The following is a summary of the submission that CUPE will be making to the Federal Finance Minister in preparation for the 2006 federal budget. A longer version of this submission will be posted shortly.
We encourage members and others to also directly make their own submissions on-line to the Finance Minister so that your voice is heard. Submissions should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and more information is available. Submissions will be accepted only until April 19th, 2006. While the following are responses to the questions posed by the federal Finance Minister, submissions do not need to be restricted to these questions.
1. What would you like to see in Budget 2006 and future budgets?
CUPE and its over 550,000 members want this federal budget and future budgets to demonstrate a strong recognition of the essential role that public services play in improving the standard of living and quality of life of all Canadians.
Most Canadians benefit from a generally high quality of life, relatively clean environment, safe communities and good health and education systems. But severe cutbacks to public services by the previous federal Liberal government, and by many provincial governments, as well as slow wage growth over the past decade has caused our quality of life to slip. Federal program spending is still much lower than it was under the last federal Conservative government, both as a ratio of our GDP and in terms of real spending per person.
Worse, many have not been able to share in our overall high quality of life, with increasing inequality and continued marginalization of the poor, especially Aboriginal Canadians and many immigrants groups. Inadequate investments in public services will only lead to further inequality and an even lower standard of living for all as an increasing number of Canadians will be prevented from fully contributing to society.
Our priorities for this and future budgets are:
- Child care: Adequately fund a pan-Canadian child care and early learning program. This investment will pay off many times over through early learning opportunities for children, better opportunities for parents to work and study, and improved quality of life for children, their parents and their communities.
- Health care: Build and protect our public health system. Enforce the Canada Health Act and stop the growth of health care privatization, which only leads to higher costs, unequal access to quality care and longer public system wait times. Encourage public solutions to wait time problems, not use them as an excuse to increase privatization.
- Pharmacare: Control the increasing cost of prescription drugs and ensure that all Canadians have access to essential medicine through a national public pharmacare plan. Skyrocketing drug costs are the biggest threat to the sustainability of medicare. An effective national pharmacare plan would control these costs while ensuring equal access.
- Aboriginal Canadians: Fully fund the commitments outlined in the Kelowna Accord. Substantial investments – not more talk – are needed to improve the housing, water, education, health and economic development conditions in these communities. The conditions for many Aboriginal communities shame our nation.
- Municipalities: Increase the transfer of funds for community and municipal infrastructure to the full five cents per litre immediately. Make that transfer permanent, and direct it to public-sector infrastructure and transit initiatives.
- Education: Increase transfers to provinces for post-secondary education and maintain the commitments to increase funds for skills training.
- Poverty and productivity: Increase the federal minimum wage to a “livable rate” of $10/hr and require federally funded programs to comply.
- Kyoto and climate change: Redirect the billions in federal tax and other subsidies for the oil and gas industry towards programs that will promote energy efficiency, sustainable communities and healthy living.
- Global justice: Reduce poverty around the world and meet our international obligations by increasing international development assistance to 0.7% of GNI by 2015. This could be done for a fraction of the proposed increases to military spending.
2. If you propose further tax cuts - or spending increases - where should the government spend less?
We are opposed to further costly tax cuts. We urge the federal government to reverse the inequitable and costly income trust and dividend tax credit tax cuts. Reversing these two measures would provide the federal government with at least $1 billion in additional revenues each year. And we certainly don’t need further cuts to the capital gains tax, which would create a massive tax loophole for the wealthiest. Canadian businesses and the affluent have never been this wealthy and have no shortage of capital.
Canada is still the cheapest place to do business in the G7 and Canadian companies are making record profits but not reinvesting these profits back into the economy. We need governments and businesses to improve our productivity and quality of life by making substantial real investments in the economy – not by squandering resources through unnecessary and ineffective tax cuts.
Tax cuts are not an efficient way of reaching public policy objectives. Working families would benefit much more from a real child care program and more accessible public services than from costly tax cuts and the proposed child allowance. Canadian families need real wage increases, not tax cuts that will provide most families with just a few hundred extra dollars a year.
3. How effectively can the government deliver programs more efficiently and effectively?
Public delivery provides the most cost-efficient, accountable and fair way of providing public services. Privatization, “public private partnerships” (P3s) and outsourcing all increase costs, increase risk, reduce accessibility and severely restrict accountability. The federal government needs to reject further privatization and keep the delivery and ownership of public services under public democratic control.
The Federal Accountability Act needs to include provisions to require full public disclosure and transparency for government contracts, P3s and other use of public funds through privatization. This would promote efficiency, increased accountability for public funds and eliminate the opportunity for the types of abuses and kickbacks we saw through the sponsorship and other contracting scandals.