The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) closed shop at the end of March.
This move, announced in the 2012 Budget, was not unexpected, but was unfortunate and unwarranted. Now more than ever we need to take a careful look at the linkages between our environment and our economy, and this was precisely the role and mandate of NRTEE which drew upon the best available professional expertise.
Canada’s Economic Action Plan is being widely advertised this National Hockey League playoff season, but it is hardly working as advertised. It needs to be rethought in light of new thinking about the costs of austerity.
While the feel-good ads would have us think that the famous “Plan” is generating growth and jobs, last week’s Labour Force Survey showed that we have lost almost 100,000 paid jobs in the private sector since December.
The decision to terminate CIDA as an independent agency of the federal government was not mentioned in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget speech on March 21. Furthermore, it is somewhat obscured in the text of the budget document, appearing, rather oddly, on page 241, in a chapter on “Supporting Families and Communities.”
Lost in all of the detail of Budget 2013 is the fact that it makes remarkably little difference to the trajectory Canada was on before the budget. Cuts to programs and services to close the small fiscal deficit remain the order of the day, while only lip service is given to the task of investing to create good jobs in a more productive, fair and sustainable economy.
Direct federal government program spending will fall by $4 billion in the coming fiscal year, the result of deep spending cuts already announced in the last budget combined with some tiny increases in the new budget.
If there is one priority for the budget, it should be to look beyond the immediate fiscal issues and set a clear direction to a new economy based upon high productivity and environmental sustainability.
The Harper government’s single-minded focus on unprocessed resource extraction for export as the key driver of growth is closely related to the loss of manufacturing jobs, our high trade deficit, continued very high unemployment, growing regional tensions, the continued marginalization of First Nations; and Canada’s failure to deal with the urgent challenge of global climate change.
In the lead-up to the 2013 budget it is worthwhile recalling the Conservatives’ economic record thus far. Faced with the 2008 economic bust, and a potential ouster from government, the Conservatives were eventually forced into providing “economic stimulus” after the Liberals rejected a coalition with the NDP.