Ted Talks: A Budget for Buying Votes
Most of the political talk these days is about the late, 518-page federal budget, so it’s no surprise that Provencher MP Ted Falk used his column this week to extol its virtues. Those virtues are real, but they cover a multitude of failures and omissions. A budget is where a government really shows its priorities, and it’s clear that the Conservative government’s top priority this year is votes.
There’s plenty of analysis on the budget already, so I just want to briefly talk about a few key points.
1. What’s Missing.
Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said that no federal budget has ever done more for the environment than this one. That’s very odd, since the budget doesn’t mention climate change once, and gives only token mentions to carbon emissions and environmental protection. Meanwhile, it has over 100 mentions of oil resources and mining. Keep in mind that this is a budget bill – it’s not talking about regulating resource extraction industries, it’s talking about helping to get Canadian natural resources to outside markets. That means subsidies and spending public money to prop up industries that are already obscenely wealthy and incredibly environmentally destructive. Ted Falk says that over all this budget is very good for Manitobans, citing tax cuts and family programs; he fails to mention that Manitoban tax dollars are being used to subsidize private companies to help them get Albertan resources to China.
There’s also no mention of inequality in the budget, even though we know that inequality hurts the economy. In spite of all of the talk of a balanced budget, the tax cuts and expanded programs favour the rich. That doesn’t sound balanced to me.
I’m not surprised by these omissions, they’re perfectly in line with the Conservative ideology. This government doesn’t believe in climate change, and dismisses the social sciences except for their own brand of neo-liberal economics. This budget just puts our money where their mouth is.
2. Budget Priorities.
Ted Falk offers a list of reasons why he thinks this budget is great for the people of Provencher. It includes benefits for: families, seniors, industry, and the military. The measures he outlines include tax cuts, tax avoidance programs, offering more loans to students, and handouts to parents and industry. The things Ted mentioned are representative of the budget in general, which panders to specific groups to fulfill promises made in the last election. Yes, that’s right – the Harper Government waited until an election year to fulfill their promises from the last election, and now they’re bragging about it. The long-awaited promises play to their support base, with programs aimed at families and seniors (who have high voter turnout) and very little aimed at youth (who have low voter turnout).
But the biggest “fulfillment” in this budget, they say, is that it’s balanced. Sadly, this isn’t true.
3. Bogusly-balanced Budget.
A pet peeve of mine is that the government uses its own websites for PR purposes, and the budget website is no different even though it doesn’t use the phrase “Conservative Government”. Here’s an example from the top of the page:
The Government is fulfilling its promise to balance the budget in 2015, pursuant to its long-standing commitment to responsible fiscal management. Economic Action Plan 2015 will see the budget balanced and Canadians can rest assured that Canada’s fiscal house is in order.
This government inherited a surplus, and turned it into a massive deficit before the 2008 global financial crisis. Since then they’ve run our national debt to record highs, but continue to claim that our “fiscal house is in order” because they finally managed a balanced budget. The reality is, this budget is not balanced.
There’s technically a $1.4 billion dollar surplus on this budget, but that’s only after you include the proceeds from the sale of General Motors stock, the Canadian Wheat Board (which was sold to a Saudi Arabian company), and other assets, as well as reducing our national emergency fund from $3 billion to $1 billion. Selling off assets makes us poorer in the long-term.
Time for an alternative.
The Conservatives have been claiming for years that they’re the best with our money, and we’ve bought that line too many times. The type of economics they use is the same type that led to the 2008 global financial crisis: it drives inequality and short-term thinking by emphasizing quarterly profits, and undermines the long-term health and economy of Canada by pushing raw resources to foreign markets. This type of economics is relatively recent, and only popular in Canada and the US, but it has a huge impact on the global marketplace. There are other types of economic thinking that emphasize full employment, sustainable development, and long-term strategic planning instead of quarterly profits.
The Green Party of Canada began as The Small Party, a party that started based on economic principles that lead to us having enough, forever. That emphasis on sound economics hasn’t changed. When I asked Green Party leader Elizabeth May what I should be reading this year, she said without hesitation, “economics.” We take this very seriously, which is why we’re always the first to get our policies vetted by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. You can see the Green plan for the economy in the first section of Vision Green, and I’d love to hear from you about how the Green Party and I can serve you better.
So Provencher, don’t buy the line that the Conservatives are best with your money. And don’t get sucked in by their hand-outs and their bogus “balanced” budget this year. We can do better.