February 13, 2014 - No. 13
Harper's Capital-Centred Federal
The Harper Conservative government delivered the federal
budget for the country on February 11. The most important thing for the
people to do when assessing the budget is to carve away the dogma and
hype. The dogma of "balance" coupled with the hype that the budget
provides an opportunity for Harper to regain some momentum for
re-election conceal a deeply disturbing trend towards war and
The association of the word balance with a federal
budget is meant to hide the anti-social offensive and nation-wrecking.
The mass media and most of the intelligentsia bring shame on themselves
for participating in the dogma of balance. The trite and some say silly
talk of balance is a diversion from exposing Harper's messianic crusade
to destroy Canada's social fabric while annexing the country into the
United States of North American Monopolies and U.S. war machine.
Falling Federal Program Spending
Falling federal program spending beginning with the
Liberal governments of Chretien and Martin and now Harper has sunk to
13 per cent of the gross domestic product, the lowest percentage in
over 70 years. Billions of dollars in program cuts from last year's
budget are set to begin. Along with the current budget's program
spending freeze, this will reduce overall program spending on health,
education, aboriginal and veterans' affairs etc to levels not seen
since the pre-WWII period.
Everyone is now familiar with the reductions in
Employment Insurance and the denuding of regulations and collapse of a
public authority that is supposed to protect the people's food supply,
transportation system and other features of a modern society. The
essence of the measures to destroy social programs and public services
is to wreck any public authority that serves to protect the well-being
and security of Canadians and restrict monopoly right.
Instead of program spending on the people's well-being
and nation-building, the Harper budget diverts increasing amounts of
public funds to private interests. This is done openly by funneling
public money to the monopolies for example to the auto monopolies
through his innovation fund and in a more hidden fashion by providing
private interests public funds using public-private partnerships to
build infrastructure and prepare for war.
The challenge people face is to unite to stop and turn
around this anti-social direction of the Harper government that puts
the demands and narrow private interests of the global monopolies ahead
of Canadians and the public interest.
Fight for People's Empowerment
Canadians should not become
apolitical or depressed with the deep cynicism of the political parties
that use the federal budget as just one more propaganda tool to vie for
power. Deepening the struggle for empowerment, uniting with others to
discuss the serious problems facing the country, and mobilizing the
people around a new direction for the economy in favour of public right
and not monopoly right is the antidote to the waves of neo-liberal
dogma and hype. The people have to steel themselves against the ravings
of the mass media speculating on whether or not Harper is manoeuvring
to have a "balanced" election budget next year rather than this year
because maybe he wants to stuff his next budget with "goodies"
micro-targeted at this and that section of the people to guarantee his
re-election. The people empowered with their own agenda and
human-centred viewpoint must dismiss with contempt all attempts to
divert them from fighting for a new direction.
Attacks on Public Service Workers
Harper's 2014 budget directly attacks public service
workers with a declaration that the retirement benefits within the
legal collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada
(PSAC) will be unilaterally reduced by about $7 billion. This amount
taken from public service workers will reportedly send the federal
budget soaring beyond the magical balance into a $6.4 billion surplus
by fiscal year 2015-16.
To announce within the federal budget this theft from a
collective agreement indicates that if PSAC members do not voluntarily
accept the reduction during negotiations for a new collective
agreement, the government will force the concessions on them through
This assault on the right of federal public service
workers to negotiate their wages, benefits and pensions without
blackmail, coercion and legislated violence is a signal to all workers
to stand with public sector workers in the defence of their rights. A
Harper assault on public sector workers should be viewed as an attack
on the rights of all and should be fiercely resisted. Harper's
unilateral dictate on workers' wages, benefits and pensions cannot
become the new normal in a broken Canada with its social fabric and
public authority in shambles. Already anarchy and violence have become
the norm and this cannot continue. This must be resisted for the sake
of all and the future of the country. The attack on public service
workers, no matter how this is spun in the mass media, is an attack on
workers' rights and on the social programs, public services and public
authority necessary in a modern society.
