It was a typical long Monday on the Hill. The finance committee sat for six hours and heard from more than 20 more special interest groups Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some with good briefs and great ideas for the next budget, some with hands out and their shamelessness written all over them. It now irritates me seriously when we listen to people too arrogant to prove their points or provide us with facts, and yet almost spittingly dismissive of we few Conservative MPs. Obviously they think these Tory days are just an interlude in their money-for-nothing Liberal neverendum.
Speaking of Libs, they seemed to be feeling their hormones today, hooting in the House and even mustering up Paul Martin for a late-day appearance during votes (he shows up maybe once a month). A couple of them told me they were energized after SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leadership debate, and that little tiff between Rae and Ignatieff. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good to see them knock each other around,Ã¢â‚¬Â a Toronto-area Grit whispered to me by the gold curtains, Ã¢â‚¬Å“because we now know this is the big leagues, picking one of them to be party leader, and perhaps prime minister.Ã¢â‚¬Â
If the finance committee experience is any guide, then God help Canada if the Liberals crawl back to power. Day after day their MPs do exactly the same thing Ã¢â‚¬â€œ lament any Tory attempts to trim spending, dump on us for having put $13 billion against the debt instead of spending it on their friends, claim the GST cut did absolutely no good, argue for increased spending for social housing, social services, education, transportation, health care, transfer payments, artists, poor people and everyone who lives in region, and trash both tax cuts and corporations.
As a consequence, I have no idea how this committee will end up recommending anything. Which is why Jim Flaherty is not waiting, telling an audience today that more personal and business tax cuts are coming, along with some new measures to help lower-income people get back into the work force.
So, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d wager the coming budget will look pretty much like this:
– another point off the GST
– a drop in the income tax rate for the lowest bracket
– the promised rollover in capital gains taxes for reinvested profits (look for a complicated new investment account to be created Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Bay Street will love it)
– provisions for social benefits not be clawed back for lower-income workers
– a lower growth forecast for the economy
– an agricultural action plan, bringing in new income-support for farmers
– more middle-class tax credits aimed at family expenses
Of course, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d also like to see the budget contain a commitment to income-splitting for all families with kids, pension-splitting for retired couples, introduction of an after-tax lifetime retirement savings plan, municipal infrastructure and environmental tax-exempt bonds, more program spending cuts (I have the names of about 100 special interest groups if Jim is interested) and a ministerial Dick-and-Jane lesson on what happens when too many people want to buy houses.
The danger we face in Budget 2007, of course, is just what has the Liberals drooling on the committee table. Next year could bring the multiple threats of a noticeable US economic slowdown, a true reversal in the Canadian housing market, sliding oil prices, a very expensive mission in Afghanistan and, ah yes, an election.
And a watershed one it will be. Like it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t already started.