From the House – John Rafferty – Federal Budget Helps Wealthy and Passes the Buck

Parliament Hill

Federal Budget Misses Target

John Rafferty MP
John Rafferty MP

OTTAWA – After much stalling and anticipation federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver finally rose to present his budget to parliament this week, but it’s clear that the Conservative’s only plan is to help the wealthy and pass the costs onto future generations of Canadians.

After listening to the budget speech and reviewing the 584-page propaganda document New Democrats have concluded that we cannot support the budget. It is clear that the Conservatives only managed to balance the budget by selling off our shares in General Motors at below market value ($3 billion), by raiding the contingency fund put aside for natural disasters at the start of the year ($2 billion), and by dipping into our Employment Insurance fund ($1.8 billion). The GM shares could have been sold on the open market for far more money and the billions taken from the contingency fund means that any disaster like the Calgary floods of 2013 will immediately put the budget back into deficit. As for dipping into the EI fund, that money is deducted from our paycheques to help us pay the bills in the event we lose our jobs. It was never meant to be raided to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and is why it is called ‘Employment Insurance Fund’ and not the ‘Charity for the Wealthy Fund.’

With that being said, not everything in the budget was bad. In fact, the best ideas in it were put forward by New Democrats. The reduction of the small business income tax rate from 11% to 9%, has been demanded by New Democrats since 2008 and we recently announced that it would be in our 2015 election platform. Another good move was the reform of the mandatory withdrawal schedule for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) which I had recently called for in a Private Members’ Motion (M-595). I would support these policies if the Conservatives had the courage to table them as the separate bills as they should, but they don’t and won’t.

In spite of liking a few items the rest of the document is nothing more than a plan to buy the next election by passing the cost of expensive new tax cuts for the wealthy onto future generations. In particular, the introduction of income splitting for high earning married couples with young children and the doubling of the annual contribution limit for Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) to $10,000 per year come with huge financial costs, will benefit only the wealthiest Canadians, and sap money from the budgets of future generations of Canadians. It is estimated by the Parliamentary Budget Officer that just the wealthiest 15% of Canadian households will realize any benefit from the Conservatives income splitting program, and just 11% of Canadians will benefit at all from the increase in the contribution limit for TFSA’s.  Given that both require very high income levels and the ability to save thousands of dollars each year, it is clear that the wealthiest 11% of Canadians will be the ones who split more than $3.3 billion this year — and each and every year moving forward.

Finally, it’s always a useful exercise to see what is not mentioned in the budget. In this year’s budget, you will not find the following phrases; ‘Northern Ontario,’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ or ‘Climate Change.’  You can quarrel with one or another not being in there, but missing all three tells me that this government just doesn’t have a plan to help our region grow its economy, to help develop the Ring of Fire, or to live up to its own embarrassingly small targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The budget speech has been heard, but the implementation bill is where all the skeletons are hidden. As we examine that bill with a fine tooth comb in the coming weeks, and outside of the NDP ideas that were poached, there is zero reason to support this budget which will do nothing more than help the wealthy who need it the least and download the costs of those expensive tax cuts onto future generations. Canadians, our children, and grandchildren deserve better.

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.