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March 7, 2011 / mike54martin

We Have Choices

Thank you to all who read my previous post and participated in the survey. I will leave the poll up for a few more days but there are already some clear trends. If you had $6 billion to spend your top priority was clearly focusing on reducing poverty while others liked green jobs, increased broadband access and more child care.

But the truth is that if we had that $6 billion to spend we could actually take action on all of the priorities in the survey. As you will see we would not only be spending money we would really be making investments in people, jobs and the economy that would increase employment and save money in the long run.

Here’s how we could do it.

Implement the First Phase of a National Anti-Poverty Strategy $1.7 Billion

Let’s start with Housing.  Last year the Alternative Federal Budget proposed a New Affordable Housing Supply at a cost of $1.7 billion. This starts to address the fact that a record 1.5 million Canadian households (more than four million women, men, and children) are in core housing need — they spend more than 50% of their income on housing. This funding will be used both to enhance existing federal initiatives that are not adequately funded (doubling the federal homelessness initiative, doubling Resi­dential Rehabilitation Assistance Program), and also to provide funding for new homes, repairs, and housing services for the diverse housing needs of Canadians who are not currently get­ting support. This includes a dedicated portion for Aboriginal people living off-reserve through a new national Aboriginal housing strategy that ensures that Aboriginal. The impact will be to reduce the share of Canadians facing “core housing need” by half by 2015.

 Establish a Green Jobs Fund $550 million

The Green Budget Coalition calls for expanded funded to renew Canada’s support for renewable energy, to attract investment and create jobs. In 2009 they called for an investment of $551million per year (average) for four years, and $100 million a year for the subsequent 6 years. The benefits would include 8000 new jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance, leveraging $22 billion of private sector investment; $24 million in annual lease payments to rural landowners across Canada, and opportunities for Canadians to invest in the development of clean power projects.

Improve Public Access to Broadband Services $2 Billion

The Conservatives have been inching along the broadband highway for years. This is one road that really needs to be paved if all of Canada is to benefit from the Internet age. This expenditure will help to make world-class broadband a reality for most Canadians. This has been a longstanding budget request by many groups including the Interim Consensus Submission to the federal government consultation on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada.

Create More Subsidized Child Care Spaces $1.25 Billion

In 2009 the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada called for incremental increases of federal transfers starting with $1.25 billion in 2009. This would reach the target by 2013–14 of providing all children aged three to five with access to a quality child care space in their community. Child Care is not just a drain on the public purse. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes that child care creates jobs and that every $1 million invested in the child care sector generates almost 40 jobs — at least 40% higher than the next closest industry, and four times the jobs generated by investing $1 million in construction activity.

Create a New Fund to Train and Hire Young Workers $300 Million

Canada has a chronic high rate of unemployment among people from 18 to 25. This has remained constantly high through recession, depression and economic recoveries. We need to help support people to get a higher education but we also need to help them get jobs. This modest proposal is a start. Half of the Young Workers Training and Employment Fund will provide free books and tuition to any person under 25 who has been out of school and out of work for a year. The other half will be given to employers who hire them and agree to keep them hired for a year and to train them for existing or up-coming jobs within their enterprise. It will also provide a $1,000.00 incentive for any employer who creates a full-time job for young people within their company or business. A special sub-fund of $100 million would also be created to focus specifically on opportunities for youth in aboriginal communities.

Fund More Prevention Programs and Build More Addiction Facilities for Youth $150 Million

No it’s not nearly enough but we have to start somewhere. All over the country teenagers and young people are desperate to get off drugs and re-start their lives. They need to get off the streets, or their friend’s couches and into a residential program that cannot just help them with their substance abuse issues but to give them the skills and confidence to have useful and productive lives. There is an extreme shortage of youth residential treatment centres all over the country. Most large urban centres have only space for 20-30 clients at a time and the waiting lists are endless. In rural areas and the North there are hardly any facilities at all.

Let’s say that it could cost up to $2 million dollars to refurbish a space to make it suitable as a treatment facility, assuming that provinces and municipalities would provide free space or rent and that it costs roughly a million dollars a year to operate a treatment facility. That would mean that 50 new treatment centres for youth could be opened in just one year alone. These could be allocated to ensure that every major centre and region would get at least one new centre. These are investments that will pay off for years in years in productive and healthy individuals and a direct correlation in the reduction of crime, poverty and additional health and social costs.

Restore the Court Challenges Program $50 Million

Why not? This program actually costs very little but is an important one in ensuring access to justice in language and equality rights constitutional test cases. As the Disabled Women’s Network Ontario rightly points out we may have equality rights under the Canadian Constitution but “these rights are only paper guarantees unless the individuals and groups they are designed to protect have the means to access the courts in order to enforce their rights. Without financial assistance many individuals and groups cannot access the courts and application of constitutional rights will only be available to those with deep pockets. Unequal access to constitutional rights adjudication must be a concern for all. In a constitutional democracy like Canada, constitutional rights litigation is an essential part of democratic dialogue and the exercise of citizenship.”

Sorry for the long post but thought it was important to give you some background. It was an interesting exercise for me and I hope it was fun for you. That’s what we could do differently with just a small portion of the Federal Budget. Imagine what we could if we cancelled the $9.5 billion dollar prison building spree (when we have fewer prisoners) and another $9 billion for new fighter jets (when we have no one to fight).

Budgets are about choices. Thanks for letting yours be known.

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