The CEO Poll: Federal budget priorities

Business leaders put infrastructure spending at the top of their list.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Canadian CEOs and business leaders want to see more spending on infrastructure when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivers the federal budget on February 26, according to a web poll conducted by COMPAS Inc. The 129 respondents were largely divided on other budget initiatives.

More than 60% of the CEOs want the federal government to increase infrastructure spending, while 33% say funding should remain unchanged. The panel also agreed on taxation issues. Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of respondents feel that both corporate and personal income taxes should remain the same or drop. Only 4% of the panel say corporate taxes should increase.

The national debt is another priority, although the panel was split on just how it should be addressed. Those who want to see more debt repayment are roughly equal in number to those who feel it should remain unchanged, while 13% of the respondents say funding should drop.

“Although paying down the debt is important, it should be postponed for a while — as we enter a period of economic uncertainty — in favour of increased investments in the productive capacity of the economy, namely infrastructure projects and support to Canadian manufacturers,” wrote one CEO.

While manufacturing is often a hot topic for business leaders in COMPAS polls, 15% want financial support in this area to fall in the upcoming budget. Nearly 60% of the respondents feel funding for the manufacturing industry should remain unchanged.

Some CEOs are skeptical about flashy new initiatives, given the current market volatility. “The drive to appease the voting public has got in the way of good reason and it would be a great shame if the prudent and responsible fiscal management in the past many years is reversed,” wrote one CEO.

As always, there’s a cynic on every panel. One respondent feels such budgets are largely irrelevant: “It will boil down to which lacklustre leader you want, as the policies are all the same.”