By PAT WATSON
Who’s for more job opportunities by way of federal government initiatives? How about increased funding to broaden medical care and to fold in dental care? How about federal spending to hasten the solutions to Toronto’s transportation shortcomings? Well, this is not Christmas and a harsh winter will not be followed by spring bouquets from the federal government.
Nevertheless, we are about to get small signs of what to expect when the federal budget is read on April 21. The federal government, centered as it is in Ottawa, seems so far away from so many of us that the only time people pay fixed attention to any of what is going on there is when they hear about tax cuts or other cuts that would directly affect their way of life.
Moreover, given the current obsession with paying less and less in taxes, we can no doubt expect that will be in federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s presentation.
The Conservative Party of Canada, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, who has a master’s degree in economics, has been holding to a narrative of sound fiscal management as the reason Canadians should continue to entrust it with governance. This message matters especially in an election year, which this happens to be.
Except, when the party took over government 10 years ago, the Liberals had left them a $7-billion surplus. There is no surplus now, but they will want to put stars in our eyes by talking up a balanced budget.
Except, anyone who has seen his or her real earnings dwindle relative to the cost of living over the past decade understands the disparity between that narrative and how their dollars really do not get them where they need to be day-to-day.
While the economy is in reality faltering, we have been distracted by the prime minister with nonsense about taking a woman to court to fight against her legal right to swear her citizenship oath while wearing what she chooses as religious dress. We have been overwhelmed by Harper telling us scary tales of our being in the crosshairs of Islamist terrorists. And, for those who love a juicy scandal-type drama, expect further distraction with revelations that might emerge as the trial of disgraced senator Mike Duffy is now underway.
Duffy, a former journalist and Conservative tout was, by the way, a Harper senate appointee along with two other disgraced Conservative senate appointees, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. Talk about lack of judgment.
Bear in mind none of this has anything to do with what is really happening to everyday people as they struggle to keep their heads above water.
How many people deeply care, for instance, whether Stephen Harper will extend the Canadian military mission in Iraq? How many really care that the anti-terror bill, C-51, could impact their personal privacy? How many care about the government giving an extra tax break to already wealthy families?
The question has to be asked again and again, what is this government doing for the vast sector of people who are falling further and further behind?
It seems that this elected group does not wake up every day with the understanding that they are public servants of all the people. What we have is a group in charge that strategizes to stay in power by playing to niche voters. Enough to get the minimum number of votes to put them back in the driver’s seat.
A share of the blame has to go those who sat on their hands and did not cast a vote the last time there was a federal election. This country has, since the last election, been run by a group elected by less than 40 per cent of the 61.1 per cent of voters who went to the polls. With this budget, you can be sure the Conservatives will play to those specific voters again. It worked the last time, didn’t it?
A note on insanity in the name of religion…
Somalia-based Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility after 150 Christian students were methodically killed on the Garissa University College campus in Kenya. This is madness. And then, Kenya retaliates with attacks in Somalia.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.