By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - Some highlights of the federal budget delivered Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty:
— The budget is close to balance, with a $2.9-billion deficit and a $3-billion contingency fund.
— Flaherty forecasts revenues of $276.3 billion and expenditures of $279.2 billion.
— The government makes clear it will balance the budget next year by cutting program spending and reining in public service compensation costs.
— The budget proposes to make retired federal public servants pay half the costs of their health-care plan, up from a quarter now. This would raise annual payments for a retired individual to $550 from $261.
— Adopting families will get a bigger tax break for expenses.
— Higher excise taxes on tobacco will raise the price of a carton of 200 cigarettes by $4 and essentially end the discount on smokes sold at duty-free stores, by raising taxes there by $6 a carton. The increase will reap government $685 million in 2014-15.
— Excise taxes on tobacco will be tied to the Consumer Price Index and automatically adjusted every five years.
— The government plans to bring in legislation to deal with unjustified cross-border price discrimination that sees Canadians pay more for goods.
— Charities will be allowed to use computers to run their lotteries, offering major administrative savings.
— World-class amateur athletes will get a break when it comes to calculating their available RRSP room.
— Search and rescue volunteers will get a tax credit similar to the one extended to volunteer firefighters in 2011.
— Taxpayers will no longer have to apply for a GST-HST credit on their tax return. The Canada Revenue Agency will make the calculation automatically.