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What Would Jesus Cut from Canada's Budget?

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JIM FLAHERTY
AP

Reports are rife that the Harper government will initiate cuts in the coming years in a manner that will create winners and losers. The public service and other sectors are about to feel the pain.

All of this leaves Conservatives members in an awkward place. A large cohort of the governing party lays claim to being Christian, devoutly so. Many of them have told me that faith now finally has a place back in government. They hold to their religious tenets sincerely and can frequently be seen around the Hill feting various religious personalities. But with the failure to deal seriously with poverty, those of Christian persuasion in the Harper government are in a bind between honouring their faith and enjoying the perks of power.

Presumably those of the Christian faith would seek to undertake the upcoming cuts in the spirit of their Founder. And so, with a play on the famous religious phrase, "What Would Jesus Do?" let's ask ourselves "What Would Jesus Cut?"

It seems apparent that deficit reduction will hardly come from the wealthiest people in the land. And the reality that the $6 billion in corporate tax cuts will only profit the top 10 per cent of firms seems to constitute a kind of ethical slap in the face to Christ's own mandate that the poor and dispossessed should be the most direct beneficiaries of our spiritual and moral compassion.

In fact, in Canada, the poorer you are the more vulnerable you are becoming.

A new Statistics Canada report has just highlighted the growing challenge of poverty in Canada.

In looking over the religious and political establishments of his time, Jesus put forward a challenge for the ages, just as Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and Mandela championed in their own time: the clear test of any good society is how it treats it most defenceless of citizens.

The issue for the Conservatives isn't so much where they will cut, but who they will support in tough times. There really is no large amount of room to debate this, in Christian terms at least, for the Bible affirms repeatedly that Christ placed the preference in sincere faith towards those who are struggling in poverty.

I wonder if my Conservative friends of the Christian persuasion would even have the courage to approach the prime minister and state: "The best way to help the poor is to keep helping the rich." I doubt it, and yet such an outlook is at the epicentre of their party's economic policy. Jesus didn't just feed the poor, he advocated repeatedly for them in a system that continued to move money upward.

But the present government has been busy severing its relationship with those NGOs and civil society groups that maintain the ethical rights of the poor, women, victims of war, and the human rights of all. It's a troubling portend for a party filled with people of faith.

Obviously a blog post like this isn't for everyone; people are free to follow their own internal compasses. Some will claim that faith has no part in politics. Trouble is, it does form a key part of character and is therefore unavoidable. But for those of the Christian order there is an ethic that is meant to be compelling and followed. It is time for the faithful in every political party to bring their faith in line with their desire for power and influence. That especially holds true for government members who actually possess that privilege.

The House and the Senate have spoken in two recent reports, chronicling the great collective sin of a nation refusing to deal with the growing poverty of its people, especially in the Aboriginal world. The government maintains it is doing enough, leaving its own members of faith hoisted on their own petard. The season of restraint is upon us. What would Jesus cut? If government members wish to be true to their faith, the time to speak up is now.

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