Now about my tax dollars. Finance Minister Freeland tabled her 2024 budget Tuesday and, by and large, I approve. The signs are about right: the NDP non-committal and the Conservatives screaming.

Some random thoughts on bits that caught my attention:

A hefty slice for housing—$8.5 billion in new spending—is much needed, one of the nation’s current critical areas. One goal is to double the market share of social housing, bringing it in line with other advanced countries. The emphasis was on home ownership, of course, but good to see were some carrots for building more rental units. More renting means more density which means more efficient cities, economically and environmentally. Altogether this is the biggest housing plan since WWII.

Holes in the social infrastructure are being filled with new spending on health for dental care and a small but promising start on pharmacare. And now of course the budget includes the newly implemented countrywide $10 per day child care.

The CBC got a much-needed top up—$42 million. In these days of rampant misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories, combined with declining numbers of both newspapers and journalists, rarely have we needed a source of reliable news and information more.

The environmental components were praised by the Pembina Institute, my guide on matters of climate change, so I’ll conclude the spending on that portfolio was reasonable. Now it’s up to the provinces to do their bit. The increase in the carbon tax (referred to as the “carbon rebate”) was included and rightly so. The tax is needed both to hold fossil fuel users responsible for their pollution and to fight global warming.

Evidence for Democracy, my guide on matters of government and science, summarized the budget as promising with “encouraging Investments into research talent, infrastructure and innovation.” Their thorough analysis can be found here.

It was pleasing to see increased spending accounted for by increased taxes on the very rich, principally by raising the amount of capital gains taxed to two-thirds from one-half of the amount over $250,000. It’s past time all capital gains over the minimum, except for principal residences, were subject to tax and this is a good step in that direction. There was some tightening up on tax cheats as well—always room for improvement there, the rich can be very slippery with their money.

As to whether or not we are spending too much, I always keep my eye on the debt-to-GDP ratio, the critical indicator. With this budget, the curve is still projected downward and that suggests we are living within our means. However, the current interest rates are driving up debt charges so caution is still called for.

The prime minister boasts that we have the lowest deficit and the best debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7, and he is quite right on both counts.

So, overall I think my tax dollars are in good hands. Kudos to Finance Minister Freeland.

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