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Liberal Government Holds Dog and Pony Show
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland made a big show on January 31 of asking for contributions about what should be in the next federal budget. A problem with this is that within the call for consultation with the public she already outlined the main content of the budget. She not only presented that the main thrust of the budget was to stay the course but what the government’s considerations were for coming to such a conclusion. The economic considerations were mainly exaggerated remarks on how great the economy and people are now doing.
“Today — and even in spite of Omicron — we are on a strong footing. And our economy has benefitted from our approach, because from the outset of this pandemic, the most important economic policy has been a strong public health policy,” her announcement reads.
This means that a “strong public health policy” requires no changes such as would occur with increased spending on social programs and putting a stop to paying the rich. Many Canadians have called for increased funding for social programs because the pandemic has exposed how vulnerable our health care system has become after three decades of decreased public spending on it.
“As we look to the years ahead, our focus must be on jobs and economic growth — priorities that will form the foundation of the budget. And it is on that note that I am here today to announce the launch of pre-budget consultations, beginning today and continuing until February 25. I encourage all Canadians to take the time to share your priorities with us by visiting LetsTalkBudget2022.ca . We want to hear what matters most to Canadians as we continue our work to make life more affordable and build an even stronger economy for the future,” she concludes.
What problem does this present to be solved? To give a view, Canadians would first have to contradict the government’s analysis of a rosy economic situation including how life has definitely not become more affordable. Such comments would offend the government’s fragile sensibilities and probably lead Trudeau to dismiss them as extremist.
The other issue in all this talk about consultation outside existing government structures is that nothing is discussed within the political forms that are supposed to be forums for discussion such as Parliament and its committees. The government does not even listen to its own members of Parliament let alone discuss matters with the so-called opposition members of the cartel parties.
Parliament has long since ceased to discuss anything in any coherent fashion out of which public opinion can be formed and people united to solve problems. Such is the case of the Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the 2022 Budget conducted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) since Parliament reconvened on January 31.
FINA says they will include Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland appearing as a witness. The list of other witnesses to be called is still being finalized.
As of January 20, FINA had received 469 written submissions, with quite a few submitted jointly by several organizations, such as the 11-member Ontario Seniors’ Care and Assistance Roundtable whose member organizations are calling for investments to provide seniors with a full continuum of care, from home care through to long-term care institutions. Referencing the proposed UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons, the submission describes the inadequate funding of long-term care as a human rights issue.
Another example is the Centre for Health Science and Law which calls for funding for a national healthy school food program, arguing that poor diet is the cause of 20 per cent of preventable disease in the country. It also calls for a study into the health impact of tax rules for food and restaurant meals, suggesting that taxes are applied in a “nutritionally incoherent way.”
Others submissions include one from Imperial Tobacco which is calling for the creation of a Committee “on recouping the billions in tax revenue lost to the illegal tobacco trade.” A related submission by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco comprised of “businesses, law and order organizations and concerned individuals” calls for increased funding for the RCMP for contraband tobacco enforcement, among other things.
Such Pre-Budget Consultations are conducted by FINA every year but have nothing to do with involving Canadians in setting the direction of the economy. How competing demands on monies in the public treasury are reconciled remains a secret of state. What is the criteria for considering which conflicting demands will be accommodated?
So long as the government gives itself the right to decide which private interests the budget will serve and then involves different interests scrapping over what is called “the surplus,” all talk of public consultations is a sham. Without a starting point based on a nation-building project that puts the well-being of Canadians and the recognition and realization of their human rights in first place, the exercise is an anti-social dog and pony show.
Moreover, in a situation where day-in and day-out, the Canadian government ignores the demands of the people for increased investments in social programs and an end to the subordination of the treasury to the interests of the most economically powerful, the purpose of consultations remains highly tainted. The Liberal government’s antisocial offensive is pounding an overstretched and vulnerable health care system, people and economy, and it dismisses any opinions contrary to glowing ones as divisive and destructive.
The government demand for consultations is a sham and an attempt to convince Canadians that the economy and the governing institutions can be made to work with formalist calls for consultation. On the contrary, the old political and economic forms originating in a system which favours private property and privilege require democratic renewal to empower the people and a new direction that serves working people, not big business and the dominant oligarchy.
1. For FINA’s website click here.
(Renewal Update, posted February 7, 2022)