Budget offers help for apprentices, broadband access: minister

The Canadian Press
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Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Charlene Johnson says the good news about Tuesday’s federal budget is there’s no bad news.

Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper enter the House of Commons on budget day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday
— Photo by Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

“In terms of an impact on the revenues for the province, there’s no negative impact,” she told reporters outside the legislature. “In fact, there’s a slight positive impact to the tune of about $1.9 million.”

Johnson cited what she called “a good sprinkling of nice initiatives” in the federal government’s deficit-fighting spending blueprint. They include a tax credit for search and rescue volunteers similar to one already offered volunteer firefighters, $40 million over two years for up to 3,000 interns training in “high-demand fields” and $15 million over three years to help people with developmental disabilities land jobs.

Another $11.4 over four years is aimed at enhanced training programs for people with autism.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget all but balances the books this fiscal year, leaving a $2.9-billion shortfall heading into the 2015 election year that paves the way for a timely return to surplus.

Johnson said the proof will be in the fine print.

Johnson said talks are ongoing to reach the best possible deal on the federal government’s push to train workers for unfilled jobs through the Canada Jobs Grant. First announced as $15,000 grants to be divided evenly between Ottawa, the provinces and employers, the program fell flat with provinces over concerns money would be siphoned from funding for vulnerable populations.

Ottawa has since offered to cover the provincial share.

Johnson said there’s optimism that a provincial counter-proposal in early February will mean a deal “that we can all live with.”

She said she also wants to hear more about $305 million the budget earmarks over five years to expand broadband high-speed Internet access in rural regions and the North.


Some highlights of the federal budget delivered Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty:

— The budget is close to balanced, with a $2.9-billion deficit and a

    $3-billion contingency fund.

— Flaherty forecasts revenues of $276.3 billion and expenditures of

    $279.2 billion.

— The government makes clear it will balance the budget next year by cutting program spending and reining in public service compensation costs.

‰    The budget proposes to make retired federal public servants pay half the costs of their health-care plan, up from a quarter now. This would raise annual payments for a retired individual to $550 from $261.

— Adoptive families will get a bigger tax break for expenses.

— Higher excise taxes on tobacco will raise the price of a carton of 200 cigarettes by $4 and essentially end the discount on smokes sold at duty-free stores, by raising taxes there by $6 a carton. The increase will reap the government $685 million in 2014-15.

— Excise taxes on tobacco will be tied to the consumer price index and automatically adjusted every five years.

— The government plans to bring in legislation to deal with unjustified cross-border price discrimination that sees Canadians pay more for goods.

— Charities will be allowed to use computers to run their lotteries, offering major administrative savings.

— World-class amateur athletes will get a break when it comes to calculating their available RRSP room.

— Search and rescue volunteers will get a tax credit similar to the one extended to volunteer firefighters in 2011.

— Taxpayers will no longer have to apply for a GST-HST credit on their tax return. The Canada Revenue Agency will make the calculation automatically.



Geographic location: Ottawa

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