Federal budget offers benefits aimed at seniors, families


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner

On April 21, federal Finance minister Joe Oliver laced up a new pair of running shoes and presented the government’s 2015 budget. Six months before a federal election, the balanced budget offers a lot to Canadians. “Economic Action Plan 2015 will create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. It is a balanced budget, just as we promised, and it cuts taxes for hard-working individuals and families. It is a prudent and principled plan that will see Canadians more prosperous, more secure, and even more confident in our country’s place in the world. Canadians can rest assured that under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada’s fiscal house is in order,” said Finance minister Joe Oliver.

In addition to a balanced budget, Economic Action Plan 2015 includes a projected surplus of $1.4 billion for 2015–16 as well as a contingency fund. The budget also included the introduction of balanced budget legislation.

Goodies for families and seniors

Much of the budget focused on benefits to families and seniors. Earlier this year, the government announced a family tax cut, also known as income splitting, and improvements to the universal child-care benefit. Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette member of parliament Robert Sopuck said, “This will benefit every family in the region.” Income splitting allows couples to transfer up to $50,000 in income from a high earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse to a maximum tax savings of $2,000.

Seniors will benefit from a reduction in the minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds. This means that seniors can keep keep their money in the market and earning income if they choose.

The budget will also offer up to $1,500 in tax credits for seniors and persons with disabilities to make their homes more accessible. “We’re doing what we can to keep [seniors and people with disabilities] in their own homes, to make it easier,” said Sopuck.

Goodies for communities

The budget also included some components to help area communities.  One new program will be called Canada 150, which Sopuck explains is similar to the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, which was announced in Budget 2012. Sopuck said that many local communities benefited from CIIF and he’s really excited about the new program.  It will comes small scale infrastructure renewal such as walking trails and new roofs for community centres. He notes that it’s about small projects, “ones that make [communities] good places to live”. One of which is some support to help market the region in the United States. 

Goodies for small business and farmers

The budget also offered some benefits to farmers and small business owners.  The small business tax rate will be reduced to 9 per cent by 2019.  The move is estimated to save the country’s small business owners an estimated $2.7 billion in taxes.  Sopuck said, “I’m really pleased about the cut to the small business tax rate… It’s a strong recognition of how important small business are.” He noted that the money will allow businesses to do things like re-invest in their business or hire more staff.

The budget also increases the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption for $1 million for farms and small businesses. With the rising value of farmland across the country, this will be of benefit to many farmers as they retire.


Opposition parties criticized how the government was able to balance the budget, by cutting back on the contingency reserve and collecting more Employment Insurance premiums that needed. For the next three years, the government will set aside $1 billion per year for the contingency fund, down from $3 billion per year. Additionally, the budget shows that in 2015-2016, the EI account will be in a surplus and the next year, that surplus will grow to $5.5 billion. The government says that they will reduce premiums in 2017-2018.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business came out strongly in support of the budget, notably, the reduction in the small business corporate tax rate. “CFIB applauds the government for lowering the tax burden on Canada’s small businesses now that the budget has been balanced,” said Dan Kelly, president of CFIB. “Reducing the small business corporate tax rate was viewed by CFIB members as the most effective measure the federal government could take to strengthen the performance of small firms. We are especially pleased that government intends to legislate the full small business tax cut plan before the election…This is a terrific budget for small business.”

Other highlights include:

• Providing manufacturers with a 10-year accelerated capital cost allowance to encourage productivity-enhancing investment in machinery and equipment.

• Improving access to financing for Canadian small businesses through the Canada Small Business Financing Program.

• Expanding the services offered through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to help small and medium-sized businesses.

• Providing $14 million over two years to Futurpreneur Canada in support of young entrepreneurs.

• Supporting the Action Plan for Women Entrepreneurs to help women business owners succeed.

• Helping innovative companies grow and create jobs through the Venture Capital Action Plan.

Supporting provinces and territories to facilitate the harmonization of apprenticeship training and certification requirements in targeted Red Seal trades.

Increasing the Tax-Free Savings Account annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective for 2015 and subsequent years.

• Enhancing access to post-secondary education by expanding the eligibility for Low- and Middle-Income Canada Student Grants to students in short-duration programs.

• Making the Canada Student Loans Program work for families by reducing the expected parental contribution under the needs assessment process.

• Supporting the most vulnerable in our communities by providing $150 million over four years, starting in 2016–17, to support social housing in Canada by allowing social housing providers to prepay their long-term, non-renewable mortgages without penalty.

• Improving access to print materials for the visually impaired.

• Investing in world-class research and development by providing over $1.5 billion in funding over five years to advance the Government’s renewed science, technology and innovation strategy.

• Continuing to provide $5.35 billion per year on average for provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure under the New Building Canada Plan.

• Investing $750 million over two years starting in 2017–18, and $1 billion per year thereafter, for a new Public Transit Fund aimed at building new public transit infrastructure to reduce congestion and fight gridlock in large cities.

• Increasing the Tax-Free Savings Account annual contribution limit to $10,000, effective for 2015 and subsequent years.

• Providing $5.7 million over five years to help secure new market access for Canadian seal products.

• Ensuring veterans and their families receive the support they need by: providing a new Retirement Income Security Benefit to moderately to severely disabled veterans; expanding access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance for disabled veterans; enhancing the Earnings Loss Benefit for disabled part-time Reserve Force veterans; creating a new tax-free Family Caregiver Relief Benefit to recognize caregivers; and increasing the level of individualized support to veterans.

• Extending Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits from six weeks to six months to better support Canadians caring for gravely ill and dying family members.

• Increasing National Defence funding by providing the Canadian Armed Forces with close to $12 billion over 10 years, thus ensuring that Canada can continue to field a combat-capable military ready to serve at home and abroad.

• Supporting the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces by providing National Defence with up to $360 million in 2015–16 in order to counter ISIS.

• Countering terrorism by providing additional resources to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.

• Enhancing Canada’s capacity to gather foreign intelligence.

• Protecting the integrity of our borders and facilitating legitimate travel to Canada for low-risk travellers from select visa-required countries.