OTTAWA – Leaders Ledger – The federal government is set to introduce their 2012 Budget in the House of Commons this week. In 2005, Harper famously said “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it,” and his first majority government budget is his opportunity to radically transform the country. To fully examine this budget, we need to look at the bigger picture and try to understand what the future holds for Canadians under this government.
Do Harper’s choices fit with your vision of Canada?
The Harper Government has a history of making ideologically-driven decisions which tend to favour multinational corporations over Canadians. The omnibus crime bill, which mandates harsher penalties for almost all offences at a time when the crime rate in Canada is actually decreasing, is among the Conservatives’ more expensive and impractical priorities. This bill commits $19 billion of taxpayer money to greatly expanding our prison system, and downloads much of the costs onto the provinces. With governments running steep deficits, this is not only largely unnecessary, but fiscally unsustainable.
Government spending on pet projects does not end there. Another $30 billion is to be spent on F-35 jet fighters. Billions more on foreign military bases. Who is footing the bill for all this? Don’t expect Harper to ask the country’s largest, most profitable corporations for their fair share. The answer, of course, is you. The Harper Government will move the tax burden onto the middle class and Canada’s 2.5 million small businesses in order to pay for these ideological projects. In fact the shift has already begun; the HST helped launch a new era of increased taxes on consumers and families. As the most profitable corporations continue to receive billions in tax handouts, the middle class and small businesses are forced to bear the tax burden.
But tax increases alone will not provide enough money for these ideological priorities. The government has manufactured a crisis in Old Age Security, which they claim will not be able to support Canada’s aging population soon. Despite millions of aging workers and low income seniors who depend on OAS to stay out of poverty, the government has suggested increasing the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. Harper’s claim that the program is unsustainable is contradicted by the government’s own budget watchdog, whose report says it is affordable and fiscally sustainable over the long term. But by cutting OAS and taking money away from Canada’s seniors, Harper will have more to pay for pet projects.
In this way, many think Stephen Harper is purposely crippling the federal government’s future fiscal capacity to engage positively in many sectors of society. By shifting traditional government responsibilities onto the private sector, Harper will achieve his long-term goal of smaller government. For example, after the omnibus crime bill greatly expands our prison system to the point of unaffordability, the Conservatives will claim that we can no longer pay for it – and prisons need to be privatized. The cost will be that most of the public services we rely on will be at the mercy of profit. Health care, education, infrastructure, environmental protection, and many public services we value will be reduced dramatically because large corporations are to be taxed at less than half the rate of taxation in the U.S.
Stephen Harper will use the 2012 budget to steer Canada in a new direction. When we consider the budget we must look at the big picture. We have to remain vigilant to ensure that the government itself – and programs Canadians rely on – is not put in jeopardy over the long term. Budgets are opportunities for governments to lay out a plan to improve the future quality of life for all Canadians. It should not serve as an ideological playground for Harper’s Conservative agenda to sabotage Canada’s seniors, children and grandchildren.
Bruce Hyer, MP