Reality Check: Budget 2013

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By Bob Rae* 

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have recklessly chosen to put all our national challenges aside in the new budget in order to contrive the semblance of a surplus before the next election. So much for all their claims about Canada's economic success. By putting politics before real, pressing needs, they are failing our families, failing our youth and failing our economy.

Nearly 225,000 more people are out work than in 2006, yet there is nothing significant in the Conservative plan to create jobs. There is not even a cent to reduce the double-digit youth unemployment that is scarring the careers of the next generation.

Not only are there too many workers without jobs, but there are also too many jobs without workers: employers are scrambling to find skilled workers to fill vacant positions. Yet the budget freezes funding for training at pre-recession levels and merely shuffles around existing money. Its signature training scheme will not be in place for another 5 years.

In Budget 2013, infrastructure investment falls like a stone, dropping annual funding of the Building Canada Fund from $1.7 billion a year to a mere $210 million a year for the next two years. Our cities are aging and need new roads, transit and sewers, yet municipalities planning to build them will be forced to wait years for substantial new federal funding.

After promising to improve Canada’s relationship with First Nations, Mr. Harper has failed to close the gap between federal funding for First Nations K-12 education and provincial schools. Young Aboriginals endure the worst education outcomes in the country and the continuing failure to address this federal responsibility deprives another generation—and our economy—of a prosperous future.

Since Budget 2007, our manufacturing sector has lost 340,000 jobs. Yet this new plan does nothing of significance beyond extending measures introduced in that budget five years ago.

On top of it all, these supposedly free-market Conservatives intervened in the mortgage sector to push rates up, potentially costing the average homebuyer thousands of dollars.

Canada’s finances are strong enough to allow some flexibility. We need real action to support growth today and return the budget to balance in the medium term—not Conservative economic ‘inaction.’ Peoples' lives should come before political timelines.

* Bob Rae is Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time of writing this on March 22.

Here is the reality of the Conservatives’ record of inaction on the skilled worker file:

Fact: On July 1, 2012, Jason Kenney froze the Federal Skilled Worker Program and Budget 2013 provides no concrete date for when that program will recommence.

Fact : On March 30, 2012, Jason Kenney hit the delete button on 280,000 skilled workers and their families who submitted immigration applications prior to February 27, 2008. These applicants had been waiting for years to come to Canada and could be filling current skilled worker shortages.

Fact: On July 1, 2011, Jason Kenney froze the entrepreneur immigration stream and Budget 2013 states the replacement Start-Up Visa will begin in April. Yet Conservative delays and inaction for nearly two years have cost Canada countless jobs and economic growth.

Fact: On July 1, 2012, Jason Kenney froze the Immigrant Investor Program that attracts experienced business people to contribute to Canada’s long-term prosperity. Budget 2013 states that they have not even created the new pilot program that will replace this program.

Fact: Jason Kenney and the Conservative government have focused on temporary foreign workers to fill the skills gap instead of recruiting, integrating and retaining permanent skilled workers. According to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's website, the number of temporary foreign workers in 2012 ballooned to 338,189. In that same time, only 257,515 new permanent residents were welcomed to Canada. Budget 2013 directs money to the Temporary Resident Program as opposed to a permanent highly skilled workforce so that Canada can compete in the knowledge-based 21st Century economy.

Jason Kenney has frozen and dismantled Canada’s immigration system and failed to rapidly reform skilled worker immigration. The Minister must stop his photo-ops, junkets and self-congratulatory press releases and actually get to work fixing our country’s skilled worker shortage.


Vol. 12 - No. 3


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