Deficit to be less than $3B, down from peak of $55B
The federal government is close to balancing its books, Canadians learned Tuesday afternoon, when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered his 10th budget as finance minister.
While not formally declaring the death of the deficit, Flaherty said the government would spend about $2.9 billion more than it takes in, not including a $3 billion cushion. So unless the projections are significantly off, the books will be balanced next year. At its height during the fiscal crisis in 2009, a stimulus package combined with a drop in economic activity drove the operating deficit to more than $55 billion.
Other highlights of Tuesday's budget include money for major infrastructure projects for Montreal and Windsor, but no national programs that would help fund a local project like the $120 million Maley Drive extension.
While the city has committed its share, Maley depends on the federal government and the province each paying one-third of the cost.
Other budget highlights:
- The cost of a carton of cigarettes is going up by about $4, a move expected to raise about $600 million annually;
- Craft brewers will have an easier time unveiling new brands, as the government is relaxing rules that define exactly what beer is;
- There's also $108 million for lower-income military veterans to ensure they get a proper funeral and burial. Veterans will also get preference when applying for jobs with the government bureaucracy;
- There's also $1.6-billion in funding in the next five years for research and innovation;
- And a tax credit for search and rescue volunteers who perform at least 200 hours of service a year.
Finally, promises of new legislation to address the problem of Canadians paying much higher prices for goods than residents in the U.S.