The federal government tabled an austerity budget Tuesday that signalled it's ready for a fight with Canada's provincial governments over job training money. The Tories are also putting the squeeze on public servants as they plan for a surplus budget next year.
And what does the 2014 budget mean for you? Here's an overview:
1. The budget is technically balanced
But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he didn't want to push the numbers just to get a $100,000 surplus.
"I'd prefer to have a nice clean surplus next year," he told reporters Tuesday.
The 2014-2015 budget predicts a $2.9 billion deficit but includes a $3 billion contingency fund, which Flaherty says is needed for unexpected events like the Alberta floods. Expects a large surplus - projected to be $6.4 billion - next year when the Conservatives start courting you for your vote!
2. The Conservatives are pressing ahead with the controversial Canada Job Grant program.
The program covers up to $15,000 for training. When it was announced in the 2013 budget, Ottawa said it would be funded in three ways split equally between the federal government, the province and the employer.
But Ottawa hasn't been able to get an agreement with the provinces who are upset the federal government plans to cut millions from their training budget and direct that cash towards this program. The Tories said Tuesday they'll move ahead with or without the provinces on April 1, 2014 and they'll fork up to $10,000 per individual if need be. They also announced small business may not have to contribute as much money.
Ottawa also said it wants to start a new program for persons with disabilities that would also be matched by the provinces and
3. The federal government is tackling youth unemployment
The budget includes funding for new programs to help young people get the skills they need and a foothold into the market. Ottawa plans to spend more than $100 million on interest-free loans through the Canada Apprentice Loan program, an expansion of the Canada Student Loans Program.
It will also review the Youth Employment Strategy to provide real-life work experience in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and skills trade. The federal government says it will also dedicate more money towards internships.
4. Changes to immigration
The federal government is also investing $11 million over two years to ensure that some employers are not abusing its temporary foreign worker program. And it is promising to reform the way wealthy immigrants who say they'll invest in Canada are allowed into the country.
5. Big Telecom, be warned
As HuffPost's Sunny Freeman reported earlier, Ottawa announced it will cap wholesale domestic wireless roaming rates to prevent big wireless providers from charging their smaller competitors more than they charge their own customers for service.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission is currently studying the issue but Ottawa is moving ahead with the cap until the regulator makes a decision. Ottawa said it will also fine companies that break the CRTC's Wireless Code.
6. If you're a public servant, brace yourself.
Ottawa has signalled it plans to take a hard line during contract negotiations with bureaucrats this year and press ahead with plans to reform the public service's sick leave. And now it says it will force retired public servants to contribute more money to their health care plan and raise eligibility to apply for those benefits. That measure alone will allow Ottawa to save $7.4 billion over six years, the government says.
Ottawa also announced another two years of freezes to departmental budgets and those of some Crown corporations like the CBC.
7. Better internet for rural Canada
Ottawa announced major investments in infrastructure for rural and Northern Canadians, saying it will invest $305 million over five years to extend high-speed broadband to some 280,000 homes.
8. Sucks to be a smoker.
Ottawa is increasing taxes on tobacco products. A carton of 200 smokes will cost $4 more from now on. The federal government is also going make duty-free cigarettes not free of duty at all.
And it will spend an extra $91 million over five years to combat contraband tobacco. The federal government estimates it will make an extra $685 million in new taxes in 2014-2015 from this move.
9. Sorry, Pamela, Mike and GG
Some people who won't be happy include Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and the Governor General. The federal government said it won't allow senators who are suspended from the Senate to count those years towards their retirement. Ottawa also announced it will make the Governor General pay custom duties. The Tories recently made the GG pay income tax and GST.
However, the government did not announce it would cut MPs' pension packages or their continued use of per-diems or their $160,000 salary.
10. More spending for automakers
Ottawa said it will spend an additional $500 million for the Automotive Innovation Fund, essentially to bail out Chrysler, while announcing it is selling its stocks in GM, which it received when it bailed out the company in 2009.
11. Lower prices (maybe?)
Ottawa says it will crack down on companies that charge consumers more for their products in Canada than in the U.S.
Using a fictitious example, Flaherty said if Walmart charged Canadians more for Cheerios than in the U.S. and didn't have an explanation, like higher trucking costs, then they should be punished.
It's not clear how they are going to do this but they plan on giving the Competition Bureau more tools to do this and they say more details will be announced in the coming months.
12. Fewer fees for getting bills by mail
The feds say they will ban banks from charging customers to receive their credit card bills in the mail. Ottawa says it might do the same for wireless companies too.
13. And a few trinkets that will make some people happy
- The Canada First Research Excellence Fund will give university researchers $1.5 billion over 10 years
- $5 million more for programs aimed at senior citizens
- A larger tax credit to those who adopt.
- The federal government plans to develop a "Made in Canada" branding program
- Work to establish more low-cost bank accounts
- Increase transparency on credit card merchant fees.
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