Doesn't make cents
// Samantha Thompson

These are dark times. We are finding ourselves citizens of a nation that doesn’t value social services, and would rather see a thriving economy than a successful population. Largely, this is because we live in a country ruled by a man who is the best kind of politician: he knows how to get what he wants, and he knows how to make Canadians think that they want it too. If he can’t convince them that they want it, he has a back-up – he’ll provide a distraction while he goes off and does whatever he wants.

Enter the penny.

Last week’s budget announcement created a lot of discussion, but not for the reasons you would think. The Conservatives are getting rid of the penny. “Our government will do what everyone agrees should have been done long ago. We will eliminate the penny. Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home. They take up far too much time for small businesses trying to grow and create jobs,” said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, in his budget speech. Everyone has been talking about it, making it the perfect distraction as Harper unveiled a host of other, more serious decisions in this year’s budget.

What we haven’t been talking about is the rest of the budget: getting rid of Katimavik, cutting funding for international development, social services, the CBC and Elections Canada, and taking Canada off the international stage. It is important that Canadians stop being distracted by the penny (because really, who cares?) and instead focus on the unacceptable budget cuts.

One of things being undervalued in this year’s budget is international development and the environment. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will see $170 million cut from their $2.5 billion budget. The government has said that they will re-examine Canada’s membership in some international organizations, however which organizations specifically has not yet been announced. They also plan on selling some ambassadors’ residences and buying cheaper ones, and reducing the compensation given to ambassadors serving outside of Ottawa.

In addition, the budget has been heavily criticized by activist groups because it largely ignores the importance of the environment and aboriginal rights. Even though the budget allocates some funding to aboriginal education, it also emphasizes that extractive, resource-based projects are important for the economy and the well-being of aboriginal communities. What that really means, however, is that offshore drilling is a good thing, and that it will remove any red tape in the way of economic prosperity. “Red tape,” the budget reads, “hampers economic growth and erodes trust between government and citizens.”

As well, the CBC saw their budget drastically cut, and as a result will have to start seriously re-evaluating the services they provide to Canadians. Liberal heritage critic Scott Simms has said that the “wolves are at the door and circling when it comes to the CBC.” He pointed out the importance of the CBC, particularly in rural areas where other newscasters aren’t as heavily reporting on local issues. On top of this, having a national broadcaster unreliant on ads for revenue is important because it ensures that we will have an unbiased body holding the government and other aspects of Canadian society accountable.

Other changes in the budget include the age of retirement being gradually increased, between 2023 and 2029, from 65 to 67. The government argues that because people are living longer, and the birth rate has declined, people are retiring earlier before they die and there are fewer workers coming into the workforce to replace them. Reservists will be given more opportunities to be hired, because the government believes that “these brave Canadians should not be disadvantaged.” The government is also going to reform the immigration system, to “ensure it is designed above all to strengthen Canada’s economy.”

The problem with all of these cuts is that they pinpoint the economy as the most important aspect of the country. Although the economy plays a significant role, it is by no means the single most important part of Canada. Focusing only on the economy means that policies will not reflect the ideals that are present in a healthy society. This kind of budget may get Canada out of a deficit, but a deficit isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it means the money is being spent on the health and wellbeing of Canadian citizens, as well as the actual land we live on.

This budget is typical of the current Conservative government. It shows a brash level of confidence that apparently comes with being a majority government. The most recent example of this occurred when Liberal MP Justin Trudeau asked a carefully-worded question (in both French and English) regarding the popular youth program Katimavik being cut completely, and Conservative MP James Moore responded only with a joke about Trudeau’s upcoming wrestling match for charity. The worst part was, Moore received a standing ovation for this appalling and embarrassing behaviour.

This is an indicator that Canada’s current government is anything but mature. Though the Conservatives claim to be the responsible party, their childish responses, paired with inexplicable budget cuts, clearly say otherwise. The Conservatives are getting arrogant and overconfident, and Canadians aren’t paying enough attention to keep them in check.

There are a number of things we need to do as a nation if we want to keep Canada a country we can be proud of. We must ensure that social programs and opportunities for Canadians of all ages are available and accessible, and there needs to be services that enable all members of our society to participate fully. Debates on legislation should be extensive, exploring every option, and legislation should never be rushed through without discussion simply because it is now possible to do so. Finally, Canada must ensure that MPs behave like mature adults at all times, taking their positions and this country seriously. Ultimately, we cannot be living under a government whose success is based simply on fear, ignorance, and the faith that the citizens will care more about the triviality of removing a coin from our currency than monumental cuts to important services.

//Samantha Thompson, editor-in-chief

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: