Watching Jim Flaherty trying to choke out words like "deficit" and "infrastructure spending" in any sort of convincing way was like watching one of the pod people from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" trying to approximate human behaviour but never quite getting it right. The brand new Conservative budget has most of the right elements (and a few very wrong ones), but you can tell that they don't like it, they don't believe in it, and on a fundamental level, they really don't understand it.
The overall effect is that of a paint-by-numbers painting: disjointed, vaguely appealing from a distance, and yet utterly devoid of any overarching theme or vision.
Still, there is very little here that one can specifically object to - at least, not in 100 words or less. Some tax cuts were inevitable, but although they are so low as to be completely ineffective as stimulus (as if they could be effective anyway), they are directed mainly at low and middle income earners instead of corporations, and at least they didn't cut the GST again. They made a token effort at extending E.I., but avoided really addressing the major problems with it. I was glad to see the $400 billion for VIA Rail 'service improvements', but what does that really mean? Are we finally getting the high speed rail link from T.O. to Montreal, or are they just getting new seats?
The biggest issue is the infrastructure spending, which appears to be tied to matching provincial and municipal funds. If this is actually the case (and it seems it is), then they might as well not have bothered because just about every municipality in the country has already set their infrastructure budget and is already maxed out in terms of property taxes.
Oh, and the Canadian film industry got pooched. Again. But yay for the Canadian Television Fund! Now if they'd only start requiring Canadian broadcasters to actually start making and/or carrying Canadian programming again...
As for the deficit, what can I say? Given current circumstances it could hardly have been avoided. But let us never forget that current circumstances are a direct result of Flaherty pissing away the surplus built up by previous governments on vote-buying fripperies such as a two percent GST cut and massive corporate and personal tax cuts.
My advise to Michael Ignatieff, for what it's worth: do what Dion did with the Afghanistan mission. Insist on cheap but essential tweaks such as the elimination of the two week wait time on E.I. benefits and making federal infrastructure spending less contingent on matching funds before you agree to anything.
Otherwise, see you at the ballot box.