Jim Flaherty's budget is an extraordinary feat of legerdemain. He boldly claims there are things in it which simply aren't there. Take his claim that his government will invest in infrastructure. David Macdonald, at The Progressive Economics Forum, writes:
One the most amazing things about this budget is that one of its three focuses will actually be the opposite of what it’s touting. You’ll likely hear that $14 billion will be spent on infrastructure over the next 10 years (actually you may hear much bigger numbers but they just re-announce existing programs like the gas tax transfer). What you won’t hear is that 75% of that money is going to spent on or after 2020. In fact, there will be an affective $1 billion cut to infrastructure transfers to the cities in 2014-15.
There are at least two good arguments for investing in infrastructure. The first is that it improves national productivity. The second is that it acts as an economic stabilizer which injects money into a floundering economy. But, as economic growth is slowing, Mr. Flaherty will cut infrastructure spending next year. Now you see it. Now you don't.
And then there is Flaherty's proposed Canada Job Grant. Tom Walkom writes that it is actually Flaherty's "dirty little secret:"
And while Flaherty wants business to chip in $5,000 per worker as well, his scheme remains very much dependent on public largesse.
However, aside from a few vague mutterings, the Conservative government does not seem prepared to seriously scale back temporary worker programs that allow business to cherry-pick cheap labour from abroad.
If companies knew they couldn’t import, say, skilled pipefitters from Europe, they might put more effort into training domestic workers to meet their needs.
But employers know they don’t have to train. Instead, they need only wait until the last minute and then complain of labour shortages.
Canada has always imported workers. Immigration built this country. The difference now is that, under the Harper government, the workers must be paid 15% less than the going rate -- and then go home. The rule used to be that, when we imported workers, we offered them citizenship.
The Harper government has always been rooted in cynicism. This week's budget was another case in point. Our masters really believe we're stupid.