UFCW Canada National President says, “At a time when Canadians clearly don’t want an election, Harper is taking us there.”
Canada’s largest private sector union, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada), is gearing up its coast to coast membership for a spring election after the Harper government unveiled a budget that clearly fails working families.
“The budget brought down yesterday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty falls short for working families, while continuing the Harper government’s reckless practice of throwing tax breaks at corporations and banking executives,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “Instead of serving Canadians as an opportunity to restore a system of tax fairness, this budget is a cynical attempt by the Harper government to trigger a federal election without taking any responsibility for taking Canadians to the polls.”
While Harper and Flaherty have wrongly argued that their tax cuts ended the recession, many working families are still suffering the realities of the economic crisis while the richest 1% of Canadians enjoy their largest piece of the country’s total wealth since the 1920s. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the total public cost of the Harper government’s tax cuts from 2006 to 2013 - 2014 will be a staggering $220 billion. These are cuts made at the expense of working men and women.
What was needed in this budget was an Employment Insurance system that works for those who lose their jobs. In January, 2011, there were 1.4 million Canadians out of work – representing a 32% increase in unemployment since the recession began. A billion dollars in tax cuts will only create 3,300 jobs while a billion dollars invested in public infrastructure benefits would create almost 19,000 jobs.
The budget also fails to protect and improve public pensions. More than two third of Canadian workers have no workplace pension plan and only about a third of those eligible to contribute to an RRSP actually do. What is needed are improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the Old Age Security (OAS) and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), not the creation of a pooled retirement plan or the meager increase to the GIS as proposed in the budget.
“For many UFCW Canada members the ability to juggle work with family is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive,” says President Hanley. “This budget does nothing to support working families. What is needed is a universal publicly funded child care program that will provide affordable public child care and education. A child care system that will create jobs and help grow the economy.”
“Finally what was needed in this budget was greater emphasis on our aging infrastructure. We need improvement to our roads, sewers, water systems, bridges and buildings that were built by our parents and grandparents. Repairing and building our infrastructure system will help to protect and create jobs in the private and public sectors and will do more to reduce the deficit than corporate cuts will. Investing in public infrastructure makes good economic sense,” adds the leader of Canada’s largest private sector union. “For every billion dollars spent on infrastructure, 18,000 good paying jobs are created. Jobs and the workers who have those jobs pay taxes which go towards paying down the deficit rather than adding to it.”