2011 federal budget released

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Tuesday marked the release of the 2011 federal budget.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s new federal budget includes $278.7 billion in spending throughout the fiscal year, an increase of one per-cent over 2010.

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If approved, the 2011 budget is set to take effect April 1.

The new budget covers a variety of topics, including an improved pension benefit of up to $600 a year for single low-income seniors and $840 for couples.

Another addition in the budget includes new initiatives to attract health-care workers to rural and remote communities, by returning up to $40,000 in student loans for doctors and $20,000 for nurses that commit to working in these areas.

With regards to energy consumption, $400 million dollars is being given to extend the ecoENERGY program for an extra year. The money will give homeowners grants of up to $5,000 for home energy efficiency improvements.

Small businesses were also given a one-time hiring credit of up to $1,000. The money is expected to offset employment insurance increases occurring this year.

Volunteer firefighters were also included in the new budget. A new tax credit, worth up to $450, was made available for volunteer firefighters who perform at least 200 hours of service.

Flaherty also said Canada’s debt will increase to $586 billion in the upcoming year, but the country’s deficit is projected to decrease from $40.5 billion in 2010, to $29.6 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. The country’s deficit is predicted to be virtually eliminated by 2014-2015.

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