Posted: Monday, 15 October 2012
On behalf of the 3.3 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), we want to thank you for the opportunity to present our views regarding the 2013 federal budget.
The CLC brings together workers from virtually all sectors of the Canadian economy, in all occupations, in all parts of Canada.
Leading economists, including bank economists, say that Canada’s economic recovery is stalling due to slowing business investment, high household debt, and weak global growth.
Business investments are not where they should be. The across-the-board corporate tax cuts didn’t deliver the promised investments in real assets, such as new factories and in workers’ training, and thus these cuts failed to boost economic growth and productivity, and did not help create more and better jobs.
Instead, those across-the-board corporate tax cuts delivered higher compensation to CEOs, cost Canadians billions in lower than expected government revenues, led to a higher federal deficit and debt, and cuts to public services.
However, those across-the-board corporate tax cuts have helped private, non-financial corporations in Canada to hoard over 500 billion dollars in cash reserves, money that is not at work creating more and better jobs in Canada.
To compensate for the lack of investment from corporations, we need a major public investment program to create good jobs now, promote our environmental goals, stimulate new private sector investment, and boost productivity.
The CLC calls for the federal government to launch, in partnership with the provinces and cities, a major, multi-year public investment program.
Such a program should include increased support for: basic municipal infrastructure; mass transit and passenger rail; affordable housing; quality, affordable childcare; energy conservation through building retrofits; and renewable energy projects.
Canada’s over reliance on unprocessed and semi-processed resource exports has a negative impact on productivity.
The CLC supports targeted measures to sustain and create good jobs in manufacturing, and to maximize job creation in industries linked to the resource sector.
This will require active government strategies on trade, sectoral development, and domestic procurement strategies.
Encouraging value-added production and investment in key sectors, along with “green job and green skills initiatives,” will enhance innovation and labour productivity.
Having a sectoral development policy seeking to promote more investment, production, employment, and exports in especially important sectors of the economy, is key to attaining a more desirable sectoral mix and a greater share of output and employment in high-value or “strategic” sectors.
Also, we cannot afford trade agreements that give priority to investors’ rights over the rights of workers, and their aspirations to decent work and decent lives.
We need a new international trade and investment framework that has, at its core, the promotion of higher labour standards and collective bargaining, high-quality jobs, and sustainable, global economic development.
Canada’s economic success and the future prosperity of every Canadian will depend on the capabilities of a skilled and educated workforce.
While there is much talk of future skills shortages, Statistics Canada reports that there are more than five unemployed workers for every job vacancy.
Training and lifelong learning are critical, and literacy and numeracy skills in Canada lag many other countries.
Training Canadians, instead of importing vulnerable migrant labour, should be the top priority.
The CLC calls for the development of a national, tri-partite, skills development strategy in response to the growing skills gap, the ageing workforce, and the specific needs of groups such as Aboriginals, recent immigrants, and youth.
Improving educational levels amongst Aboriginal youth can translate into enormous economic and productivity gains for the country, and most importantly, it can ensure real equality of opportunity.
Finally, some of our key federal programs do not match today’s reality.
Only 37% of unemployed Canadians receive EI benefits. The CLC calls on the government to: implement a uniform, national entrance requirement of 360 hours; increase the benefit level from 55 per cent to 60 per cent; and base benefit and duration calculations on a 30-hour work week.
The CLC continues to call for a doubling of future CPP benefits, phased-in on a fully pre‑funded basis, and we welcome the support given to CPP expansion by Ontario and many other provinces.
We call on the federal and all provincial governments to pursue this option as an urgent priority.
We call on the government to reverse its decision to move the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS to age 67. OAS and GIS are very important to seniors, especially women and poor seniors. OAS and GIS play a leading role in reducing old-age poverty in Canada, at an affordable cost.
OAS expenditures are projected to increase by less than one per cent of GDP between 2012 and 2030, when the cost of the program will peak. We also call for a 12 per cent increase in the GIS to eliminate poverty among the elderly.
To conclude, we believe that upfront costs of many these projects and reforms should be funded through returning the federal corporate income tax rate to its 2008 level of 19.5 per cent
Like the Finance Minister and the Governor of Bank of Canada, we believe businesses have to step up to the plate and deliver on good jobs and growing the economy.
But we say, if corporations do not invest their dead money in jobs creation and skills training in Canada, the government should get it back and put that money back to work for the benefit of all Canadians.
This document has been respecfully submitted on behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress.