A budget for everyone else

Lana Payne
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A federal budget for the rest of us. What a brilliant idea!

Sadly, it's not what we will get March 29 when federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty brings down his austerity budget.

Instead, this will be a budget, in a series of budgets, intent on re- shaping Canada into Stephen Harper's image.

It will be a budget of austerity for the majority of Canadians, the 99 per cent, with more goodies, like continued corporate tax cuts, for the one per cent.

It will be a budget that does its darnedest to add to the growing inequality in Canada.

It will be a budget that will ignore poverty, create unemployment and continue to make Canada's tax system unfair.

It will do little, if anything, to reduce the country's infrastructure deficit of over $120 billion.

And despite all the moaning about innovation and productivity, you can bet this budget will do little to invest in post-secondary education and training for Canadians. Both are key to fuelling innovation and productivity.

And given the ideological bent of the sitting Harper Conservatives, this budget will not include a much-needed investment in early learning and childcare.

According to the Alternative Federal Budget (AFB), the $12 billion in annual corporate tax breaks handed out by the Harper Conservatives have merely padded the massive profits margins of banks, oil and mining companies operating in Canada.

And yet this $12 billion would have delivered $10-a-day child care for Canadian families.

It will be a budget that weakens environmental protections and regulatory processes, smoothing the way for large-scale energy projects like the Keystone pipeline, sending thousands of value-added jobs south of the border.

It will be a budget that does its best to beat up on the federal public service, one of the Conservatives' favourite targets.

It will be a budget that further divides Canadians, that ruthlessly pits federal workers with pensions and decent incomes against those without pensions - while at the same time making life worse for those with lower incomes.

It will be a budget that reinforces a fend-for-yourself individual ideology while further denouncing the very Canadian ideal of working together, of the collective, of real caring and sharing. Caring and sharing that goes beyond helping your neighbour in a time of need, but is a fundamental pillar in Canadian public policy.

All of this means provinces should and must stand up and take notice. Indeed, they must do more than take notice.

It will be the provinces, as in the 1990s, that will be left holding the empty bag and downloaded expectations.

Indeed, provinces and premiers may be forced to fight back in ways they have yet to contemplate. Quebec's decision to take the federal government to court over the elimination of gun registry data, and its decision to defy Ottawa's omnibus crime legislation, indicates a willingness to resist the Harper government's policy directions.

Budgets are about choices. The Harper Conservatives have chosen austerity. They have chosen to diminish the federal public service and lay off (or fire, depending on your point of view) thousands of workers. They have chosen the one per cent.

They have chosen to deeply cut taxes, costing the federal treasury about $220 billion between 2006 and 2013.

That's money, according to the AFB drawn up by the economists with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, that could be used to sustain health care, enhance public pensions, create jobs through municipal infrastructure investments or make post-secondary education more affordable for young people.

The AFB proposes ways to restore fairness to Canada's tax system and to protect the public services on which Canadians rely.

The AFB asks that Canada's richest one per cent, who are doing better than they have since the 1920s and whose tax rates are at an 80-year low, contribute their fair share.

The alternative budget also ends what it calls the "failed corporate tax cut experiment."

Corporate taxes fell from 29 per cent in 2000 to 15 per cent in 2012, but instead of "putting extra profits into productive business investments as they promised, Canadian corporations have stockpiled over $500 billion in cash," according to the economists with the AFB.

As Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of Canada, has said, it is time for business in Canada to start investing its hoarded cash.

The Alternative Federal Budget gives us an image of the kind of Canada we could have if the right choices were made.

It is a budget for the rest of us. It is a budget for the 99 per cent. It is a budget that says governments can make the lives of Canadians better by working together. It is a budget that speaks to all Canadians instead of dividing us into pockets of voters.

It is a budget that says we can be a better Canada if we choose to be.

It is a budget that puts people and equality at its heart.

It is a budget that shines a very bright light on just how mean- spirited the Harper-Flaherty choices will be.

It is a budget for the rest of us.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns April 7.

© 2012 The Telegram (St. John's). All rights reserved.

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, Canadian Centre, Bank of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, Quebec, Ottawa St. John's

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Recent comments

  • KT
    March 27, 2012 - 05:45

    Lane, I'm quite sure that the Telegram is fully aware of Ms Payne's NDP affliations. Most columnists do have political affliations otherwise they wouldn't be writing columns. Are you saying it is okay for a columnist to have right-wing political affliations, but wrong if they have left-wing affliations?

