Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 – A “Shell Game”


Tim Maguire responds to PM Harper’s budget – What’s missing in the Economic Action Plan 2013 is a plan for workers and needed services for communities.


Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing to you on behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, the largest municipal union local in Canada, representing more than 20,000 workers at the City of Toronto, Bridgepoint Hospital and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. CUPE Local 79 members provide valuable and needed services to the people of Toronto, in good times and in bad – “We Take Care of Toronto”. It’s long overdue for the Federal Government to provide stable, sustainable policies and resource commitments to enable the residents of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, to grow and prosper. 

What’s missing in the Economic Action Plan 2013 is a plan for workers and needed services for communities.

A significant new report, “It’s More than Poverty – Employment Precarity and Household Well-being” found that in 2011 for the Greater Toronto Area – Hamilton Region, barely half of those working were in permanent, full-time positions that provided benefits and a degree of employment security.

What is the plan for securing decent, dependable jobs for working families? 

What is the plan to tackle the hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed?  (Across Canada there are 1.3 million people unemployed.) The only action taken by your Government so far has been to cut and roll-back Employment Insurance (EI) – when people need it most. Across this land people just aren’t making it, families can’t make ends meet and there are no secure, living-wage jobs in sight. 

Toronto’s unemployment rate continues to be higher than other major Canadian cities and when EI runs out people must turn to Social Assistance in order to survive. The lines of the unemployed just keep getting longer. Supports for some of our most vulnerable populations are stretched to the limit.

While this budget talks about addressing the issue of the skills gap and skills training, there is no new money dedicated, and the training initiatives are old and tired. What’s needed is a comprehensive skills development strategy to deal with the growing skills gap, an ageing workforce and a solid educational strategy for Aboriginals, newcomers and youth.

What about pensions? There is a crisis in retirement insecurity. More than 11 million workers across Canada have no workplace pension plan. The Canada Pension Plan must be expanded to extend retirement security to all Canadians.

There is no mention or commitment to public health care in this Budget. Health care is the #1 issue of top concern for Canadians. Exclusive pursuit of a ‘healthy’ economy, while ignoring the huge challenges ahead for public health care, is alarming.

The only things growing in Toronto are the waiting lists. Waiting lists just keep getting longer for basic needs like child care, social housing and recreation. Food bank use is on the rise, and emergency shelter use for families has risen by 10% in the past year.

Investment in a national child care system would be the single biggest job creation and poverty reduction strategy your government could do for families and communities in every province and territory. Without quality, accessible, affordable, publicly-funded child care women can’t work, seek job retraining or education.  If your government really wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and families you would put in place national child care without delay.

Paul Moist, the National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, noted that the, “Budget 2013 has just repackaged existing funds and hoped we didn’t notice, and have cut overall infrastructure spending for municipalities under the Building Canada Fund. This is not the kind of leadership that Canadian municipalities need.”

Further, the Budget “opens up public infrastructure projects for profit corporations by introducing a P3 ‘screen’ for all federally funded projects over $100 million dollars to determine whether or not a project should be developed as a public private partnership.”

“A number of smaller infrastructure funds got cut to the tune of $1 billion per year – or $10.8 billion over 10 years,” said NDP, MP Olivia Chow and many programs have been renamed and others totally eliminated with no replacement.

“There is nothing in this budget to prepare Canada for a 21st-century economy.  The Conservatives are leaving a huge environmental, social and fiscal debt to our children,” – was the response from Tom Mulcair, NDP, Leader of the Official Opposition. He also urged Canadians to watch for the fine print in the Omnibus Bill that is sure to follow the introduction of the 2013 Budget. Over the past two years there have been many harmful budget changes buried in omnibus legislation.

Prime Minister Harper, we need a Federal Government committed to building vibrant, liveable cities, public infrastructure and public services. Toronto is struggling with Federal and Provincial governments that continue to give with one hand and take back with the other. It’s time for leadership. Take this Economic Action Plan 2013 back to the drawing board and come up with a real plan.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire

Cc:       The Honourable Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition, New Democratic Party
            The Honourable Bob Rae, Interim Leader, Liberal Party