Tag Archives: budget

Tory Cuts: You Win Some, You Lose Some

By Jason Menard

While it pains the left-leaner in me, I have to say I’m half-heartedly pleased with the cuts announced by the Conservative government on Monday. Now, it’s only half-heartedly due to the fact that for every good measure taken, there was another that shouldn’t have been done.

But that’s the way it is with politics – you win some, you lose many more.

First the good. The decision to end the visitor rebate program that saw tourists able to walk into the country, spend to their hearts’ content, and receive a GST rebate on all purchase is the right one. Tourism is an integral part of our economy, and an additional seven – oops, six going one day to five per cent isn’t going to dissuade people from visiting The Great White North.

At least not in the way that the never-ending passport issue will. Can we get that fixed?

And the fact that the $78.8 million in expected savings – part of a larger, two year, $2 billion dollar cut – will go towards reducing the national debt is good. However, it might have been nice to see some of that funding go towards promoting tourism to our various regions as part of an overall strategy that could have offset expected criticism from retailers and tourist bureaus who undoubtedly will – wrongly – assume that this rebate will mean less tourism. Hey, maybe that $78.8 could got towards making passports easy, affordable, and accessible to all Canadians – just a thought.

A $46.8 million dollar savings just from a pre-announced cabinet reduction? Also good. After all, few would doubt that government is bloated. But this is just the start. The government needs to undertake a serious review of the duplication of effort and redundancies in all levels of government. It’s not enough to simply lop off the top – we must maximize the return on our investment, which means eliminating much of the bureaucracy in our bureaucracy.

Imagine, a well-run, efficient, accessible government? Why, that’s worth an investment right in itself.

Now the bad. Administrative reductions to the Status of Women, and end to medical marijuana science funding, and cuts to museums assistance all reek of the same conservative short-sightedness that many Canadians feared when Harper took the helm.

Listen, I’m fully supportive of the idea that museums must find creative ways to maximize their funding. And, yes, I’m an advocate that if people don’t support the arts, they can’t expect the government to bail them out totally. However, we have to understand the social and emotional impact that supporting the arts has on our communities at large. We can’t live in a world that’s only guided by the bottom line. Quantifying the value that the arts offer our country is almost impossible – but qualifying it in terms of how they enrich our lives is undeniably easy. Unfortunately it seems the Conservatives have simply fallen back on the old standby of cutting from the social fabric of our society. And it’s for that reason that the Status of Women get their cut. Using the euphemism of administrative reductions, what that simply means is less money, less jobs, and – in the end – less effectiveness. And unlike the aforementioned reductions in government, there doesn’t appear to be much fat to slice away from here.

In the same way that social funding cuts are par for the conservative course, so too does the elimination of medical marijuana science funding seem like nothing more than scratching a long-irritating itch for our boys (and girls) in blue. While medical marijuana has shown promise in alleviating the symptoms for those with Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain either from various disorders or as a result of other diseases, that progress means little. Much like Republican opposition to stem cell research south of the border, this decision sounds more like a policy of principal than of science.

Finally, the ominously worded “efficiencies” in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., accounting for $45 million. Sounds like those “efficiencies” are going to result in a lot of pink slips in the near future.

Other cuts were mentioned, but these were the big five. A mixed bag of sorts, which has been carefully crafted to avoid any sort of vehement dissention that could upset the delicate apple cart of this government. For everything left-leaners could complain about, there was something that they could support.

Slow and steady wins the race, and the Conservatives are slowly integrating their beliefs into the Canadian landscape, without raising any red flags. You may not like the players, but you have to admire their game.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Less May Not Be More

By Jason Menard

With the budget announcement looming and the income tax filing deadline just in the past, it’s an interesting time to consider what Canadians want from their government.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty states that Canadians are facing an “excessive” tax burden. And, while that may be true, do we really want it to change? What are our alternatives? Is less taxation the answer?

Or are our elected representatives simply not asking the right question?

For many Canadians the issue is not simply one of too much tax, but rather the fact that our taxes are not being properly used. The much-debated one per cent cut of the GST is a simple sound-bite ready move to offer immediate sating our immediate ravenous appetite without tackling the larger issue of our hunger.

The GST, which due to the fact that it’s a consumption tax and therefore is actually one of our fairest taxes, is despised not for its existence, but for the fact that it was never applied as specified. Initially levied in order to cut down the country’s crushing debt, the GST has become just another cash cow from which our federal government can milk Canadians’ wallets.

However, if the funds were applied as prescribed, our deficit eliminated, and the debt paid down, would Canadians object? Would a minority that wields an inordinate amount of power in our first-past-the-post system of elections be swayed in an election to offer a negligible cut in a valuable tax?

Probably not. But we’re not being asked that questions now, are we?

The addition of $100 per month for child-care expenses? Great for those of us with stay-at-home spouses, not so good for those who truly need daycare. When in Quebec, we were able to take advantage of the then-$5-a-day system. Coming to Ontario and facing $30-ish costs per day, that $100 would simply provide us with a week’s worth of care.

Am I going to look a gift $100 in the mouth? No. But would I rather that my money go back into the creation of an effective system? You’re damn right!

And that’s the key. Canadians don’t want less taxes, they just want to make sure that we’re getting the most value for our buck. We don’t want duplication of effort, multiple levels of bureaucracy eating up funds and delaying processes between federal and provincial governments. Nor do we want to throw money after proven ineffective business models.

We, as Canadians, are proud to have access to universal health care and are willing to pay a premium through taxations to do so. We, as Canadians, in large part value our social programs and see the benefit in providing support for various segments of our society that may need it. We see the value of education, we see the value of environmentalism, and we see the need for a social conscience.

But what we also see is the fact that a significant number of those tax dollars are being misspent. We see hospital emergency rooms closing as school classes bulge due to lack of funding, yet more and more money is being siphoned from our wallets.

So, as Flaherty prepares to wow us with a budget that promises a reduction in our taxes, do we have any faith that the government is suddenly going to become astute money managers and be able to do more with less? No.

Canadians may be one of the most taxed nations in the world, but we’re fine with that as long as we get what we pay for. The question shouldn’t be one of whether we’d like to pay less taxes, but rather one of would we rather our government does a better job with the taxes it gets now?

And that’s an answer I’m sure we’re all in agreement on.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved