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Spend, but wisely

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Government ministers and MPs were lining up to praise it. Opposition members and special interest groups were quick to slam it.

Ahh, yes, it’s federal budget time.

Rookie Finance minister John Manley yesterday afternoon unveiled the largest increase in spending (11.1 percent) in more than 20 years and, as expected, the lion’s share of that amount is earmarked for health care—including more money for primary care, home care, catastrophic drug coverage, diagnostic equipment, and health information technology, among others.

There also is more money for children and families, the military, infrastructure, the environment, and First Nations. Basically, you name it.

Predictably, critics were quick to say the money falls short of what’s needed. What’s ironic, however, is these are the same people who, in the same breath, argue yesterday’s budget focused too heavily on spending and not enough on tax cuts.

So which is it?

Canadians have been clamouring for a better health care system. Better roads, and high-speed Internet access. More affordable day care spaces for children. More housing for the homeless. A cleaner environment. A military that actually can defend our country.

Mr. Manley responded yesterday, loosening the purse strings enough to give Canadians what they want—while still keeping a balanced budget. The challenge facing the government now is making sure all that money is spent effectively and responsibly.

There is, after all, a big difference between spending money—and wasting it.

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