Canada budget lavishes middle-class ahead of federal election

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau walk from Trudeau's office to the House of Commons to deliver the budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau walk from Trudeau’s office to the House of Commons to deliver the budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

March 19, 2019

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Liberal government on Tuesday presented a budget that focused on improving access to housing and lavished the middle-class with a slew of spending measures to woo voters ahead of an upcoming federal election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government’s last budget before the October election was aimed at boosting consumer spending at a time when the economy is slowing amid global uncertainties, while shifting the narrative away from a political crisis that has dented the Liberals popularity.

“There’s a growing sense of uncertainty taking root around the world… and Canada is not immune to those worries,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a prepared budget speech.

The budget outlined measures to help first-time buyers get into housing, new spending for skills training, new benefits for retirees and students, and the creation of a federal agency to cut the cost of prescription medications. 

“We’re going to invest in the middle-class and in the things that matter most to Canadians; good jobs, strong communities, a clean environment and better opportunities for future generations,” Morneau added.

With the new spending, the projected deficit in 2019-20 inched up to C$19.8 billion ($14.9 billion) from C$19.6 billion forecast in November. The 2018-19 deficit is now projected at C$14.9 billion, down from C$18.1 billion forecast in November.

The budget blueprint, which is expected to be implemented given the Liberal’s parliamentary majority, also maintained a C$3 billion a year fiscal cushion, a rainy day reserve to guard against unexpected events that could hurt the government books.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa)(Editing by Denny Thomas)

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