You might have expected some lofty initiatives to be announced in what could be the last budget of this Liberal government’s time in office – especially since it includes a $19.8-billion deficit.
But no such initiative reared its head last week when Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the annual federal budget.
Built on the pillars of good jobs, housing, seniors and pharmacare, the budget purports to “invest in the middle class.” Unfortunately, the measures outlined under those pillars call into question whether the government understands the needs of the middle class at all.
Money to help workers pay for training programs is pointless without initiatives to stimulate job growth. And while the announcement of a national drug agency could be a step in the right direction (depending on how it would be rolled out and the actual costs of such an agency) to address inflated costs of much-needed medicine, it falls woefully short of national pharmacare.
And how about those homebuying incentives?
One of the most talked-about initiatives of this budget is the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, which declares “Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home.” Yet the only places you can qualify for this program are places where homes are already affordable.
The incentive offers up to 10 per cent of a mortgage, as long as the homebuyer’s household income is less than $120,000 and the mortgage doesn’t exceed four times the household income.
If you’re at the $120,000 threshold, the most expensive mortgage you could have would be $480,000.
This is a $1.25-billion program that the government expects will attract 100,000 first-time homebuyers. It’s unlikely many of those will be in the St. Albert area.
As St. Albert-Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper rightly pointed out in Saturday’s Gazette, a mortgage incentive probably won’t have the impact here that it might have elsewhere, given the high price of homes in the city.
Sarasota Realty’s review of St. Albert’s market trends for the month of February show the average sale price of a single-family home was $476,000.
St. Albert realtor James Mabey told the Gazette last week it would have been better for the feds to adopt a regional approach to housing, instead of introducing one-size-fits-all initiatives that tend to help only large urban cities.
But rather than coming up with thoughtful solutions to Canada’s many housing problems, the Liberal government’s latest budget looks more like a fiscal dartboard. The problem is, none of the darts the government threw hit the bull’s-eye. This budget is nothing more than a poor attempt to buy votes. It is devoid of any real plan.
Of course, the painfully underwhelming promises in this document will only apply if the Liberals get re-elected this fall.
Between the ever-growing deficit and the ongoing spectacle in Ottawa surrounding SNC-Lavalin, that’s seeming less and less likely.
Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.