Parliament resumes to deliberate budget

On March 4, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government tabled its budget, ending a two-month hiatus after the controversial decision to prorogue Parliament.

The budget marked the last year of Canada’s Economic Action Plan and charted a course of fiscal restraint for the foreseeable future. It found savings by closing tax loopholes, freezing administrative growth and salaries, as well as limiting spending growth in certain areas such as defence.

“We will have savings of about $17.6 billion over five years,” said Jim Flaherty, minister of finance, to reporters prior to his speech in the House of Commons.

“That aids us to be very close to balance in 2014-15.”

Opposition parties were critical of the lack of new initiatives to help a still fragile economy recover and Flaherty’s weak track record on economic projections.

“There’s no way to get rid of the deficit without crippling our whole fabric, without an increase in taxes,” said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, to reporters.

The Liberals argued that a budget contingency was needed in case the recession rebounds in the near term, which is no sure thing with a fragile economy north and south of the border.

While Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff disapproved of a budget he characterized as having a “lack of ambition” and an abundance of gimmicks, he was not willing to trigger an election.

-With files from Emma Godmere, Canadian University Press