April 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

It’s almost two weeks since the 2017 federal budget was tabled, so there is lots of “second day” commentary in the mainstream media to draw on for this issue. Saskatchewan also tabled a budget including some provisions that will impact your bottom line.

In the lead up to the federal budget trial balloons were floated regarding making employer-paid premiums for health insurance taxable benefits and changing the taxable rates for capital gains, but none of these dire predictions came to pass.

In the Ottawa Citizen, Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote that the budget is a first step to better the lives of women in Canada. She reports that the government will spend $100.9 million over five years to establish a National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence — a problem that has directly affected more than one million women in the past five years.

Erin Anderssen at the Globe and Mail offers seven things to know about Canada’s new parental benefits. Once the provinces pass job protection legislation, parents will be able to stretch their leave out for 18 months, but this will mean stretching benefits at a lower rate. The government is expected to move quickly, but the changes may not happen until next year.

Contrary to pre-budget expectations, Lee Berthiaume notes in a Canadian Press article that life-long pensions for veterans were not included in the Liberal government’s second budget. Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s new fiscal plan did contain new spending for veterans and their families, specifically $725 million in promised additional benefits over five years. Still, as welcome as the new money will be, the big question for many veterans is how the government plans to bring back life-long pensions as an option for those injured in uniform.

Hello Uber tax, goodbye transit credit says CBC News. The proposed levy on Uber and other ride-hailing services will for the first time impose GST/HST on fares, in the same way they are charged on traditional taxi services. The non-refundable public transit tax credit — a so-called boutique tax credit introduced by the previous Conservative government — will be phased out on July 1. The credit enabled public transit users to apply 15% of their eligible expenses on monthly passes and other fares toward reducing the amount of tax they owe.

And closer to home, the Saskatchewan budget hikes provincial sales tax to 6% and for the first time, the tax will apply to children’s clothes. CBC presents an analysis of how the PST hike will hit you in the pocketbook.

The government will also wind down the government-owned Saskatchewan Transportation Company, which it says would have required require an anticipated subsidy of $85 million over the next five years.

There were 574 layoff notices attached to this budget, including cleaners in government buildings and workers at the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

Other notable provincial budget measures include:

  • The exemption for the bulk purchase of gasoline is being scrapped and a tax exemption for diesel fuel is being reduced to 80% of the amount purchased.
  • So-called sin taxes on booze and cigarettes are going up.
  • Various tax credits — including for education and tuition expenses — are being eliminated.
  • Effective July 1/17saskatchewan will apply provincial sales tax to life, accident and health insurance premiums.
  • The Saskatchewan government says it will offset some of the tax increases by reducing income taxes by a half-point on July 1, 2017 and by the same amount on July 1, 2019.


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