'Economic inaction plan': Opposition, civil society groups hit out at Budget 2013

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The 2013 Federal Budget was tabled in Parliament today by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The Harper government likes to call it an "Economic Action Plan," but many groups across Canada today are hitting out, saying this is another federal budget that does little or nothing to lessen the economic impact of austerity.  

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), which earlier this month released an Alternative Federal Budget (AFB), has criticized the government for prioritizing deficit reduction ahead of getting create good jobs. In a recent commentary, the CCPA's Marc Lee wrote, "The top priority of the federal government should be getting Canadians back to work now, not what year the budget will be balanced or what the debt-to-GDP ratio will be in 2022."

Budget actually reduces infrastructure spending 

The government is touting billions in spending on infrastructure for municipalities in today's budget, but, the CCPA notes, "today's federal budget actually reduces infrastructure spending." 

The Building Canada Fund has been reduced to $210 million in 2014-15 from its previous level of $1.25 billion a year and is back-end loaded, with 75 per cent of expenditures to be spent in or after 2020. All other funding for infrastructure in the federal budget is merely a re-announcement of pre-existing programs. 

"The cut in infrastructure spending in today’s federal budget goes against prevailing economic wisdom and will only further slow Canada's struggling economy," says David Macdonald, Senior Economist with the CCPA. "This is a major cut for the municipalities that rely on this funding.” 

"Budget 2013 has just repackaged existing funds and hoped we didn't notice, and have cut overall infrastructure spending for municipalities under the Building Canada Fund," said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

'Smoke and mirrors' 

Opposition politicians and labour spokespeople, among others, shared their disapproval of the budget over social media. Opposition finance critic Peggy Nash tweeted, "We need a real plan, not more smoke and mirrors." 

Dave Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP), wrote, "This is not national jobs strategy... shame." The CEP added: Budget 2013 "misses mark and takes no real action to address unemployment, jobs and energy security."

"This budget fails Canadians," said Brent Patterson, political director for the Council of Canadians. "It continues a privatization agenda for water, a trade agenda that doesn't equate to job growth, a health care agenda that will cut billions of needed dollars, and a resource extraction agenda that ignores the environment."

'Not an economic action plan for students'

Student organizations were also critical of Thursday's budget. The Canadian Federation of Students said the budget did nothing to address the crisis of student debt. 

"Continuing to download the cost of post-secondary education onto students is a short-sighted policy that will harm Canada's economic recovery," said Adam Awad, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "The 2013 budget is not an economic action plan for students and recent graduates."

The budget includes $70 million to fund 5,000 paid internships for post-secondary graduates, but students' advocacy groups noted this does not help make education more accessible.

"Unfortunately, it does little to support those individuals who struggle to access post-secondary, which would help more people get a foot in the door of the labour market," said Zachary Dayler, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). "Increasing the pool of highly educated, highly trained graduates will improve the adaptability of the labour force and that will improve flexibility within the labour market ... It is clear that these measures do more to help employers than youth." 

"This budget should be renamed the Economic 'Inaction' Plan for all the good it will do Canadians," said Liberal leader Bob Rae.


Stay tuned for more reaction and coverage of the 2013 Federal Budget. Common Causes, an assembly of social movements in Canada, is collecting reaction on Storify here

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