Rivers on the Federal Budget: A Chicken in Every Pot

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 22, 2021



Just like that it was over!  Presentation of a budget with no real surprises, unlike the almost alarmist complaining by the opposition parties that it had been two years in coming.   And it’s a huge budget document with spending to match.   There was relatively little post-budget fuss except for the habitual Tory complaints about the mounting size of the deficit and the debt.

PM - DPM & finance 2021 budget

Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland preparing to speak to her budget which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leafs through.

None of the opposition leaders want an election right now, so they are behaving very gingerly to avoid an excuse for an election.  The polls show the Liberals would win again and maybe with a majority this time.  And the Libs would love to take advantage of that, but we’re in probably the worst phase of the pandemic now and the voters resent it when opportunistic governments call inconvenient and untimely elections.  So it’ll come but not just yet.

The pundits are calling this an election budget anyway.  And it is loaded with goodies for just about everyone.  A chicken in everyone’s pot.   In any case it’s all borrowed money – so more like the government borrowing your chicken to give it back to you.  The biggest goodies are climate related initiatives, creating a million jobs this year, and a ten dollar a day national child care program.  But everyone gets some kind of handout, be it farmers, householders, green energy start ups, existing oil companies, and even seniors.

The $10 a day pre-school plan is long overdue for a society which values social interdependence as Canadians like to think we do.  Quebec’s successful program is the template which the feds are looking at.  The results from la Belle Province include better early education, increased female participation in the labour force and economic growth.

We too might have already had this program.  But Jack Layton’s NDP’s pulled the plug on Paul Martin’s minority government in 2006 and with it died a unique federal provincial agreement to establish a national child care program.  Stephen Harper’s, supported by Layton, killed the initiative and gave parents some cash instead, which as one Liberal partisan noted, would likely buy beer and chips instead.   So Mr. Singh is on shaky ground when he claims this has been a long term NDP policy.

cheque Ottawa to Quebec

Federal civil servant handing over a cheque to a Quebec civil servant.

Having showed their hand Mr Trudeau and his finance minister have got their job cut out for them getting the current field of cash strapped premiers to ante up and sign on to a new plan.  And the feds have weakened their negotiating position by saying they would be picking up half of the bill.   Quebec has signaled that it would be happy to get a cheque instead, since it already has a program.

Not every good idea made it to the budget however.  Rank and file Liberals who paid their money to participate in the recent policy convention must be disappointed that their highest priorities seem to have got lost.  Pharmacare, a priority also for the NDP, seems to have been overlooked, though another NDP policy, a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, has been included.

Universal basic income (UBI) didn’t even get a mention though about 90% of voting delegates supported it at their convention.  That is probably because a UBI would make it more difficult to justify the kind of piecemeal pork that get handed out with this kind of budget – discretionary top-ups and the continuation of COVID emergency programs, most of which are poorly thought out, like the problematic federal sick leave.

And then there is the mother of all wasteful programs – the COVID wage subsidy.   At about $100 billion the wage subsidy is the most costly federal COVID-19 program, and one of the most expensive short-term government programs in Canadian history.  Companies get taxpayer money so they can keep people on the payroll when they don’t have enough work for them.  Isn’t that what we used to call Soviet-style socialism?

football CFL

Canadian Football League wants to get its snout into the trough as well

But it turns out that is a great way to put more money into the pockets of shareholders and to fatten the bonuses and salaries of senior executives, while regular workers are given the boot anyway.   Apparently even the big three telecoms are sucking up wage subsidy money, even at a time when internet usage is up 70-90%.  And telecom rates haven’t declined that I’ve noticed, so how do they qualify?  And how does the CFL (Canadian Football League) get to dip its pigskin in the trough as well?

Who would approve such a wasteful program?  Turns out it was a unanimous decision of all the patties.  And, this has to be a conflict of interest because all four national political parties have also applied for a wage subsidy from this program.   So the next time Erin O’Toole complains about the mounting cost of the deficit, someone should remind him that he and his party are also a big part of the problem.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers, born in Ontario earned an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario and a Master’s degree in economics at the University of Ottawa.  His 25 year stint with the federal government included time with Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture and the Post office.  Rivers is active in his community; has run for municipal and provincial office.

Background links:

Budget –     Wage Subsidy –    Political Parties at the Trough


Cost of Wage Subsidy –     The Rip Off Crowd –     Sealing the Deal

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10 comments to Rivers on the Federal Budget: A Chicken in Every Pot

  • joe gaetan

    Using the Chretien era Liberal Party as the base, the current iteration of the Liberal party is listing to the left of the NDP, leaving plenty of room for any party to move closer to the centre and earn my vote. A “chicken-poulet” in every pot is nice as long as you can afford to buy one at the hyper inflated future cost of said chicken. P.M. Trudeau jr. will have options of course, one being passing the 2025 version of the 1975 Anti-Inflation Act passed by P.M. Trudeau sr.

