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Profits and poverty: a look at two budgets

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Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called his March 22 Budget A Low-Tax Plan for Jobs and Growth. I’d call it something else: A Program for Profits and Poverty.

Even Tories considered Flaherty too right-wing when he was Ontario Finance Minister a few years back. He fits right in with Stephen Harper, who wasn’t kidding when he dropped the word “Progressive” from his party’s name.

Harper’s Conservative agenda has never changed and is plain to see. To him, government’s job is to move money from working people and the poor to the richest people in the country. The latest budget sticks to the program. It continues the huge donations to corporate profits he started in 2007. But the one million Canadian children growing up in poverty don’t even merit a mention. In this rich, rich country, 870,000 different people go to food banks in a typical month. To Harper, hungry people don’t exist – and they wouldn’t matter if they did.

The Budget offers no hope to students who can’t afford college or university. It ignores the pressing need for a national child care program. The caregiver tax credit of $300 a year is both a joke and an insult. It won’t do a thing to give families what they need, namely, more quality public home care.

The budget promises to cut at least $4 billion a year from public services. This is backwards. What this country needs now is a massive investment in public services to meet people’s needs and create jobs. It’s not like we can’t afford it. In fact, Canada could add $500 billion to its debt and still have the lowest debt, relative to the size of our economy, of any of the G8 countries.

Yes, there was a big recession. But Canada is doing fine. We can afford prosperity for everyone. But not as long as we keep funnelling money upwards to the corporate executives who need it least.

Here in Ontario, March 29 is the test for Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals. It’s true that he drank the Conservative Kool-Aid in 2009 when he struck a deal with Harper on the HST and brought in corporate tax cuts of his own. But it’s good to be hopeful. Between now and Oct. 6, McGuinty has to show voters he’s different from – and better than – PC leader Tim Hudak. But if he thinks instead that the provincial election is just a fight between two different ways of being right wing, he’s in for a surprise.

If he turns his back on progressive voters, they’ll turn their backs on him. I guarantee it.

Whatever governments do, our union will be sticking to our members’ values. A prosperous and fair economy built on world-class public services is possible. That’s what we stand for.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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