Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The federal budget IS debatable

When the latest federal budget was released, coverage of it in our local daily was somewhat one-sided. Apparently that's because in the narrow window between the budget release and the story deadline, there was only time enough to interview our Conservative MP for his (predictably supportive) comments. However, the Examiner was kind enough to publish my reactions from the Green Party perspective as a letter to the editor, reprinted below.

Federal budget doesn't receive a passing grade [presumably the title refers to my education career]

In her outgoing address, Auditor General Sheila Fraser noted three key areas of persistent failure: the plight of First Nations communities, the threat from crumbling infrastructure and the crisis posed by a rapidly changing climate. These three areas were core elements of the 2011 Green Party platform. Sadly, none were addressed in the June 6 regurgitated federal budget, beyond token measures.

Surprisingly, climate impacts threatening economic recovery are mentioned several times, but without connection to climate change. On page 37, food prices are linked to 'weather-driven supply constraints'. Costs to Canadian infrastructure and compensation due to extreme weather (driven by climate change) include $72 million to repair storm surge damage to small craft harbours (page 105), melting permafrost compromising arctic ice roads requiring $150 million for the Inuvik -- Tuktoyaktuk highway (page 102), and $470 million to farmers after extraordinary spring floods. These amounts are the tip of a very large iceberg, as Ms. Fraser warned.

On the fiscal front, extending corporate tax cuts helps only already-profitable corporations, while increasing employment insurance (EI) premiums $8 billion over the next five years squeezes the bottom line for all employers. If the goal is boosting jobs, this makes no economic sense. Neither do the billion-dollar annual handouts to the fossil fuel industry, or the extra $100 million in nuclear subsidies.

One bright light for local business was the restoration of ecoEnergy retrofits [as I have called for in previous columns].

Overall, not much good news, and not a great omen for the next four years.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
National Revenue critic
Green Party of Canada

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