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Harper and Oliver deliver Bay Street’s budget


April 22, 2015

The lapdogs at the Canadian Taxpayer Federation were quick to praise the Tories for having the “discipline to get back to a balanced budget.” But this discipline was imposed entirely on the 99% and our planet, in order to benefit the 1%.
 
To hide this wealth transfer the Tories had to resort to their usual doublespeak, as part of balancing the budget—which Finance Minister Joe Oliver says is “the only way to ensure long-term prosperity for Canadians.” But the Tories neither balanced the books in any arithmetic sense, nor did they release a budget in terms of an accurate portrayal of costs and cuts to people and the planet.
 
Corporate doublespeak
The Tories are delivering spending and cuts with doublespeak in an attempt to hide their true meanings:
* a $750 “Public Transit Fund” that will promote privatization
* $1.2 billion tax cut for “small business” that applies to any corporation making less than $10 million annually
* $8 billion “universal childcare benefit” that does nothing to ensure universal childcare and that will primarily benefit those without childcare costs
* $12 billion increase in “defence,” which will be used to launch offensive campaigns around the world like wars that have emboldened extremists in Libya and Iraq, or training (including of Nazis) in Ukraine
* “savings” by increasing the TFSA contribution to $10,000, which will disproportionately benefit the rich and cost the federal government as much as $15 billion annually
* $27 billion in health care transfers to the provinces over the next five years, which is actually a $36 billion cut
 
‘Balance’
The Tories hide all these gifts to Bay Street in the language of “balancing the budget,” a trick learned from Liberal Paul Martin when he savaged public spending in order to reduce corporate taxes and inflate military spending in the 1990s. Unifor economist Jim Stanford exposed the latest corporate arithmetic:
 
“It is entirely dependent on a fiscal sleight-of-hand. There is a $1.4 billion reported surplus. But that's only because the government diverted $2 billion out of its normal $3 billion contingency reserve (apparently things are so stable in the world economy these days there's no need anymore for so much symbolic "protection"). They siphoned $2.1 billion from the GM shares. And then perhaps most offensively of all, they raided $3.4 billion from the annual operating surplus of the EI system. (That surplus is created by the denial of benefits to over 60 per cent of unemployed Canadians; the appropriate response, especially with growing layoffs around the country, would be to fix that problem -- not raid the EI cookie jar.)  That makes a total of $7.5 billion in shell game transactions. Without those three fiscal tricks, the reported balance would be a $6.1 billion deficit -- not a $1.4 billion surplus.”
 
Budget for people and the planet
Not only is the budget not balanced, but it’s hardly a budget. Despite the hundreds of pages in the document, what’s most shocking is what’s not included. As CUPE summarizes,
 
“There’s nothing to address the real priorities of working Canadians:
* Nothing to create good jobs, reduce inequality or boost the economy.
* Nothing to improve retirement security or public pensions, such as the CPP, or to improve Employment Insurance.
* Nothing to improve public health care.
* Nothing to increase the availability of affordable child care for families.
* Nothing to increase tax fairness or reduce inequality.”
 
Then there’s the climate budget that the Tories continue to unbalance through their billion dollar subsidies to the tar sands. There’s no accounting for the economic costs of climate change—which are projected to cost $5 billion in 2020 and up to $91 billion per by 2050—let alone the current damage that can’t be reduced to dollars in what’s being done to Indigenous communities through tar sands and fracking. While the more than 500 pages of the budget mentions oil more than 100 times, there is not one mention of First Nations or climate change.
 
There is $80 million for “safety and environmental protection and greater engagement with Canadians,” but this is given to the National Energy Board—infamous for rubber-stamping pipelines, ignoring safety and environmental protection and disregarding the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations. And the budget continues cuts to the Coast Guard, despite the recent spill in Vancouver.
 
The only way to ensure long-term social and economic prosperity for the 99% is to balance the climate budget with good green jobs and support for Indigenous communities leading the climate justice movement. This requires disciplining the 1% and their political representatives.
 
If you like this article, register for Rage Against the System, a weekend conference of ideas to change the world, April 24-26 in Toronto. Sessions include “Stopping Harper’s agenda,” “The fight for green jobs,” and “Labour and the fight against austerity.”

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