Public Values

Budget a windfall for the wealthy

In 2009-10 there is twice as much spent on a tax break for home renovations as spent on those with low incomes.

David Macdonaldby David Macdonald

Its amazing how much a budget can contain while avoiding addressing the most critical questions of an economic crisis: How are we helping the most vulnerable, particularly those who have lost their jobs?

With over $2.6 billion in spending on additional EI and retraining programs in 2009, the government has managed to not allow one additional unemployed person to enter the program. If you're already in EI, there are significantly more dollars for retraining but when it comes to your basic benefits, you won't see an extra dime.

While those who recently lost their jobs get no support, broad base tax cuts are a windfall for the wealthy. The average Canadian household can expect to receive a little over $300 next year. However, Canadian's making over $150,000 will get a $900 cheque in the mail. The amount given away in tax cuts mostly benefiting the rich would more than double what is needed to reform EI and make it accessible many more unemployed Canadians.

Only five percent of this economic crisis budget is actually devoted to tax measures to help vulnerable low income Canadians. In 2009-10 there is twice as much spent on a tax break for home renovations than spent on those with low incomes. In the coming recession, the government will help you adjust the colour palette of your kitchen, but if you're poor you'll be on your own.

On the plus side, there are stimulus dollars for infrastructure. To spend these dollars, the feds could have used the pre-existing gas tax mechanism that already directs infrastructure funds to the cities. Instead, infrastructure funding is tied up with conditions and joint payments creating a new mechanism that promises to slow not expedite this critical component.

When it comes to building a deck on your cottage, the government is on your side. If you want public infrastructure dollars to create jobs, start filling out the forms.

While the Tories have improved their public relations since the November EFS, real support for the hardest hit Canadians simply goes too far for them. As such, the most vulnerable will see the least support and will suffer needlessly through the coming recession.

David Macdonald is with the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.

Links and sources
  www.policyalternatives.ca

Posted: January 28, 2009

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