So, yesterday I talked about using a negative income tax as the basis for a Conservative Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) or Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme. The first problem is to persuade a large contingent of so-called Conservatives that a GAI/UBI is, in fact, a very Conservative idea. Too many Conservative Party supporters are reflexively and uncritically opposed to the idea of a GAI/UBI either because they oppose welfare, in general, or because they think it is a progressive notion and, therefore, unworthy of support. It is possible, even easy, to be a real true blue Conservative and favour ideas that provide support to the less fortunate inn a cost effective manner.
I have also written about the Canadian precariat: those of our fellow citizens whose lives are precariously balanced between survival and disaster. They are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque, month to month; they have few savings and little hope of financial security. They have neither good job security nor adequate pension plans; many precariat families work two or three jobs … always having to balance work with child care and so on. They need help and Conservatives should be looking out for their interests.
But, right now, in 2020, Canada is headed in the wrong direction.
Our basic instincts were right in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s when successive Canadian governments, cautiously at first, then with more enthusiasm and less fiscal restraint, introduced the modern social safety-net and the welfare state. But, beginning in the 1970s we pretty much completely abandoned abandoned fiscal probity when Canadian Liberal politicians told the people that they were entitled to a whole range of benefits. The thirty years from 1985 to 2015 were then spent, in the main, fighting to restore the fiscal balance. In more than half a century, from 1965 to 2020 …
… Canada ran budget surpluses for only 13 of 55 years … by 1965 the HUGE infrastructure projects like the St Lawrence Seaway and the Trans Canada Microwave system and the DEW Line were paid for, and we were, mostly, at peace (we fought in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2014 but the defence budget grew only slightly during one small part (2007-2010) …
… during the entire period from 1986 to 2016. Defence spending began to fall, again, as the 2008 financial crisis rather than the Afghan War came to dominate policy making in Canada. The fiscal imperatives for Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and Harper were sorting out the fiscal disaster that Pierre Trudeau inflicted on Canada. Working, one after the other, including through wars and crises, they succeeded. Then Justin Trudeau threw all their hard work aside … and now Canada must cope with the economic fallout from a global pandemic.
It is neither politically nor morally acceptable to say that social transfers to those who need them most ~ the homeless, the helpless and the ever expanding Canadian precariat ~ must be cut so that the top 20% of income earners in Canada, who pay 56% of all taxes, can be protected. But, equally, the top 20% are already paying enough in taxes. When their disposable income is taken away in taxes, to pay the interest on our national debt ~ the debt that Justin Trudeau seems not to understand needs to be paid back, with interest, by Canadian taxpayers like you and me and our children and their children, too ~ then they cannot invest it and create jobs for Canadians.
What’s needed is a top to bottom rethink of Canada’s social safety net. That requires the coordinated efforts of the federal and provincial and municipal governments with the willing cooperation of private charitable agencies, too. I doubt that Justin Trudeau has the moral and political stature to sit at the table with the current provincial leaders …
… and I don’t think Justin Trudeau’s team has the “right stuff” either …
… not even with (far right) a minister of middle class prosperity.
The answer seems obvious, to me. Canada needs a new government. I think it should be a majority Conservative government led by Erin O’Toole that will have been elected on a platform that explicitly calls for a thorough overhaul of Canada’s social safety net.
To “sell” that idea in an election campaign Mr O’Toole must convince most Canadians that he is a sound manager, a pragmatist, honest and trustworthy and, above all, blessed with a Conservative social conscience.
But he must also convince Canadians that he has an honest, principled and compassionate Conservative team, a team with a well developed social conscience, working with him, not just for him, but for Canadians:
Conservatives are not a bunch of angry, old, white men who work on Bay Street. Conservatives want to help make Canada better for ALL Canadians, especially for those who are struggling just to stay afloat. The Conservative Party of Canada needs to embrace some conservative notions that have been around for a long time:
There is a blue collar Conservative constituency out there, in Canada. Most of it is in the suburbs around our larger cities from Halifax to Vancouver … what Erin O’Tool and his team have to do is persuade it to do, in the voting booth, what’s in its own best interests. And he has to persuade the Conservative base that it doesn’t have to hide its own social conscience.