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Liberals set to ‘meet the moment’, appeal to voters as budget unveiled Tuesday

Government has already announced much new spending, about to explain how they will foot the bill
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland tries on a pair of shoes from direct-to-consumer footwear company Maguire during a pre-budget photo op in her office in Ottawa, Monday, April 15, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The 2024 federal budget is designed to “meet the moment” facing young Canadians and the economy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a room of Canadian business leaders in Ottawa Monday afternoon.

But it also comes as the Liberals are still looking for the magic formula to get back into the good graces of voters.

The budget, which Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will present Tuesday afternoon, contains billions in already promised investments in housing, artificial intelligence and defence, Trudeau touted.

He did not provide any insight into how those will be funded.

Much of the budget is aimed at giving hope to younger Canadians who have come of age during a tumultuous economic era, Trudeau said, and “now feel like middle-class stability is out of reach.”

“We need to meet this moment because that can’t be allowed to happen,” he told the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“Our country cannot succeed unless young people succeed — and more, our country cannot succeed unless young people can imagine themselves succeeding. And they just don’t feel that right now.”

The Liberals have spent the last two weeks announcing various measures that will be included in the budget document.

A new Leger poll suggests Canadians like what they saw.

The poll, which took the temperature of 1,525 adults online between Friday and Sunday, says 73 per cent of respondents support the $6-billion housing infrastructure fund, 71 per cent back the new $1-billion national school food program and 67 per cent like the $15-billion apartment construction loan program.

Sixty per cent also support $8 billion in new defence spending over the next five years, the survey found.

The poll cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls aren’t considered statistically balanced samples, though the results were weighted for statistical accuracy.

Despite the support for those items, Canadians remain a cranky bunch about the economy, with only one-third saying they believe the Liberals are making positive strides toward improving housing affordability or growing the economy.

A similar proportion say they think the Liberals are pursuing policies that focus on helping middle-class families.

Both Trudeau and Freeland have sidestepped questions about how the government will fund their promised policies, only confirming there will be no tax increases on the “middle class.”

They left room, however, to hike taxes on corporations or wealthy Canadians.

The poll suggests that while hikes to the GST or personal income taxes in general would be extremely unpopular, there are a lot of people who want to see new taxes on the rich.

Almost 80 per cent of those polled support a new tax on personal wealth over $10 million, 75 per cent support a new tax on “very large” company profits and 62 per cent support an increase in corporate or business taxes.

Freeland spent part of Monday partaking in the long-standing tradition of buying new shoes for the budget, this time donning a pair of sensible black pumps with a modest heel from Canadian shoemaker Maguire.

Here’s what the federal Liberals have already promised.

Housing plan

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government’s plan to tackle the housing crisis, which he promised will build nearly 3.9 million homes by 2031.

The plan builds on a string of announcements made over the last few weeks and since the fall, pledging billions of dollars in low-cost loans, infrastructure spending and homelessness support.

Ottawa is promising to:

— increase the capital cost allowance rate for apartments from four to 10 per cent, which will increase how much builders can write off from their taxes;

— extend the mortgage amortization period to 30 years for first-time homebuyers purchasing new builds;

— make more public lands available for home construction, while leasing lands to developers rather than selling them off.

National defence spending

The Liberal government plans to boost military spending to 1.76 per cent of GDP by 2030.

That includes setting aside another $8.1 billion over the next five years and spending $73 billion by 2044.

Artificial intelligence

Ottawa is setting aside $2.4 billion in the upcoming budget to build capacity in artificial intelligence.

The bulk of that — $2 billion — is going into a fund that will aim to provide access to computing capabilities and technical infrastructure.

School food program

Ottawa will propose $1 billion over five years to set up a national school food program, with the aim of delivering meals to 400,000 additional children.

Youth mental health fund

The Liberal government has pledged to set up a $500 million fund to help community health organization give more mental health care for young people.

During the 2021 election campaign, the Liberals promised a similar fund for post-secondary institutions to help with the mental health of students.

Loans for child-care centres

The Liberal government plans to provide more than $1 billion in low-cost loans, grants and student loan forgiveness to expand child care across Canada.

Tax credit for firefighters

The federal budget will propose to double the Volunteer Firefighters Tax Credit and Search and Rescue Volunteers Credit.

The federal government says the tax credit will rise from $3,000 to $6,000 and save volunteer firefighters up to $900 per year.

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