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Renovate or innovate?

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The federal Finance Minister has hinted tax incentives encouraging Canadians to renovate their homes will be part of his creative solution to the economic downturn.

I can see the Home Depot TV ads now: Economy’s in trouble? You can renovate. We can help.

Aside from having been through the psychological wreckage of home renovations, I can’t help but think renovation is the wrong answer.

An economic crisis of proportions the world hasn’t seen since the Great Depression is quite possibly upon us.

Tens of thousands of Canadians are joining the ranks of the unemployed and the worst is yet to come. Magna predicts an auto parts collapse. Manufacturing jobs are being replaced with offers to pour coffee at Tim Horton’s.

It’s disingenuous to pretend renovation incentives will solve the problem. Renovating is what Canadians have been doing, in droves, for the past decade – mostly due to households hopped up on swelling lines of credit that hang over our heads like thick storm clouds now that layoffs are part of the daily newsfeed.

Instead of asking Canadians to renovate, I say Canadians should be asking their government to innovate.

Why not follow Barack Obama’s lead and start a program to weatherize a million homes every year for the next 10 years? It saves energy, it helps households keep bills down, and it promotes a green economy.

Instead of selling its assets, our government could be buying up all those empty ground floor condos in major centres and converting them into affordable rental housing – taking advantage of the ‘crisopportunity’ of global recession to secure Canadians’ future.

Forward thinking, meaningful action, help for those who need it most.

Now is not the time for faux happy budget announcements that contain the nutritional value of a marshmallow. Now is the time to think big and to be thoughtful.

This may well be the most important budget Canadians ever have to consider.

To quote rapper Eminem:

You can do anything you set your mind to, man

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity

To seize everything you ever wanted – one moment

Would you capture it or just let it slip?

Part of a series on Canada’s changing economy.

Trish Hennessy is director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' Inequality Project www.growinggap.ca.  

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