Budget 2010

Elizabeth May

Watch Elizabeth May's video commentary

I can remember budget days in lock-ups when there was good news to be found.  Even in a bad budget, there would be a new environmental programme or two.In a good budget, like Mulroney’s in 1990 or Martin’s in 2005, you could get dizzy trying to keep track of all the great initiatives.

You can't say this for Prime Minister Harper.  His budgets will not lead to dizziness or exhilaration.  Other health effects may ensue. Depression and nausea come to mind.

For example, the 2010 budget removes all energy projects from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and places environmental reviews in the hands of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (if nuclear).

No doubt the government will say this changes nothing.  The heading for this is  “modernizing the regulatory system.”  The problem is that the CEAA was designed to enhance public participation.  CEAA has clear processes and access for interveners and the public.  The process is informal and accessible. In contrast, the National Energy Board is quasi-judicial.  Few interveners will appear without lawyers.  It has no history for public participation, nor does it have a strong understanding of the scope of environmental review.  The CNSC is also more formal, and has suffered the slap-down in the firing of Linda Keen.  How likely is it that this board can provide environmental assessment?  This change is a significant disadvantage to environmental and aboriginal groups.  Ironically, the stated reason (to save time) will not be met.  CEAA worked very efficiently.  It is more likely and the real purpose to have projects rubber stamped.

As for Green Energy, the very successful ecoEnergy Technology Initiative will not be continued.  It died in mid-2009 as it was over-subscribed in 2008.  There are accelerated capital cost allowance measures for renewable energy, but the only new programme was $100 million over four years for the “Next Generation Renewable Power Initiative.”  This is designed only for the forest sector, likely for biomass or cellulose ethanol

The budget also hikes payroll taxes.  By 2015, there will be an additional $29 billion collected from higher EI premiums.  This job killing tax could actually threaten Canada’s economic recovery.  And while workers see their pay cheque shrink and small business has to postpone new hires, corporate tax rates will continue to be cut.

The deficit is supposed to be cut back to nearly nothing by 2015.  These figures do tend to stretch credulity.  Flaherty gets to near balanced books in five years by relying on increasing revenues from a source the government wants to tax less.  Corporate tax revenues are set to go up by 40% over 5 years, even as the rate at which corporations are taxed will go down.  Other deficit fighting measures include the payroll tax hikes, and cuts to military spending increases ($2.5 billion), to CIDA’s future funding of $4.5, and from Stockwell Day’s cuts to government “administration” --  $6.8 billion.

If you were looking for news on pension reform, there is nothing here.  A consultation will begin in March.   Interestingly, there was also nothing about change to political party financing.

There were a few good measures:  citizen oversight of the RCMP through a new board (few details),  $30 million over two years to implement an educational agreement with First Nations for K-12, $8 million/year for the Great Lakes (the proverbial drop in a very large toxic bucket) and reducing the tax impact for low-income single parent families of the child tax credit.   

Overall, this is a government with no concern for the climate crisis, no plan to avoid runaway global warming, even commenting favourably about the ice-free Arctic and the need to monitor shipping, and no real plan to create jobs.       

Give them credit for consistency.  In the Conservatives’ never ending attempt to eliminate the colour red from the primary colours palette, this budget blending blue and green arrows and leaves, manages to portray the Canadian flag in blue and white on the back cover.  First the national anthem, next the flag. They really don’t like our traditions very much.

Watch Elizabeth May's video commentary

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