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Canada’s budget contains deep austerity measures

Canadians must wait until 67 to collect Old Age Security.

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Mining equipment sits unused in front of the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near Fort McMurray, Alta. The oil sands are seen as a major driver to Canada's economy despite claims extraction poisons the rivers and air in northern Canada. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite evidence that Canada’s economy is among the world’s strongest, the Conservative government tabled an austerity budget Thursday to eliminate the federal deficit by 2016, The Toronto Star said.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said he’s cutting federal spending by $5.2 billion to eliminate the $21.1 billion deficit.

“Our government is looking ahead not only over the next few years, but also over the next generation,” Flaherty said in the House of Commons. “The reforms we present today are substantial, responsible and necessary. They will ensure we are focused on enabling and sustaining Canada’s long-term economic growth.”

Flaherty reduced funding for many social programs, the military, the national public broadcaster (CBC), a round table on the environment, aboriginal affairs, international development and a popular youth program.

He’s also asking foreign diplomats to scale back their spending, federal workers to contribute more to their pensions and telling the Governor General to start paying taxes on the position’s $130,000 salary.

The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada, and the position is entirely ceremonial now.

Almost 20,000 federal jobs are to be eliminated, although there was no timetable attached.

In a much-debated measure, retiring seniors must now wait until 67 to collect Old Age Pension (starting in 2023), CBC News said.

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“It’s easier, you know, to say we’ll do nothing and we’ll leave it to another government (on) another day to do this,” Flaherty told CBC. “But we’re doing this because we're looking ahead and we’re saying this is what Canadians can afford over the longer term, it will make sure we have balanced budgets. ... Not only tomorrow morning, but looking out to 2020 and beyond.”

It also includes $1 billion spending for science and technology research, and a streamlined environmental review process for natural resource development projects such as pipelines and mines.

“We will streamline the review process for such projects, according to the following principle: one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined time period,” Flaherty said, according to the National Post. “We will ensure that Canada has the infrastructure we need to move our exports to new markets.”

Opposition party leaders accused the Conservatives of ignoring job growth and the environment.

The Tories didn't do enough to stimulate the economy, New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair told The Globe and Mail.

“The Conservatives were elected on a promise to create jobs, instead they're slashing health care, they’re slashing pensions,” he said, according to the Globe. “In the long term, the continuation of these Conservative policies will leave the greatest economic, ecological and social debt in our history, in the backpacks of future generations.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120330/canada-s-budget-contains-deep-austerity-measures