They say the first budget of a majority government is always the harshest; it’s a time when the government can do whatever it likes without the fear of answering to voters in an upcoming election. That being said, the first Majority Conservative budget in a generation could have been worse, but it could have been much better.
The Conservatives plan to cut $5.2 billion over the next few years in an attempt to balance the budget before the next election. I have no qualms regarding a balanced budget, but the way they are going about it disturbs me as a progressive.
The financial plan does nothing to address growing inequality or environmental concerns. It is largely hostile toward the environment, old age security, the CBC and of course the penny. However, it is quite friendly toward business, fossil fuels and free trade.
Here are some facts:
Close to 20 000 government workers will be eliminated at a cost of about a billion dollars. The number of layoffs was smaller than expected and is less than the number of employees the Conservatives have hired over the past few years. The government will not benefit from this action until the next election year.
Environment Canada’s budget will be reduced by $53.8 million per year. The Conservatives will scrap the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, a group that provides advice on the environment. At the same time, they are moving to fast track the current process for the environmental assessment of resource-based projects. In addition, they will make it more difficult for charities, such as environmental groups, to engage in so-called political activities. To sum it up: no talking, no protesting and more digging.
Old Age Security
It looks as though my generation will be known as the Freedom 67 generation. Thanks to the Baby Boomers who will be retiring en masse over the next decade or so, the cost of the retirement program is expected to triple. The changes will take effect starting in 2023 and should not affect anyone under the age of 50. While I don’t like it, if the numbers are to be believed, everyone expected it… thanks mom and dad!
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will see its budget cut by 10% or $115 million a year. The CBC is the cultural Mecca of Canada, whether it be on television or radio. Nowhere else can you find distinctly Canadian programming in a market that is flooded with high priced American shows. These cuts come as no surprise given Stephen Harper’s disdain for the arts.
Research & Development
Virtually all the new R & D spending will be dedicated toward the private sector; $400 million on venture capital investment, $100 million for the Business Development Bank and $110 million to help the Industrial Research Assistance Program. There is no further dedicated spending on green technology or medical research.
Getting rid of the penny is probably the only Conservative decision I’ve ever agreed with, quite frankly it should have been done back when we introduced the toonie. We currently spend $1.60 on every hundred pennies we produce and our pockets are already weighed down by loonies, toonies, quarters and nickels. Besides, the only people who still use pennies are those old ladies who feel the need to pay exact change for their groceries. What good is a penny when a gum ball costs a quarter?
The Conservatives will cut funding to the CFIA which means the government will no longer police the nutrition claims on food labels. The Conservatives prefer to leave that up to the consumer as if that’s even possible; I suppose after someone dies from a heart attack thanks to a company lying about its sodium content a complaint can be filed.
Now that the Conservatives have passed their infamous omnibus crime bill where prison populations are expected to rise dramatically, the budget actually calls for a cut of up to $300 million to Corrections Canada. Figure that one out!
This was a budget made by conservatives, for conservatives. The most unfortunate part about it for progressives is the fact that we have at least three more to go. Hopefully this was the worst of them.
This is article number 100 for me at Forget the Box, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading, learning and giving me feedback whether it was positive or negative. Thanks everyone!