Flaherty Changed More Than His Shoes

The Green Party of Canada notes a distinct change in the 2013 budget.  “It is a matter of tone more than substance, but the jackboot style of Budget 2012 – the ‘we will build pipelines and the environment be damned’ tone – is replaced with a kinder, gentler message. This budget shows a sensitivity on issues where the Harper Conservatives have been repeatedly hammered,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May,  Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

There is money for the burial of our veterans and $8 million for the restoration of Massey Hall. “Public outcry over the savaging of fisheries habitat has lead to a small sop this time around — $10 million over 2 years to work with local conservation groups to improve fish habitat –and a salmon conservation stamp,” said May.

Encouragingly, a number of the Green Party’s recommendations made during pre-budget consultations were adopted. These include:

  • new funding to Sustainable Development Technology Fund (although at $325 million over 8, less than what had been recommended by Pembina);
  • going after off-shore tax-havens;
  • reducing money wasted in Government of Canada travel and greater use of telecommunications and video-conferencing;
  • money for First Nations education, although much less than recommended;
  • funds to municipal infrastructure, and while less than what the crisis demands, it is certainly a step in the right direction;
  • a just transition for asbestos workers with $50 million for 7 years toward retraining of workers in that shameful industry.

Same Direction, New Tone

However, the overall direction of this government is unchanged. Whereas last budget’s only use of the word “climate” was restricted to “investment climate”, Budget 2013 actually references climate change and mentions the Copenhagen target, though predictably repeats the falsehood that we are “halfway to meeting (it).” (p.242)  The same page even boasts of the accomplishments of the ecoEnergy retrofit program – a program they killed last year.

“The problem with the budget documents is that they are increasingly vague documents.  We no longer receive the appendices with the total budget numbers for departments.  So, is the total envelope going up or down?  Who knows?” asked May.

“For instance, VIA Rail is mentioned and gets money — $54 million this year and $58 million spread out over the next five years.  But there is no context to know if the 50% cut in VIA support in the Main Estimates would be redressed in the Supplementary Estimates, or whether the cuts are devastating and these amounts are band-aids on a fatal blow,” continued May.

“What we will not know until we see the implementing legislation is how many egregious measures will be rammed through the House in a 2013 Omnibus bill that claims to derive its legitimacy from this budget,” said May.

“The reality is this is a fudge-it, a PR piece, rather than a real plan. The 2012 budget made no mention of the Fisheries Act, but Budget Implementation Act C-38, destroyed fish habitat.  So it will take a few more months to be sure the second of one of Mr. Flaherty’s new shoes is not about to fall,” concluded May.