The big question I have is ‘why?’ – John Rafferty MP


John Rafferty MPOTTAWA – Leader’s Ledger – Word is that there are some steep cuts to public services and drastic changes to our pension system coming in the next federal budget. The big question I have is ‘why?’

The talk about what may be in the federal budget always begins early each year, and 2012 is proving to be no exception. Over the holidays, Treasury Board Secretary Tony Clement (the guy who blew $50 million beautifying his riding a three day G8 last year) was busy telling anyone who would listen that the government would be cutting back its spending from 5-10% in each and every department next year. This could result in the cutting of up to 22,000 jobs in Ottawa and tens of thousands elsewhere across the country with services cut for everything from Employment Insurance processing, border crossings, and highway maintenance.

While Clement was busy on the talk-show circuit back home, the Prime Minister went to Davos Switzerland, supposedly to launch an attack on those irresponsible Europeans over the perils of debt. He did attack them for a few seconds in a meandering speech, but then decided to drop a bomb on Canadian families while out of the country. Harper told the assorted group of foreign bankers and heads of states that there would be ‘major’ changes to Canada’s retirement support programs – the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). When forced to clarify his remarks, his handlers said it would mostly be to OAS, which goes only to the poorest seniors who would not otherwise be able to survive on their CPP payments alone. Classy move.

I have no doubt that if it were necessary to save the federal government or the retirement income of every Canadian, then no Canadian would oppose reasonable and timely cuts to either program. However, the problem is that these proposed cuts simply aren’t necessary.

The proposed drastic cuts to our services and pensions are not necessary for at least two reasons. First, because the Harper government still maintains – in Canada, Switzerland, and elsewhere – that their spending and deficit reduction plans are ‘on track’ despite some economic risks on the horizon; and second, because there are many expensive and unnecessary programs that have been created by this government over the past five years that should be eliminated or at least reduced before they take an axe to our social programs and retirement income.

The strongest argument that I have heard against the need for service and retirement cuts has been made by the very same Conservatives that are planning the cuts. Day in and day out, the Harper government maintains that they have everything under control economically and that our budget deficits will melt away naturally in a couple of years’ time. This argument was after all, the crux of their election platform. Now if this is true, then why make drastic cuts to our services and retirement income? Something is wrong with this picture. Either Mr. Harper is dying to attack hard-working Canadian families and our retirement security, or he is lying about the current state affairs with our economy and his deficits. Simply put, if he is to be believed about the economy and his deficits, then the service and retirement cuts his government is floating simply aren’t necessary.

Secondly, why start with cuts to Service Canada and Old Age Security when Harper could stop his own spending binge on many expensive items of questionable utility? Like the $80 million of our money he spends advertising his federal budget each year, or the $9 billion in prisons he is building to reduce crime? Building more prisons to reduce crime doesn’t make a lot of sense to begin with, because you know, you have to commit a crime to go to jail, but then again neither does spending $20-30 billion on F-35 fighter jets that can’t fly in the arctic, you know where we most need to defend our airspace. Eliminating the advertising, needless prisons, and almost useless fighter jets would save us nearly $40 billion before the next election, so why do the Conservatives start by cutting essential services and retirement income for the poorest seniors?

My New Democrat colleagues and I stand with you and your family, and if the cuts to our services and our retirement income in the next budget aren’t proven to be absolutely necessary or come while this government continues to waste billions on misguided and unnecessary programs then my New Democrat colleagues and I will oppose this budget. It really is that simple.

John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.