  • David Barker

    Hold my nose? I would need a gas mask to vote PC with its current uncaring philosophies and lack of clear alternative policies ! LOL

    A caring government that provides a safety net to the economically most vulnerable, that provides medicare for all, that provided economic assistance to the entire population get it through a national health emergency, that seeks to initiate a national daycare cost subsidy, that wishes to help refugees from war torn areas come to this country to add to our society gets my vote.

    Sure Trudeau and the Liberals as a whole have made many mistakes. But I prefer them to an uncaring party that is founded in a WIIFM – What’s In It For Me culture. Until the PCs leave the Reform Party mentality behind and come back to the party of Mulroney they cannot get my vote.

    There is no centrist alternative !

    • Don Fletcher

      I’m confused. You asked for an alternative while obviously not prepared to consider one. You note a bias in my comments, but see none in yours. The bottom-line, for me, is that these social assistance programs are all wonderful, if it wasn’t for the crushing financial burden that they will place on our future generations. Enough said!

      • David Barker

        I don’t know how you can possibly be confused. I believe I was very clear. I’m prepared to consider an alternative. But as clearly said that alternative must be a centrist party. Not a right wing dogma party as in the PCs. Again as said, if the PCs returned to the party of Mulroney a slightly centre right party and the leader appeared sincere, I could certainly vote for that party. Hopefully I am now clear.

        Certainly those programs must be paid for. Applying appropriate tax levels to (1) the 1% very rich, who have only got richer during the pandemic, whilst the general population has got poorer; (2) initiate taxation on that portion of revenues of internet companies generated from Canadian sales would go a long way to paying for the programs.

        It is proven that both infrastructure development programs and programs aimed at releasing individuals from responsibilities that tie them to the home, increases the workforce, which increases productivity and so tax revenue.

    • Phillip Wooster

      David apparently needs no gas mask to protect himself from the strong stench of corruption and deception which are the hallmarks of the Trudeau government. Trudeau’s record of corruption—SNC Lavalin, WE Charity, the Mark Norman fiasco, and the latest coverup of sexual misconduct in the Defence Ministry, will mark Trudeau’s legacy as the worst Prime Minister of my lifetime, if not in Canadian history. Trudeau lied in 2015 when he promised to make the federal government open and accountable; he reaffirmed this lie upon his election in an open letter to Canadians on November 4, 2015: “ Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. That is why we committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in Ottawa. Government and its information must be open by default.” He has consistently covered up scandal after scandal, even if this meant blocking investigations. Now, Canadians will only hear the truth when a series of judicial inquiries are eventually appointed.
      Unfortunately Trudeau’s deception did not end with the scandals. In 2015, he promised electoral reform—he lied again. He promised not to run a deficit over $10 billion and to balance the budget in 2019—he lied again. In 2015, he promised to deal with climate change and yet between 2015 and 2019, carbon emissions rose from 723mt to 730mt—another lie. In 2019, he promised not to raise the carbon tax beyond $50/tone—yet another lie.
      And you really need a gas mask to evaluate Trudeau’s record of fiscal incompetence. In six short years, he has increased the national debt by more than the accumulated debt of all previous prime ministers in 148 years of confederation. And note the end point of this Liberal debt bomb—carrying costs (interest) on the debt will soon hit $40 billion per year and that’s if interest rates remain low (not a very realistic assumption) while currently scheduled health transfers to the provinces are $42 billion per year.
      David would have you believe that the Trudeau government is a “caring government that provides medicare for all” but neglects to mention that under his government, increases in health care transfers are less than the rate of inflation, with badly strapped provinces left to pick up the tab. At the same time, he rebuffs the provinces’ request for increased federal support. He would also have you believe that this “caring government” provides financial assistance but neglects to mention that not only did the opposition parties support this assistance but pressured the Liberals to improve it.
      David claims that “Trudeau and the Liberals made mistakes” but mistakes imply a certain degree of inadvertence—lies and deception are not mistakes! To vote for this government, you not only need a gas mask but indeed blinders.

      • David Barker

        Mr. Wooster. I regret the publisher has determined not to publish my reply to your comment for reasons not made known to me.

        Editor’s note: Now now Mt Barker – you were told why we declined to publish your comment.

  • Albert H.

    I am a 69 year old senior on a fixed income. I have to pay for dental, eyeglasses and hearing aids this year to the tune of hundreds of dollars. What was in this budget for people like me?

  • Don Fletcher

    I suppose we could all “hold our noses” over this lavish spending plan of Justin Trudeau & his Liberal Party, if it wasn’t for his track record of failed promises and delivering meagre (if any) results for the money spent. To be #1 in the world in vaccine spending/ capita and #37 in inoculations to-date is only the most recent evidence of Justin Trudeau’s over-promise/ under-deliver performance. Something to seriously think about when you go to the polls next time!

    • David Barker

      OK. I’m not saying I agree with your bias but certainly valid question to ask oneself. Let’s say the the answer to that question means I don’t want to vote for the Liberals, than what is the valid alternative.

      Just as is the case with the PC party, you criticize but offer no valid alternative.

      Best wishes

      • Don Fletcher

        Ok, David. I suggest you “hold your nose” & vote Conservative. If nothing else, a change in government will disrupt the Liberal’s relentless drive towards big government and turning Canada into a socialist, welfare state.