Real Choices for Canada's Future

Canadian Dimension, April-May 1995 | Go to article overview

Real Choices for Canada's Future


Drive down wages and labour standards, gut social programs, privatize, downsize, deregulate. Be competitive. We have no choice. Repeat this mantra. We have no choice. The Tories did it. The Liberals are doing it. Bob Rae is doing it. We have no choice.

This has been the battle cry of the Right for ten years and more. The only realistic response to globalization and capital mobility, they have said, is to tighten our belts and become leaner and meaner, the better to be competitive in the new global economy.

The Left in this country has insisted there are choices, and now CHO!CES and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) have set out to prove it by preparing a comprehensive alternative federal budget. The project is a complex undertaking. It includes regional hearings in numerous Canadian centres, with policy groups providing specialized input on a dozen different aspects of the budget. A broadly-based Working Committee based itself in Winnipeg where CHO!CES has prepared numerous previous provincial and civic budgets. An overall Steering Committee worked out of Ottawa, comprising a myriad of labour, women's, environmental, social justice and community organizations. Constructing an alternative federal budget is a major undertaking by the country's Left and progressive forces.

The CHO!CES-CCPA document is not a socialist budget. It is scarcely even a radical budget. This is necessarily the case since it has chosen to operate within the very severe constraints imposed on national policy by the competitive pressures of globalization and NAFTA where transnational corporate producers and speculators rule supreme. To avoid immediate dismissal, it has also chosen to accept Paul Martin's schedule to reduce the federal deficit.

This is an alternative budget, but it is also a real budget, subject to current fiscal limitations, and the product of hard compromise arising from intense negotiations among the various groups involved in the process.

Within these constraints, this budget does contain humane and progressive features that follow from its needs-based orientation. It includes a substantial job creation program, it maintains and enhances - especially via a move toward a national child care program and significant expenditures on social housing - Canada's social programs. It mounts a multi-faceted attack on the disgraceful levels of poverty in this country, it imposes a modicum of democratic control over interest rates and it pushes the tax system in a more progressive direction. …

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