Highlights in government in 2008

Each New Year begins with hope and optimism. There are always ups and downs; joys and hardships. While there were many memorable events in 2008, the global economic crisis, that gathered steam throughout the year, ensured that the economy will dominate the year ending headlines.

Economic Year in Review

Each New Year begins with hope and optimism.  There are always ups and downs; joys and hardships.  While there were many memorable events in 2008, the global economic crisis, that gathered steam throughout the year, ensured that the economy will dominate the year ending headlines. 

Canada’s government recognized the importance of keeping our fiscal house in order early in our first mandate.  Each year, the government makes two major fiscal announcements.  First comes the budget that is usually delivered in late February or early March and then the Fall economic statement follows in late October or early November.

On Feb. 26, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, delivered a budget that focused Canadians’ priorities and kept the rate of spending lower than the previous government.

Our government was ahead of the curve; we took decisive, pre-emptive action by paying down debt, lowering taxes and providing targeted support to troubled industries.  Here is what the Canadian Bankers Association had to say about it:  “The 2008 federal budget is appropriate for the current economic environment and will help retain Canada’s strong economic position for the future”.

One of the most exciting new measures in that budget was the new $5,000 Tax-Free Savings Account that comes into effect on January 1, 2009.  Every Canadian resident aged 18 or older will be able to contribute up to $5,000 per year to a personal Tax-Free Savings Account, with unused contributions being carried over for use in future years.  Withdrawals will be tax-free, at any time, without penalty or limits on future contributes.

 In early September, we found ourselves heading to the polls for the third time in four years. 

The economy quickly became the focus of the five week election campaign that ended on Oct. 14 with a strengthened minority for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our Conservative Government.  Election years usually play havoc with the Parliamentary schedule resulting in a long delay while the Government plans its agenda. 

As the economic turmoil in the United States and elsewhere escalated, the Prime Minister recognized that we didn’t have time for a post election pause.  He quickly recalled Parliament and on November 18th, the Governor General read the Throne Speech outlining the government’s plans and priorities. 

The following week, Finance Minister Flaherty, presented his Fall Economic Update.  Designed to guide Canada’s economy through the global economic challenges faced by countries around the world, it hit a snag when the Opposition Parties used it as their excuse to try and take control of the government.

The Opposition- Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP – formed a coalition and were prepared to defeat the government and ask the Governor General to install Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion as Prime Minister.  This was the same Stéphane Dion who only a month before, led his party to its worst election result in Canadian history.  Many Canadians asked themselves how Liberals could suggest that someone they determined was not good enough to be their own party leader, was suddenly good enough to serve as Prime Minister of Canada. 

Such uncertainty and upheaval could have had caused crisis of confidence in the Canadian economy, so Prime Minister Harper recommended that the Governor General end this session of Parliament and she agreed.  This break will allow people on all sides to take a breath, step-back and to really focus on what is important to Canadians – the economy.  There are extensive pre budget consultations underway with the federal Opposition Parties, the Provinces, industry and Canadians.  

The Budget will be presented on Jan. 27, the day after Parliament opens.  It will be the first time since Confederation that a Finance Minister has tabled a budget so soon after an election.  Budget 2009 will build on the progress we’ve made to keep our economy among the strongest in the industrialized world, and include measures needed to stimulate economic activity.

The New Year is bound to bring lots of challenges but you can be sure that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our Conservative MPs will continue to show responsible leadership that will keep Canada strong.

All the best for 2009!

I hope that you will continue to contact my Constituency office on any federally related matters, postage free, at: #6, 4612 – 50th Street, Ponoka, T4J 1S7; tel: 403-783-5530; toll free: 1-800-665-0865 or visit my web site: www.blainecalkinsmp.ca.