OTTAWA - Cutting waste and powering up the economy should be the focus of the upcoming federal government budget, says the Green Party of Canada. The Greens have suggested a list of potential inclusions for the budget to Finance Minister Flaherty.
“All of the elements we have suggested are politically practical and should be in line with the Conservative Party policy goals. Minister Flaherty may have already included some of them, but we wanted to offer our ideas in the spirit of cooperation,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Greens have suggested increasing federal revenue by closing loopholes for off-shore tax havens (saving $1.2 billion), taxing estates exceeding $5 million (bringing in $1.5 billion/year) and raising the corporate tax rate back to the 2009 level of 19%, still competitive with OECD rates (saving $4.5 billion). “With these three measures that mostly target the richest portion of the population, we can create savings that can be used to get Canadians back to work and reduce the deficit,” said May.
Tax relief for business, workers and youth is the best way to stimulate the stagnating economy. Greens suggest eliminating the punitive increases in EI payments and deductions and investing in youth employment programs. “Our focus should be on supporting the small and medium businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy,” said May. “They should not be stifled by a regulatory burden that makes it harder to employ people in good paying, permanent jobs.”
Greens warn against an austerity programme that could risk Canada’s tenuous economic recovery. Economic growth has slowed and many smaller businesses are still struggling. The increases in EI premiums hit some sectors very hard. Youth unemployment is still unacceptably high at 14%.
“Any cuts in government spending should focus squarely on waste and not critical services. We will vigorously oppose cuts in environmental science, environmental assessment, health care, or support to post-secondary education and veterans. We believe this is in line with Canadian values,” said May.
It will be important to get out the green scissors to cut wasteful spending. Greens single out fossil fuel subsidies as an obvious extravagance and also suggest ending subsidies to biotechnology, nuclear and asbestos. “Canadians are struggling to pay their bills and we are funnelling tax money to corporations pulling in record profits. That doesn’t add up,” said May.
“The key is to use our green scissors in the right places,” said May. “We estimate that $6,633 million could be saved by cutting carefully.”
There is a lot of fat that can be trimmed from the government itself. Cutting government advertising could save over $90 million. Cancelling a planned House of Commons Crystal Palace would save $100 million. The Prime Minister’s Office budget could be set back to the levels of the Chretien government, saving a further $5 million. Encouraging civil servants to work virtually instead of travelling to meetings would save up to $500 million. “Obviously, the government should be part of any belt-tightening,” commented May.
“For a stronger economy and healthier communities, we should invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and mass transit. Urgent needs of First Nations must also be a priority. Finally, a National Affordable Housing Program is essential to ensure all Canadians have adequate shelter,” said May.
“With the right balance of changes to revenue and spending, we can have a budget that works for Canadians and ensures that we reduce the deficit.”