What the Finance Minister’s Footwear says About His Budget

February 17, 2014

Picture of Jim FlahertyAfter much anticipation, Canada’s budget for 2014-2015 has been released. The federal government says this one is all about holding back. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says there are no fancy new programs and no big spending – all with the goal of eliminating the country’s deficit by next year. Anyone following politics knew this was coming. The federal government intentionally leaked information about the budget for days leading up to its official release.

Of course, if you’re more into wing-tips than government tip-offs, you knew what was coming too.

Most years, the federal finance minister buys a new pair of shoes before the annual budget is released. The government invites reporters to watch while the minister tries on their new kicks.

This year, Flaherty chose a pair of wing-tipped work shoes. They are the practical, all-business kind of shoes found on the feet of construction managers across the country.
“Good working shoes for a good working budget,” Flaherty said.
His government is forecasting a surplus in 2015. His budget, like his shoes, are Flaherty’s way of staying safe and saving money; nothing flashy, in anticipation of next year’s election.

“Some people will say this budget is boring,” he said.
But maybe it’s just in anticipation of a shiny budget (and a sharper pair of shoes) next year. Posting a budget surplus and increasing spending at that time could go a long way in securing the future of the Conservative Party as Canada’s governing party.

The shoes’ maker, Mellow Walk Footwear, creates shoes for industrial workers. Flaherty’s choice this year may not be high-fashion, but it is on-brand with the Conservative party’s values. Since it came to power in 2006, this government has tried to increase the number of workers in skilled trades. In this budget, the government is extending interest-free loans to apprentices (normally reserved for students). It says it will also spend $40 million on creating internships in high-demand fields. In Canada, that means skilled trades – carpenters, electricians, welders; tradespeople with a similar taste in shoes as the finance minister.

Steel toe politics

Flaherty’s 2014 shoe choice comes with thick layer of steel at the front. It’s a good thing too, as there are many in Canada’s public service who likely want to stamp on his foot following this budget announcement. The government says retired civil servants will now have to pay twice as much for their medical benefits. The change means the government will save more than $7 billion. It’s unpopular with critics, to say the least.

Flaherty has also failed to impress his provincial counterparts. The government has announced it will go ahead with the controversial Canada Job Grant by April 1st, even if the provinces disagree with the terms. Flaherty says the job creation program will reduce the jobless rate in Canada, but many provincial governments say the program isn’t an effective way to address unemployment in their regions.

They are unimpressed with his fiscal footwear this year…
And curious about just how shiny next year’s loafers will be.