Today, the Liberal government tabled its fourth and final budget of their first mandate. Entitled Investing in the Middle Class, the budget is the government’s final fiscal sell to Canadians ahead of the October’s election. With the Liberals heading into budget day at their worst polling position since forming government, the government is using today’s budget to change the channel on negative headlines and double down on commitments to its base. The budget includes $26.7 billion in new spending with a heavy focus on millennials and seniors.
There is no confusion that this is a campaign budget as it contains a hefty amount of spending for new and presumably popular initiatives. The budget seeks to sell a story on improving affordability, be it for housing, education, prescription drugs and cost of living. While the Conservatives have been touting the message that life under the Liberals will be more expensive, the Liberals are seeking to reinvest in Canadians to help them get ahead. Furthermore, the Liberals are using today’s budget to further differentiate themselves from the Ford/Scheer brand of conservativism with supports for students, seniors and the environment.
Today’s budget is a mixture of long expected commitments, as well as some surprises that seem to have been borne out of a sense of urgency, strong stakeholder consensus, as well as underlying political strategy. Key programs include:
- $4.6 billion over five years to help more Canadians afford and access skills training to keep up with the rapidly evolving workforce
- $8.1 billion in total spending allocated towards indigenous people with $4.5 billion over five years to improve living conditions
- $1.8 billion over four years to enhance the guaranteed income supplement for low-income seniors
- $885 million over five years to make homes more affordable for first-time buyers
- $500 million per year, starting in 2022-23, to help cover the cost of drugs for rare diseases
- $1.7 billion to support universal high-speed internet in rural, remote and northern communicates
FHR has been advised that there is a government-wide communications blackout for four weeks following the budget. Over the coming weeks we will continue to see more details on these flagship programs and how they fit in with the Liberals’ campaign narrative.
We will closely be monitoring key government announcements, including attending Minister Morneau’s annual post-budget speech in Toronto. The location of these announcements, as well as the frequency in the messaging/themes highlighted, will begin to tell the story of key election battlegrounds, and the core themes leading into the Fall campaign.
Check out our full take on Budget 2019 and the road ahead for the federal government.