OTTAWA – Leaders Ledger – Governing is always about choices, and last week the Harper Conservatives chose to balance the budget on the backs of the middle aged and the middle class while ignoring the key challenges facing economic development in Northwestern Ontario.
The three biggest industries in our region are public services, forestry, and tourism. Naturally then support and incentives for these industries is the first thing I look for in a budget document. Sadly, the 2012-13 federal budget will eliminate 19,200 public sector jobs, slash investment in the forestry sector by 95 percent, and puts aside just $14.2 million for tourism which is to be spread across the entire country. In short, if you work in one of three largest industries in Northwestern Ontario, then there is little on offer in this budget for you.
On a national level I feel that the 2012-13 federal budget fails to put Canada on the path to sustainable and prosperous economic growth, and disproportionately punishes middle-aged and middle-class Canadians. Anyone under the age of 54 will now have to work two years longer before collecting Old Age Security (OAS). Boomers like me will be fine, but if you are under the age of 54 then this government has just handed you a $22,000 bill that you didn’t think you’d have to pay upon retirement. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said, repeatedly and clearly, that the OAS system is fiscally sound and sustainable so this decision is nothing more than a sneak attack on the middle aged and the middle class by the Conservatives.
While making heavy cuts to every government department this budget also increases spending on programs by $12 billion over the next three years. But despite the extra money and the obvious need, there is nothing in this budget for First Nation communities that are in various stages of crises. We have a housing crisis in Attawapiskat, a clean water crisis in Kashechewan, and a suicide crisis in Pikangikum near Kenora. A little money to address these issues would have certainly gone a long way in assisting these communities stave off their respective crises, but there is nothing.
Despite the freedom of working with a parliamentary majority, these budget choices are consistent with the previous budget choices made by the Harper minority governments. But what is Harper’s fiscal record and where exactly has all his misguided spending and cutting gotten us? Well, we have an ongoing a five year string of record deficits for starters. Most of you know this, and indeed may be coming to expect them from the Harper government. What you may not know is that in the last fiscal year, the United States economy has outperformed the Canadian economy by a wide margin. Since April last year, the United States has lead Canada in both GDP growth and job creation on a per capita basis, and since August we have lost 600 net jobs in this country while the United States has created 759,000. Harper’s economic policies are without question failing Canadian families.
In this budget, the Harper government has chosen to cut. They are cutting economic development, cutting services, and cutting pensions right when Canadian families need them to do the opposite. We need more funding for economic development, better services for the growing number of unemployed, and secure pensions during this period of uncertainty. We needed a budget that scrapped the $30 billion in fighter jets and jails not one that passed the bill onto those 54 and under at $22,000 a piece. These absurd decisions will no doubt form the foundation of the Harper legacy, but Thomas Mulcair and my New Democrat colleagues and I are eager to vote against this reckless budget and to restore order to our economy, environment, and social programs beginning in 2015. Of that you can be certain.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River