A People's Canada and a Harper's Canada in Conflict
The budget does not reflect
the Canada of the people; it is Harper's Canada, a fantastic imagined
country with a sound economy without any pressing social, economic or
political problems. No mention in the budget of the crisis in
manufacturing, the closures one after the other of U.S. Steel, Heinz,
Kellogg; the disastrous years in the forestry sector; the threats
emerging from Rio Tinto in Quebec; the huge controversy of the oil
sands, fracking for gas, pipelines and the use of temporary foreign
workers to drive down wages and working conditions; the collapse of
public authority to the point where the entire downtown of Lac-Mégantic
was destroyed with a massive loss of precious lives through a company's
gross negligence in connivance with an impotent public authority; no
mention of the necessity to rectify the uneven development of an
economy increasingly reliant on exports of raw material; no talk or
solutions to poverty and unemployment especially amongst the youth, the
insecurity pressing on Canadians while working and in retirement; nor
any reference to First Nations' rights and the modern demand of nation
to nation relations.
The people's Canada is nowhere to be found in the budget
either as a description of the problems facing society or their
solutions. All is well in Harper's world of privileged elite; his
budget reflects his world of monopoly right and class privilege not a
people's world striving for empowerment, a pro-social agenda and
The alternative to a
capital-centred budget is a human-centred one that addresses the
problems Canadians face and mobilizes them and public opinion around
pro-social solutions. A human-centred budget arises from the people
themselves who fight for their empowerment, who organize themselves
into committees for people's empowerment, discuss their problems,
arrive at solutions and their own agenda, disseminate their views
amongst their peers and engage in actions with analysis to usher in a
new direction for the economy and political affairs.
It is up to the people
themselves to bring in a new
direction for the economy. It is up to the people to empower themselves
by mobilizing their numbers and pro-social thinking, agenda and energy
to build a modern Canada whose aim is to guarantee the well-being of
all and to humanize the social and natural environment.
the people's empowerment!
Stop paying the rich!
Increase investments in social programs!
For Your Information
Excerpts from Comments on the Federal Budget by
Various Canadian Organizations and Individuals
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
The Conservative government has failed once again to
promote a positive vision for Canada by investing in the future. After
several years of eviscerating the public services that Canadians count
on, they continue to promote short-sighted policies designed to foster
The operating budget freeze amounts to at least $1.6
billion in cuts to departments that are already reeling from several
years of cutting vital services to Canadians. Program expenses as a
proportion of GDP will decline below 13% - this means the government is
investing less to meet the needs of a growing economy.
"Canada's economic situation allows the government to do
more to restore the services and programs, such as investing in child
care, retirement security and transportation safety," said Robyn
Benson, PSAC National President. "Unfortunately, the government has
squandered this opportunity."
After cutting a number of essential services, the
government is now putting forward half measures that do nothing to
restore what were once highly successful programs:
After cutting Parks Canada services, reducing access to
National Parks, and gutting environmental protections, the government
is now proposing to invest a small amount in improving the roads and
bridges that bring people to parks.
After closing down search and rescue stations in
Vancouver and St. John's, the government is providing a tax credit for
search and rescue volunteers. This does nothing to fill the hole
created by the closures and save lives.
Veterans Affairs services have been reduced and
eliminated by this government, including the recent closure of nine
regional VAC offices serving Veterans in need across the country. We
now have the lowest ratio of Veterans' Affairs workers to Veterans
ever. The measures in the budget do not repair the gap in services the
government has created with the closures.
The government has presided over a worrying decrease in
food inspection capacity for several years. The small increase proposed
in the budget for more food inspectors does little to fill the gap they
themselves have created to the integrity of our food safety system.
Instead of improving access to EI benefits to
unemployed, the government has focused on small boutique improvements
that will have little measurable impact on the livelihoods of Canadians
with precarious employment.
In addition to these small, cosmetic changes to public
services, the government is going to make the lives of retired public
service workers harder by doubling the premiums they will have to pay
to access supplemental health benefits.
"PSAC will be entering into the next round of bargaining
with the intention of strengthening the public service," said Chris
Aylward, National Executive Vice President of PSAC. "While the
government continues to fail Canadians, we will be focused on defending
quality public services and the workers who provide them."
Robyn Benson, National President, PSAC
We Are Committed to
Protecting Our Members and Public Services
Once again, this Conservative government is attacking
federal public services and our members who provide those services. The
continuing freeze on departmental budgets not only destroys vital
services, it puts increased pressure on our members to maintain quality
public services in the face of increasing workloads and job cuts.
This isn't news. They've already damaged food
inspection, parks and historic sites and many other services. Now they
think they can trick Canadians by sprinkling small change over the
damage they created.
