Alternative Federal Budget 2012: A budget for the rest of us

Canada’s job market remains stalled and Canadians are understandably anxious about their future, and increasingly question whether their children and grandchildren will do better than they did.  In fact, the latest job numbers have revealed that tens of thousands of Canadians have lost hope and given up looking for a work. Compound that with the federal governments’ decision to close youth employment centres at a time when Canada’s youth unemployment levels are disturbingly high, and you have a threat to the economy that you cannot ignore.

Stagnant wages for most of us has meant that household debt has mushroomed, standing in for the raises that mainstream Canadians used to get.  It is now at the point where the Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has noted that this is the “biggest domestic threat to our economy”.  At the same time corporate Canada is only building their corporate cash stash from a decade of tax cuts and refusing and hold up their side of the bargain.

Many Canadians don’t know when they’ll be able to retire.  At the same time, their federal government is threatening to change the rules of the public pension system without having raised a peep about it during the last election.

It is no wonder that the majority of Canadians still believe the country is in recession and many don’t like the direction this country is heading in.

This is the price we are paying for higher income inequality as the very affluent take a larger and larger piece of the collective pie.  This is an issue that hasn’t gone away and won’t—even if economic growth resumes. This is a problem in search of government leadership.

But there’s little indication their federal government is listening. In fact, the federal government has been dodging these issues. The government has warned $4 to $8 billion in public spending cuts are on the way but our own Finance Minister has said publicly that he may not include the details of pending cuts in this upcoming budget. We’re calling on this government to deliver a transparent budget—not a hide and seek budget—one that protects the services Canadians rely on but, also expands them in key ways.

This week the Bank of Canada became the latest voice sounding a warning that economic growth is leaving too many people behind, and governments need to step up if free markets are going to function well. It comes on the heels of similar cautions from the IMF, the OECD, the Conference Board, voices from across the political spectrum.

There is a conspicuous absence in this rising chorus of concern. The whole world may be talking about the problem of rising inequality, in good times and bad, but our federal government remains silent.

Canada’s middle class is in a slump. Young people are struggling to start their lives. Legitimate concerns about environmental degradation are brushed off in the rush to sell our natural resources. Aging infrastructure is crumbling as decision makers kick the problems down the road, causing costs to multiply.  That’s not prudent.  That’s irresponsible.

Government neglect of these issues, combined with a curious focus on imprisonment and building military strength is delivering a political agenda that is increasingly out of step with the issues facing most Canadians. .

Instead of more cuts, prisons and corporate tax breaks, the Alternative Federal Budget delivers a fully costed package with a complete macro-economic framework built for implementation.  Its impacts on the economy and employment are transparent and up front.  In fact, the plan creates over 300,000 jobs at its peak. It provides a real boost to the economy, reduces inequality and is the antidote for corporate hoarding by dramatically improving key services not cutting them.

The Alternative Federal Budget offers a blueprint to tackle these problems and get to a balanced budget. We show that investment in the things that made us the 10th largest economy in the world and a land of promise to our people are within reach today, and will ensure that Canada does not turn into a resource-driven economic backwater. We channel resources into public programs and infrastructure that benefit all Canadians and still get to zero deficits, just a year after the federal government said they’d reach that goal.

Here’s how we do it.

First, we all know we need to fix aging infrastructure in our cities and communities. The Alternative Federal Budget launches a focused 10-year fix-it strategy to repair the public infrastructure our communities and businesses rely on, day in and day out.

Instead of ignoring 1.4 million unemployed Canadians—and tens of thousands of discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job—we put Canadians back to work, lowering the unemployment rate to below 6%, restoring purchasing power and setting the foundation for sustained recovery.

The Alternative Federal Budget tackles poverty and income inequality head on through public programs that emphasize education, affordable housing, public pensions, universal pharmacare and national child care—exactly where Canadians say they want greater investments.

Our plan calls on those who did so well before the recession and, who have bounced back so quickly since, to help make recovery a reality for everyone and build a platform for future growth. We end the failed social experiment of corporate tax cuts, which has been rewarded with a drop in business investment and fewer middle class jobs for Canadians.   Canadians want our government to get real and join in the effort to become environmental leaders. A carbon tax could help us get there.

