Wrong time for a ‘do nothing budget’
February 14th, 2014 - 4:11pm
As the Finance Minister worked his way through the budget speech on Thursday it became obvious that the advance press was true and we were receiving a do nothing budget. I had to wonder if we are living in the same country since the Canada I experience in my role as MP is defined by need, while his seems to be defined by a desire to set the Conservatives up with a surplus budget to campaign on in 2015.
In some ways this is a do nothing budget, but that is a phrase that lets the Conservatives off the hook. It ignores the jaded choices that have been made by the Finance Minister in his singular pursuit of a budget surplus.
To begin with, the budget signals the government acceptance that Canada will remain in a jobless recovery from the last recession. What jobs we have added are mostly part-time, low paying and are no replacement for the hundreds of thousands of full time, good paying jobs that we lost. In addition to that, the budget did away with the Small Business Hiring Credit that helped add jobs to our economy.
The budget ignored the plight of seniors who are forced to work only to have their Guaranteed Income Supplement clawed back if they make more than $3,500. I have heard about this mean-hearted cash grab from all corners of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, but seniors living in poverty weren’t on the Finance Ministers radar this year.
First Nations did rate a mention in the budget, but apart from providing less cash than is needed for the Water and Wastewater Action Plan and the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, everything else was aimed for 2015 and beyond. That won’t change a thing in chronically underfunded First Nation schools this year which is shameful.
Consumers looking for something in the budget to reel in excessive credit card interest rates, ATM fees, or to address household debt were shut out. Gas prices, which are always higher in Northern Ontario, did rate a mention, but the focus will be cross border disparity, not the gouging that northern or remote consumers face. There was a re-announcement of the government’s intention to do something about pay to pay fees, but if it matches their actions on predatory pay-day lenders, it will amount to an awareness campaign – which equals more tax dollars for advertising and no action.
The forestry sector, which is so important to our regional economy, received a fraction of what was being asked for to support the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program. Keep in mind we have lost 30,000 forestry jobs in Ontario alone in the time that the Conservatives have been in power. When compared to the enthusiastic support the government gives to the profitable oil and gas sector with tax breaks and subsidies, it is clear that forestry is not a priority.
What is a priority for the government is creating a surplus. That is not creating a balanced budget, but amounts to hording. They will use it next year to drop a pre-election good news budget that will have been paid for by unemployed and underemployed Canadians, seniors struggling to make ends meet, First Nations’ students, and cash-strapped families all of whom were basically snubbed in the budget. In my books that’s doing something after all.