Off balance

Local resident questions the financial policies of the federal government

I am writing in response to the letter of Mel Arnold, Conservative candidate for the federal riding of North Okanagan-Shuswap.

Arnold’s letter is a series of talking points which laud the federal government for balancing the budget.

These clearly come directly from the PMO since the Harper government has long ago decided that MPs and candidates cannot be trusted to say anything on their own.

The talking points hide some realities that Canadians are entitled to know.

First of all, they fail to mention that the Tories have produced just one balanced budget in nine years, over which time they have added $150 billion to the national debt –  $60 billion more than the administrations of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin combined.

Second, to achieve the balanced budget, Finance Minister Joe Oliver fudged the established methodology for how revenue forecasts are made, by assuming that the price of oil will increase in each of the next five years.

Third, the government is effectively abandoning infrastructure investment until 2017.

Fourth, to get more revenue, Oliver sold the government’s last remaining shares in General Motors as a result of the 2009 auto bailout for $2.1 billion. It was an expensive $2.1 billion, given that it imposed a $3.5 billion loss on taxpayers.

Fifth, to balance the budget, Oliver also did something his predecessor vowed he would never do: he used $3.4 billion from the Employment Insurance operating surplus.

Sixth, Oliver used up two-thirds of the $3 billion contingency fund that all federal governments put aside for a rainy day, although this was not a rainy day.

And that is how we got to a so-called balanced budget.

In the process, the Harper government gave a $2 billion tax cut to wealthy Canadians through income-splitting, while making $36 billion in cuts to health care over 10 years.

I suggest that Arnold take a more critical look at the next set of talking points he is sent by the PMO.

Eli Pivnick