The March 29th, 2012 Conservative Budget tabled in Canada's Parliament reflects cuts that will make Canada a more conservative nation as it projects a deficit of $21-billion for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The Government plans to chop some 20,000 jobs, cut federal program spending by $5.2-billion a year, and extend the retirement age of millions of Canadians to 67 from the current 65.
The government has argued that extending the retirement age will keep people in the workplace, and paying taxes, for a greater number of years. That's unlikely. All indications are that low-income seniors will ultimately pay the price for the new plan.
Heritage is being cut by $191-million, including cuts to the CBC ($115-million), the National Film Board ($6.7-million) and Telefilm ($10.6-million), all to be phased in over three years. The hidden agenda is privatisation and a covert attack on cultural institutions that raise critical questions about poverty, war, violence, power, economic equality, and the good life. The government wants to stifle this discussion.
In addition, to raising cash to pay off the big debts that the Government has incurred largely for the military and security, Harper and his Conservatives want to sell diplomatic residences in foreign capitals and generally reduce the presence of diplomacy, particularly if it evokes Lester B. Pearson's legacy of peace keeping. For a country as wealthy as Canada, to argue that we abandon diplomacy and peace keeping because we cannot afford it is simply embarrassing.
Also there are plans to create more jails (despite arguments from most experts that the changes are costly and unnecessary in an era of falling crime rates) and to allow the police and authorities unprecedented and checkless power to gather information on the Internet of everyday Canadians, without a warrant. All of this is one step closer to the 1984 Orwellian world that Mr. Harper seems to be clearly in favour of.
However, the former hidden elephant in Canada's parliament is the $30-billion F-35 fighter jet plane project. This is an attack aircraft that is not needed for Canada and is not appropriate for what we really need — that of search and rescue. Harper's government did not mention this exorbitant cost in its annual Budget, until it was uncovered by the media and Auditor-General Michael Ferguson. This has since become a national scandal.
As serious investigative journalist Andrew Coyne of Postmedia wrote in his column titled 'F-35 debacle demonstrates a system of government in collapse':
- 'Guidelines were evaded, Parliament was lied to, and in the end the people of Canada were set to purchase planes that may or may not be able to do the job set out for them, years after they were supposed to be delivered, at twice the promised cost.' (Ottawa Citizen, April 5, 2012: A13).
Let's recall that it was this government that spent $1-billion for the G-20 meeting in Toronto in 2010 as well as the G-8 in Ontario's Muskoka region.
Harper's intent in militarizing the country has had negative consequences not only in foreign policy, but in the social life of the country and the education of children.
During the past year, the government has been ridiculously spending $28-million celebrating the 1812 war between Canada and the USA. One of these events took place on February 2012 at a family-oriented park in Gatineau, Quebec, where children were encouraged to play war games with replicas of vintage weapons.
The majority of parents surveyed by the Le Droit paper seemed uneasy that the activity was sponsored by the federal Parks Canada. 'Who had this idea?' asked Julia Robinson of Ottawa, 'When you put a gun in the hands of a child, even a replica, it trivializes violence.'
Years back in Saskatchewan, my mother used to remind us youngsters not to point a toy gun at a person. From her Doukhobor legacy (which included refusing to go to war on Easter Sunday1895 along with the mass demonstration in June of getting rid of militarism and wars), mother knew that violence begins at home.
Fast forward, in the March 26, 2012 issue of The Globe and Mail (page L7), mother's wisdom is supported by science entitled 'Hold a gun, see a gun':
- 'Simply holding a gun increases the chances that you think other people are armed as well, new research has found' reports Psych Central. 'In a series of five experiments, subjects were shown images of people on a computer screen and asked to determine whether the person was holding a gun or a neutral object, such as a foam ball. ... Regardless of the situation, the study showed that those participants who were holding a gun reported "gun present" more than the other participants.'