Five ways the federal budget fails working people

PV staff  

1. The grocery rebate. Chrystia Freeland made a huge deal about this on Twitter, claiming “millions of Canadian families will use the new Grocery Rebate to help cover the costs of the nutritious food they need.” Really? At a whopping $9 per week, the rebate will allow a family of four to buy 2 loaves of bread and a cucumber – nutritious yes, but a whole lot less than they need. All this rebate does is use public money to subsidize purchases from price gouging grocery corporations. What Ottawa could (and should) have done is introduce price rollbacks and controls on basic necessities like food, fuel and housing.

2. Failure to fix EI. The labour movement has pressed the government for years to fix EI so that it is fully accessible for all workers, provides higher payments for a longer period, reduces qualification requirements and reintroduces government contributions. Instead, the Liberals ran and hid, preferring to maintain a corporate-friendly system that pays paltry benefits to a mere 40 percent of unemployed workers. We need to make EI non-contributory, make it accessible for all unemployed workers including first-time job seekers, increase payments to 90 percent of previous earnings and extend payments to the full period of unemployment.

3. Ignoring the housing crisis. The budget continues the failed housing policies of successive Liberal and Conservative governments – reliance on the private sector to resolve a crisis which it profits from. The Liberals will pony up more public money to “incentivize” housing construction, in exchange for minimal guarantees of “affordable” units, and they’re creating yet another savings scheme for first-time buyers to try to accumulate a down payment on a vastly overpriced home. All of this just shifts tremendous amounts of wealth from working people to housing corporations. There’s nothing about rolling back and controlling rents or mortgage payments, nothing about building publicly owned and socially provided housing based on rent-geared-to-income. In short, nothing that will actually confront the housing crisis.

4. Increased military spending. The budget continues the government’s ongoing plan to increase official defence spending to $40 billion by 2026. On top of this, Ottawa will spend $1.4 billion on the completely secretive Joint Task Force 2 elite combat unit, $7.3 billion to support the F-35 fighter jet (88 of which it has already agreed to purchase for $19 billion), and another $2.5 billion on top of the $5.4 billion already being spent on the war in Ukraine. All these billions of dollars come right out of socially necessary programs for working people. Military spending needs to be cut by 75 percent and the money reallocated to jobs, health and social programs, and climate justice.

5. Nothing for job-creating public transit, but lots for job-killing transportation corporations. The government (echoed, unfortunately, by a lot of labour voices) says that its $83 billion incentive package, which includes $56 billion in new tax breaks, will make Canada a world leader in the clean economy and create good jobs by encouraging private investment in the clean economy, particularly in electric vehicles. Except it won’t. As we’ve seen time and time again, injecting billions of public dollars into private corporations just makes those corporations richer, and they usually cut thousands of jobs despite the bailout. Moreover, while companies building cars get billions, public transit gets nothing in the budget. A society based on electric cars is still a society based on cars. What Ottawa needs to be doing is building publicly owned mass public transit and transportation throughout the country, including high-speed rail, and nationalizing the big auto makers and retooling them to build electric passenger, mass transportation and light industrial vehicles. These measures will go much further toward confronting the climate crisis and creating strong jobs, than writing more cheques to private capital.

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