Federal budget a lesson in damage control, conservative spending
By Allison Buchan-Terrell
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale’s first budget reflected
the prudent history of Prime Minister Paul Martin from his
days in the job, and highlighted the Liberals’ promised
increase for funding post-secondary education to make it more
accessible for students from lower income families.
Three initiatives promised are: Learning bonds will be issued
to all children born after 2003 to lower income families with
an addition of $100 per year up to $3,000 with interest; the
government will double the Canada Education Savings Grant for
these families, providing 20,000 students with new grants of
up to $3,000; and the Canada Student Loans Program will be
updated, increasing the weekly loan ceiling from $165 to $210.
“A lot of these [education promises] are stemming from
[Canadian Alliance of Student Associations] policies and lobbying,” said
University Students’ Council President Paul Yeoman.
“It’s an interesting idea, [but] the only thing
with that is there is nothing to keep them [in school after
first-year],” he said of the first-year student government
Rick Robertson, professor of managerial accounting and control
at the Richard Ivey School of Business, said education was
a priority for the government, and that he was pleased with
the funding for lower-income students and research, but noted
more could have be done.
He agreed the budget’s scope was wide, covering a large
number of areas for spending rather than full spending in fewer
areas. “Canadians are strong believers in education,
but not to the exclusion of health care,” Robertson said,
adding it was unusual to see such caution in an election year.
Paul Barker, a political science professor at Brescia University
College, felt the budget showed Canada has two finance ministers.
Overall, he saw the budget as an expression of Martin as the
finance minister, but also as trying to show the Liberals could
overcome the sponsorship scandal. “It is hard to say
if it is enough — at least the prime minister is paying
Pam Frache, campaign and government relations co-ordinator
for the Canadian Federation of Students, said the government’s
education promises were still inadequate. “[The] government
has invested virtually nothing in post-secondary education.
“The key issue is core funding — unless the government
commits to invest in the system, we won’t see meaningful
change,” she said.
Jacquetta Newman, professor of political science at King’s
College, said the government is using this budget to distance
itself from the big spending budgets under former prime minister
Jean Chrétien. She called it the integrity budget, where
government is “saying we are prudent with our money,
but we care.”