Magazine article Anglican Journal

Ottawa's Budget Disappoints Many: Unemployed, Poor Children Not Helped

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Ottawa's Budget Disappoints Many: Unemployed, Poor Children Not Helped

Article excerpt

Ottawa's failure to tackle unemployment and aid an estimated 1.5 million children living in poverty with its latest budget has disappointed many Canadians, the Anglican Journal has found.

This is despite targeted income tax relief and elimination of the surtax for low-income and middle-income individuals contained in Finance Minister Paul Martin's deficit-busting budget.

"I don't see that the problem of poverty has been addressed with much conviction or energy," said Anglican Archbishop Barry Curtis, president of the Canadian Council of Churches.

Archbishop Curtis was one of several religious leaders who wrote to Mr. Martin in January urging him to deal with the problem of child poverty in his budget, which was delivered February 24.

This first budget of the government's new mandate was not only the first to be balanced in 30 years, but also, countered Mr. Martin's parliamentary secretary, the first of a planned series of theme budgets.

"The theme was education," he said, referring to the Canadian Opportunities Strategy, which includes a Millennium Fund to help low-income students with grants starting in 2000.

"I might be going out on a limb a little, but you will continue to see these types of budgets, always remembering that whatever the theme is, it will reflect Canadian priorities-and education was certainly high on the list for Canadians."

But, said Ken Boessenkool, a policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute, the government had submitted, with its eye on the opinion polls, what he termed `a timid budget.'

"The Liberals are trying to find their ground, they're feeling their way around, keeping all their options open," he said. "I think over the next year we will have an important debate in this country about which priorities Canadians want them to tackle."

Few in the opposition parties or outside government are happy with the budget, the balanced books notwithstanding. Some, such as Mr. Boessenkool, said there is no genuine target to reduce the debt and the debt-to-gross domestic product ratio.

"In the next century, we have a huge seniors' bulge coming through in 2020, and we're going to have to get that debt down to very low levels well before that happens, because that will create some deficits," he said.

Reform finance critic Monte Solberg agreed that paying down the debt should be the top priority. Spending announcements are "an attempt by the government to placate different groups of people," he said. …

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