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Budget includes grab bag of issues, from Senate suspensions to Bitcoins

OTTAWA - A look at some unusual items included in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget, delivered Tuesday:

Disgraced senators or MPs suspended from their jobs won't be allowed to accumulate lucrative pension benefits while sitting out.

The budget says the government will bring in legislation to ensure that suspended members don't accrue pensionable service.

"The actions of parliamentarians should be based on integrity, trust and respect for taxpayers' dollars," the budget says.

Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all suspended late last year over their handling of questioned expenses, but they continue to accue pension eligibility.

The legislation would not be applied retroactively to the trio, whose suspensions are scheduled to last until the end of the current parliamentary session, but would halt their eligibility once passed, Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Tuesday.

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A longstanding special section of the customs law exempted items imported for the use of the Governor General from duties, but no more.

The budget removes that exemption.

Last year's budget wiped out an exemption in the Excise Act that said no GST or HST was payable on purchases intended for the Governor General's use.

It noted at the time, however, that tho Governor General voluntarily paid the GST-HST on his personal purchases.

———

They may be virtual money, but they are going to come under real-life laws.

The government plans to bring virtual currencies such as the Bitcoin under the provisions of the money-laundering and anti-terrorism financing regulations.

"It is important to continually improve Canada's regime to address emerging risks, including virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, that threaten Canada's international leadership in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing."

Online casinos will also be subject to these rules.

———

People looking for student loans won't have to include their cars in their need assessments when seeking Canada Student Loans.

The budget says taking the vehicles out of the assessment will simplify the process.

It also says that about 19,000 car-owning students will benefit to the tune of about $14.8 million over the next two years.

———

Diabetes dogs, which can detect changes in their owner's blood-sugar levels and raise an alarm if needed, are getting a tax break.

Well, the owners will actually benefit from a budget proposal that would expand the list of eligible expenses under the medical expense tax credit to include the costs of such a dog.

The budget will also exempt the professional services of acupuncturists and naturopaths from the GST-HST.

———

Fish and the people who catch them are getting $15 million in the budget.

The money is fin-marked for recreational fisheries partnerships, which help improve fishing areas.

For example, provincial groups can apply for grants to clear streams and improve fish habitats.

———

The budget allots $10 million over two years to improve and expand snowmobile and all-terrain-vehicle trails across the country.

Previous budgets allocated $25 million, which covered almost 500 trail-improvement projects.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said proposed legislation on Senate pension eligibility would not affect senators who are currently suspended.

The Canadian Press


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