The Conservatives have also been abandoning Canadian
values in the workplace. Now they are abandoning retirees who work for
their health benefits throughout their careers. They are abandoning
their commitment to workers who are too sick to work. They are once
again using the federal budget to set out its intentions for the
upcoming round of bargaining.
Our members have negotiated and fought for their working
conditions and benefits over decades. When we go into negotiations, we
will be open and transparent about our commitment to protect both our
members and the public services they provide.
Professional Institute of the Public Service of
"With this Budget, the interests of Canadians have been
sacrificed in favour of electoral considerations and an irrational
obsession with balanced budgets. It keeps Canada on the wrong course
and puts Canadians' health, environment and economic prosperity at
risk. It is simply not possible for the government to 'put its fiscal
house in order' when the foundations -- the programs and services that
Canadians depend on -- are crumbling," says Debi Daviau, President and
Chief Executive Officer of PIPSC, Canada's largest union of public
"This government certainly wins the gold medal when it
comes to blatant self-interest," continues Daviau. "It's doing
everything it can to position itself to win the next election when it
should be doing everything possible to reverse the effects of its
disastrous decisions from past budgets."
[The budget has an] absence of any reinvestments in
public science at a time when over $2.6 billion is being drained from
science-based departments and Canada is plummeting in international
scientific rankings, a key indicator of economic competitiveness.
[The budget speaks of] a "commitment to protecting the
environment" that is completely out of sync with reality -- critical
environmental protection programs, regulatory oversight, and hundreds
of related jobs have disappeared under Conservative stewardship.
[The budget brags about] "responsible resource
development" at a time when federal libraries used by researchers to
analyze and monitor the impact of resource development are being shut
down across Canada, and their books burned or sent to landfill.
[The budget says,] "We did not cut the programs
Canadians rely on." Actually, such cuts occurred in the fields of
consumer safety, transportation of dangerous goods, water safety,
health protection, services to veterans, and health benefits for
retirees, to name just a few.
"This Budget continues a long-term strategy of cutting
back on public programs and services for ideological, and now
electoral, reasons. This Budget is nothing for the government to be
proud of. It will affect generations of Canadians. All that to win at
the polls next time," concludes Daviau.
Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ)
Flaherty's tenth budget
"Leeway sacrificed at the expense of the people's needs"
- Serge Cadieux, Secretary-General, FTQ
[The budget] once again shows that we have nothing
left to expect from this government except the call of an election.
"We have a government which, despite the important
leeway that it
could give itself, continues to attack its own employees, while not
meeting the needs of the people. It is time that the Harper
Conservative government steps aside," declared Secretary-General of the
FTQ Serge Cadieux.
While noting the feeble budgetary measures announced and
according to the agenda of the Conservatives' electoral politics,
especially as concerns infrastructure and other well-targeted
sprinkling [of funds], the FTQ deplores that the Conservatives have not
seized the occasion to meet many of the demands
of the people: improving the Employment Insurance system, the Canada
Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, cancelling the
abolition of tax credits for workers' funds and increasing the federal
equalization transfer payments and those for social programs.
"Since it became a majority, the Harper government has
to muzzle the provinces, particularly those where the electorate did
not vote for it. Seasonal workers and the unemployed in Quebec and the
Maritimes know something of this. The shrinking of federal transfer
payments deprives millions of
people of services for which they pay out of their federal taxes.
Public sector employees receive the same treatment -- there has been no
end to the painful budget cuts in recent years and they are again being
called on as retirees to assume 50 per cent of the cost of their health
insurance. Not to speak of the unprecedented
federal attacks on the labour movement. Enough!
"Quebec is entitled to a say concerning infrastructure
that they can take place as soon as possible. It is entitled to
additional funds by virtue of the labour market agreements and the FTQ
is of the opinion that the new Canada Job Grant should be abolished,
otherwise Quebec will have to exercise its
option to opt out with full compensation.
"Finally, the federal government's determination to
retrogressive reform to the Employment Insurance system compels us to
ask the question: Is it time for Quebec to set up its own system? The
question should at least be considered.
"At the FTQ," concluded Serge Cadieux, "we are sure that
of Quebec will remember this situation at the time of the next
Quebec National Confederation of Trade Unions (CSN)
The CSN Is Very Critical
The National Confederation
of Trade Unions (CSN) estimates that the
measures announced today by the Harper government in its budget are
very far from the immediate needs of the people. "The government's
obsession with achieving a balanced budget in 2015-2016 reflects the
partisanship of today's exercise.
