Budget 2014: 'Nice, little bonuses' or 'do-nothing' fiscal plan?
Published Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:13AM EST
Minister of State for Finance Kevin Sorenson says the upcoming federal budget will not stray from the Conservative focus on balancing the books and creating jobs, but Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair says he fears it will turn out to be a "do-nothing" fiscal plan.
Sorenson said Conservative Members of Parliament have travelled across the country talking to Canadians, and this year's budget addresses their main concerns.
"Most of the Canadians have said 'Listen we want to make sure we come to a balanced budget, but we want to make sure that there are jobs, and that there are things for families and communities’," he told CTV's Canada AM. "I think this budget will show that we've listened."
One of the main priorities for the Conservatives continues to be balancing the budget by 2015, he said, and Canadians expect the government to live within their means as it is required to do by law.
However, that doesn't mean the government will indiscriminately cut spending, he stressed.
"We've always said that the strategy is for balance in 2015. But there's still lots of very good things," Sorenson said.
"We aren't going to balance at the stake of families and at the stake of accomplishing some of the good things our government has talked about."
Sorenson wouldn't share specific details of what may be included in the budget, which will be delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Tuesday, but he did hint that it could include some good news for taxpayers.
"We've said that our focus wants to be families and communities. So there will be some nice little bonuses, I'm sure."
Many analysts have noted that the timing of the budget – which coincides with the Sochi Olympics -- is a likely indication of a stay-the-course fiscal plan, as the government wouldn't want to make a major spending or policy announcement with all eyes fixed on the Games.
But the Opposition Leader said he fears the budget will not address important social and environmental issues that affect Canadians.
"We're worried that it is going to be a do-nothing budget, as they try and head into the next cycle and prepare us for an election with a good news budget," Mulcair said. "But there are still a lot of people suffering in Canada."
He noted the issues that concern the NDP include investments in First Nations schools, cuts made to services affecting veterans, and affordability issues like the fees some Canadians pay at ATMs to withdraw their money.
"So there are a lot of things that should and can be done that the Conservatives aren't doing, and we're going to try and hold their feet to the fire on that," he said.
Mulcair said he recognized the importance of balancing the budget and creating jobs, but both have to be done in an "intelligent" manner.
"Of course you can balance the books, but austerity in and of itself doesn't produce wealth. You have to have an intelligent approach to job creation," he said.
He said many of the jobs created since the 2008 financial crisis have not been full-time positions, but "part-time and precarious." He added that the Conservatives should be looking to create jobs in the green economy, rather than continue with their "rip and ship" approach.
"We've got to look at the economy of course, but we've also got to look at social issues and the environment at the same time," he said.