Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Harper About To Miss Green Opportunity

(originally posted at www.greenparty.ca; cross-posted to www.greenpartysudbury.blogspot.com)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is about to unveil its much awaited budget to address the stated goal of providing stimulation to our economy in these increasingly troubled times.

If what we have been hearing about the budget over these past few days through leaks to the media holds true, the budget will miss a historic opportunity to start addressing the many challenges we Canadians face. Most importantly, today's budget needs to begin the process of creating a truly sustainable Canadian economy. Unfortunately, it seems Harper and the Conservatives are lacking in vision.

In these difficult times, international organizations such as the IMF and APEC have recommended an increase to public spending roughly equal to two per cent of a nation's Gross Domestic Product. Such spending, however, needs to be strategically targeted to ensure that the results we achieve prove to be beneficial to the costs incurred. Investment in green municipal infrastructure through sharing GST revenues directly with municipalities will permit shovel-ready green projects to move forward. Projects that promote healthy lifestyles and physical fitness will create jobs in our communities, as well as benefit our families in the long term.

Investments in manufacturing and the auto sector that capitalize on a shift to a low-carbon economy will also produce results good for Canada. Investing in energy production from renewable energy sources will begin the process of shifting from our old brown economy towards a more sustainable model.

Cutting revenue sources such as taxes, if not offset by new revenue sources, will decrease opportunities for public investment and hamper our ability to begin paying off the deficits we will be accumulating. If income taxes are to be cut, new revenue sources need to be explored. Since it makes economic sense to derive revenue from activities which are ultimately harmful to ourselves and our communities, such as taxing cigarettes, it seems sensible that we look first for these opportunities. A good way of freeing up needed revenue would be to end corporate welfare by eliminating the massive subsidies our government makes to the fossil fuel sector, which total approximately $1.4 billion a year. Putting charges on carbon emissions would also assist with shifting revenues away from income taxes.

I sincerely hope the Conservative government will attempt to face these challenges head on by offering targeted investment in green infrastructure and cutting taxes for the least well off in our communities, along with the caveat that new green revenue sources are put in place to make up the difference.

While I hope for these outcomes, I don't believe that Harper will have the vision necessary to begin moving Canada in this direction. We will all find out soon.

If we see tax cuts in the budget without new revenues from green sources, and calls for investment in brown infrastructure, we'll know that Harper and Conservatives truly don't understand the needs of Canadians.

-Published as the Letter of the Day in the Sudbury Star (a division of Sun Media), January 27 2009.

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