The Conservatives' penchant for an austerity policy that ignores
workers and less affluent and middle-class workers is evident, says
Treasurer of the CSN Pierre Patry. The spending freeze and the
weakening of federal employees' pensions and social protections
eloquently express how little regard the Conservatives
have for citizens. While inviting itself to the negotiation table with
government employees, the government puts the burden of a balanced
budget on the backs of workers. It is becoming more difficult to make
ends meet -- enough of the politics of austerity ! " he said.
[ ... ]
The CSN's Treasurer fears that the Conservatives have
this budget as a front to make it easier to "bulldoze" social
equilibrium in the future with one of their famous omnibus bills.
"On two occasions, the Conservatives did not hesitate,
budget implementation bills, to slash public finances and weaken the
social safety net of the populations of Quebec and Canada, for example
with their attacks against the Employment Insurance system.
"This is a denial of democracy, which can not be
Conservatives are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the
unemployed, civil servants and workers while doing so in the greatest
contempt of provincial jurisdiction, before the next elections
scheduled for 2015, " concluded Pierre Patry.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Federal Budget Contains
Largest Spending Cuts to Date
The 2014-15 federal budget contains the largest annual
spending cuts to date, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
There are $14 billion worth of spending cuts announced
in previous budgets that will come into effect this fiscal year. Those
cuts will cause real damage to Canada's fragile economy, by removing
0.7% from the country's already anemic GDP growth.
"The government is happy to
re-announce infrastructure funding from previous budgets but what it
isn't telling you is that there are $14 billion worth of previously
announced spending cuts already built into this year's budget," says
CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. "Canadians can expect to see
more and deeper cuts to services and a sluggish economy as a result."
"If previous cuts are any indication, there will be
further reductions to front line services, like those in Veteran's
Affairs and the Coast Guard," says Macdonald. "All this so the
government can implement its promise of extending income splitting to
families with children -- a hugely expensive tax cut that 86% of
families won't benefit from."
The federal budget will do little to boost Canada's weak
labour market. Since 2009, the reduction in the unemployment rate has
been 20% due to the jobless finding work and 80% due to them giving up
"The entire decline in youth unemployment from its worst
in 2009 was due to jobless young people giving up their search, not
finding a job. The 4,000 youth internships in this budget will have no
substantive impact," says CCPA Senior Economist Armine Yalnizyan. "This
is no time for small measures. An entire generation of young workers is
on the line and the federal government has a serious role it could be
Council of Canadians
The Council of Canadians is responding to today's
federal budget, which the organization argues is being used to distract
public attention from the government's negative activities in relation
to trade, water, climate and energy, mining, health care, and democracy.
"The Harper government has just delivered another
austerity budget that hurts us all. The Finance Department is now
projecting a surplus of $6.4 billion next year, but the federal
government remains on track to cut $90 billion in federal spending by
2017. This hurts our public health care system, it denies help for
seniors and veterans, it withholds needed funding for the Great Lakes,
and it fails to invest in clean water for First Nations and a renewable
energy future for all of us. This is not a ‘do-nothing budget', it's an
intentional assault on the public interest." - Brent Patterson,
"This budget is an Economic
Distraction Plan, to divert public attention from the negative impacts
of Harper's cuts to public services, including water protections. What
Canada needs is a bold national water policy -- one that prioritizes
community water and wastewater, Great Lakes protection and clean
drinking water in First Nation communities. But it is sad and yet
unsurprising that the Harper government did not deliver on this. There
is not a single mention of funding for the Great Lakes and funding for
drinking water in First Nation communities has even dropped by $6.6
million over two years when it should be increased by over $300 million
per year. It's alarming to see the federal government continue to push
a corporate agenda by funding controversial Public-Private Partnerships
while failing to adequately invest in water research and protection of
one of our most precious resources." - Emma Lui, Water Campaigner
"This budget isn't being used to create
economic growth in Canada, it's being used to cut public services to
give corporations a break in their taxes. Health care has been cut so
dramatically in Canada that it actually denies people services. We're
balancing the budget at the expense of health care for refugees,
veterans, seniors, and those needing palliative care, mental health
care, and prescription drugs. We're hurting small and poorer provinces
across the country by jettisoning federal responsibilities onto them.
This budget does not reflect the Canada that Canadians are trying to
build. The federal government is turning its back on our most
vulnerable and walking away from health care." - Adrienne Silnicki,
Health Care Campaigner
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