SOUTHERN ALBERTA: A little something for everyone, but not much for Southern Albertans - that's the diagnosis on Tuesday's federal budget from a local accounting firm.
"Agriculture is an area where we often look for some major initiatives. And yes, there's a little bit here but not a great deal," says Dean Gallimore, a managing partner with KPMG in Lethbridge. "So I would suggest for Southern Alberta, this budget has less impact than the previous budgets the Tories have put out."
Gallimore calls the budget an "election document," saying the Conservatives seem to have spread their money out thinly to try and please the majority of people. They've done that through low-cost "goodies," that have powerful brand recognition, but not much clout.
A proposed "top-up benefit" for low income seniors, for example, will actually benefit only a small percentage of Canadians. Gallimore says seniors have to be part of a very low income bracket to qualify for that benefit.
Commitments to agriculture are also limited. Gallimore quotes $24 million for an extended initiative for the control of airborne diseases within the hog industry, $100 million for improved food inspection and a two-year extension of an innovation initiative for commercialization of agriculture products. But he adds "it's nothing that's going to change anyone's life overnight."
Lethbridge MP says Tories are ready for a spring election
Opposition parties say they don't support the budget. Pundits expect the government will fall this week - either over the budget or a non-confidence vote. That could send Canadians to the polls as early as this coming May.
Lethbridge MP Rick Casson says the opposition's decision could have serious consequences for votership.
"There's Canadians that want to see more money for seniors. There's Canadians that want to see programs like eco-retrofit put back in place," says Casson. "All of these things are in this budget, these opposition members are going to have to go back to their ridings and say I'm not going to vote for that. And they're going to cause an unnecessary $400 million election in the middle of an economic recovery. I don't think that's going to be a very easy sell."
The proposed Tory budget includes what Casson refers to as his "crowning achievement" - a $3,000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters that was 10 years in the making. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took a moment during his budget announcement Tuesday to thank Casson for championing the issue. His thank you was followed by thunderous applause and chants of "Rick, Rick, Rick."
The president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, Rob Simonds, issued a statement shortly afterward, calling the propsed tax break program a "crucial measure to retain and recruit volunteer firefighters."