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Liberal budget baloney

John Bell

March 30, 2023

The “highlights” of the federal budget are the so-called “grocery rebate”, massive investments in “clean” capitalism, neglecting people with disability, and helping students go into debt deeper and faster.

Grocery money

Leading “affordability measures” in the budget is a one-time rebate to low income Canadians, supposedly to offset the high cost of food. The kick-back would give a low-income family of 4 a GST rebate of $467, and a single person $234. A qualifying senior citizen would get $225.

Eligibility details are not yet clear, but it is expected to affect 11 million households. Keep in mind that there are more than 7 million seniors alone.

That family of 4 gets just under $9 a week – 2 packs of baloney. Eat hearty.

The measure does nothing to discourage the “greed-flation” and profit gouging by the grocery oligarchies that drive rapidly rising food prices. Raising taxes on agribusiness and grocery corporations to pay for the rebate is noticeably absent from the budget. 

It is worth noting that food bank use is up between 60% and 124% so far in 2023. Most food banks are staffed by volunteers, with food donations by working people.

At any rate, a pitifully small one-off kick back is not a solution to the affordability crisis facing Canadian workers and seniors. It is more about putting a Liberal veneer on a budget that mostly rewards big business. These stunts are not about providing real relief, they are just vote buying.

(As an aside, at a press conference Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford was asked why there were no such “affordability measures” in his recent budget, Ford answered that he had already done that in previous budgets. As evidence he cited his disastrously short-sighted automobile registration sticker program that cost the government $2.2 billion when it was implemented in 2022 and is expected to cost us all $1.1 billion every year going forward.)

Student debt

The budget acknowledges the high cost of post-secondary education – sort of.

It is increasing the amount students can withdraw from their RESPs in the first term from $5,000 to $8,000. They are not increasing government contributions to RESPs, just letting you spend it quicker. Not only does this do nothing practical to reduce student debt, it will likely end up increasing debt.

Disability justice

Like every other level of government, the Liberals have done all they could to avoid raising support for Canadians with disabilities. As a result, many of them are driven to consider MAiD, and early death, out of economic desperation. So a reform intended to give control and dignity to sick and dying people is perverted into an instrument of inhumanity, which after all is kind of capitalism’s thing.

It would be a lie to say the budget has no new spending for disability support. Barely. The feds pledge to spend $10 million over 2 years to “increase capacity” for returning PWD to the workforce, a spit in the ocean.

This paragraph encapsulates government inaction: 

“Budget 2023 proposes to provide $21.5 million in 2023-24 to Employment and Social Development Canada to continue work on the future delivery of the Canada Disability Benefit, including engagement with the disability community and provinces and territories on the regulatory process.”

Translation: more talk and any real measures postponed to some distant “future”.

As the permanent effects of long-COVID, and repeated (and unnecessary) infection become more apparent, we are about to see a massive new wave of previously healthy individuals enter the ranks of the disabled. Look for this to be a major battle in the years ahead.

Clean capitalism?

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said: "In what is the most significant economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution, our friends and partners around the world — chief among them the United States — are investing heavily to build clean economies and the net-zero industries of tomorrow."

This hyperbole translates into lots of corporate welfare perks for auto companies making components for EVs, and for the mining industries extracting the resources need to power EVs.

They pledge $16.4 billion over 5 years in tax credits to reward big business investments in “clean manufacturing, clean tech and hydrogen power innovation.”

This is in addition to previously announced $4.6 billion handouts for the glamourous but ineffective carbon capture and storage technology so popular with fossil fuel corporations.

As usual in federal budgets, subsidies to the fossil fuel industry are not spelled out, but you can bet your ass they amount to billions. 

For the purposes of the budget, increased extraction of minerals used as components of batteries for electric vehicles, such as chromite, cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, graphite and copper. And we all know how environmentally friendly resource extraction industries are. According to the UN, Canada is second only to China for the world’s worst mining environmental record. 

In addition, these resources are generally found in unceded Indigenous lands, like Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” in the James Bay lowlands. Conflicts are unavoidable as corporation rush to take advantage of a bonanza financed in part by taxpayers. These lands are some of the most environmentally sensitive on the continent, beside the fact that they belong to somebody else.

It is true that operating EVs is cleaner than internal combustion vehicles – but that’s a pretty low bar. They are only as clean as the production of the power used to mine and refine their components, manufacture them, and dispose of the toxic materials left behind after their use. Again, the track record of Canada’s energy producers, whether making power or cleaning up afterward is an ugly one.

Ultimately, the Liberal talk about saving the environment is more about saving the automobile industry. 



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