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The Council of Canadians to comment on Trudeau’s 2017 federal budget

Trudeau congratulates Finance Minister Bill Morneau on the 2016 federal budget.

The Council of Canadians will be commenting on the Trudeau government’s federal budget which is expected later this month.

Both water campaigner Emma Lui and health care campaigner Michael Butler will have chapters in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Alternative Federal Budget that will be released on March 9.

The Globe and Mail’s chief political writer Campbell Clark now notes, “Expect this year’s federal budget to have a big helping of cautious wait-and-see – in case next year’s requires a response to what Donald Trump is doing south of the border. The new U.S. President has promised major tax cuts that could eventually have an impact on Canada, and his administration is starting to outline some of its budget plans.”

Clark adds, “So [for now] Mr. Morneau is planning caution: Next year’s budget might require a response to Mr. Trump. [That’s because] Mr. Trump has promised to slash corporate taxes in the United States, and that would put pressure on Ottawa to follow suit, or risk losing business investment.”

Lui has called on the Trudeau government to invest $4.7 billion into First Nations water and wastewater services.

That specific figure is based on a ‘National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems’ conducted by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in 2011. That report estimated it would cost $4.7 billion over a ten year period to meet the department’s protocols for water and wastewater services for First Nations communities, including an immediate $1.2 billion to deal with high-risk systems. It has also estimated that $889 million is needed every year for First Nations water and wastewater facilities including projected operating and maintenance.

Lui has commented, “Budget 2016 allocated $2.24 billion over the next five years for improving on reserve water and wastewater infrastructure and waste management. But [rather than the immediate $1.2 billion recommended], the government will spend $296 million in year one and $322 million in year two.” The average annual expenditure will be about $448 million and a large portion of this spending has been back-ended. Lui concluded, “It falls short of what is needed.”

And Butler has called on the Trudeau government to “reverse the Harper government’s funding model to a per capita Canada Health Transfer model, and implement a 6 per cent escalator for federal transfers to the provinces to reach a minimum goal of 25 per cent federal funding of provincial health care costs.”

Unfortunately, Trudeau has decided to maintain the Harper government’s funding formula for health care transfer payments. In January 2012, then-Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page estimated that this funding formula would cost the provinces about $31 billion over a ten year period. In July 2012, the provincial premiers forecast the loss would be closer to $36 billion. In July 2015, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions estimated the loss at $43.5 billion over an eight year period.

Butler has also highlighted that rather than signing trade deals like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (which could cost our public health care system between $850 million and 1.65 billion annually because of extended patent protections for transnational pharmaceutical corporations), implementing pharmacare would save $11.4 billion or more annually while providing all medically necessary drugs to those in need.

The Council of Canadians has also called for the the elimination of tuition fees and universal access to public, post-secondary education (by reallocating cash used for programs like the registered education savings plan and creating a $3.3-billion annual transfer for provinces), for the elimination of almost $8 billion a year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and for the elimination of a $50 million-over-five-years tax cut to spur the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in British Columbia.

Last year, the Huffington Post reported, “The CCPA’s budget would hike the federal corporate income tax rate to 21 per cent, from the current 15 per cent. That would return the rate to the level it was at in 2006, when the Harper government came to power. It would also crack down on the use of tax havens by the wealthy, adding $50 million to Canada Revenue Agency’s budget to go after tax cheats. Those three changes would put an additional $20 billion in the federal government’s coffers, the CCPA says — enough to fund an ambitious social spending agenda.”

From Clark’s commentary in The Globe and Mail today, it would appear that the Trudeau government is unlikely to take the steps necessary for tax justice (and social and economic justice) in this country.