The bad news is that I am stuck home sucking back Neo Citrins and barred in my den. The good news is that I can watch the House of Assembly and the House of Commons. A rare treat for a nine to fiver!
Today's the day that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will present the first majority budget since 2005 when Paul Martin was prime minister. The first truly unrestrained Conservative budget since 1993.
Speculation ranges from cuts in the range of $7 billion to $4 billion, or somewhere in between. 25,000 jobs are expected to be cut and MP's are going to have to pay more for less pension.
Despite the gloom of impending cuts, Flaherty keeps sinning his budget as "a jobs-and-growth budget". He says his government is looking for "relatively small" reductions in a $265-billion budget. In a couple of newscasts today, he seemed aghast that this budget is being compared with some of the deep cutting budgets of the Chretien era. He says there i nothing of that magnitude coming down the pipes.
I think he is right. The Conservatives are a strategic and crafty breed of politician. This budget will make corrections to the party's social-re-engineering of the country. The details, well, I suspect, will be left to peter out slowly over the next few months. If they can cut jobs without curtailing services, the public is not going to go into a tizzy.
They will not risk worsening the volatile economic performance of the country. Public service cuts will be matched with the deregulation of environmental reviews for oil and mining projects, which the Conservatives feel will enhance private sector job growth. More private sector jobs, more income tax, more spending and a stronger economy. It will be a blueprint for the next three budgets.
Expect some red tape cutting to allow changes to the temporary foreign workers program, which will help address skills shortages in the resource
sector, particularly in Alberta.
The three areas I will be watching mostly closely are funding for the CBC, health care spending & changes to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I also will be interested in how the changes to the Old Age Security benefits will be phased in.
I won't be popping any popcorn for the event, perhaps a lozenger and an a glass or orange juice are in order.