Monday, April 30, 2012

Parliament in Review - March 30, 2012

Friday, March 30 was the first day of Peter Julian's budget filibuster. But while it accomplished its goal of avoiding several hours worth of Con talking points, was there much to take from Julian's own comments?

The Big Issue

Well, let's highlight a few of his more noteworthy observations. First, on the Cons' own plan to increase unemployment in Canada:

In this extensive budget of 500 pages, there is a very key page that actually points to the government's admission that as a result of this budget, unemployment is actually going to go up. It is quite astounding that the government would put jobs on the front page of a budget that it knows is actually going to promote unemployment. The unemployment rate from 2011 will go up in 2012.

We know about the 19,000 jobs that it is cutting. I mentioned earlier one of the Canadian citizens who wrote to us expressing her concern about how seriously these public services are going to deteriorate. Also, for each job that we lose in the public service we lose another one in the private sector as well. Therefore, we are actually talking about nearly 40,000 jobs that would be lost in a very short time frame over the next little while.

How a government that is actively pushing a higher unemployment rate and actively throwing thousands and thousands of public sector and private sector workers out of work could possibly pretend that this is somehow a jobs budget is beyond me.
Second, on the Cons' broken promises which kept them in power with the promise of stability that's been replaced by gratuitous cuts to Canada's social programs:
The reality is this, and I want to make this clear. If the government had campaigned on what it really intended to do, it would have said that it would be cutting health care transfers; that it was going to force people to work two more years, regardless of people's ability to do that at that late age; that it was going to cut services, food and transportation safety and environmental assessments; that it was going to cut Canadian institutions like the CBC; and that it was going to cut the Auditor General so that the auditor could not check up on the government to see if it were using its money effectively, because it does not like the Auditor General because he or she questions its questionable purchases like the F-35s that go from $9 billion to $40 billion. If the government had actually said all of those things, members are as aware as I am that since Canadian families deserve much better, it would be the NDP on that side of the House.
Third, on the continued deterioration of Canadian wages under the Cons and its effect on workers:
Wages are not keeping pace with inflation. Part-time workers saw their wages grow 1.4% over the past year. Full-time workers saw their wages grow almost at the rate of inflation. In both cases neither part-time nor full-time wages are keeping pace with the rate of inflation, but for part-time workers it is much lower. It is much worse and a much greater problem.

This is a fundamental issue which, as Canadians, we certainly have to wrestle with. When we see only 200,000 net new jobs since May 2008, when we see that the vast majority of those jobs are part-time, and when we see the wages for those part-time jobs are falling further and further behind at $16 an hour on average and far below the rate of inflation, we are setting up a permanent situation of insecurity for Canadian workers.
Fourth, on the respective fiscal records of the NDP and the Cons:
Members should know that the annual fiscal period returns published by the Ministry of Finance show which parties are best at balancing budgets. It is important to note that every year now for 20 years, as the fiscal period returns are presented, one party outshines the rest. Now, of course, the NDP governments that are part of those fiscal period returns are provincial governments. We have not yet governed at the federal level. We are fighting very hard to be governing as of October 20, 2015.

However, NDP provincial governments, compared with Conservative and Liberal provincial and federal governments, have had the best record at balancing budgets and paying down debt for every single one of those 20 years.

So, to the individual who asked who am I to question to the Conservatives and who is the NDP to question the Conservatives, it comes from having strong fiscal management experience on a personal level, always managing money and paying down debt without cutting services, because that is how Canadian families do it.
And finally, a summary of the effect of the Cons' economic policies on mere working Canadians:
(W)ith the policies it has put in place, with the cuts to services and benefits, such the OAS and health care support, as well as producing lower paying jobs and part-time jobs and getting rid of the value added full-time family sustaining jobs of before, which is the only way to put it because the government seems to be deliberately putting policies in place to cripple our manufacturing sector, that is what has led to crippling levels of debt in this country under the watch of the government.
What we are seeing increasingly is a country where a small number of Canadians are benefiting from the government's policies while the vast majority of middle class and poor families are struggling under record debt loads, trying to cobble together two or three part-time jobs just to keep a roof over their head and struggling to keep their head above water.
Meanwhile, Scott Simms spent some of Julian's time guessing optimistically as to how Canada's economy has performed recently under the Cons. And John Baird was more interested in counting Lib MPs than any mere talk of the budget, the economy or jobs.

In Brief

Julian also opened question period with a series of budget-related questions, noting that "jobs" appears only in the title of the Cons' omnibus bill and inequality is nowhere to be found, while Robert Chisholm challenged Stephen Harper on some of the immediate negative reaction to the budget and Dan Harris pointed out that just two months earlier Harper had promised not to cut programs for seniors. John McCallum mused about the lack of cuts to the PMO, ministers' office and government advertising budgets while actual programs are being slashed in the name of austerity. And Jean Rousseau slammed the Cons' choice to cut food safety funding, while Sana Hassainia lamented that cuts to foreign aid will punish the poorest people in the world for the Cons' bad choices.

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