March 24, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 91  

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Federal budget a lesson in damage control, conservative spending

By Allison Buchan-Terrell
Gazette Staff

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 grants.

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 attention.”

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.”



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