- Charles Smith and Andrew Stevens examine how Brad Wall's slash-and-burn budget is intended to exploit a crisis for political ends - while also highlighting the type of response needed to reverse the damage:
In our view, Budget 2017 should be viewed in two ways. First, it is clearly a reactionary document drafted by an openly conservative government responding to the dramatic fall in natural resource prices that began in 2014. Second, and perhaps equally important, the budget is also a calculated political decision to exploit the fiscal crisis to further transform the provincial state to facilitate long-term private capital accumulation in the natural resource sector, keeping those sectors free from a burdensome tax regime or regulatory pressure. In other words, the government is using the fiscal crisis to push through the so-called “Saskatchewan Advantage,” which it defines as the province having “the lowest corporate tax rate and the lowest tax rate on manufacturing and processing in the country.”- Larry Elliott writes that the growth of toxic populism can be seen as a natural response to "unpopulist" policies which have further enriched the wealthy at the expense of the public. And on that front, Alex Cobham and Petr Jansky tally up (PDF) the hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate taxes lost each year to a combination of lowered corporate tax rates and offshore tax avoidance.
To date, opposition to the Saskatchewan Party has been largely waged by organized labour in response to wage reductions, job losses, and changes imposed upon the province's labour relations system. Notwithstanding a large labour organized demonstration outside the legislative assembly on 8 March, throughout the Saskatchewan Party's tenure, many of these struggles have been largely legal in nature and have not mustered serious community mobilization and rank-and-file activism. But now, with austerity and tax measures that will undoubtedly impact small towns and rural areas, the terrain of struggle might be shifting. With the amalgamation of health regions on the horizon, the winding down of the STC, cuts to education and libraries, and potential threats to municipal service levels, the space for broader opposition to austerity has widened.
Recent initiatives like SaskForward, which formed in 2017 as a means of constructing an alternative vision of “transformational change,” have brought together a coalition of civil society groups to work on charting a different political path for Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour has launched the Own It! campaign, designed to reach out across the labour movement to build a larger fight-back strategy and Unifor, CUPE, SEIU-West and SGEU have been vocal critics of the Saskatchewan Party's austerity agenda. Equally promising is that the Fight for $15 and Fairness movement that has been growing across North America has surfaced in the province. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) has remained virtually silent as their members face layoffs and significant funding cuts. Adding teachers to the chorus of anti-austerity efforts could create conditions for mass demonstrations against the government not unlike Ontario's Days of Action. If the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) were to add their significant influence to the struggle by joining forces with healthcare unions already engaged in the fight, we are convinced that the movement would be a formidable obstacle to the government's austerity agenda.
What is required now is the capacity to bridge public sector austerity and labour struggles with the conditions of employment and poverty facing low-wage workers and sectors in Saskatchewan. There is also a need for engagement with the growing number of refugees, migrant workers, and immigrants that call the province home. Anti-colonial, anti-racism, and feminist struggles combined with environmental justice also need to become a mainstay of community mobilization. This must be done with a focus on enacting change at the local and provincial levels of government. Most importantly, it's critical that this energy is channeled into community-based movements, and not partisan political action alone. Recognizing that the NDP's time in government during the 1990s and 2000s was defined by its own brand of austerity should not be forgotten. Now is the time to create a broader, inclusive, and democratic alternative to the austerity driven “Saskatchewan Advantage.”
- Sid Ryan argues that this year's federal budget represents the return of the traditional, cynical Liberal Party - though I'm not sure when they're supposed to have gone away.
- Greg Suttor points to Canada's history of social housing development as showing the importance of the federal initiative that's sorely lacking under Justin Trudeau. And Kent Driscoll reports on the dire state of housing in Nunavut due to a lack of public investment.
- Finally, Jon Stone points out a multipartisan UK report favouring the introduction of separate parental leave for each parent in a family.