While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty embarks on his latest taxpayer-funded public relations blitz far away from the scrutiny of Parliament Hill, here is how the Conservatives’ record really adds up:
Minister Flaherty’s September 2010 economic report card wrongly claimed that all of the jobs lost during the recession in Canada have now been recouped. Stephen Harper also made this incorrect claim last week when he said, “There are more people working today than were working when the recession began. We’ve recovered all our jobs and a bit more, and we are virtually the only developed country in the world to be in that kind of a position.” (Stephen Harper, The Hill Times, January 31, 2011)
We now know that this is not true. New job numbers released last week showed that from October 2008 to December 2010, there are 109,000 fewer full-time jobs and nearly 300,000 more unemployed Canadians.
Slow to get stimulus money out the door:
One of the reasons why unemployment is so high is the government’s failure to get stimulus funding to Canadians who needed jobs at the height of the recession. During the 2009/10 fiscal year, at the height of the recession, these four programs spent far less than their annual allocations:
- Infrastructure Stimulus Fund: Only 25% spent
- Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure: Only 30% spent
- Green Infrastructure Fund: Only 3% spent
- Recreational Infrastructure Canada (RInC): Only 51% spent
Families squeezed by personal debt:
- The typical Canadian family now owes almost $1.50 for every single dollar of disposable income – an average of $96,000 in debt per family.
- Canadian households are now the most indebted of the 20 most advanced countries in the OECD, including the United States, leaving Canadians especially vulnerable to economic shocks.
- Personal bankruptcy rates are up more than 33%.
- Minister Flaherty brags about tightening mortgage rules, but he’s responsible for allowing 40-year mortgages and mortgages with zero down-payment.
Families squeezed by learning costs:
- UNICEF ranked Canada dead last in quality and access to childcare.
- Two-thirds of parents now believe they will be unable to afford post-secondary education for their children.
- Student borrowing from the federal government has reached a record high.
- 16% of low-income students now plan to delay additional studies because of debt.
Families squeezed by family care and health care costs:
- Canadian families are paying 29% more for out-of-pocket health care expenses, e.g. prescription drugs and private insurance.
- In the absence of federal leadership in health, families are increasingly relying on each other for care.
- Family caregivers provide 80% of homecare services.
- Over 40% of family caregivers use personal savings to survive.
Families squeezed by retirement:
- 25% more seniors are struggling to live on low incomes.
- 75% of Canadians working in the private sector today are without a pension plan.
- The Conservatives have failed to protect the pensions and disability benefits of Canadians whose companies go bankrupt.
- Stephen Harper has no effective plan to reform pensions or strengthen the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan.
Record Conservative debt:
- After just five years of Harper, a $13-billion Liberal surplus has become a $56-billion Conservative deficit – the worst ever.
- PBO projects more than five years of red ink to come as the Conservatives are adding more than $200 billion to the federal debt.
- Harper took the country into deficit before, not because of, the recession by excessive spending at almost three times the rate of inflation and by recklessly eliminating Liberal fiscal shock absorbers.
Misguided Conservative spending priorities:
- $21 billion on untendered stealth fighters
- $10-13 billion on US-style mega prisons
- $6 billion per year on extra tax breaks for the largest corporations
- $1 billion on G20 extravagance and waste