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Conservatives lay the left to rest with new budget

Submitted by on April 11, 2012 – 8:03 pmNo Comment

Perhaps the roar of fabled fighter jets overhead in Ottawa has deafened the capital city’s press corps, but its puzzling me why this ridiculous “F-35 debacle” has overshadowed perhaps the most important budget in the country’s history.

The Conservative government’s Economic Action Plan is morally flawed from its introduction, and designed to see Canada is set to become a country where capitalism trumps culture.

By no means I am an economist, but I read this near 500-page beast and it seems, for a cabinet of economists, the Conservatives’ 2012 budget numbers don’t add up to a sum anyone schooled outside of the UOC could, or should, understand.

If, as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty boasts in the opening pages, “$500 billion [is] invested in over 500 major economic projects across Canada over the next 10 years,” and the government is projected to save a mere $5.2 billion by 2015 thanks to the “deficit-cutting budget,” why are social programs being axed faster than trees along the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline?

Where’s all the money going? Is it back into the pockets of multinationals and nihilists at the head of big oil companies? Perhaps a better question is why the diamonds and oil and gold and uranium and nickel are leaving our country at the same rate as our cultural cornerstones like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are being closed down?

Funding for the CBC, which this year celebrated 75 years as the country’s public broadcaster, was cut by 10 per cent. Following the release of the budget, the CBC announced it expects to eliminate 650 jobs – a move that will significantly hurt programming.

Michael Donovan, producer of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, spoke out against the corporation’s move to close the production studio where the show is recorded as a result of the cuts. Donovan said he couldn’t understand why 22 Minutes is suffering when ratings for the past season were the highest ever in the show’s 19-year history.

“The appetite in Canada for satire and for Canadian content, satire in this conservative world we’re in — maybe that’s part of why the reason ratings are up,” Donovan said in an interview with the CBC from Cannes, France. “We’re doing, it seems, unusually well lately.”

Doing significantly less well is anyone associated with a number of this country’s most respected institutions, organizations and charities, or at the bottom of the barrel in the public sector.

In addition to the 19,200 federal public jobs to be cut over three years, the government has also decided to eliminate Rights & Democracy, which has helped carry, as reported in the Toronto Star last week, “a torch for Canadian values on a modest budget of $11 million a year.”

Katimavik, a registered charity created in 1977 under Pierre Trudeau that educated and empowered Canadian youth by providing volunteer services in vulnerable communities across the country, was also a victim of Flaherty’s budget.

Funding for public Internet through community access programs at libraries and community centres across the country has been axed. Why would the opiate addict in Sudbury, or the homeless native in Winnipeg, or the pregnant junkie on skid row in Van City, need the Internet? They don’t pay taxes.

Another new “First Nations education act,” and 275 million to build schools on reserves will do little to lighten the stranglehold of poverty, addiction and suicide in the drug ravished and impoverished communities dotting the rural north.

But it isn’t so much the loss of Katimavik, Rights & Democracy and net access for the poor, the shoddy treatment of native communities or even cuts to the CBC that make this document particularly disgusting.

The fact economics trumps the environment at every turn may very well be the most telling sign that Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are attempting to eviscerate the Canadian left as we know, or perhaps knew it.

The government will now only require one review, capped at 24 months, for major resource development projects. The idea, writes Flaherty, is to “structure and improve regulatory processes” so that big oil projects (read Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline) can pass inspection with less “complex regulatory requirements and red tape” (read environmental groups and First Nations opponents in communities along the1,177-kilometer trail that will stretch from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, BC).

While the government’s Economic Action Plan claims it “focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation – innovation, investment, education, skills and communities,” it lacks especially in the area of community by cutting funding for arts, charitable organizations and globally respected think tanks. With this budget, the proof is on the paper.

Column by Remi L. Roy; photo by Tee Onek

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