Elizabeth May: Stephen Harper budget worsens ecological, fiscal, democratic deficits

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By Elizabeth May

Canada is suffering from three crippling deficits—ecological, fiscal, and democratic. The Harper government’s 2010 budget fails to address any of the three, and, in fact, worsens them.

Proroguing Parliament to evade accountability, to shut down hearings into the Afghan detainee scandal, and to avoid any embarrassing questions into Canada’s Copenhagen performance was defended as “recalibration” of the government’s agenda. At the time, Andrew Coyne observed this excuse was “bilge” and bilge it is now proven to be. Nothing in the budget suggests mental exertion in applying any new thoughts to anything. Ned Franks, Queen’s University professor emeritus in political science, suggested Stephen Harper should be called “King Stephen the First of Canada”. King Stephen has forgotten, or merely dislikes, the fact that the prime minister serves at the pleasure of the House; the House does not serve at the pleasure of the prime minister.

Given the status of a minority Parliament, the prime minister should have sought political consensus prior to tabling a budget. An effort should have been made to really listen to concerns of the Opposition MPs.

Instead, this budget continues on the “stay the course” path of the government. What additional measures are included, for the most part, do damage to the other pressing deficits.

In the case of Canada’s economic health, this budget risks stalling economic recovery by dramatically increasing payroll taxes in the form of higher EI premiums. Jim Flaherty had announced last year that the freeze in EI premiums in the 2009-10, and 2010-11 budget years had created a deficit and would be recouped through hikes in premiums in 2011. Strangely, few in media have picked up on this tax increase. The 2010 budget confirms it will collect $29 billion more in EI between now and 2015. Small business and labour have condemned this job-killing tax.

Meanwhile, the government has moved hard-right in cutting tariffs on manufacturing inputs and expanding free trade. It will take a while to assess whether unilateral elimination of these tariffs will assist Canada’s economy or not.

The words “structural deficit” do not appear in this budget. Harper wants us to believe he can, like another king, wave his hand and hold back the sea of deficits. The magical deficit reduction relies on some very optimistic assumptions of revenue growth from corporate taxes of nearly 40 percent over five years. This increase is even more questionable against the planned cuts in corporate tax rates. Other elements of deficit fighting are in cuts to government (described as “administrative costs of government”) of $6.8 billion by 2014-15. This is, I suppose, whatever Stockwell Day wants to cut.

Shockingly, the government also freezes funds to CIDA. There are two smoke-and-mirrors elements to these cuts. First, the budget text says it will support international development assistance; then the fine print says they will cut nearly $4.5 billion by 2015. The truth is that the annual eight-percent increases in CIDA funding end this year. There never was a government commitment to continue to reach 0.7 percent of GDP to overseas development assistance (the “Make Poverty History” target). Government is hurting CIDA by freezing spending, but it is also exaggerating the impact of deficit cutting by targeting money that was never there.

Lastly, we come to the most unforgiving and unforgiveable of deficits: the ecological deficit. Here we are in 2010, two years from when our legally binding Kyoto target calls for Canada to be six percent below 1990 levels by 2012 (and, yes, despite Harper’s contempt for Kyoto, it remains legally binding international law) and our target is to be three percent above 1990 levels by 2020. And even for that irresponsible target we have no plan. The 2010 budget continues with billions to carbon capture and storage, which is essentially a disguised subsidy to the tar sands, and hundreds of millions to nuclear energy. The successful ecoEnergy Technology Initiative to support wind energy is not being revived. 2008 was its last fully funded year.

Among the G8 nations, Canada is the only country whose economic stimulus package was designed to exclude green projects. Even the so-called “Green Infrastructure Fund” was not green. While some projects in waste-water treatment were funded, most projects involved transmission lines that could carry electricity from any source—green, brown, or black. Mass transit just did not fit the criteria. “Shovel-ready” applied perfectly to highways.

The most alarming change in environmental regulation in years is that all energy projects will no longer face environmental review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. They will be reviewed through the National Energy Board, or, if nuclear, by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Neither of these bodies has the experience of the CEAA, nor are they designed to enhance public participation as CEAA was. We must push back against such changes. The environmental review process is not useless red tape. It is integral to good planning.

All in all, the 2010 budget is a fair reflection of this government’s priorities. It perfectly illustrates how far the Harper government is from the values and priorities of most Canadians.

Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and the former executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.

Comments (5) Add New Comment
Birdy
Elizabeth May eloquently breaks down why the economy is getting worse and the role of the IMF at 5:30 - 8:30 in this vid:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFLiGECUUpw
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NIBY
Elizabeth May commenting on the economy?

HA!
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seth
Here we go again with the Greenies for Harpo campaign leader, looking to reelect Harpo to a majority by smooth talking low information voters from the Liberal/NDP to her malevolent environmentally destructive cause.

I can't imagine a greenie voting for Harpo so those votes would normally have gone NDP/Liberal.

Neocons have a history of using the Green Party as a tool to gain election. First Greenie leader Ralph Nader managed to elect George Bush in 2000 and sent the greatest Green politician the world has known Al Gore to the sidelines, singlehandedly giving the world one million dead Iraqis and the worst economic crisis since the 1930's. Harper was elected twice because of Green party vote siphoning from the two progressive parties. Gordo just won reelection twice courtesy of the Green party. Green party leaders whether its Adrian Carr, Elizabeth May, Jane Sterk or Ralph never apologize or feel any remorse for the enormous cost in human lives, environmental damage, and treasure that their irresponsible candidacies cause.

The Green party's has enormous influence despite its tiny membership because it can attract low information voters to the brand name of the European Green movement who with their MMP electoral systems can actually get elected. Greenies cannot ever elect a single person in the First Past the Post system.Lots of Green politicians are involved in the NDP and Liberals and have made enormous progress in turning those parties towards sustainable policies. Yes much more needs to be done. Greenies could have signed up their homeys by the thousands to Liberal or NDP memberships, taking over entire constituency associations, sending green delegates to policy conventions, nominating green candidates and making sure these parties went in their direction.

Instead they are there to give Harpo his automatic 10% maybe a majority this time. Fools.
seth
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whatever
Elizabeth, not bad.

NIBY, if you have nothing to say at all, at least say something nice.

Seth, you are a hypocrite. The NDP handed the Conservatives government, or was it the Liberals, no the Conservatives did it, no...back to the Greens. In fact it was those damn voters, then again could be the ones that didn't show up. So, it's your fault in the end no matter what you do. How do you like them apples?

Canada is blessed with a lot. To whom much is given, much is expected. I think we feel badly about underperforming with regards to what is actually going on in the world. I feel badly about it, anyway.

I just wish ordinary Canadians would say and do more intelligent things. If I was a politician, I would stop sucking up to the public and challenge them to play a more active role in citizenship and I would call them on being idiotic.
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Missy
With all due respect, wind turbines have no business being in peoples back yards nor on the beautiful Canadian landscape! The don't produce enough energy to sustain themselves, they feed off the grid & they are costing Billions of dollars from the pockets of hard working people. WTF is that all about? The world will not end without them!

Me, I go with Stephen Harper on this one all the way. I'm glad that Harper was not conned by Al Gore's Global Warming Scam. It shows me and millions like me that Harper is a smart cookie and knows what he's doing on a lot of levels.

What I would like to see is McGuinty go, and take his useless, expensive windmills with him & pay the bill out of his own pocket and the pockets of all the Green Fanatics that forced this ridiculous idea down our throats!

We want clean nuclear energy.......period. And come next election, I pray to God that the right man to give us that will be our new Premier. Tim Hudak.
Enough with pandering to special interest groups! They are the reason that nuclear energy was held up in the 70's.
Look at the 70's Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore, that was instrumental in stopping nuclear energy expansion.......today, he is a firm believer in nuclear energy and does not believe that man is the cause of climate change. ha, ha, ha and what a wast of 50 yrs.

No, history should not repeat itself. Fear Mongering special interest groups have always been the reason for stopping logical progress. Now, look at all of our hydro bills. And they are to go up another 45 -50%.
Enough Greenies, Enough! You can join McGuinty and pay the bill yourselves for the biggest hoax perpetrated on mankind to date.

It's time to enlighten (as Seth put it) the low information voters, just what they are getting into when they vote Green. High taxes & higher hydro, with very little to show for it.

Sorry Green Party, but you will not get my vote again, bcos I have enlightened myself to the damage that your group has cause and is capable of causing in the future.
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