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Conservative funding ideas shortsighted, disturbing

COLUMN

Wayne Marton, MP, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek

This fall, the Conservatives introduced their second omnibus budget bill this year. It’s 450 page  amends 64 acts and adds one completely  new piece of legislation. At least 20 of these were not previewed for change in the 2012 budget.

For the record, Conservatives like to use omnibus bills so they can sneak through hundreds of sweeping changes without consulting those affected. Omnibus bills don’t allow for a real study and prevent MPs from doing their jobs and providing proper oversight. Although the government said it would allow committees to study the bill this time, the result was one-day hearings with no power to amend or make changes.

We are facing an economic environment with more than 1.4 million unemployed  and an overall youth unemployment rate of  more than 15 per cent – double the overall rate. The Conservatives claim that Budget 2012 is about job creation, but the PBO says that budget will cost 43,000 Canadians their jobs. In fact, one of the more disturbing facts about this budget is that it actually plans for unemployment to rise.

It’s also disturbing that there is nothing in this bill to reverse cuts to Old Age Security, Employment Insurance or environmental assessments. Instead, Stephen Harper is pushing through more of the same. For instance, protections for thousands of Canadian waterways are being cut so risky pipeline projects won’t be subject to environmental review.

Now, this government does not want you to think its simply serving oil industry insiders. So they’re making a big deal about cutting $10- miliion next year from fossil fuel subsidies. But look deeper: that’s barely a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.3-billion they give big oil each year – subsidies for which you pay.

Moreover, the future of our country will not be found in non-renewable fossil fuels. Innovation is key to our economic future. Businesses in this country rely on research and development to attract investment, to generate quality jobs – to challenge ourselves to go further. That’s why any responsible government would make innovation a priority. But this Conservative government is not making responsible choices. Instead, their latest monster budget bill cuts $500 million per year from research and development.

This is funding that businesses rely on to innovate and pour resources back into our economy. So this government’s short-sighted approach leaves jobs, businesses and local economies at risk.

Incredibly, the Conservatives claim their changes are designed to address “innovation under-performance.” But instead of improving R&D programs, they are simply cutting $500 million.  It’s important to understand a little about some of this government’s actual spending priorities: according a recent Globe and Mail article, the Harper cabinet has approved more than $64 million in advertising spending this year.
Canadians deserve better.

That’s why all year, New Democrats have consulted Canadians nationwide. And we’ll continue working hard to ensure the Conservatives cannot quietly force through yet more legislation that undermines the services and protections on which Canadians rely.

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