OTTAWA, April 21, 2015 /CNW/ - In a pre-election budget, Prime Minister Harper is attempting to distract Canadians from his failure to create good jobs and economic growth, says Unifor.
"The Harper Conservatives' budget is too little, too late," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "Canadians won't be fooled by the pre-election goodies offered in today's budget – which will be of little or no help to Canadians struggling to keep up."
Rather than prioritizing the creation of good jobs, health care, retirement security and the massive infrastructure needs across the country, today's federal budget confirmed that the Harper Conservatives are out of touch with the needs of working families, contends Canada's largest private sector union.
In response, to the dire state of manufacturing in Canada (which has lost about 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the Harper government was elected), today's budget made some modest commitments to the sector, including the continued renewal of the "temporary" accelerated capital cost allowance (first introduced in 2007), modest investment in skills and apprentices, and $20 million per year to support innovation in the auto parts sector.
"The measures announced in this pre-election budget to assist manufacturing, just won't get the job done," said Dias. "We need a government that will work with industry and labour to create the robust industrial strategy we need to rebuild this vital sector – and that leadership is not coming from Mr. Harper."
Unifor was also disappointed that today's budget confirmed the Harper Conservatives' intention to dramatically reduce health care funding. "With an aging population and a stressed health care system, the Conservatives' unilateral decision to reduce health care transfers by an estimated $36 billion over the next decade will have terrible consequences including longer wait times, deterioration in quality and cuts to services," said Dias. "One wonders who this government is representing? Who wants their health care services cut?"
Of further concern to Unifor were the $4.9 billion in tax cuts announced in the current year, which the union says will primarily benefit wealthy Canadians, including the doubling of the Tax Free Savings Account limits.
"More tax cuts are good news for people with lots of money, but they won't help working families, they won't help seniors trying to scrape by, and they certainly won't lead to the creation of good jobs," said Dias. "Over the last nine years, the Conservatives' tax cuts haven't led to the creation of jobs – and they won't now."
Despite an increase extending caregiver leave, the budget is still planning for a $3.4 billion operating surplus in the EI fund this year. "This government is raiding the EI fund to pay for its other priorities, even though less than 40% of unemployed Canadians qualify for EI With tens of thousands of Canadians losing their jobs, this is the time to fix EI – not raid the cookie jar," said Dias.
Unifor also noted that despite recent concern about the Conservatives' closure of coast guard monitoring stations, concern which escalated after a fuel spill in Vancouver earlier this month, there was not a restoration of the $5.5 million/year required to keep the stations open.
Even the elimination of the deficit is a hollow achievement, Dias noted, since it was based on "a financial shell game" designed to make the budget look stronger than it is.
"The government has shrunk its contingency fund, hurriedly sold off GM shares for inferior prices, and is diverting $3.4 billion of EI surpluses to fund other priorities. Without that financial manipulation, the budget would have a $6 billion deficit, not a $1.4 billion surplus," said Dias.
"Once again, the Harper Conservatives have demonstrated how far their values and priorities are from those of hard-working Canadians," said Dias.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.