Mixed reaction to budget

Tuesday’s federal budget received both positive and negative reactions across the country.

Ontario slammed the budget, giving it a failing grade. It says the federal government cut $641 million in transfers that help support programs the province relies on.

“The federal government is shortchanging the people of Ontario and is penalizing us for being the leanest government in Canada,” says Charles Sousa, Ontario’s minister of finance. “We had hoped that the federal government would have treated Ontarians more fairly and partnered with us to grow our economy and create jobs.”

In honour of the Winter Olympics, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businsess (CFIB) gave the budget a bronze medal. It praised new approaches to workplace training, loans for apprentices and internships for small business. It also was pleased with actions to restrain public sector compensation, reform sick leave provisions and reduce the cost to taxpayers of government retiree benefits.

But the CFIB didn’t like everything in the budget.

“While small firms recognize the government froze employment insurance (EI) premiums for 2014, the CFIB is also disappointed with the elimination of the hiring credit for small business,” says the organization’s president, Dan Kelly. “We urge the government to move quickly to reduce EI premiums as soon as the account is back in balance.”

The Quebec Employers Council had both praise and concern for the budget.

It applauds the federal government’s commitment to maintain an overall competitive tax rate for companies and individuals, especially in the area of payroll taxes, with the freeze on contribution rates in the employment insurance and public pension plans.

In regard to the Canada Job Grant program, the Employers Council reiterates its support to the federal government to encourage a better matching of job skills and employers’ needs.

“The Council takes issue, however, with the way the federal government has decided to attain this objective, even though improvements to the program have been announced, such as waiving the mandatory contribution by the provinces,” it says in a statement.

Labour wasn’t too pleased with the budget.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says the federal government made some good choices, but far too many bad ones. “With more than 390,000 unemployed youth, a small loan fund and a handful of apprenticeships are not going to do the job,” he says.

And the Public Service of Alliance of Canada wasn’t happy with proposed changes to force retirees to pay more for health benefits. It says the “government is going to make the lives of retired public service workers harder by doubling the premiums they will have to pay to access supplemental health benefits.”