Federal surplus at expense of services, Crawford

JASON HEWLETT / Kamloops Daily News
January 5, 2014 01:00 AM

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty might predict a bigger federal budget surplus than forecast by 2015, but a former Kamloops NDP candidate says it comes at the expense of Canadians.

"They've set themselves on a course as a leaner, and very much meaner, government in order to balance the budget," Michael Crawford said Sunday.

A Dec. 5 report from the parliamentary budget office estimated the government could achieve a surplus of $4.6 billion by 2015, nearly $1 billion more than the estimate included in the November economic update.

In an interview with CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Flaherty said Canada could have a bigger surplus than projected if both the domestic and U.S. economies continue to gain strength.

The Harper Conservatives are relying on balancing the books to help propel the party through a federal election campaign that's scheduled for the fall of 2015.

The PBO report, however, prefaced its surplus projections on expectations that the government would maintain EI premiums at current levels, that there would be no delays in selling some public assets and that spending restraints would continue.

And that is exactly what the government expects to do, said Flaherty.

The government has frozen basic EI premium rates at $1.88 for every $100 earned until 2016.

As well, it has announced the selloff of some assets, including the Ridley Terminals and Dominion Coal Blocks in B.C. and the government's remaining stock of General Motors shares.

Flaherty said the government would also continue to cut spending to eliminate the budget deficit in time for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Crawford expects the massive cutbacks to civil service jobs, hiring freeze in the public sector and health-care cutbacks to provinces will continue.

This promotes the privatization of public services, and that's not right for Canadians, he said. Crawford cited service cuts to Canada Post as an example.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said Canada Post is an independent Crown corporation, and not affected by the Tory budget.

The belt tightening is being done to create efficiencies, she said. That includes reforms made to MP pensions.

"What we're really trying to do, to the degree that we can, is to try and refocus the business model," said McLeod. "This was a campaign commitment, we are on target, and I'm delighted."

Crawford would like to see corporations and the wealthy taxed more to beef up government coffers and reduce debt, he said.


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