Robyn Benson, PSAC

Budget 2014

Canada budget.jpg

This year’s Harper government budget day will arrive on February 11, in the midst of the Sochi Winter Olympics, ensuring that the media’s attention is divided. Safe prediction? There won’t be much in it for ordinary Canadians—it’s not an election year. Another safe prediction? It will be implemented in another one of those omnibus bills, rolled up with a sackful of non-budgetary legislation.

There will be more “austerity,” that word used by the fortunate to describe tightening everybody else’s belts. Even the International Monetary Fund says the government could ease up on this, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says, No way. He’s set on eliminating the deficit by 2015, which is an election year—a deficit that the Conservatives created in the first place. There will be no serious measures to reduce poverty and inequality, or even to strengthen the economy.

Why don’t we start looking at these budgets the way you and I put our own together? Must-have: decent public services, accessible to all Canadians who need them—including, most certainly, our veterans, deprived just last week of eight badly-needed service offices. Good to have, and affordable: the Experimental Lakes Area, doing world-class work on environmental pollution. Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries, storing valuable scientific materials. (The Harper government scrubbed the first to save $1.3 million, and junked the second, to save less than $0.5 million—a classic case of being penny wise and dollar foolish.)

Luxury items we can’t really afford: well, take your pick.

There’s the $1 million we spent transporting Stephen Harper’s limousine to India in 2012.

Given what was just done to our veterans (the Conservatives voted unanimously on Monday to keep those offices shut), it’s probably rubbing salt in the wounds to point out that this government spent $28 million to commemorate the War of 1812. Old wars, worth spending money on. Old warriors? Not so much.

Then there’s Conservative Party propaganda thinly disguised as government announcements. Take the Economic Action Plan stuff—please. Everyone’s bored silly by it, but we’re paying for it all the same. At last count, $21 million of our tax dollars have gone on this. Expect more. Then there’s $2.5 million to promote the Canada Job Grant initiative—a program that doesn’t even exist.

And let’s not forget that recent junket to Israel. Yes, we expect the Prime Minister to travel internationally: it’s part of his job, no matter how well or poorly he does it. But bringing along 200 people, many of them Conservative Party donors? No doubt Access to Information will reveal the costs of that sometime. It won’t be a small amount.

Here’s the thing: a budget isn’t just dollars and cents, and a bunch of line items. Budgets reflect priorities. One budget may be all about people: what can be done to address their needs, to improve their lives, to preserve the environment they live and work in—here’s an excellent example. Another may be all about appearances: costly memorials, for instance, favours for friends, the expensive communication of empty words. With Budget 2014, I think we’re about to see one like that instead.

I’ll have more detailed comments once the budget comes down. But I do expect my predictions to hold.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on February 6, 2014 8:29 AM.

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