On March 28, Ottawa unveiled its federal budget with great pomp and circumstance. However, on close inspection, it is apparent that the budget’s proposed measures to alleviate economic pain are woefully inadequate.
A Lack of Decisive Action for Economic Recovery
While the budget promises a one-time “grocery rebate,” giving eligible families up to $467, and single individuals $234, this move falls far short of the financial aid required to address the significant inflation, compounded by wage stagnation, facing Canadians. The declining purchasing power of the population has left many struggling to make ends meet. Without many new job opportunities, the economy remains at a standstill.
We need a more decisive and comprehensive approach to economic recovery, including a radical redistribution of income, particularly through progressive taxation of the most affluent. Additionally, it’s vital to allocate significant resources towards essential social services. Only by making focused investments can the country begin to emerge from the current economic malaise.
Demanding Stronger Support for Student Affordability
The budget proposes a 40 per cent increase to Canada Student Grants – seemingly a strong commitment to higher education. However, affordability and the cost-of-living crisis require more robust support for students. Reports from the Education for All Coalition reveal that federal support for post-secondary education has decreased by nearly 40 per cent in the last two decades, leading to a corresponding 40 per cent increase in student debt. The proliferation of privatization schemes on campuses and the implementation of performance-based funding models have only exacerbated the situation. With two-thirds of all jobs now requiring some form of post-secondary education, affordable education has never been more critical. However, the cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition fees has more than doubled over the last 20 years, with undergraduate international student tuition costing over five times that of domestic student tuition. It is imperative that we make a concerted effort to address these challenges and provide necessary support to students.
We demand stronger and more decisive action from government to address the pressing economic and education issues facing Canadians.
Dental Care Plan: A Band-Aid on a Broken System
The government’s recently announced dental care plan, which aims to expand coverage to families with an annual income of less than $90,000, is a step in the right direction towards addressing healthcare affordability. However, the slow implementation of the incomplete plan fails to address the ongoing crisis in Canadian healthcare. CBC reports that the cost of healthcare in Canada is expected to reach $331 billion this year, with each Canadian expected to pay $8,563. Despite these rising costs, public healthcare services have declined, with available hospital beds per capita decreasing since 1984. Unfortunately, Canada ranks fourth from the bottom among OECD countries in terms of beds available per capita.
Money should be redirected from military spending and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, augmented by steep taxation of the rich and giant corporations towards urgently needed healthcare, particularly for the working poor who require it most. The working class, which performs the vast majority of production of goods and services, deserves accessible, free, quality public healthcare.
Climate Measures Fall Short: A Call for a Radical Approach
The federal budget introduces tax credits for clean electricity investments and clean tech manufacturing, including a 15 per cent refundable tax credit and a refundable 30 per cent tax credit, respectively. Despite these efforts, the government’s approach falls far short of what is needed to address the climate crisis. While the Trudeau/Freeland government claims to be committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they have yet to take meaningful action on some of the biggest contributors to climate change. For example, the new fighter jets and new warships which Ottawa is purchasing will undoubtedly produce massive amounts of carbon emissions, overshadowing all of Ottawa’s current carbon sequestration efforts. The exorbitant price tag of $14.2 billion attached to the acquisition of 88 F–35 stealth fighter jets, and much more in lifetime maintenance costs, dramatizes the ecological toll.
As we confront the enormity of the climate crisis, it is evident that a more radical and decisive approach is necessary. The need to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach, systematically tackling the root causes of climate change rather than just the symptoms, is clear. This means prioritizing investment in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure while transitioning away from unsustainable fossil fuels. The priority of capitalism is profit before people and the environment. The solution is public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, under workers’, Indigenous and community democratic control, especially the energy resource sector. Drastic change, including investment in mass public transit and ecological mass, quality social housing, should occur alongside radical cuts to spending on military hardware, and Canada’s exit from NATO and NORAD. An important locus of the struggle for change is inside the labour movement and its political arm, the New Democratic Party. It is shameful that the NDP continues to prop up the Liberal minority government and to vote for its latest war budget. The transition to a more sustainable and equitable future, an Eco-socialist future, is indispensable. The survival of humanity and nature depend on it.
by YK / March 30, 2023
Note: After providing this overview of the budget, we will continue analyzing its various aspects in the coming days and weeks.
Photo: Radio Canada