Paul Martin's second budget marks a clear turning point for the Chrtien government. The signs of its rightward drift were already apparent within days after the crushing defeat of the Tories in October 1993. But until now, many Canadians still harboured illusions about the Liberals' "red book" of election promises, especially to preserve Canada's social programs, and to place job creation ahead of deficit reduction.
Recall, for instance, the "red book's" stinging rebuke of the Mulroney Tories for having taken "billions of dollars from health care and programs that support children, seniors and people who have lost their jobs..." Well, well. Interesting reading. We find it hard to discover even a remote similarity between these fine words and the actions of the present government.
Of course, the Liberals' abandonment of their promises comes as no great surprise. In the final analysis, basic class interests and the balance of class forces drive government policy, and fiscal policy in particular. And on the issue of "re-engineering" government, monopoly capital - both in Canada and internationally - is fully united. Virtually everywhere the corporate prescription is the same: "down-size" the public sector, "privatize," "de-regulate," cut social spending, remove barriers to capital mobility, and so on.
The deficit scare is the convenient cover to bring in these policies. It's the hammer, a very crude form of psychotherapy, used to "soften-up" the Canadian public to accept the corporate agenda.
What is so maddening about the Martin budget is that it is doubly deceitful. It uses the deficit scare to mask its objective; but it also tries, in typical "liberal" character, to dress it up in the garb of "fairness" and "equity", by throwing in a few insignificant taxes on corporate and individual wealth.
Many have noted that this budget was really designed to accommodate the international bond traders, the transnationals, and the Wall Street Journal, the corporate rag which recently called Canada "an honorary member of the Third World." How ironic! The same financial parasites for which the Wall Street Journal speaks are demanding that Canada slash public services, social programs and workers' wages - all of which are precisely what distinguishes Canada from the Third World.
The key question now is to find the ways to mobilize to defeat this budget. We can start by bringing every possible encouragement and support to PSAC to resist the 45,000 job cut in the public service; by redoubling efforts to organize the unemployed and the poor; by demanding that provincial governments take a principled stand against the "down-loading" of services; and by massive pressure on every sitting Liberal member.
This government has used up its remaining small reservoir of good faith. It has declared war on the working class, on women and youth, on the poor, the sick and elderly. And it won't let up this attack, unless we compel it to retreat by our united, collective action!
The People's Voice is published monthly by New Labour Press.
Editor: Kimball Cariou
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