    • Lane
      April 02, 2012 - 22:49

      Yes, I too am sure that the Telegram is aware of Ms. Payne's party affiliation. However, my point is that it should be disclosed to readers for the sake of transparency. And I believe that professional ethic should apply to any political columnist who is a member of a particular party. While it may be true that most political columnists have their own political leanings, that is not the same as being an active member of a particular party, voting in its leadership election, making donations, giving public endorsements, etc. Ms. Payne is simply not an impartial observer or expert - she is a proponent for a certain party. Knowing that would help readers put her comments in the proper context and perspective.

  • jamesM
    March 25, 2012 - 22:12

    Canada Energy & Jobs Action Plan!!! (REAL GROWTH and SAVINGS across CANADA) Budget 2012 - Oilsands first? or Save Energy First? On January 29, 2012 the federal government closed the popular ecoENERGY Retrofit-Homes program, two months early and with less than half the promised $400 million invested in home retrofits. Ten days later, the Prime Minister visited China to promote Canada's oilsands to Asian markets. Together, these events send a troubling message. Energy efficiency should be at the top of Canada's energy and jobs agenda, not at the bottom. Energy efficiency should be the first item on Canada's energy agenda. Canada is about to spend billions on new oil sands projects, pipelines, nuclear and fossil-fuel power stations, hydroelectric dams, solar projects, and wind farms. But as we prepare to generate more energy, it makes sense to save energy first. We need to get serious about energy efficiency. The global economy is struggling and governments want to create jobs. This is a huge opportunity for Canadian governments to help Canadian families save energy. Making our homes more energy-efficient creates jobs in all communities. Extending ecoENERGY will Save Energy First, reduce our energy bills, protect the environment, generate net-positive tax revenues, and create local jobs. http://www.SaveEnergyFirst.ca

  • Lane
    March 25, 2012 - 14:22

    The fact that Lana Payne is already fear mongering and spewing left-wing rhetoric about a budget she has not seen speaks volumes about her ideological bias, but says nothing about the government or its budget plans. Despite her pretensions, Payne obviously does not have the slightest clue what will be in the upcoming federal budget. It is also worth noting that Lana Payne is paid far more than a large majority of Canadians for being a union activist. She is part of the so-called "one per cent." Also, if Payne were interested in transparency and accountability, she would disclose her partisan affiliation (she is an active NDP member, delegate to the NDP leadership convention, etc.) when she gets paid by the Telegram for her political commentary.

    • Townie
      March 26, 2012 - 08:03

      Not one revant fact on the subject at hand, that's what I call discourse!! NOT!!!

  • Sane
    March 24, 2012 - 16:42

    This was a bad article. Thank God we have the policies of this government. I've lived in a NDP stronghold most of my life and we all keep getting poorer because of them. They talk about how we need to tax more and spend more on social projects/issues. Any person with the ability to think rationally has learned that these NDPesque policies have been very detrimental for the society as a whole. We have learned from other provinces-Saskatchewan being a prime example-of when fiscal conservatism shines, we all win. Saskatchewan got rid of their ridiculous NDP govt. and now have a fiscally conservative provincial govt. They have been thriving now when they removed the idiotic NDP policies. Now more jobs have been created because the evil corporations have moved in creating more work. Now our young people are moving to this area of the country. How about we learn from examples. Newfoundland and Labrador had a wonderful conservative govt and they created new wealth for all the individuals. Spend less and allow individuals and corporations to create more. What a horrible concept for everyone!

    • NWeller
      March 25, 2012 - 04:14

      I watch goverment policies closely and would have to say the changes I have seen are not very positive for women, children, families and many workforces have crumbled with his leadership.

  • John
    March 24, 2012 - 13:24

    I am a 60 year old USCanadian citizen living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A fifth generation escapist living in a demographic black hole; holding the intention that this is the year we all come to our senses. Representative democracy is great, and the free market is great! The combination however is keeping most of us from thriving.

  • bruce mcgregor
    March 24, 2012 - 12:26

    are u people bias or what?i dont believe canada is a 3th world country under the leadership of the duly elected government.if u cannt be positive....be quiet..some people sud not have the rite to express their one sided opinions..enough said

    • Townie
      March 26, 2012 - 08:09

      Shut up and follow the leader! Sounds third world to me.