Swiss cheese budget
Paul Martin has presented his 1999 budget and it’s full of holes. Nothing for the unemployed, nothing for the homeless, nothing for students, nothing for our water systems and nothing for child care.
Billed as the ‘health care budget’, the federal Liberals have restored only a small portion of the funding they’ve cut from health care over the past five years. And they’ve done nothing about home care, pharmacare or elder care.
Given the government has a surplus this year and expects one next, the finance minister had choices. He could have taken action on the urgent issues that affect Canadians but instead he chose to turn his back.
$1 has been restored for every $10 cut
Martin’s budget falls far short of what’s required to restore the health of Canada’s Medicare system.
“It looks like a big drop until you see the size of the bucket,” said National President Judy Darcy. The $11.5 billion in funding for health care promised over the next five years won’t begin to repair the damage that’s been done by much deeper cuts to the health care system since 1995. Even after five years of increases, federal spending on health will amount to barely more than 10 per cent of total health spending, well below the 25 per cent that is needed to protect public health care.
“Canadians are getting older but Paul Martin isn’t getting any wiser,” said Darcy. “Within five years, funding levels will return to the point they were five years ago. But where’s the increase for inflation, for population growth and to cope with the fact that Canadians are aging?”
Despite the fact patients are being discharged from hospital quicker and sicker, home care has been ignored. “Without a proper system of public home care and long term care, the whole system backs up into the emergency room,” said Darcy.
Nothing on unemployment or the unemployed
Martin contends that the economy is strong but the jobs that have been created are mostly part-time and casual jobs, not paying enough to raise a family. And the budget offers no promise of improvement.
Meanwhile the theft of the UI funds continues. No action has been taken to improve coverage or benefits, which means that only a third of the unemployed will be able to collect UI.
While the finance minister says the days of deficit financing are behind him, for post-secondary students they’re here to stay. The budget provides no funding for students and does nothing to tackle the problem of student debt. As a result, the barriers to post-secondary education are higher than ever.
While there will be some increase in research funding, it’s not clear that corporations won’t scoop up these funds to increase their own profits.
Commitment to child care ends at birth
While the federal government has provided new funds to improve prenatal health, they continue to ignore their promise to introduce a national child care system.
As well, the finance minister has turned his back on federal promises to reduce poverty. No action has been taken to provide homes to families living on the streets. In most provinces (not New Brunswick or Newfoundland), mothers on welfare will continue to have their child tax credit confiscated by provincial welfare authorities.
Not a penny for infrastructure
While Canadian municipalities are in desperate need of increased federal support to upgrade and expand water and wastewater treatment, roads and transit systems, the federal government has abandoned them. The Canadian Infrastructure Program runs out this winter and the federal government has made no commitment to renew funding to this essential program.
Phantom tax cuts
For most Canadians, the tax breaks that Martin promised will be gobbled up by increased spending on health and education as medical services are delisted, user fees rise and tuition climbs.
A millionaire will see his tax bill cut by more than $8,000. But a middle income family will save less money than Statistics Canada estimates they are now spending in additional out-of-pocket expenses for health and education.
Meanwhile, the reality is that an increasing number of Canadians don’t make enough money to save any money from the promised tax cuts.