OTTAWA – Politics – The Harper Government’s latest update to its “Economic Action Plan” – the one you are paying so much to advertise for them – is its 2013 Budget, introduced less than a week ago. Unfortunately, it is a plan that does little to help Northwestern Ontario or our residents.
Budget plan does little for Northwest
It’s a plan where ideology opposes facts and science. The Harper strategy has been to kill inconvenient science and scrap environmental controls in order to exploit our natural resources as fast as possible – even if that means handing control of key resources to the communist Chinese. So far, it’s a strategy that isn’t working: on top of stalled unemployment and growing inequality between rich and poor, we’ve just had the largest budget and trade deficits in Canadian history. Not a track record many Prime Ministers would be proud of.
Those Economic Action Plan ads never mention the deep cuts made to key services in our region. Cuts like closing the Thunder Bay Citizenship & Immigration office.
Or next years’ closure of the Thunder Bay Marine Communications and Traffic Services centre (and transfer to a call centre 1,000 kms away) after 105 years of life-saving service.
The Thunder Bay Veterans Affairs Canada office is also closing. It served 500 senior veterans, 600 younger veterans, and several RCMP officers. Including family members, it helped an estimated 3000 people from the Manitoba border to Blind River.
25 positions were lost at HRSDC in Thunder Bay, which will devastate Employment Insurance program delivery. The Canada Revenue Agency in Thunder Bay has closed its service counter that local residents and small businesses relied on.
Fisheries & Oceans has lost fish biologists with the Habitat Management Group, which will impact fish and fish habitat protection in whole region. This is on top of the closure of the Experimental Lakes Area.
Thunder Bay is losing 75 people at the Canadian Grain Commission. Deep cuts mean no more research. No more inward inspection and weighing of shipments will damage Canada’s good grain quality reputation.
Service Canada in Thunder Bay-Superior North has seen over 20 jobs lost, impacting front-line service delivery to constituents.
In total, over 130 people have been axed from important government service positions in Thunder Bay, and that number will grow to over 300 this year. Front-line services people rely on will suffer.
The Budget introduced last week compounds these cuts with further problems. There are a lot of them:
• A tax hike on credit unions
• A job-killing hike in payroll taxes (EI premiums). In contrast, the UK just reduced them to zero for small businesses, to stimulate job creation
• No end to $1.3 billion in taxpayer subsidies for the profitable oil and gas sector
• Nothing to bring new doctors & nurses to rural areas
• Re-announcing old money for youth employment, when there is a critical need youth jobs
• Still no price on carbon
• No rules on exorbitant bank & credit card charges (just a voluntary code)
• Nothing at all to deal with the pensions crisis …just more talk
• Nothing but consultations on First Nations education, when Aboriginal students are funded at only half the level as other students in Ontario
• No end to paying temporary foreign workers less, which isn’t just a bad policy for foreign workers – it steals jobs from Canadians. Will Conservatives allow companies to bring in foreigners to work the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario, like mining companies in BC planned?
No Budget is completely bad or completely good. There are some things in it I can support. But I hope the Harper Government will have a change of attitude and be open to changes that will improve its Budget this year. I will again be proposing many.
Bruce Hyer, MP