(Mar 30, 2007) -- 'As the facts clearly demonstrate, with last week’s budget stuffed with platitudes rather than solutions, the Harper government just doesn’t have what it takes to build the kind of future most Canadians want and deserve.'
As the temperature gets turned up in the discussion over Canada’s future, the rhetoric, too, will occasionally become over-heated. In no area of the discussion was this more apparent than the federal budget which was released last week amidst rising election speculation.
The Harper government revved up the public relations spin machine to convince us the budget is chock full of goodies to address the priorities of middle class Canadians. Throwing cold water on this PR spin, though, are the facts about what the budget actually provided.
Honestly, I can’t recall a government that said things so cheerfully that so clearly just aren’t so. Take the climate change and health care measures contained in this budget, the two issues identified consistently as the top priorities of middle class Canadians.
The environmental spending in the budget provides little more than fragmented, band-aid measures on the eve of a climate crisis. Lacking in any overarching plan, it will not sustain the massive effort required to significantly cut Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The budget merely reverses some of the cuts the Harper government made in 2006 to climate change programs, returning Environment Canada to 2005 funding levels.
The Vehicle Efficiency Incentive of up to $2,000 for hybrid and energy efficient vehicles and a levy of up to $4,000 on the largest gas-guzzlers is an isolated measure that will have a dubious impact on the habits of consumers.
The new money for the emerging biofuel industry will not come close to the type of initiative required to move toward renewable energy production that should incorporate a diversity of technologies. This is yet another isolated measure that will not allow us to meet short-term Kyoto targets, never mind long-term reductions in GHG emissions.
And then there’s the eventual withdrawal of the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance (ACCA) for oil sands projects. In essence, the budget says the federal government will continue providing a tax break to the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada for the next 8 years.
Since 1997 the oil sands industry has saved $1.4 billion annually with the ACCA. Producing more than a billion barrels of oil a day and record profits year after year, this isn’t an industry in need of continued subsidies from the government.
The fact is the budget ignores comprehensive, effective measures to tackle the climate challenge that’s already upon us. Proposals for hard GHG emissions caps, putting a price on carbon, and other common-sense ideas are nowhere to be found in the budget.
Perhaps an even stronger indication the budget is more sizzle than substance is its failure to provide real commitments to make health care better or more affordable for Canadians. Prescription drug costs are soaring out of control. But the budget makes no progress towards a national program that would make prescription drugs more affordable.
No human health resource strategy
There’s no support for a national public long-term care or home care program for elderly Canadians even though many people are struggling to care for aging loved ones and this challenge will only get tougher as baby boomers enter their senior years. There was some new money targeted for reducing health care wait times. One of the most effective measures to reduce wait times is to address the large and growing shortages of health care workers across the country. But the budget makes no commitment to developing a national health human resource strategy.
Canadians want real action and leadership on the environment and health care. This requires a federal government that’s prepared to face up to their responsibility as the stewards of Canada’s environment and health care system. They could do this by having the moral strength and political courage to make budget commitments that provide comprehensive, strategic solutions.
However, as the facts clearly demonstrate, with last week’s budget stuffed with platitudes rather than solutions, this government just doesn’t have what it takes to build the kind of future most Canadians want and deserve.