TORONTO, Jan. 27 /CNW/ - The federal government's refusal to address the
shortfalls of Employment Insurance in today's budget is a slap in the face to
hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
"Temporarily extending the benefit period by a mere five weeks is not enough
to fix the crisis faced by unemployed workers."
"The bigger problem is that most unemployed workers can't qualify for
benefits and this budget does nothing to change that."
Only two months ago the Harper Conservatives were claiming that Canada
could avoid a recession and balance the federal books, but today's sudden
about-face is a consequence of pressure from the unified opposition coalition
and a public concerned about the growing economic crisis, said Lewenza.
"They have reluctantly admitted the need for government to inject
billions of new public investment into our struggling economy and training
supports for unemployed workers," Lewenza said.
"We've wasted two months since then - two months when the government
could have been acting," Lewenza said. "The Conservatives have still not
admitted responsibility for the huge economic and political error they made in
The deficits outlined by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty over the next two
fiscal years amount to less than two per cent of Canada's GDP, which is
smaller than other countries were experiencing, even before the onslaught of
this recession. By comparison the U.S. deficit this year will equal close to
nine per cent of GDP.
"How long are the Harper Conservatives willing to provide the stimulus
needed to get our economy moving forward again?" Lewenza asked. "We're likely
to need support from new government spending measures for three to five years,
unlike their plan which pulls back spending after just a year or two."
A major mistake is the decision to devote $20 billion in funds over six
years to a permanent personal income tax cut - which almost does nothing to
stimulate the economy during a recession, said CAW Economist Jim Stanford.
"People tend to save most or all of their tax refund, rather than
spending it," Stanford said. "Also tax cuts do nothing to help people who have
lost their jobs - since they will pay little, if any tax at all. Assistance
should be focused on the hundreds of thousands of workers who have lost their
jobs and who need help the most."
Lewenza said he was greatly disappointed that the federal government did
not include any Canadian-content requirements for the billions in new public
spending announcements. He said the failure of the government to enact a Buy
Canadian policy will mean that Canadian industry will not reap the maximum
benefit from our own infrastructure spending.
With massive military purchases under consideration, the case of the
government recently awarding a $254 million contract for 1300 medium duty
trucks to be built by Navistar in Texas is an example of why Canadian-content
requirements are needed. At the same time, Navistar is laying off hundreds of
truck plant workers in Chatham, Lewenza said.
Lewenza called the budget's housing measures, including the funds
allocated for renovations and energy retrofits for social housing, new housing
for low-income seniors, northern communities and people with disabilities
encouraging, yet long overdue.
The $1 billion for a Green Infrastructure Fund is also a move towards
renewing the country's traditional progressive stance on climate change, but
still much more must be done to "green" the country's economy as Canada has
already fallen behind other industrialized nations, said Lewenza.
For further information:
For further information: CAW Communications, Angelo DiCaro, (cell) (416)
606-6311 or Shannon Devine, (cell) (416) 302-1699