So, today’s Federal Budget rolled out largely as the pundits expected, based on the Conservative government’s strategic leaks to the media in the past 48 hours, leaked in advance of receipt by our elected officials. Cynical ploys from the Harper government aside, there are few surprises in the budget (positive or negatives); the budget, clearly, has been tailor-made by the Conservatives for an election campaign.
This budget contains something which is likely to please just about every Canadian, as it’s ripe with niche goodies: a tax break here, a spending hike there. The Conservatives have truly gone out of their way not to remind Canadians that we’re facing a $56 billion deficit without any clear plan about how it’s going to be repaid. Yes, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty would very much like for Canadians to forget that we’ve mortgaged our children’s future in a two-year spending orgy which happened outside of the context of a strategic framework, and was based on political priorities rather than societal needs.
The Liberals and the Bloc have already indicated that they won’t be voting for this budget; they’re ready to fight an election based on the ethics of the Conservative government. There is a lot of ammunition there, too, given the recent contempt of parliament ruling, RCMP investigations of party insiders, charges being brought against top party Officials and Conservative Senators. Not to mention the misuse of parliamentary resources for political gain, lying to parliament by Conservative MP’s, and the muzzling of respected civil servants. On the ethics and accountability front, there’s no question that the current Conservative government has sunk to historic lows.
What of the economics of the budget, however? The Conservatives like to put forward the claim that they have been adept financial stewards of the Canadian economy. This myth has largely remained unchallenged by the Opposition parties, due in part to the lack of credibility that those parties bring to the table. The current facts of Canada’s economic situation in the larger world might at first suggest that there is some merit to the Conservatives’ assertions regarding financial management, although one has to wonder if maybe that’s more to do with the economic legacy left to Canadians by the Chretien/Martin regime. Or perhaps it says more about the poor financial management of other nations.
Either way, though, the fact remains that the Conservatives’ financial planning has been a great success for the wealthiest amongst us, and for big businesses. Tax cuts have largely gone to benefit those who need them the least: to the rich, and to the corporate sector, while the middle class and small businesses have seen costs continue to rise in the face of inflationary pressure.
Women, seniors, students, those living on fixed incomes, and the middle class, have all experienced net financial losses over the 5 years of Conservative rule. For some of us, the pain is just starting to hit us: at the gas pump, through higher energy bills, higher property taxes, banking fees, etc. Sure, some of these things aren’t, strictly speaking, within the federal government’s jurisdiction to directly influence. Governments, however, need to remember that there is only one taxpayer. When the federal government cuts back on transfers to the provinces, or to municipalities, or allows corporate oligopolies to fix consumer prices, the economic burden on the one single taxpayer increases.
In the coming few months, we can continue to expect higher energy prices, especially at the fuel pump, along with higher prices on food and imported goods. What’s the government’s plan to do anything about this? I didn’t see anything in the current budget which even considered that the future isn’t going to be like the present, and maybe we ought to plan for that future.
And that’s the single biggest problem with this Conservative budget, and frankly with the Opposition parties which are looking for specific, niche adjustments to the financial management of this nation, when more substantive efforts are required. Simply put, our government needs to build a smart economy, which is flexible enough to deal with both threats and opportunities, and equitable enough to allow all Canadians the chance the flourish. We need to create investment opportunities to facilitate the growth of healthy communities throughout the nation. And we need to do so through an open, consultative, and truly democratic process, so that all Canadians are engaged in building the future Canada that we need to thrive.
It’s nice that the budget offers one or two good things for everybody. But if we are to continue along the course we’re currently upon, pretending that the status quo is sustainable, we’re going to be in for a very rude economic awakening in the next few years.
All eyes will now be on Claude Gravelle, Glenn Thibeault, Jack Layton and the rest of the New Democrats. Pundits have already begun to speculate that there might be enough goodies in this budget to entice a poll-slumping NDP to support the government on this budget and any other matter of confidence which might arise later this week. I hope that the NDP chooses to stick to its principles, rather than to once again flip-flop for political gain at the expense of doing what’s right.
It’s time to seek a new mandate. Hopefully one which represents the electoral will of all Canadians, although with our archaic first-past-the-post electoral system, there is a very real risk that the Cons could be handed a false majority government. That’s a risk which needs to be taken, because the future of this nation can no longer be held hostage to partisan politics. Canadians deserve far better than our current Conservative government, and frankly better than what’s on offer by the other parties in parliament. However, even a small step towards the right direction would be welcome at this point, because the road the Conservatives have us on is leading us towards economic disaster.
Although the right-wing corporate media won’t tell you about the Green Party’s plan for the economy, rest assured that Elizabeth May and the Greens have been working for years now on a comprehensive and fully costed plan for the future economic health of our nation. It’s actually been hiding in plain sight on the Green Party’s website for a while now. Click on the link to “Vision Green” at the Party’s website: http://www.greenparty.ca/, to see how you and Canada would benefit from smart economic action which is co-ordinated and considers our current and future needs, rather than political circumstances.
I, like most Canadians, don’t want an unnecessary election. With the release of today’s budget, and with the contempt shown by the Conservative government to our democratic parliamentary institutions, and indeed to all Canadians, the time has come for Canadians to return to the polls. Canadians need this opportunity to revisit the economic mismanagement of the Harper Conservatives, and perhaps turn towards other ideas and political parties which would take us toward a better direction for the future.
(opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be interpreted as consistent with those of the Green Party of Canada)
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