Federal Budget Day in Ottawa is one of many time-honoured traditions and a day of serious economic news. Whereas the Finance Minister usually wears a new pair of shoes, Minister Flaherty chose to resole an old pair. Individuals representing associations from almost every group in Canada walk into one of several lockups to study the budget in advance.

Teamsters Canada attends the Deputy Minister’s Watch along with national business and labour groups. This event is attended by high ranking finance officials. It’s the place to go to get information directly from the people who are “in the know”.

The government lowered expectations and downplayed the budget. Despite this, here are some highlights of the budget:

– Tax Free Savings Accounts would allow contributions of up to $5,000 per year. The money is taxed going in, no tax credits are given for contribution; however, all account earnings are tax free and individuals can take the money out whenever they want and for any purpose they want. The account may prove helpful to middle income earners with pension plans permitting tax sheltering of savings beyond that allowed by the current RRSP regime.

– Passports will now be valid for a ten-year period and will integrate electronic security features.

– Railways will benefit from an increased CCA rate for locomotives, a measure that will encourage fleet renewal.

– The government proposes to create a new arms-length Employment Insurance Board to oversee the fund and set premiums. The government would continue to set policies. This may be the most controversial proposal contained in the budget and certainly causes great concern for Teamsters Canada.

As with every budget, we will have to examine the details before passing judgment. However, with respect to these issues and all other issues affecting Teamsters, we will demand details and the right to take part in all consultations leading to the implementation of the budget.