“Advantage Canada”= A True Blue Corporate Agenda

The only surprise in the long-term economic strategy document unveiled by the Finance Minister today is its complete lack of balance.

Everything corporate Canada and the right-wing think-tanks wanted is there in spades. What it lacks is any sense that the market economy must be regulated in the public interest to make sure that it works for working families.

Consider the details:

Effective taxes on business will be cut to the lowest level of the big industrial countries – even though Canada already has lower business taxes than the US, and even though past corporate tax cuts have failed to generate the promised increases in business investment in innovation, machinery and equipment, and worker skills. Provinces will be encouraged to shift sales taxes off business onto consumers.

All of the savings from rapidly paying down the public debt will go to ongoing personal income tax cuts – with a special focus on cuts for high income earners (who have been re-named “highly skilled workers”), and more special breaks for the capital gains income which goes mainly to very high income families.

Meanwhile, there will be round after round of cuts to federal spending on social programs and public services through an ongoing process of Expenditure Review designed to steadily shrink programs as a share of the economy.

Lip service is paid to the importance of post-secondary education and skills training in economic growth, but the Conservatives appear to believe that all of this can basically be left to the provinces. Astoundingly, corporate tax cuts are put forward as the main answer to employer under-investment in worker skills.

The Conservatives recognize the importance of public investment in infrastructure, but are intent on privatization. Federal support for provincial and municipal projects will be effectively conditional on the involvement of private corporations. This will mean less public control and higher costs.

A sweeping agenda of deregulation is planned, and an explicit promise is made to closely involve big business in the process of harmonization of standards with the US. Environmental, health and safety and consumer safety standards are clearly threatened.

There is barely a word in this document about Canada’s social goals and social programs – nothing about promoting greater equality or greater security for working families, even though some of the most successful economies in the world have embraced a much more balanced approach.

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