The Federal Budget: Here We Go Again?

People’s Voice Editorial

Six months can be an eternity in politics, but the race is about to begin. Unless the 2019 federal election is called early, voters will head to the polls in October, under very different circumstances than four years ago. Way back in 2015, the big question was which opposition party could present itself as a fresh, progressive alternative to the Harper Tories. The NDP blundered by accepting the neoliberal “balanced budget” dogma, allowing Justin Trudeau to vault from third place into the PMO. Since then, the PM’s talk about “feminist” and “Indigenous” values has been exposed as a tired cover for the same old corporate policies. The best hope for the Liberals this time may be a series of racist, Trump-style verbal gaffes by Tory candidates, combined with Finance Minister Morneau’s shiny new budget promises. (Hey, it’s worked before!)

But, like Justin’s soaring rhetoric from 2015, this budget is mostly smoke and mirrors: a few limited measures to make home purchases easier outside the major cities; some funding increases for Indigenous languages and clean drinking water; bulk purchases of prescription drugs (but not pharmacare); some skills training and pension crumbs for small numbers of working people; a “review” of corporate executive compensation scandals (but not increased corporate taxes); tax credits for electric car purchases (but peanuts to help communities in western Canada hit by the Greyhound shutdown). More military and security spending, but nothing substantial for job creation or social programs, or to seriously tackle the housing crisis or backbreaking tuition fees.

Unfortunately, the response by the trade union leadership has been weak. The CLC, for example, welcomes the “tentative steps towards national pharmacare,” but says the budget leaves “much work unfinished.” If there was a contest for understatement of the year, that phrase would certainly qualify. The working class of Canada deserves better.

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