03/21/2013 10:20 EDT | Updated 03/22/2013 09:13 EDT

Federal Budget 2013: Leaks, Rumours And Projections Paint A Picture Of Tory Fiscal Plan

The Harper government will release its federal budget for 2013 at 4 p.m. ET today, but leaks, rumours and projections about what will be in it are flying fast and furious.

While the budget is expected to focus on spending cuts as the Tories aim to eliminate the deficit by 2015 (a goal many critics say could be doing as much economic harm as good), budget leaks suggest there will be some room for new initiatives as well.

Here’s a rundown of some of the items expected to be in today’s budget:

A Plan For The Skilled Labour Shortage

This year’s budget is expected to focus on the growing problem of Canada’s labour skills gap -- jobs, especially in the energy industry, are going unfilled even as some 1.3 million Canadians look for work.

The feds already send about $2.5 billion a year to the provinces for labour market development, and they've suggested they want better accountability for how that money is spent. But the National Post reports Finance Minister Jim Flaherty doesn’t want to risk a backlash from the provinces by dictating how they spend the money, so labour development policy will likely continue to be run at the provincial level.

Defence Spending Cuts

Canada’s military is once again a likely target for spending cuts in this budget, the Toronto Star reports.

That’s causing some consternation from military officials. Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, the head of the army, notes that the military’s budget has already been cut by 22 per cent since 2010.

“[T]he Canadian Forces’ readiness has been reduced significantly,” defence analyst David Perry wrote in a recent study.

Cheaper Hockey Gear

The government will eliminate tariffs on hockey equipment, John Ivison reports at the National Post. The move comes after a parliamentary committee looking into price differences between Canada and the U.S. noted that it costs almost $200 more to equip a child with hockey gear in Canada than it does in the U.S. Tariffs on hockey gloves, for example, are 16.5 per cent higher in Canada.

But Ivison says the government likely won’t make any other moves on tariffs, as the feds still rely on the $3.6 billion in revenue that the fees bring in.

Lower Taxes For Manufacturers

The government is expected to increase tax credits for manufacturers, as part of an effort to boost hiring, The Globe and Mail reports.

The head of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters told the Globe he expects the government to set up a new fund for manufacturers who want to develop new products. The Tories are also expected to extend a tax break for manufacturers worth about $1 billion a year.

Closing Tax Loopholes, Taking On Tax Havens

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said the budget will launch a crackdown on Canadians using foreign tax havens or other methods of avoiding taxes, the Toronto Star reports.

The move is reportedly meant to help the Tories balance the budget more quickly, while addressing opposition complaints that the government isn’t doing enough to rein in tax cheats.

A 'Housing First' Approach To Homelessness

The federal budget will renew spending to combat homelessness and will take a new approach to the problem, The Canadian Press reports. Flaherty is expected to renew the $134-million-a-year homelessness fund, but is expected to take a "housing first" approach to the prblem, emphasizing subsidies for apartments and homes over the traditional emphasis on shelters and addiction treatment.

-- With files from The Canadian Press

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