"Stingy". That's the word being used by the Globe & Mail.
"Modest" and "one mile wide and one inch deep". That was Stephane Dion's assessment. Apparently, long and shallow doesn't bother Dion one bit since he's said the Liberals will support it. The NDP and the BQ will oppose it, as expected.
So, how do we explain that the Conservatives seem to have been itching for an election the last few months, making confidence motions left and right, yet have proposed a budget without a poison pill - as the pundits call the one divisive issue that might push the Liberals to oppose it? (The National Post's Don Martin described the budget as a "sleeping pill" and "an uninspiring cure for insomnia" instead.)
Perhaps the Conservatives have realized, finally, that their poll numbers have barely moved in the 2 years they've been in power and that, despite the fact that the Liberals are not well-poised to challenge them, they'd only likely end up in a minority government situation again. That certainly isn't what they want. What changed? After all, with so many scandals currently plaguing the Conservatives, you'd think they would have played this differently just to avoid that accountability bogeyman that has reared its ugly head. And yet, they demurred - even compromised - by throwing in some Liberal-friendly spending. This, after having updated their first Afghanistan motion to include demands made by the Liberals as well.
Is Harper finally learning how a minority government works? Or is he just playing it safe enough so he doesn't cause any ripples that might lessen the party's popularity? He definitely tried hard to reel in Ontario voters with the new money allotted to the auto sector - a province he knows he needs to gain more support in if he wants majority power. But that focus is not enough, according to manufacturing sector analysts.
As for the rest of the country, there was absolutely nothing for anyone to get excited about in this budget and future economic projections are even more sobering.
I guess we'll have to wait and see what other tricks the Conservatives have up their sleeve if they really don't want to stay in power as a minority until the next legislatively mandated election in 2009. In the meantime, one thing we can count on is that they'll continue to behave badly - disrupting parliament as often as possible - while they plan whatever strategy is being cooked up in the back rooms in Ottawa.
You can find the budget here.