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Budget Sounds Like Mumbo-Jumbo? We're Here to Help

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Budget news came down the Parliamentary stairway with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper sharing in a laugh while reporters furiously thumbed their blackberries, shoved mics in politcians' faces, or yelled, "Tweet that!" in newsrooms (as we did at HuffPostCanada). Feeling a little bombarded with info? We thought you might be. Here to wade through the numbers and jargon are a few experts and Huffpost contributors, each with their own take on the cost-cutting measures:

GALLERY: FEDERAL BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

"No One Will Miss the Penny"

2012-03-29-KeithBeardsley.jpg"For most Canadians it will be a ho-hum budget. Generally quite moderate and missing the draconian cuts that were widely predicted. No one will miss the penny. Everyone expected the civil service to be hit and while cutting 19,000 jobs is significant, it is nowhere near the 50-60,000 job losses that many suggested was coming. There will certainly be pushback by the public service unions; already they are talking about taking their message into every constituency and by environmental groups. But average Canadians for the most part should see this as a moderate budget" - Keith Beardsley, Former Senior Conservative staffer, Partner True North Public Affairs.

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Will you miss the penny?

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"The Continued Harper Assault on the Environment"

2012-03-29-ElizabethMay.jpg"This budget continues the Harper Conservatives' assault on the environment in more ways than one: Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans are all facing cuts (six per cent, four per cent, and four per cent respectively). The Harper Conservatives have followed through on threats to erode environmental protection and grease the wheels for greater fossil fuel development. First, it gagged the scientists; now it is killing the advisory institute -- the National Round Table on Environment and Economy -- and it has sent a warning shot to silence anti-government conservation groups. Without measurements, science, or critics who can speak without fear, Harper's agenda heads towards steam-rolling massive fossil fuel expansion.

The cuts to seniors, veterans, cultural institutions, and overseas development assistance are all deeply disturbing. Earlier this week, Greens identified areas of waste equal to those areas chosen for cuts in this budget. The Prime Minister had a choice where to cut and where to invest. He made the wrong choices.

Greens are incensed by this government's callous disregard for the things that matter most to Canadians." Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party.

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Is federal budget too tough on the environment?

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"Important that the government will be cracking down on the often extensive political activities and foreign funding of charities in Canada."

2012-03-29-KathrynMarshall.jpg"I'm pleased to see the government commit to reforming the regulatory system in the resource sector so that reviews are more efficient, while also ensuring that energy is being developed responsibly. The government will be implementing set timelines for reviews and hearings to prevent lengthy delays for potential project approvals. It's critical to strike the right balance and ensure that review processes are not being bogged down and delayed by groups who in many cases simply do not want our natural resources developed. In the Northern Gateway hearings, of the over 4,000 people registered to testify before the panel, 1,600 of them were reportedly signed up by one Environmental NGO in a campaign called 'mob the mic.'

It is also important that the government will be cracking down on the often extensive political activities and significant foreign funding of charities in Canada. The budget proposes that the Canada Revenue Agency will strengthen compliance with regards to charities' political activities, and will enhance transparency by mandating charities to disclose their political activities and foreign funds paying for these activities. There are groups in Canada right now who call themselves charities, who collect all the subsidies that registered charities enjoy, and yet do almost nothing but spend all day long hollering attacks against the oil sands and engaging in political activism -- and they accept foreign money to do it. This can't be what charitable tax breaks were meant for." - Kathryn Marshall, Former chief spokesperson and current blogger with EthicalOil.org.

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Should the government crack down on foreign funding to charities?

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"Despite their brave language, spending will be up $20 billion over this government's mandate."

2012-03-29-JordanBateman.jpg"Ever heard the sound of one hand clapping? That's the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's feeling on the 2012 federal budget. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty should have followed the fiscal leadership of the Chretien-Martin mid-1990s Liberals and put Canada on a path to economic prosperity by balancing the budget through reductions to federal bureaucracy and real spending cuts. Despite their brave language, spending will be up $20 billion over this government's mandate. Even with the 19,200 job cuts announced today, the federal bureaucracy has still grown by 20,000 people since Prime Minister Harper took office seven years ago. They needed to go further to balance the budget sooner -- and get on with the tax cuts they promised Canadians in the last election." - Jordan Bateman, B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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Did the budget not go far enough in cuts?

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"Immigrants to Canada form a pool of untapped talent which is often underutilized."

2012-03-29-rachel.jpg"There is language in the budget which refers to 'realigning the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to better meet labour market demands.' This sounds promising if it forces companies to look domestically before allowing businesses to funnel salaries overseas. Hopefully, unemployed Canadian workers will be allowed to take on temporary positions without penalizing their E.I. benefits when the work term ends. As small and medium businesses form the lifeblood of the Canadian economy, it behooves the federal government to pull the necessary levers to espouse these jobs. Extending the 'Hiring Credit for Small Business,' will help small businesses to defray the costs of hiring new workers -- hopefully new grads will also benefit. Immigrants to Canada form a pool of untapped talent which is often underutilized. The government pledges 'improvements to foreign credential recognition,' which is often a barrier to newcomers' success. It is also a show of respect to return applications fees to certain federal skilled worker applicants who have been waiting over four years for processing to be completed." - Rachel Décoste, Software Engineer

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Was the budget fair to immigrants?

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"I don't trust weasel words like 'smart regulation.'"

2012-03-29-Maxwell.jpg"The budget is about creating jobs and economic growth, but it does not give weight to the need for shared and sustainable prosperity. Canada is losing time dealing with climate change. Meanwhile the budget opens the door to faster approval for extractive projects like the Enbridge Pipeline. It cuts nearly 20,000 public sector jobs. These may be called 'back office operations,' but that is where much of the serious work of the civil service is done. I don't trust weasel words like 'smart regulation.' Nor do I buy 'responsible resource development.' When this government talks about preparing for oil spills, improving the safety of tanker traffic, and scientific research on marine habitat, you know that the goal is not to slow down oil and gas development but to facilitate it. Everything indicates the government will move toward deregulation and downsizing of the public sector in ways that will make 'responsible development' impossible." - Maxwell A. Cameron, Director, Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

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Should the budget have paid more attention to climate change?

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GALLERY: FEDERAL BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

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