The buildup to the 2022 Budget has been interesting, with plenty of competition for government spending and priorities. Certainly, the Liberal-NDP pact that was announced last month includes a lot of the promises that working people have long been waiting for, and which they will now be expecting in the budget. But the ruling elite, egged on by the threat which that pact presents to their power and wealth, has been pushing strongly for its own policies.
Here are just a few of our priorities for this budget. They aren’t a prescription for socialism – that takes more than a piece of legislation – but they represent a political approach that puts working people’s needs ahead of corporate profits and is willing to confront capitalist interests in order to achieve those ends.
EI reform: It’s on the legislative agenda, but the government sure isn’t forthcoming about what it’s planning to do. Workers fought hard during the Great Depression to win employment insurance, but we’ve never quite got the kind of program we needed: non-contributory (funded by government and bosses), covering all unemployed workers – including gig workers and first-time job seekers – for the full duration of employment, benefits at 90 percent of previous earnings.
Healthcare: The Romanow Commission recommended more than 20 years ago that healthcare be expanded to include universal, free and accessible pharmacare, dental care, vision and long-term care. We would add fully funded and accessible mental health care. Working people are sick of waiting for these improvements, while healthcare profiteers continue to sink their claws into a system which is increasingly privatized. Empty promises don’t cut it – we need these reforms now.
Childcare: No, not a piecemeal patchwork that includes for-profit corporations and underpaid self-employed homecare providers. We need a real publicly owned and operated system, complete with infrastructure, 24-hour care as required, accessible to all who need it, free of charge.
Housing: The housing crisis is not going away, and it’s definitely not caused by “foreign” owners. The problem is a lack of affordable, public rent-geared-to-income units and weak or non-existent rent controls. Working people need immediate rent rollbacks and controls, so that nobody is compelled to spend more than 20 percent of household income on housing. We need a federal housing program that will build one million new units now and continue to build and upgrade existing units. Anything less – and anything that lets the private sector continue to drive housing policies – is unacceptable.
Military spending: This government has already promised tens of billions of dollars in increased military spending. Heading into this budget, it announced it was going to purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets at a price of $19 billion (plus an estimated $80 billion in ongoing operating and maintenance costs). This is public money, badly needed for public programs, which is being shifted into the bank accounts of arms industries for the purpose of fighting imperialist wars. This needs to stop now. Working people need the government to cut military spending by 75 percent and redirect that money – money which was made from working people’s labour – back into social needs.
As far as we know, the Minister of Finance doesn’t read People’s Voice to determine key budget priorities. But the minister and the government as a whole do read the mood of working people, the vast majority of the country’s population. Regardless of what comes down in Budget 2022, there’s always time – and always a need – for the labour and democratic movements to exert steady and escalating pressure on the government and Parliament to deliver progressive reforms.
Through class struggle, we can win a People’s Budget!
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