A budget Trump can easily live with
It is, for better or worse, a document Donald Trump can live with.
For make no mistake, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has penned the 2017 federal budget as if America were breathing over its shoulder.
There are, for instance, very few huge-ticket spending items (those that do win big, such as the Canada Revenue Agency, are entities whose job is to find missing money). Where new programs are created, or old ones boosted, it's mostly by re-allocation.
And there are lots of shout-outs to the Americans. For instance, on defence, the budget stresses Canada's NATO loyalties, support of the Baltics and Ukraine, and long-term plans for capital investment. In a section on asylum claimants, it discusses ferreting out "fraudulent" asylum seekers.
Even in introducing gender analysis to budgeting, there's a nod to the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, which, you may recall, was officially launched in Washington by Trudeau, Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump.
And of course, there's the over-arching theme of innovation. It's meant to market Canada as a slick, forward-looking economy that any country would want to trade with.
Yet there is little new spending attached to innovation; the economic plan is more aspirational than concrete (this, too, would please the Trumpites, who, presumably, are not impressed by nations that spend like drunken sailors). The deficit will remain high -- $28.5 billion projected, including a $3-billion contingency fund -- but the debt-to-GDP ratio remains acceptable.
Even in those plans clearly not aimed at Americans, there is little to offend.
It attempts to clean up a bunch of boutique tax credits that bean counters deem ineffectual. It tries to streamline tax relief available to caregivers of the disabled or elderly. It provides some seed money, and ideas for helping retrain people of all ages and provide better access to sciences for young men and women, and for indigenous Canadians.
There are slightly loopy promises, such as the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, and hip talk of technology "super clusters." But with so little fresh cash involved, it's hard to be either worried or excited. The public-private Infrastructure Bank will be running soon, though which transit projects it will fund is only hinted at.
Distinctly un-Trumpian, the government seems wedded to affordable childcare: an additional $7 billion over 10 years.
It's a timid, tentative budget. Probably wise -- just in case someone from the White House reads it.