Budget offers chance to give Canadians the help they need

News from the House

Algoma Manitoulin Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes
Algoma Manitoulin Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes

The federal budget will be tabled later this month offering the government its last chance to address urgent issues impacting Canadians before the next federal election.  With nearly half of all Canadians only two hundred dollars away from not being able to pay their monthly bills it’s clear there is room for the government to invest in ways that will help lift more people into security, which is the message New Democrats delivered to the Prime Minister in their pre-budget submission.

The NDP submission identifies the party’s proposals and priorities.  It is highlighted by calls to implement a public pharmacare program that is both universal and comprehensive, close tax loopholes for the wealthiest, ensure future generations have a livable environment, and make it possible for all Canadians to access secure and affordable housing.

Let’s examine a few of those proposals to understand how the federal government has the biggest role to play:

A universal single-payer pharmacare system and prescription drug coverage would benefit nearly two million Canadians who can’t even afford to fill their prescriptions as well as those who skip medications or divide doses to make them last longer - all of which costs us more in the long run. Despite this reality, the government’s study and limited pharmacare proposal was rigged to protect the profits of big pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Only a single-payer system will give us the purchasing power to get the lowest prices for drug and save Canada’s precious health care dollars while impacting the lives of the most vulnerable in a positive way.

One way we can afford much more as a country is to tackle tax havens, loopholes for the richest CEOs, and shady transactions that short-change us year after year.  It’s time to end abusive transactions that are only designed for dodging taxes and to end “shell companies” that serve only to hide money offshore.  In their submission New Democrats recommended measures that would help to recoup more than $16 billion in taxes that only benefit the wealthiest.

Perhaps the most urgent of the proposals New Democrats made is the one demanding the government do the work needed to secure a livable environment now and for generations to come.  We see how students in Europe are claiming there is no sense in educating themselves when governments aren’t doing enough to preserve the planet and their futures.  Do we want our young people to feel equally abandoned?  It’s time for Canada to act like a world leader with decisive action. That can’t happen without firm targets to reduce carbon pollution—and a real plan to meet those targets.  In addition, we must deal with the crisis in plastic pollution at source by employing a strong, enforceable Extended Producer Responsibility legislation that will hold companies responsible for the entire lifecycle of their plastic products and packaging, while reducing clean-up costs for our communities.  Canada also needs to aggressively invest in solutions for green energy projects, which deliver sustainable returns to our economy and offer good quality jobs for Canadians.

Part of the change that is needed relies on recognizing that our system is rigged in favour of the richest people and the biggest corporations leaving Canadian families to carry the load. There are 1.2 million children living in poverty and hundreds of First Nations communities that remain under boil water advisories. This is why the government must change its course and focus on helping people with clearly identified needs. A budget is the best opportunity for any government to show the courage needed to tackle these inequalities head-on.