On a day when many were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Stephen Harper's government announced legislation that will drastically reduce the number of regulatory agencies that exist to protect the environment in which individual Canadians enjoy their rights and freedoms.
Debts and deficits, the reasoning goes, are more important than combating unemployment or poverty. It is an either/or choice. It's not. The imperative is both a moral one -- to help the poor, help youth facing an uncertain job market, and help the unemployed -- and an economic one as helping these groups ultimately foster economic growth.
Of all the transgressions and failures the CBC has been accused of -- with renewed vigour since the Conservative government brought down its budget -- there is one indictment the Mother Corp. doesn't deserve: Don't blame it for failing to produce entertaining English-language TV.
Taking such a drastic step -- killing the CBC's once-revered flagship program -- will signal to the world, the country and CBC employees in all departments that there's a new day, a new public broadcaster in Canada. This would be better than cutting innovate shows like Connect with Mark Kelley and Dispatches.
Why has the federal government targeted the CBC, Telefilm and the National Film Board? The only logical answer is that these cuts are purely political and ideological. Ottawa's politicians must stop using the arts as a political football and realize that culture is a profitable industry comparable to any other.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has told Canadians: "Free your pennies from their prisons at home and donate them to charity." However, he does not want you to liberate American pennies from the prisons in your home by donating them to charity.
In this budget, we're seeing steep cuts to precisely those areas where the greatest opportunities for growth and evolution reside -- regional services, engaging documentary production, in-depth reporting, and comprehensive news gathering. At Reimagine CBC, we're using this moment as an opportunity for creative intervention.
Whether it's marginalizing low-income seniors by increasing the qualifying age for OAS, or cutting funds to regional development programs that create jobs, or not announcing any new funding for affordable housing -- when the existing program funds are set to expire soon -- this budget is simply wrongheaded, misguided, prejudicial, and disconnected from the needs of Canadians.
David Frum recently published his analysis of the federal budget, and asked whether or not it definitively proves that Canada is the "best-governed country in the advanced democratic world." On a purely economic basis this budget is prudent in many ways. But as a policy document, it is a dismal failure that continues this government's disregard for the health of our democracy.
Just as the Federal Budget spends $8 million to increase the burdens on charities to prove they are staying away from political activities, the oil industry is trying to get Environmental Defence's charitable registration revoked. If the CBC is muzzled by budget cuts, and charities are muzzled or frightened into silence, who will speak up for the environment?
Cutting programs that help the poor may be politically expedient, but it is not morally right, and fiscally can have disastrous consequences. The commitment of poverty reduction is not seen from the current Alward government.
The most serious threat to our future is the climate crisis. A responsible government would be working to reduce fossil fuel dependence and maximize jobs in energy efficiency retrofits, conservation, and investments in renewable energy. This budget does not even mention climate change.
The word "innovation" appears 122 times in the federal government's 2012-2013 budget. The government is clearly frustrated by the limited success of its programs to spur innovation in Canadian businesses. Is innovation is really an issue that large-scale government programs can solve?
I was thinking of my grandfather on March 29 when the Conservative government announced in the budget that it will raise the Old Age Security (OAS) benefits from age 65 to 67. We do have a looming pension crisis in Canada, not because people are retiring too early, but because their combined pension and investment income will still see them retiring into poverty.
It's done! The budget is a vigorous economic action plan for Canada. Most important, it is a long-term vision. Many measures have been adopted to ensure that government policies encourage the creation of wealth and private-sector jobs. What are the changes?
Everyone knows that there are always winners and losers come federal budget time. Thursday's budget, however,was built on the emerging dynamic in federal politics where Big Oil wins big time at the expense of all Canadians -- our health, our right to open and democratic debate, and our pocketbooks.