The federal budget:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has brought down his 8th budget. As expected it included further but limited spending cuts to tame the deficit by 2015. But what about new initiatives? There are new programs but limited resources for skills training, some new money for infrastructure, manufacturing and research. What are your priorities?
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The federal budget is an important event. It is the one document that presents in a comprehensive manner, the priorites and direction of the government ...all the more important perhaps because it not only states a will to do something but actually commits money toward that end.
It is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's 8th budget ...and it was not one that came with a list of surprises. It has been described as cautious ...perhaps in keeping with the unstable economic times. As expected it maintains the goal of eliminating the deficit by 2015. It included measures to boost job training and skills development across the country because despite the fact that unemployment is still too high in many parts of this country, many companies cannot find properly trained workers to fill their needs. They frequently turn to foreign workers. Most people agree that this is a problem, not all agree on how to fix it. Acting Liberal leader Bob Rae says this is not enough. What do you think of the government's solution?
There are also measures to support new infrastructure for cities, boost manufacturing and research, changes to tariffs ...some reduced, making baby clothes and hockey equipment cheaper ...but new tariffs being applied that will make a range of other products more expensive including those coming from China.
Austerity measures from the previous budget remain in effect reducing government spending in program areas. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has challenged this saying that austerity is not what Canada needs with unemployment still high and the rest of the world still fighting an economic malaise.
What do you think?
Our question today: "What's your reaction to the federal budget?"
I'm Rex Murphy ...On CBC Radio One and on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- Kevin Milligan (online chat)
Associate professor at the Vancouver School of Economics
John Ivison (radio)
National Affairs columnist for the National Post.
Diane Finley (radio)
Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
- Michael Bloom (online chat)
Vice-president of organizational effectiveness and learning at The Conference Board of Canada
- Stephen Gordon (radio)
Professor of economics at Laval University in Quebec City and blogger for Macleans magazine.
- Paul Moist (radio and chat)
National president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
- Ian Lee (online chat)
Assistant professor at the Sprott School of Business
Brad Wall (radio)
Premier of Saskatchewan.
Government of Canada
Globe and Mail
With the new budget are the conservatories going to increase the funding to the reserves the same as the provinces do? We all know that the grade 12 graduation rates are considerably less than in non reservation schools. Also teachers on reservations are paid way less than in non aboriginal schools. Last and most importantly how will the federal government assure that all students according to their abilities/ desire get further education?
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
Mr. Flaherty, Do you see any point to a career that opened with creating a huge budget deficit (by spending the whole Paul-Martin nest egg and cancelling the GST in the face of the obvious 2007 meltdown warning signs), and which you now "will see to a close" in 2015 by finally putting the books back the way you found them, having impoverished the fabric of Canadian society in the process?
Those of us who were not born yesterday, watched this whole process, with foresight, and shall not forget.
Vancouver, British Columbia
There is, once again, nothing in this budget for artists. Notice I said "artists" and not "the arts". Some time ago Mr. Flaherty replied favourably to my notion that making the tax system fairer, (and the actual tax form simpler), by raising the basic personal exemption for artists, musicians, and other performers who also teach was a better way to feed the arts from the roots rather than current model of showering the largest institutions with life-giving cash and hoping (foolishly) that we at the bottom of the chain might get a few rancid drops. These regressive Conservatives blindly hold onto trickle-down economic theory as if it were a message from Pope Francis.
The last two federal budgets have me wondering if we have a tar sands government. I use the term "tar sands" to refer to an old style of thinking that could put all of our eggs into one basket.
From an east coast perspective: change EI to kill the seasonal industry so that workers are coerced to go west and then offer them training to do so. Is that what they are trying to do?
Is there a pattern with Bill C-45? What happens if the Keystone pipeline does not get built?
Although I applaud the recent recognition of a lack of skilled trades in Canada by the Federal Government I feel that the problem starts with public education at the Elementary and Secondary Level.For years we have been discouraging youth from taking Technical Programs
Why are we wasting money on "Skill Training" in small towns where the only source of income is a mill? How is learning how to type, use computers, or do well in an interview going to help if there are no jobs?
We need to stop propping up dead end towns, and start attracting the populous to bigger city centers.
More people = a bigger tax base.
Moncton, New Brunswick
The government claims not to have raised taxes, yet according to Don Drummond on CBC's The House yesterday, payroll taxes will take $5 billion over the next few years.
I have asked this before but with no response. I read the site about 'writer' but that is not clear as to what it means or where one can write except twitter. Where is the e mail address you used to provide for the programme with the resultant online publishing of people's comments?Please answer this on your site on to my e mail.
Victoria, British Columbia
I'm afraid that "we're suffering from a skilled labour shortage" is code for "we're not willing to pay enough or offer the security to recruit an already skilled worker away from their current situation or induce someone to train for our job, so please let us bring someone in from China or Ireland to do the job for under market rates."
I'd like to see a precise breakdown of the skills required for these jobs that are supposedly going unfilled--I'll bet that for most of these there are lots of workers with them or willing to acquire them, just not for the low wages being offered.
