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We deserve better

In his journal at the end of the first year of the U.S. Civil War in 1861, New Yorker George Templeton Strong wrote:


‘Poor old 1861 just going. It has been a gloomy year of trouble and disaster. I should be glad of its departure, were it not that 1862 is likely to be no better...’


It is hard not to echo Strong’s sentiments as we look back over the past year and towards a bumpy 2024.  Abroad, it looks like the two wars ongoing in  Ukraine and Israel will continue well into the new year.  At home, the cost-of-living crisis is expected to get worse as many people face rising rents or the prospect of renewing their mortgage with significantly higher interest rates.  Though inflation is declining, this is corresponding to a slower economy.  


Canada finds itself with a government that, by its response, seems blissfully unaware of these serious challenges. And an Opposition that thinks snappy slogans will solve our problems. Well, despite our challenges, I don’t think our country is broken. And I think evidence-based policy would go a lot further in addressing those challenges than the Conservative Party of Canada’s oft proposed removal of of gatekeepers.


The Fall 2023 Federal Economic Statement laid out the Liberal government’s plans for our fiscal future.  Unfortunately, the Liberals are still behaving as if sound financial management means unlimited spending on programs that are popular and ignoring managing costs to provide a responsible fiscal future.  The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) forecasts a federal deficit of $40 billion in the fiscal year 2023-2024 and $38.4 billion in 2024-2025.  Though this would appear to be trending in the right direction, it doesn’t include several new spending programs such as pharmacare which are projected to add billions of dollars to the current spending estimates.


Many of the Liberal programs have this kind of back-end loading, with the hope that the economy will somehow be strong enough to offset the rising costs.  The problem is that there does not seem to be a recognition of the massive increase of the federal expenditures already built into the national budget.  The federal workforce has grown by almost 40 per cent under this government.  There are now 357,247 federal employees, an increase of more than 100,000 new employees since the Liberals took office.  And the PBO forecasts more than 50,000 will be added over the next five years. That means a massive addition of new salaries, benefits, and pensions that must be covered for years to come at an annual cost of $55 billion.


What do we get for all this spending? Diminished services. There are problems with backlogs and ongoing inefficiencies.


Unfortunately, public debt and interest charges are also growing, with the government forecast to spend $61 billion on debt charges in 2028-29, almost as much as it does on healthcare transfers.  


The Liberals seem to be pinning their hopes to deal with these massive spending increases on two impracticalities: the first is unrestrained economic growth, primarily through immigration; the second is to cut government budgets, deeply in some areas, superficially in others.  


Immigration has been a long-standing way to grow populations, adding to economic productivity and the tax base . . . in the long-run.  Minister Marc Miller has announced that the Liberal government is on track to welcome the largest number of immigrants and international students to the country.  In the past year, Canada’s population grew by over one million people, 96 per cent of which comes from immigration.  Since 2016, Canada has had the fastest growing population in the G7 countries every year. Canadians agree, and evidence supports, that immigration has a net positive effect on Canada, but it has also adversely affected the vacancy rate and housing supply.


Construction has not kept pace and few of the immigrants work in construction.  In Canada, approximately 8 per cent of our workforce is employed in construction, but only about 3 per cent of new permanent residents work in it.  In the next decade, approximately 20 per cent of the construction workforce is set to retire.  The government’s policies are adding to the housing shortage and rising costs, but their proposed solutions are not dealing with the underlying causes.


The second proposal for fiscal responsibility comes from Anita Anand, who is looking for $500 million in budget cuts this year and $15 billion over the next five years.  Most of this year’s cut - $211 million – is to come from the Department of National Defense, which is already losing staff.  Even though we are in a period of dangerously increasing aggression from Russia and China and an international environment that is shaping into a pitched battle between democracy and autocracy, Canada continues its long tradition of sticking its head in the sand and punting National Security and Defense behind other policy priorities.


And in the areas they are spending more, many of the programs only support certain constituents and push them into particular choices.  The signature $10 a day daycare program is great for those that want to use institutional childcare. But it does nothing for parents who want to care for their kids at home for as long as possible. Canadians are not one size fits all. There are many varied approaches to managing and raising a family and the Liberals have provided no support for those that choose to stay at home or who use family members to supplement care.


Instead of forcing institutional care, an expansion of the universal tax credits for children would allow all people dealing with childcare to make choices that best reflect their preferences and needs.


We need a budget that recognizes and respects differences in Canadians. We need a budget that tackles impending demographic bombs. We need budget that acknowledges geopolitical realities that are a threat to our security and values.


We need a budget that contains policy that is based on evidence, that is implemented without fear or favour and that will address serious, very serious, challenges with serious solutions.


We are not getting that now. We deserve better. Much better.


Beth-Anne Schuelke

Vice-president

Canadian Future Party


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The Canadian Future Party will be rolling out commentary on economic issues facing Canadians over the coming weeks. With that in mind, I encourage people interested in working on fiscal and budgetary policy issues through the Fiscal Policy working group to contact me at vp@ourcanadianfuture.com.


P.S. If you haven’t yet - become a member, volunteer, or give us your policy ideas.

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