tories have devoted to different program areas.

New spending was scant as the Tories tiptoed their way to a marginal surplus of $1.4 billion.

A whopping 82 per cent of the $35.7 billion the government plans to spend on Canadians and their communities is focused on tax breaks and other income measures.

Canadian families caught big breaks with the doubling the TFSA limit and the universal child care credit and children's fitness tax credit and the introduction of income splitting. Seniors also saw some relief with a relaxation of the minimum annual withdrawl on their RRIFs and a new home accessibility tax credit.

Meanwhile, money doled out for social programs was scarce. Health care innovation, Canadians with disabilities, international development, community safety and border protection will see a smaller fraction of that spending than heritage celebrations.

However, few of the spending initiatives included in this pie are new, with $27 billion worth already announced prior to the budget’s release on Tuesday.

The budget has drawn criticism from opposition parties, labour and social development groups for helping out the Canadians who need it least at the price of those who need it most.

Several post-budget analyses of the new spending initiatives named seniors as the true winners in this budget. But an examination of the spending priorities shows programs specifically targeting seniors are getting far less funding than those that also impact Canadians with children.

And while the budget was transparent on the costs of new program spending (for example: $360 million this year for the mission against ISIS, $200 million over five years to improve First Nations education), it was more opaque about exactly how much some of the new income and tax measures are going to eat into revenues.

The Parliamentary Budget Office has said both doubling the TFSA and introducing income splitting would disproportionately help the well-off. The PBO estimated the new $10,000 TFSA limit will cost federal and provincial governments an additional $70 million in lost tax revenue in 2016 and grow to $39.3 billion a year in 2080.

The budget watchdog has also criticized the new family tax cut for benefitting just 15 per cent of households while costing the government $2.2 billion in the form of lost revenues.

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