Monday, October 7, 2019

Election 2019 Voter Guide: Part 1

With the 2019 Federal Election fast approaching, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) have compiled a voter’s guide for our members.
This series will lay out how the party’s stand on topics such as privatization, human rights, austerity, pharmacare and income inequality, among many others.
The NBU is non-partisan, meaning we do not support any political party. What we support is our members making informed choices when it comes to the future of our country.
We hope this guide will help you understand the issues and where the party’s stand.
Part 1 of the series will deal with austerity.
Austerity Agenda
Austerity is an approach aimed at reducing or eliminating government deficits. It is characterized by cuts to government spending and public services, restructuring social programs, and labour market policies that may result in unemployment and lower wages.
Following the global financial crisis (2008–2009), although the Canadian government, like others around the world, immediately responded with economic stimulus packages, they then began what is often described as a period of austerity.
Austerity agendas largely became the norm among Western countries. This was not entirely new in Canada, which had previously experienced periods of austerity as recently as the mid-1990s. It is an approach that spans political parties as well as time.
Canadians are now familiar with hearing the rhetoric of austerity: the need for “fiscal responsibility,” finding “efficiencies,” “tightening our belts,” or “balancing the budget.”
The following are some indicators of an austerity agenda: government spending cuts; privatization, marketization or reduction of public services; reducing or eliminating social policy programs like employment benefits, or health and disability supports; restructuring labour markets to enhance “flexibility,” such as reducing wages. These policies are often justified as necessary sacrifices to eliminate debt and spur economic growth.
However, many economists have questioned the argument for austerity-led growth. In fact, austerity has been shown to exacerbate existing inequities, including widening income inequality, and to disproportionately affect members of vulnerable or marginalized communities.
Below are examples illustrating the extent to which federal parties support austerity.

Track Record & Campaign Promises

Liberal
• Liberal governments in the 1990s made significant cutbacks to government spending, particularly to public services, aimed at repaying debt, and reduced provincial transfer payments for health care, education, etc.
• Moved away from explicit austerity agenda in the 2015 election platform: campaigned on the need for investment, particularly in infrastructure, jobs, and innovation, which would maintain some level of deficit. Budget 2019 forecasts continued deficits.
• In government, made investments in these areas, in public services like child care, and in improvements to EI, and committed to establish national pharmacare.
• In the 2019 campaign, committed to expand direct family benefits (e.g., Canada Child Benefit) and first-time home-buyer supports.
• Supports privatization (e.g., Canada Infrastructure Bank), though it denies what it is doing is privatization.

Conservative
• Harper government was known for its austerity agenda, including cuts to public services and public sector jobs, underfunding and fragmenting health care, and restricting employment insurance.
• Supports privatization and usually admits they favour privatization.
• 2019 election platform commits to balance the budget over 5 years.
• Emphasizes cutting taxes or offering tax credits rather than investing in public and social spending.
• Has made few commitments to public and social spending, e.g., increasing health transfers.

NDP
• Generally, supports investment in public services, social services and programs.
• 2019 election platform includes commitments to invest in public health care, including universal pharmacare, affordable housing, post-secondary education, universal child care, retirement security, enhancing EI, and creating green jobs.
• Largely opposes privatization, but has no position on social impact bonds.
• Notably campaigned in 2015 on balancing the federal budget.

Green Party
• Largely opposes privatization, but has no position on social impact bonds. How the party views new forms of privatization is concerning.
• 2019 election platform emphasizes government spending in green economy (e.g., infrastructure, worker training), with some commitments on public and social services (e.g., pharmacare, mental health, housing, and post-secondary education). Commits to creating a guaranteed minimum income program, which involves replacing current income supports.
• Commits to balance the budget over 5 years.