Canada: Celebrating our social progress

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Yesterday Canada became the third country in the world, after Holland and Belgium, to recognize same sex marriage. Passage of legislation makes official a major advance in equality rights for homosexuals. Canadians can be proud of this achievement, even if we were not first.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) wants Canada to be first. In a press release and statement this week, they point out that Canada is a great economic success thanks to the policies proposed by the CCCE in the past. But, they argue, with a minority parliament, politically, Canada is “adrift.” We need to recommit ourselves to new goals if we want Canada to be “first among nations.”

In time for the next election the CCCE plans to issue a detailed plan of how to make Canada first.

What bothers the Chief Executives is: “runaway growth in public spending, a tax structure that is biased against investment, a fragmented, costly and overly complex regulatory structure, lagging productivity, a poor record of attracting foreign investment, and declining levels of public trust in both government and business.”

In other words, the Chief Executives do not like the Liberals adopting NDP spending plans, want to keep more profits for themselves and pay less attention to laws adopted by democratic bodies, make Canadians work more for less, while ensuring foreign companies get more of our wealth — and have us believe that all of this is in our interest.

The CCCE has an excellent record in having its ideas adopted by government. Free trade, the GST, cutbacks to public spending and services, government by the Bank of Canada and the bond market, tax breaks for millionaires — these are just some of the successes they take credit for. It is no surprise they want to keep on calling the shots.

What is astonishing is not how they can recycle the same stuff, but how it can be taken up again and again by the ruling party.

The CCCE identifies six areas where Canada has to be first: governance, public infrastructure, taxes, productivity, expertise and immigration.

  • Governance means the CCCE wants a new financial deal to be struck between levels of government. Since the 1995 Liberal budget destroyed federal-provincial cost sharing, following the deficit hysteria created by the CCCE, it's true, we do need to find a way to share public resources. What the Executives have in mind is different. They do not want resources shared, they want taxes cut, so they oppose federal-provincial spending agreements in areas such as health care.
  • Public infrastructure means the CCCE wants public-private partnerships, where the private sector owns the infrastructure, and the public sector guarantees the profits.
  • Taxes means lower corporate taxes, and higher taxes on consumption so the poorer you are the more income you pay in taxes, and the richer you are the less you pay.
  • Productivity does not mean how we share the annual two per cent or so increase in output per worker, it means how we increase output per hour worked, and how business gets to keep more.
  • Expertise means how does business get society to pay for training its employees, while ensuring the work employees do belongs to them.
  • Immigration does not mean welcoming refugees or American war resisters.

There are serious issues at stake here. Canada does need a national strategy for the future but what the CCCE suggests would be laughable, if it were not for the likelihood that it will be taken up soon by Liberals and Conservatives alike.

In the meantime, we can celebrate Canada Day noting that social progress has been possible for at least one minority group in a Canada that is not so much adrift as the CCCE would have us believe, as steered by a minority parliament. Long live gay and lesbian rights.

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