Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Budget 2009: Squandered Opportunity


Well, it's not like I was expecting great things from the Harper government's return to work. I'm of the opinion that 'stimulus packages' aren't going to do much to improve the economy anyway, so it was out of curiosity, not hope, that I paid any attention to the budget presented by Finance Minister Flaherty yesterday.

But even my lowered expectations were too high, apparently. The budget is more of the same old same old, but with a huge deficit thrown in to the mix. The ceiling on some tax brackets have been changed, with the result that people (who still have jobs) will pay about $100 - $150 less tax per year. If the government thinks I'm going to go on a spending spree with that, they are quite out of touch. That money is going straight to debt repayment.

Oh, I'll get another tax break if I build a deck or maybe an addition to my house (Like the PM seems to be doing in this convenient photo-op - who thinks up these lame poses anyway?). That is, if I spend up to $1350 on renos, I can reduce my taxes by 15% of that, a whopping $202.50. Wow. I think I'll pass. I'm not spending $ 1350 to get $200 back - do the math! (NOTE - see my correction of these numbers below.)

And infrastructure spending - there's billions of dollars promised, but they all hinge on whether municipalities and provincial governments kick in equivalent amounts. What good is that? A lot of provinces and municipalities can't afford to pay for even part of these projects, so that money will just sit there and not 'stimulate' anything. And, projects that do get the funding are subject to fewer environmental impact assessments than previously - this is all done in the name of expediency, but really it just allows the government an excuse to cut back on already poor environmental regulation.

This could have been an opportunity for the government to be bold, seize the moment, and do things like provide grants to insulate houses, or target money to the auto industry to re-tool for things like buses, and light rail cars. Harper could have used some stimulus money to foster development of solar or wind power, but instead he pretends to be 'green' by supporting things like carbon capture and storage. (If we reduced our greenhouse gas emissions through alternative energies and conservation, we wouldn't need to 'capture' and 'store' them!) But Harper's not a 'seize-the-moment' kind of guy. He's a 'how-can-I-craft-this-to-serve-my-purposes' kind of guy.

The new leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff, has already decided to ask for amendments to the budget rather than voting against it and toppling the government. I was all for a coalition government taking over before this whole prorogue debacle started, but now I don't even care. Partly because I'm trying not to get so caught up in such things anymore, but partly because if this is the kind of thing Harper is going to propose as a solution to Canada's economic problems, then he can darn well live with the consequences.

NOTE: According to the CBC this morning (January 29, 2008), individuals can claim up to $9000 in reno costs and then receive 15% of this back, or $1350. The numbers are different, but the rate of return is the same. Plus, I don't know too many people who have nine grand floating around to sink into renovations - not without going into more debt anyway.


Anonymous said...

Ha, sounds like every where is being a little blind about stimulous packages. Down in the US, I'm sure you heard we're on the brink of passing a HUGE $819 BILLION economic stimulous bill. The question is, who's going to see it, and how is it going to help? Workers are suppose to see some of it, but for such a huge amount of money, specifics are not out to regular people as to where it's going. A lot is suppose to go to infustructure projects, roads, bridges, etc. that states can request for. But you know the catch? If they get approved, they have only 90 days to spend that money on said construction projects, because after that, it's a use it or lose it clause. And like you hinted at, how on earth do you think that's going to be done up to code, up to par, and up to env. standards??? Hmmm???

I hate this situation. Every day more lay offs at this plant and that plant and bail ours here and there. Every day we have to wonder if the plant my husband works at will stay open, decrease hours, implement layoffs, etc. No one knows. My husband's father lost his job two days ago- his position was terminated along with 129 others. He had been at his job for almost 30 years and nearing retirement. We're all living in fear and frustration.

I'm trying my darnedest to do everything I can now to spend a little extra to save more later, and then taking every little bit of extra that I save (even if it's $5 a week) and put it aside for paying off some debt somewhere. But it's frustrating and slow going.

I haven't seen too many personal posts of yours, but I'm sending care your way, along with everyone else in this economic based world that they are doing fine. Time to tighten the belt just a little more.

Ryan said...

Well said. This was the perfect opportunity to green buildings, build local, regional and national rail lines and invest in alternative energy. Hell, we could have re-tooled closed GM plants for wind-turbines or something else.

According to what I've heard in Liberal circles, they are going along with it because they are pretty sure that the economy is going to fail anyway. Harper will be left wearing the downfall. Though in reality, Canadians and the environment will actually wear it in the meantime.

Ryan said...

Oh yeah, and is it just me or does Harper look like the least comfortable person with a nailgun EVER?

Theresa said...

Desiree - thanks so much for the well wishes. Please accept mine as well, I'm sorry to hear about layoffs in your family. It's such a strange, strange time. Saving and belt tightening are good, we're being very cautious here as well, just in case things go downhill quickly.

Theresa said...

Ryan, I'm of the opinion that the economy will fail anyway too. The Liberals got a second chance with the way things all fell out, I think. It sure would be nice if someone stepped up with some national and long-term vision, but I guess that will be left up to individual citizens. Perhaps that's not so bad.

And yes, I don't think I've seen anyone as uncomfortable with a power tool - 'everyman' Harper is not!

Ryan said...

I agree with the point on the economy failing. My point is that it could fall a lot less hard, and we could make some sort of green transition and allow people some cushion along the way. It's the perfect opportunity--but the Liberals would rather win partisan points.

SoapBoxTech said...

Actually, the renovation part was one clause I liked. Granted, it was far too small and should have been more specifically ear-marked for "green" renovations. However, at least this is something that can be used to become a little more self sufficient. I don't think the federal government paying for %15 of a backyard dome greenhouse, for example (in which a family could grow most of its year round vegetables) is a bad thing.

Considering I was expecting a far worse budget, I was personally a little bit surprised.

My biggest concern is that most everyone still believes that Canada's resources are our solution to the global meltdown. Sure, they will most likely cushion the fall (until the next ice age settles in anyway) but they are by no means a solution.

It is indeed a real mess, and not everyone who is being hurt by it was part of the cause through over-borrowing in order to amass a big pile of toys.

There is no easy solution. This is going to get very very bad, but those who start coming together now, getting used to doing with less, sharing wisely...will be more likely to come though it than most will.

But, here is a question...what if this crash was orchestrated?

Pretty scary question but I do not ask it in order to cause fear...I ask it in warning.

Theresa said...

Ryan, I agree with you wholeheartedly. If even one of these politicians, regardless of party, would have the courage to tell it like it really is, call people out to work together and do the hard work that needs doing, I think we would all breathe a sigh of relief. We NEED a meaningful task to do as a species, something that we can all work together on, sharing in the hardships and the rewards of a job well done. We need a collective goal that is so much more than just going to the big box power centre and shop to support the 'economy.'

Theresa said...

Hi SBT - I have had the niggling thought that the whole thing is orchestrated too, as part of the SPP and a way to get rid of the dollar and bring in the 'Amero.' All the more reason to work on what matters: community and food/water security.

Have you seen "Zeitgeist"?

SoapBoxTech said...

I've watched a couple versions of the first and second zeitgeist, yes. I think we're going to get our one world social state, but I don't think it is going to look like we think or like we'd want.

Ryan said...

We NEED a meaningful task to do as a species, something that we can all work together on, sharing in the hardships and the rewards of a job well done. We need a collective goal that is so much more than just going to the big box power centre and shop to support the 'economy.'

Couldn't agree more. If all we are is consumers, how will be look to the people of the future? For all the foibles of the past, we still look at the amazing human achievements. Will people marvel at our Walmarts?