Budget 2021: a tight squeeze for the working class

Far from transformative, the April 19 federal budget was yet another long list of big gifts to Big Business in Canada, along with vast sums for NATO, NORAD, fighter jets and warships, ensuring that the working class will pay for a profitable recovery for corporations and the wealthy, and Parliament’s new foreign policy of war and regime change.

Behind another much-hyped promise of a pan-Canadian childcare system, the Liberals are shelling out massive tax cuts masquerading as incentives to ‘help’ the energy industry reduce its enormous load of carbon emissions and GHGs, or as outright gifts such as the CEWS program which went straight to fat CEO compensation packages and big shareholder dividends since it started. The budget also delivers three years of new corporate tax write-offs of up to $1.5 million per year for 325,000 corporations, resulting in the loss of $2.2 billion in tax revenues.  Then there is the $5.9 billion bailout of Air Canada, and how many other airlines and other corporations demanding gigantic public subsidies? It’s also forking out billions in subsidies to pay for digitization costs of profitable corporations, plus more to pay 28,000 youth and students from June to November to provide these companies with the technical know-how.

The budget also includes $95 billion in “stimulus spending” for the arms industry – to pay for new fighter jets and warships that will be used to participate in US-led wars and acts of aggression around the world. Canadian youth will also pay the price for this with stepped up military recruitment among unemployed youth, with death, disability and PTSD the ultimate price.

But the truly urgent action and investments which the pandemic and the economic crisis it triggered have shown to be essential, are mostly absent.  And many more people will die because of it.

Not included in this budget: public health

  • 14 employer paid sick days annually for all workers
  • national standards for long-term care that is 100 percent publicly owned and operated under Medicare
  • pharmacare
  • nationalization of the pharmaceutical industry allowing for the research, development, production and distribution of vaccines and other medicines at cost, in Canada
  • vastly increased funding for Medicare across Canada
  • expansion to include dental, vision, and mental health care, plus long-term care and pharmacare
  • creation of a publicly owned corporation to produce PPE in Canada

These are crucial actions on healthcare needed to save lives and defeat the current pandemic and prepare for future pandemics that we know are coming.

Not included in the budget, and desperately needed now:

  • EI reform to make Employment Insurance non-contributory, accessible to all the unemployed, for the full duration of unemployment, at 90% of previous earnings
  • introduction of a Guaranteed Annual Livable Income
  • substantial increase the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement, and make them fully accessible at age 60 – not 75.
  • raise the minimum wage to $23 – a living wage that will allow workers across the country to pay the rent and feed their kids

Not included: progressive tax reform

Providing $12 billion in tax credits to low-paid workers won’t change much. Eliminating taxes on incomes under $40,000, and axing the HST, would do a lot to raise living standards and quality of life for millions of low-income and precarious workers.

  • raise taxes on the corporations and the wealthy
  • double the corporate tax rate, restore the capital tax, raise the capital gains tax to 100 percent of the gain
  • close tax loopholes and tax havens, collect deferred corporate taxes
  • introduce wealth and inheritance tax on the rich
  • raise the funds needed for job creation, expansion of social programs, transition to a publicly owned and green energy industry and a sustainable Canadian economy, rising wages and living standards

Not included: real action on climate change

  • nationalize energy, close the tarsands, build a publicly owned renewable energy industry, guarantee the jobs and wages of displaced workers in the fossil fuel industry
  • impose hard caps on carbon emissions, make the polluter pay for clean-up
  • stop the pipelines
  • act now while there’s still time

Not included: full employment and job creation

  • build value added secondary industry and manufacturing
  • build a publicly owned basic steel industry
  • build public transit and rail
  • restore Canadian shipbuilding industry
  • introduce a 32-hour work week with 40 hours pay
  • support women’s re-entry into the workforce by building and funding a universal, quality and free public childcare system now – no more broken promises
  • stop the layoffs, program cuts and decimation of Laurentian University in Sudbury and fund post-secondary education across Canada – eliminate tuition and student debt now
  • withdraw from job-killing corporate free trade deals
  • support the family farm, supply management and food security

Not included:  real action on housing

  • build 1 million units of affordable social housing in 10 years
  • cut housing prices and rents

Not included:  A foreign policy of peace and disarmament

  • withdraw from NATO and NORAD
  • cut military spending by 75 percent and redirect to civilian spending
  • stop arms purchases and exports

The federal budget is smoke and mirrors. Most important commitments will take years to deliver – well beyond this or the next government’s mandate. Others, like the childcare system are contingent on provincial governments to also support and fund. It will take a mass, Canada-wide struggle to bring this program to life – it will die on the order paper without it.

In many ways this budget is an election agenda for a minority government that’s desperate for an election, and a majority government.

What will be implemented are the tax ‘incentives’ and bailouts to Big Business, public funding of the digitization and innovation of private, for-profit companies operating in Canada, the $95 billion set aside to buy new fighter planes and fighting ships, plus additional billions for NATO and NORAD that Parliament has not yet agreed to and that must be opposed.

And the other “sure thing” in this budget is the cuts to the Recovery Benefits so vital to the unemployed and precarious workers – which will start in July with a cut to $300 / week from $500 and end in September with no benefits at all – and the cuts to EI benefits that will kick in in September 2022.

These cuts are coming even though the Finance Minister admits that unemployment is high and growing with a pandemic and an economic crisis that is nowhere near the end in Canada – or globally.

The labour and people’s movements need to get organized – and united – to fight this Big Business budget and demand what’s needed for a People’s Recovery now.

Communist Party of Canada

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