Skills training is never going to address the skills gap for employers in high growth ICT industries - which IS in crisis right now. Immigration remains the solution employers will continue to advocate - as they can identify the talent with proven skills and experience available to them in the short term.
Sadly, the recent cuts to federal support for new Canadians will likely have an impact on our ability to attract the best and brightest to our growing knowledge economy - especially to rural areas. Very short sighted.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Having spent over 20 years in community based agencies delivering training programs for both the federal and provincial governments I would like to say that "training" per se has become a great and holy solution to everything. If the government decides on some sort of voucher system to access training, individuals who are suffering the unpleasant and terrifying aspects of unemployment and its corresponding loss of hope, will be at the mercy of every training provider known to humankind. Training is important but only when accompanied by a skilled and neutral employment advisor to work with the individual to help them make informed choices which takes into account their emotional and economic uncertainties. In my experience this is the only way to make the transition successful and cost efficient.
I teach at an Adult Learning Centre in a First Nations. What is needed are more pre-trades courses that bring the adults up to grade so that they may enter an apprenticeship training program or a college program. These courses also need to be fully funded so that the adults that need them will take the them.
Parry Sound, Ontario
One of these days the Canadian people, their elected politicians and their Governor of the Bank of Canada really should have a discussion about the staggering amount of debt which is being piled up in this country every year by Governments (Federal, Provincial, and Municipal), businesses, and consumers.
The total government (federal, provincial and municipal), business and household debt outstanding in Canada at the end of December 2012 was $5.25 Trillion. From the end of December 2011 to the end of December 2012 the total debt outstanding in Canada increased by $269 Billion. For that 366 day period the total debt outstanding in Canada increased at a rate of $735 Million per day.
If you do not believe the above statistics go to the Statistics Canada website and enter "credit market summary" (use the quotation marks) into the search box at the top right of the home page. When the credit market summary data table pops up check out the numbers on the bottom line.
With a total credit market debt of $5.25 Trillion and a GDP (at current prices) of $1.83 Trillion Canada's total credit market debt is 2.86 times the size of our annual GDP.
Vancouver, British Columbia
The gentleman calling in from Penticton couldn't be more wrong about trades. The wages are good and the government has done a great job making the training affordable and Accessible for young people.
Kelowna, British Columbia
About as good as it can be, in my opinion. The biggest problem exists with the formula and the 'unequal' nor even 'equitable' tax shifting between Ottawa and each province, ie. Québec receives 2/3rds more in equalization transfers that any other province --is this fair I also must remark on Fort Mac Murray, which is a modern family oriented city, with excellent schools, libraries, recreation, facilities, shopping etc. - first class city...can't anyone recognize this Rex?
My son, who lives in Edmonton, recently had to give up on an auto mechanic apprenticeship because he simply couldn't live on the wages he was making. He is now working as an unskilled labourer and making very good money indeed. There has to be more of an incentive for people to get involved in the trades. The promise of future prosperity isn't good enough. They have to be able to pay the rent
and put food on the table now.
It was pure gold that an experienced tradesman (electrician) called in to explain real details about our 'deficit' of skilled trades people. Jake was trying to inform us of real details related to one of the most important aspects of the budget.
Smiths Falls, Ontario
All 4 children in my household struggled in their last years of high school I grew up in Germany and love their apprenticeship program. I became a nurse through it and wonder if the option of graduating at grade 10 with continuation at a government funded trade school two days a week in step with business sponsored placement would suit some teenagers better than the current grade 12 requirement.
Smithers, British Columbia
Referencing the job training programs, If we are so in need of nurses, why do student nurses have to pay for their 3rd and 4th year summer placement training at about $1000 each year and in addition to that they have to pay for their final exam in 4th year, another $700. These students have little chance to find work over the summer as they have to do their 6 week clinical placement. They have to pay for room and board where they are sent, pay to get there and often have to keep their current rental space for their return to school in the fall. How about a grant for these students! Just think of the number of nurses about to retire.
North Vancouver, British Columbia
The gentleman who pointed out that The Harper Government created the deficit hit the nail on the head.
He cited the ridiculously low Corporate Tax Rates which are a scandal but he barely mentioned the 2% they slashed off the GST, nor the fact that the very top rate of taxation is a mere 29%.
This aversion to taxation is a new phenomenon that has been sold to us by the corporate media. Under Eisenhower the top rate of tax in the US was 91%. When Reagan came to office the top rate was 79%.
Effective government involves balancing revenues & expenditures not slashing both!
One creative way to raise revenue and promote the public good would be a heavy tax on sugar. Not merely table sugar but sugar in pop & processed food. From there move on to a tax on sodium, a tax on food additives, a tax on processed & packaged foods.
Revenues would increase, people's diets & public health would improve over time & the only people to really suffer would be corporations.
The precedent has already been set with tobacco & alcohol, it's merely a question of widening the net!
Vancouver, British Columbia
A flop, why?
Because it should have killed off "Supply Management" in Canada - which continues to steal after-tax dollars for basic foods that every family needs.
