Good writeup by Ralph Goodale in his weekly update. The Liberal Biennial Policy Convention (#Lib14) was a sustained discussion on “middle Canada” issues. What can be done to help Canadian families and individuals who have virtually been ignored for years by the Harper Gov’t?
Here is Ralph’s take:
NATIONAL CONVENTION FOCUSED ON MIDDLE-CLASS
The relentless focus of the Liberal Party’s national policy convention this past weekend was the well-being of Canada’s middle-class and all those who are working so hard just to get there.
Liberal delegates grappled with the reality that middle income levels have been largely stagnant for far too long. While the Harper government denies there’s any real problem — witness their vacuous budget two weeks ago — an internal federal report has just confirmed that “the market economy does not reward middle-income families so well … they get an increasingly smaller share of the earning’s pie.”
That same report says “… middle-class workers get lesser government support for their work transitions” and “… many in the middle spend more than they earn, mortgaging their future to sustain their current consumption.”
In a dark prognosis, the government’s report also says” … over the medium term, middle-income Canadians are unlikely to move to higher income brackets, i.e., the Canadian dream is a myth more than a reality.”
While their earnings are flat, household debt among the middle-class has ballooned to $1.66 for every dollar of disposable income. Three-quarters of Canadians working in the private sector don’t have the basic security of a company pension plan. Two-thirds of middle-class parents doubt they’ll be able to afford post-secondary education for their children. They’re worried that their kids won’t actually do as well as they did.
The Harper government’s response is weak and grossly misleading. They say they’ve fixed everything for the middle-class with a grab-bag of tiny tax breaks targeted to reinforce a socially conservative ideology. Trouble is — that leaves out the vast majority of Canadians.
Mr. Harper’s last budget claims that if you add together all of his tax changes since 2006, the typical Canadian family is now paying $3,400 less federal tax. But 70% of all families in this country don’t fit his definition of what’s “typical”. His example reflects a more privileged minority.
And Mr. Harper’s arithmetic conveniently ignores the fact that his first act in office in 2006 was to increase Personal Income Tax rates in Canada. He also taxed Income Trusts out of existence, obliterating $25-billion from the savings of some 2-million Canadians.
And that’s not to mention higher taxes on many consumer products, on Credit Unions and small business owners, and the $3.6-billion in new, job-killing Conservative payroll taxes which Mr. Harper has imposed over the past three years.
All these burdens fall on the middle-class. And under this government, they are not going away — because the Harper Conservatives have failed miserably on the single most important economic fundamental and that’s the achievement of meaningful growth.
Since the last election, Canada’s economic growth rate has declined. It dropped in 2011. And again in 2012. And again in 2013. Overall, Mr. Harper has the worst growth record of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett in the 1930’s. And his last budget offered no plan to improve. It was complacent, indifferent and content with mediocrity.
In denial about the middle-class and without a common-sense plan to drive greater economic growth, this failing Harper government will never balance its books on a sound and durable basis. Nor will it come close to real prosperity for the majority of Canadians.
And that’s just not good enough.