Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition from 1998 to 2002. This organization is a conservative lobby group. The NCC advocates for smaller government and lower taxes, and they are against public services and trade unions. They even have a history of actively lobbying against the Canada Wheat Board and the Canada Health Act.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Stephen Harper is taking steps to dismantle Canada’s universal health care program by cutting transfers to the provinces. Now he’s floating the idea of making drastic changes to Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
These decisions are bad social policy. Canada is the envy of the world because of its universal health care program. It’s of significant benefit to citizens, employers, and the overall health and welfare of the country. This “socialized medicine”, as the NCC likes to call it, is also much more efficiently administered than the U.S. health care system, which, until recently with Obama’s health care plan, left millions of Americans without health care coverage.
Furthermore, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement keep millions of seniors out of dire poverty. Increasing the eligibility to age 67 from 65 would provide undue hardship on many seniors who would have to work an extra two years, and it would take jobs away from younger people in the workforce, many of whom who have families to support.
There are two ways to address the problem of an aging population. These are providing incentives for Canadians to have more babies and increasing investor, economic, and labour immigration. Both these solutions require people working in good jobs and paying taxes. Let the seniors retire in peace and leave the jobs for the younger people who need them!
Is Harper taking advantage of the global debt or Eurozone crisis to gut Canada’s cherished national social programs? It is difficult to say. I find it strange, however, that Harper has billions of dollars to build new prisons across this country but no money for health care or social services which actually might reduce and prevent crime.
Many right-wing conservative people think that health, education, and social services should be left to the nonprofit sector and charities. This will essentially result in a piecemeal approach to the social welfare of Canadians as there is no stable funding to pay for programs and services. The extremes between the rich and poor will increase and crime will increase as people turn to survival instincts to get by. Maybe that is why Harper wants to spend billions on prisons. He doesn’t want anarchy to fill the streets of Canadian cities due to a lack of space in our prisons. What Harper doesn’t realize is that it’s cheaper to provide Canadians with modest social benefits than incarcerate them and pay for police, court, and prison-related costs for a convicted criminal.
So what are some alternatives to this cutting spending and gutting of social programs? Well, first Harper can come to the realization that Canadians may be willing to pay higher premiums to safeguard their health care and pensions.
Health care delivery can be made more efficient as well. For example, government purchasing clerks can partly work on a savings commission. This will provide them with an incentive to get the best deal on any item they purchase.
Furthermore, wealthy Canadians can have the option of returning their pension cheques and making tax-deductible donations to wipe out the debt. Not to mention, billionaires and the rich can start paying the same percentage of their income in tax as someone earning $100,000 per year. Time for some tax fairness for everyone.
Last, the government can streamline international adoptions to eventually beef up our working age population and ensure all colleges and universities offer small business entrepreneurship bachelor and master degrees. Everything from idea conception to business plan development and project start-up including access to financing. Now this is something I am sure Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the NCC will like.
Alex Sangha is a registered social worker and the author of The Modern Thinker.