Budget, Liberal government squeak through Commons vote 

‘No’ vote would have resulted in election, killed funding for variety of programs

It took a defection and the support of the NDP and two independent Members of Parliament, but the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2005 budget survived in the House of Commons on May 19.

The final vote was tied, 152 against from the Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois, and 152 for, leaving Speaker of the House Peter Milliken to break the tie in favour of the Liberals.

Not only did the vote pass the budget, it also avoided a vote of no confidence against Paul Martin’s government. If the budget failed, Parliament would have been dissolved and a new federal election called – less than a year after the last election.

The budget was a critical one for Canadian amateur sports, with an additional $70 million in funding for Canadian sports and $87 million towards the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. That funding includes the federal government’s commitment of $55 million over five years to the Own the Podium program, which will go towards developing athletes and sport technology in order to place first among nations with 35 medals in 2010.

The budget also included Paul Martin’s New Deal agreement, which would see Canadian municipalities gain 1.5 cents per litre of federal fuel taxes collected over the next five years for transportation infrastructure. Whistler alone is expected to see at least $840,000 over that period.

In order to gain the support of the NDP in the budget vote the Liberal government recently agreed to increase the threshold to 2.5 cents a litre. It’s unknown what impact that would have on communities.

In total about $9 billion in gas taxes will be funneled back to municipalities under the program.

Other programs that survived with the budget vote include:

• $2.2 billion over five years toward Kyoto commitments under the Clean Fund;

• $425 million for victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami;

• $12.8 billion over five years for the Canadian military;

• Increasing the personal tax exemption rate to $10,000 a year;

• $4 billion towards paying down the national debt;

• Various tax deductions for small businesses;

• $1.6 billion for affordable housing;

• $1.5 billion for tuition reduction;

• $5 billion for child care and early childhood education;

• An added $800 million for health care, on top of previous $75 billion commitment over 10 years.

Several bills that would have died on the table if an election had been called are also still alive. One would increase benefits for veterans. Another, more controversial law would allow same sex marriage and benefits across Canada.

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