With money and a plan we could transform Canada from an international laggard on the environmental scene into an environmental leader, with a forward-looking green strategy that would make all Canadians proud.

It’s time our governments harness the many strong features of our current economy to ensure this country remains a thriving place to live, and work, and create, making Canada a major force in contributing to the world’s future. The Alternative Federal Budget shows us how.

Any party that wants to put the priorities of mainstream Canada first, and deal with the real, tough issues of our day would implement a budget like this.

Equality. Transparency.  Service to Canadians.  That is a budget for the rest of us.

For the full Alternative Federal Budget, the two-page summary and infographics visit www.policyalternatives.ca/afb2012.

2 comments

  1. The Alternative Federal Budget is beyond brilliant and achievable. Now, how can we get it to the desk of our Finance Minister? And more importantly, if the large majority of Canadians are affected, they must de-polite and protest this upcoming budget in the most effective way (without having to necessarily “Occypy”). Hmmm…

  2. I have my fears about the federal budget that is soon to be presented by the Harper government. I don’t think I will support it in my heart, but from reading excerpts on the CCPA’s “Budget for the Rest of Us” I certainly don’t support this ‘alternative budget’ either. I oppose both of these budgets because we see that austerity does not work, but we must also recognize that nobody ever spends their way out of debt.

    Please don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the thought-provoking work put out by CCPA, but I more and more I worry that no “true alternatives” can ever be presented by a left-wing think tank. Truly alternative thinking would be independent of left vs. right wing thinking, and perhaps something in the vein of Ron Paul style Libertarianism.

    Here’s some ‘alternative’ budget suggestions for you:

    – work to minimize government programmes that cause people to become dependent on the government (housing, pensions, free health care, child care), and instead support / teach them to be independent and self-sufficient (education focused on personal finances, sustainable living, critical thinking, etc. as opposed to the ‘McEducation’ we currently receive in our factory-style universities that simply pump out ‘product’ to be consumed by employers and unions alike)

    – minimize taxation on all individuals and organizations for ‘positives’ like income while taxing ‘negatives’ (i.e. sin taxes) like gambling, substances (drugs/alcohol), pollution (via carbon tax), and excess consumption. At the same time, overhaul laws to ensure property rights are strongly upheld, and thus ensure that anyone and everyone has control over the fruits of their labour

    – minimize the role of the Bank of Canada and our Canadian bank cartel; playing with interest rates and monetizing debt only destroys our currency and lowers the purchasing power of every Canadian, not to mention blowing bubbles in markets that can only lead to the economy crashing down around us

    – DO NOT use taxation and government funds to create jobs; more jobs is not the answer to our problem, but more PRODUCTIVITY on the part of all Canadians. This can be better achieved by government removing itself from onerous regulation of the marketplace rather than trying to bend the marketplace to its will (and have it snap back in our faces via a financial/economic catastrophe)

    – Continue to support green strategies (including carbon taxes), as environmental sustainability is beneficial to our long-term existence as Canadians and as a species. However, a ‘be green’ at any cost strategy simply to become the market leader in environmentalism without considering the costs it will incur is no strategy at all

    – work to eliminate public debts to ensure Canadians are never beholden to international markets and bond vigilantes; no amount of public infrastructure or government programs is worth losing our independence and sovereignty

    While this has no place in an ‘Alternative Budget’, I would suggest that a simple message needs to be conveyed as well – that Canada and Canadians need to return to a more humble time.

    To live with less, to strive for more based on our own actions rather than handouts / bailouts / assistance, to shun both bureaucracy as well as corporatocracy when it outgrows itself, to demand honesty / integrity / honour from our elected officials, and most importantly to take accountability for our actions and our mistakes.

    We cannot avoid our housing bubble we helped fuel, nor can we avoid paying back the personal and public debts we’ve incurred to enjoy such a high standard of living over the past 20 years. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work… that’s how we’ll build a strong nation for all Canadians to enjoy.

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