Red Flag Express №17

Another budget to serve Capitalism

As politicians jousted and journalists’ cameras flashed on Parliament Hill and the pathetic spectacle of the “Leader of the Opposition” Stéphane Dion found new cause to embrace his Conservative “opponents,” the budget passed last Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was anything but spectacular. As usual, it’s up to the government to help the Canadian capitalists increase profits, while strengthening the repressive functions of the State apparatus.

According to some critics, the most substantial crime of this budget is its total lack of addressing the hardships being faced by Canadian workers. It does nothing but throw a few bread crumbs to workers in the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are currently facing a serious crisis. Nothing, no investments in social housing, healthcare or education, which an increasing number of Canadians are coming to rely upon.

Among new investments by the State is the 5.9% increase in the Defence Budget (pretty higher than the increase in the cost of living) as well as a $400 million “Police Officers Recruitment Fund”—to hire 2,500 new police to maintain law and bourgeois order. This adds to the 1,000 additional policemen already hired by the RCMP through the 2006 Federal Budget. Ironically, this comes at the same time as the introduction of a new plan aimed at reducing the number of Canada’s pig population by 10%. Should we see a link between those two measures?

According to the President of the Conseil du Patronat du Québec, Michel Kelly-Gagnon, the best part of the new budget is the creation of a private corporation independent of the state that will manage unemployment insurance. Since the reforms started in the 1980s by the Mulroney government (and continued by the subsequent Liberal governments since then), the unemployment insurance system is no more than a shadow of its former self. While years ago, approximately 85% of unemployed workers had immediate access to these benefits, scarcely 40% today are able to use the system. This is because over $50 billion (that’s $50,000,000,000) has been siphoned away from the unemployment insurance program to help fill up the state’s huge budget deficit.

Those reforms, a stab in the back to the unemployed, had a very important “side effect” for Canadian capitalists. It had the effect of forcing workers to attach themselves to their employers (as anyone who “voluntarily” loses their job also loses their rights to benefits, with a few exceptions). This has greatly contributed to the downward pressure on worker’s salaries, and the entire Canadian workers are forced to endure worsening work conditions and lower pay because of it. With the current crisis plaguing the manufacturing sectors the effects of this reform are being felt more than ever.

By creating a new Crown corporation (the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board), the government is placing strict controls on the cash flow of unemployment insurance and assures that, in the future, this system will remain as it is, i.e. a rotten one ineffective to help the unemployed. The surplus premiums will now have to be used to lower premium rates, without any possibility to improve the regime. We need to stress that in doing so, the Flaherty Budget is simply answering a “demand” made by the Bloc Québécois, some trade unions and certain groups of unemployed, all of whom share notorious links with the bourgeois parties. With “friends” like that, the unemployed don’t need enemies…

The proposal and adoption of the Flaherty Budget without any serious opposition is yet another proof that workers have nothing to expect from the bourgeois parliament. It shows once more that it is much more relevant for us to organize and fight to reverse the capitalist system from the bottom up instead of trying to change it by taking part in bourgeois politics.

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