This theft has been going on for generations and it has injured every Canadian family, especially those that raised children.
Lantzville, British Columbia
As a faithful listener, I have enjoyed your show for years, but the budget show is particularly important and has prompted me to write you. For the past few years I have been working in Ontario for source water protection. Our greatest natural treasure is water, and the Harper government has made a tragic mistake in killing research into our water resources by shutting down the international research into lakes and water in Northwestern Ontario. Our partners in Britain and the US think we have lost our minds and our values. As Canadians, we have the world's richest resources in fresh water, but it won't last forever unless we care for it.
I would like to know who made the decision to remove the programs that were originally in the schools, such a building construction, electronics, plumbing, etc. These programs were in place, were producing people who were skilled to take their place in the Canadian workplace. However, because these programs were cut we now have to reinvent the wheel to bring them back into being. I cannot tell you how angry that makes me - what a waste of taxpayer money, when in fact we could have just continued to educate young people in the trades. We are always going to need them so why were they cut.
I am worried about what is hidden in the budget, e.g. in the last budget we found out that protection for fish habitat was significantly decreased interestingly very convenient for a pipeline. For a person who campaigned on "Open and Honest Government" Prime Minister Harper is being very deceiving (he is muzzling Health Canada Scientists and is saying nothing about closing the experimental lakes project). In the budget the tariff on automotive parts has increased. All of us are influenced by the automobile in some way. If it costs more to operate we pay more for personal transport and transport of commodities. More money in the government's pocket and less in mine equates to a tax increase, contrary to what the guest minister said on the program today.
Kamloops, British Columbia
The economic woes, deficits and/or insolvency of many of the world's nations can be blamed simply on the fact that over the 30 or so years since Milton Friedman's economic Darwinism has become conventional wisdom, governments have neglected their duty to raise enough taxes to cover the costs of an orderly society. The solutions are also painfully simple: two rules, five
words -- 1 tax wealth 2 regulate the market. Nothing in the federal budget tells me that they get it.
Victoria, British Columbia
Your callers have raised a few questions which deserve some explanations. The Red Seal is a recognition that the holder has reached a level of competency which is recognized across the country ( of course with the exception of Quebec). Not all trades are Red Seal certified. It is my understanding that the 3 prairie provinces have standardized the training ( at least in the electrical field).
You and the Minister touched on the ability of the latest generation to be able to do the physical trades. Dads don't repair the family car or build the fence anymore. The schools have cut the funds to vocational training. Hands on training in school doesn't exist. Automotive is too expensive for the tools, so it gets cut. Woodworking is too dangerous, can't do that. Only 10 % of the high school graduates get an university degree. What about the remaining 90%?. However the education system and society frown upon the blue collar workers. This hasn't changed since the late 60s when university became possible for the middle class.I am a small commercial electrical contractor, working in Manitoba.
My journeymen receive $36 per hour plus 10% holiday/vacation pay. I have to pay this amount in order to retain my employees. This is the going rate +/- for skilled men. Apprentices receive a percentage depending on their year. In Manitoba, we have a ratio of 1 journeyman to 1 apprentice. Which means that even if I wanted to hire more apprentices, I would need journeymen for them
In the past, an apprentice and employer understood that the relationship was likely to last for the entire term of the apprenticeship. An employer was willing to invest in the training. Today, the Return on Investment for a starter, may not be there. No one wants to take that first year loss ( think of driving a brand new car off the lot). I cannot afford to lose money on every starter, if they will be poached by another contractor.
I don't know if the money mentioned in the budget is earmarked to help the trainee's finances, or is supposed to help the employer offset his loss. I am approached every week by parents and young people to see if I am willing to hire starters. I simply can't afford to. And on the other hand if I don't hire them, who will be there when I retire?
The apprenticeship model is based on the transfer of knowledge from the journeymen to the apprentices. Without starters, there will be no journeymen
As to the jobs being there, now and in the future, I am in my 43rd year as an electrician and have been unemployed for a total of less than 1 month. I make my income from my hands and my knowledge. There is a great satisfaction of looking at a building and being proud of my labour which helped to build it.
In Belgium, a mason apprentices as long as they choose. When they are ready, they build four complex structures from brick and stone. There is no written test. Grade 12 is not required. If they fail to build them perfectly, they do not get another chance. This is why European tradesmen are so highly skilled, and ours are just good on paper.
The manufacturing of consumer goods has left our shores. To bring them back would mean Canada manufacturing pricier durable consumer goods. Sadly they won't be for sale at Wal Mart as the price point of Canadian goods/Canadian labour is not able to compete with foreign-made/cheaper goods.
I agree we should have a stronger industrial manufacturing sector, but more and more this sector is tougher to compete in thanks to foreign competition.
As far as the budget goes, I'll wait to see the implementation before commenting.
There is a 'working deficit' that is built into this budget and it involves a country that has no manufacturing goals or capacity. As Bob Dylan sang in Subterranean Blues: The pumps don't work, cause the vandals took the handles. We are self sufficient in nothing but bluster with this government.