A few personal thoughts on the budget, which isn't a statement on optics or advice on how the Liberals should proceed.
First off, not a very "green" budget, which speaks to the larger point of creating the jobs of the future. I can't really see the grand vision in this budget, more of a hodgepodge, that a focused plan. How this budget modernizes the economy escapes me, it has a panicky feel, plugging holes, rather than using the initiatives to better position us moving forward.
The big item, that was revealed today, the tax cut regime. These cuts do address the "most vulnerable", the budget attempts to speak to the lower and working class folks, whether it's enough, another debate. 20 billion over 6 years, is quite a bit more than the 2 billion the government pushed today. I did like the renovations tax credit, as well as the first time homeowner incentive. If people know they have a limited window to benefit from the renovations credit, it does provide impetus, and most of the money spent in this sector is Canadian made.
Some of the infrastructure money comes with a catch, and I was shocked to hear Flaherty actually acknowledge the deficit could be lower, if this money wasn't spent- "use it or lose it". The pre-condition of provincial and municipal help makes sense on one level, and provides additional funds, but the practical failing, some can't afford the pre-requisite. The prospect of this money left in the federal coffers is, which Flaherty himself stated, is a red flag.
The changes to EI, if you can call them that, probably demands an amendment. The five week extension is clearly good news, so it's an improvement for sure. That said, it falls short on wait times and expanding those that qualify. The re-training money is another positive.
The issue of the deficit as a whole is a tricky proposition. I will give the government some latitude, in that projections in this climate are problematic by nature. However, it was interesting to hear many of the economists, bankers, who were asked already muse about "rosy", Flaherty optimistic. Everybody accepts short term deficits, but I don't sense Flaherty was very convincing in presenting a realistic plan to avoid structural deficits.
Using Flaherty's own numbers, the federal debt payment amount will increase by a full 10 billion at the end of the five years. Tack on the tax cuts, plus the 20 billion increase in spending (for the last two years, AFTER all the stimulus measures are off the books), and it's hard to see how we end up with a very slight surplus. Flaherty reachs a balance, but it assumes massive increases in government revenues, and I think this is why economists are sceptical.
In a general sense, the main criticism of this budget is that it "sprinkles". A little here, a little there, amounting to maybe not enough anywhere. The government clearly tried to cover all of its bases, particularly as it relates to the opposition demands, but for the amount of money being spent, it's still a question of effectiveness. In many respects, more pandering than serious, and the lack of a vision is really evident- no sense of all tenticles moving in tandem, toward a stated goal. Pretty bland, lacking any big picture imagination, more about survival than coherence.