B.C. minister likes federal budget

B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon

B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon likes the direction of the latest federal budget, but he is prepared for the likelihood that it will lead to the defeat of the Conservative government in Ottawa.

Falcon declined to speculate about the effect of a possible May federal election on the upcoming harmonized sales tax referendum or a B.C. election that could come later this year.

He said corporate tax cuts maintained by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Tuesday would combine with provincial rates to give B.C. the lowest corporate taxes of any jurisdiction in the G7 industrialized countries by next year.

Falcon added that he is encouraged by Ottawa’s latest plan to reduce the federal deficit by a quarter this year and continue progress until Canada is back to balanced budgets by 2015-16.

Investment incentives in the federal budget would also help Ridley Terminals expand its capacity to ship B.C. coal and minerals to export markets, he said.

Falcon also praised the proposed increase to pensions for low-income seniors.

“I think when you add our HST refund into that, it starts to make things attractive for low-income seniors,” Falcon said.

The federal budget increases the Guaranteed Income Supplement rates by $600 a year for single low-income seniors and $840 for qualifying couples. It adds a $300 tax credit for family caregivers and other credits for children’s art programs, volunteer firefighters and others, and extends a work-sharing program for older workers.

With the federal Liberals and Bloc Quebecois refusing to support the minority Conservative government, federal NDP leader Jack Layton would need to support the budget to keep Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s mandate alive.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Layton said the NDP won’t support the budget “in its current form.”

Speaking to CBC television after his budget speech, Flaherty said he will not offer amendments to gain NDP support. “This is not a negotiation,” Flaherty said.

Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff continued his recent theme that the Conservatives are spending too much on fighter jets, prisons and corporate tax cuts to earn his party’s support.

Flaherty rejected as “total nonsense” the suggestion by Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe that the federal government should provide transition funds to Quebec as it examines whether to join the harmonized sales tax. No province received funds before signing on, Flaherty said.

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