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Budget promises increased spending

OTTAWA, Ont. -- The federal government is going on a spending spree, but there are concerns that the needs of the t...

OTTAWA, Ont. — The federal government is going on a spending spree, but there are concerns that the needs of the trucking industry were ignored during one of the most optimistic budgets in years.

Finance Minister, John Manley, yesterday announced $9 billion in new spending and predicted 3.5 per cent growth over the next year. That makes Canada the only G7 nation to predict a surplus in 2003. Manley referred to Canada as The Northern Tiger during the announcement.

In what was dubbed The People’s Budget, Manley also announced $3 billion in infrastructure spending over the next 10 years, which will go towards everything from highways and bridges, to urban transit projects.

“Infrastructure renewal tops the list of challenges faced by Canada’s cities and communities,” Manley announced yesterday.

However, Canadian Trucking Alliance chief executive officer, David Bradley, says the budget doesn’t go far enough to address key issues facing the trucking industry.

“What a difference a year makes. A year ago it appeared the Government of Canada was coming around to the view that the major economic challenge facing the country was the tenuous state of our access to the US market and the reality that Canadian trade moves by truck to, from and across the border. We don’t see the same level of commitment this time around,” says a frustrated Bradley.

However he did concede that there were some promising features in the latest federal budget. For instance, Bradley says it’s comforting that Manley didn’t buy into the argument that truck traffic and pollution can be reduced by funding other modes of transport, such as rail.

As well, Bradley says there’s some good news for businesses buried in the budget, such as the elimination of the federal capital tax, a reduction in employment insurance premiums and an increased small business deduction limit.

“These are helpful measures which should be applauded,” he says.

The budget also included the elimination of a federal diesel fuel tax on bio-diesel and ethanol/methanol blends, which should promote the use of cleaner-burning fuel. And trade wasn’t altogether overlooked, with $11 million being committed over the next two years to improve Canada’s trade relationship with the U.S.

Practically before Manley’s speech was even finished yesterday, economists were busy scrutinizing the budget to determine what exactly it will mean to Canadians. Craig Wright, chief economist with Royal Bank, says the budget should result in marginal economic growth for Canada.

“This budget will be marginally more supportive for the economy than people were looking for,” says Wright.

As with any federal budget, there were the usual critics. This time around, Alberta felt let down by the feds. Alberta’s finance minister, Pat Nelson, says Alberta’s share for infrastructure spending is only $30 million – not enough to build a single overpass in Calgary or Edmonton.

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