The Harper government must think Canadians are stupid. Either that, or they are counting on the fact that the 40 per cent of the population who voted for them in the last election will continue to support their plans to gut the federal public service, eliminate the Wheat Board, close the maritime search and rescue centre, destroy the gun registry and continue to hand out billions in tax cuts to super wealthy corporations.
After all, for the Harperites, governing Canada is not about governing Canada. It is just about keeping the 40 per cent happy.
It is about ideologically driven public policy.
It is about using the deficit — one largely created not because of the recession but because of reckless tax cuts to the top one per cent in Canada including banks, oil companies, and mining corporations — as the excuse to do the nasty.
As the Harper government guts and slashes the federal public service, including in our province, federal cabinet ministers have taken to saying — with audacity and straight faces — that these cuts will actually be good for us.
They say that somehow eliminating federal jobs and programs will improve the services we receive. Gob smacked at their bold-faced, twisted and deceitful political spin? So are a lot of people.
Case in point, last week Human Resources Minister Diane Finley told Canadians that her government was acting to improve service to unemployed Canadians.
They are doing this by eliminating the jobs of the people who deliver the services.
In other words, “we’re cutting services in order to serve you better.”
Yet service is not better. Wait-times involved in processing Employment Insurance claims for jobless Canadians have increased substantially since the Harper government eliminated hundreds of EI processing jobs across the country.
Ms. Finley says new automation and technology will improve EI processing systems, but the reality is something entirely different. Some jobless Canadians are now waiting months before they receive benefits. Months without income.
Unless you are unemployed and waiting for benefits from a program you paid premiums into, the Harper government is counting on the fact that you won’t care that their austerity plans are causing undue hardship for your neighbours.
Because in their minds, they only have to keep the 40 per cent happy.
And they figure that cutting $4 billion from federal services — estimated to be the equivalent of about 80,000 jobs or one-third of the entire federal public service — will please the 40 per cent of Canadians who voted for them.
After all, public sector workers are easy targets these days.
Treasury Board President Tony Clement is counting on it.
When not being forced to explain his own role in the misuse of G20 funding in his riding, Mr. Clement spends his days refusing to tell the country just where his government intends to cut an additional $4 billion annually in public spending.
In fact, these decisions are being made behind closed doors with the help of Deloitte Inc. which is being paid $90,000 a day for their “slash and burn” recommendations.
Canadians deserve to be told where the cuts are planned and what programs and services are intended for elimination.
People have a right to know what they will be losing in order to pay for another round of tax cuts for the richest corporations in Canada. Because these are the choices being made by the federal government — search and rescue centre for St. John’s and a safety net for offshore workers, or tax cuts for banks.
In addition, we are told that federal government executives will receive big bonuses if they come up with ways to contribute to the budget cuts.
The result when you institute these kind of “incentives” is reckless and wrong-headed decisions like the one to close the search and rescue centre.
The result is lives get put at risk.
The result is jobless Canadians wait longer and longer to receive a measly EI cheque.
The result is the loss of sound and fact-based information that would have been provided by the now laid-off scientists, statisticians and economists. The result is a transformation of what we can and should expect from government.
The result is something provinces and municipalities should be extremely concerned about. They will be the ones left to pick up the pieces of the Harper agenda.
Provincial governments of all political stripes had better figure out how they are going to respond to this agenda or eventually they will be tarred with the fallout.
As shown through their opposition to the omnibus crime bill, provinces, when they come together and push back, can resist, slow down and interfere with the implementation of Harper’s vision of Canada.
They must do more of it before this prime minister and his high-priced help complete the job of tearing down the Canada that has taken generations to build.
Lana Payne is president of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her column returns Dec. 3.