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‘Canadians were not impressed’ by federal budget: survey

Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau speaks during Question Period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2017.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Most Canadians are giving the Liberal government's second budget a thumbs down, according to a new survey for The Globe and Mail by Nanos Research.

Canadians are also expressing a strong desire for Ottawa to lay out a plan for eliminating the deficit after the budget made no mention of when the federal books will be balanced.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau released a budget March 22 that quickly disappeared from the headlines, as the largely status-quo document contained few new measures that attracted strong controversy or praise.

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Having already released a 10-year spending plan in 2016, the 2017 budget provided new detail on how the Liberals will carve up previously announced spending on infrastructure. The budget also made some changes to tax credits, including the elimination of a tax break for people who buy monthly transit passes.

The Nanos Research survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between April 1 and April 4, as part of a larger hybrid telephone and online random poll. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey found a slight majority of Canadians have a negative or somewhat negative view of the recent federal budget. When asked for their views on the budget, 22 per cent said negative and 30 per cent said somewhat negative. Only 5 per cent of Canadians said they had a positive view, while 33 per cent said their opinion was somewhat positive. Eleven per cent of Canadians said they were unsure.

"Canadians were not impressed with the recent federal budget," said pollster Nik Nanos. "I think the fact that only one out of every 20 Canadians had an outright positive view of the federal budget should give the Liberals pause because it suggests that the budget, at least for a number of Canadians, was a disappointment."

When asked about the importance for the federal government of having a plan in place to eliminate the deficit, four in five Canadians said it was important or somewhat important. Only 1 per cent said it was unimportant and 8 per cent said it was somewhat unimportant.

The Liberal Party campaigned in 2015 on a plan to run short-term deficits of no more than $10-billion a year to fund infrastructure spending. The platform also promised to return to balance by 2019.

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The first Liberal budget in March, 2016, outlined larger deficits than originally promised. The 2016 budget said the government "will set a timeline for balancing the budget when growth is forecast to remain on a sustainably higher track." Mr. Morneau's 2017 budget made no mention of setting a target for balancing the books.

Since he released the 2017 budget, Mr. Morneau has repeatedly refused to say when the government intends to erase the deficit.

The 2017 budget projects a deficit of $28.5-billion in 2017-18. The size of annual deficits is projected to decline slightly each year, reaching $18.8-billion in 2021-22.

Previous polling by Nanos Research prior to the budget found that a slim majority of Canadians supported federal deficits provided that the size of the federal debt is declining as a percentage of the economy.

Mr. Nanos said those two responses on the deficit suggest that Canadian acceptance of deficits is not open-ended.

"The Liberals should not confuse comfort with a deficit with carte blanche to run deficits in perpetuity without a clear strategy to, over time, eliminate the deficit," said Mr. Nanos. "The way I look at it is that just by having a plan to eliminate the deficit signals to Canadians that the Liberals want to do this. And I think the absence of the plan is probably more of a red flag for a lot of Canadians than anything else, because it means there is not even a significant effort to try to eliminate the deficit."

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Rona Ambrose, Tom Mulcair slam federal budget (The Canadian Press)
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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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