In recent years, the political agenda in Canada has focused on the present rather than the future. This has been necessary because many problems have had to be quickly addressed. Today, many of the short-term problems threatening Canada’s existence have been tamed, and although many problems currently exist, Canada is in a strong position to address them. Canada, and most importantly its citizens have the ability today to set the tone of the nation, setting long-term objectives. In order to improve Canadians living standards, a long-term plan must be set in place. As Prime Minister of Canada I would shape my political vision around long-term proactive solutions. Although it is inevitable that new problems will need to be addressed along the way, a path for Canada must exist, so that if as a nation we are side tracked we can easily get back on course. If I were Prime Minister of Canada I would focus on aggressive debt reduction, a decline in poverty, and proactive environmental incentives as Canada moves towards the future. This will ensure that Canada will not only be around for the next century, but for eternity.
Aggressive Debt Reduction
Currently in Canada about $50 billion of our budget is spent on interest payments on Canada’s debt. That is about one-third of our annual budget. This $50 billion dollars would be better spent on social programs, environmental protection, international aid, and tax cuts. More importantly, the further Canada’s debt is reduced the more we are guaranteed that we will not find ourselves in the same situation as the early 1990’s; the verge of bankruptcy. If interest rates rise to keep inflation down, then our debt payments will skyrocket, throwing Canada back towards the threat of economic failure. Without lowering the national debt, Canada could repeat history.
Today, Canada has an annual contingency fund of $3 billion in case of emergency. If no emergency arises, that fund goes towards Canada’s debt reduction. If Canada stayed on this course, it would take well over a century to get the debt to manageable levels. Canada is also in the short-term experiencing ever growing budgetary surpluses. As head of the Canadian government, spending levels would be frozen, except to adjust for inflation. The entire surplus would then be spent on debt reduction. The next year, the Canadian government would have saved money on servicing the debt. Fifty-percent of that savings would be invested in new government spending, especially in the areas of health care, education, and research and development. The other half of the savings would be put towards further debt repayment. This payment is in addition to the continuing direction of surplus funds towards debt reduction.
This policy will continue year after year even if there is no surplus. In the short-term the government would have to ensure a balanced budget. But fifty-percent of all savings from debt reduction must continue to reduce the debt, no matter the size of the savings. This will ensure that when the economic cycle of Canada booms again, Canada will have a surplus, and a plan already in place to further reduce the debt.
Decline in Poverty
It is very hard to believe that in a country as rich as Canada, a significant portion of the population lives in poverty. Poverty is a problem that can be handled in the short-term, but a solution will only prevail if the issue is dealt with in the long-term. The numbers are frightening; in 1996 there were 5,300 children without a place to live in Canada and today over 100,000 people are on the social housing waiting list.
As Prime Minister I would ensure that current funding for the homeless would remain intact, and additional money would also be added. Most of this money will go completely to creating low cost affordable housing all across Canada. A small portion will also go towards homeless shelters. Simply creating more shelters merely gets people off the streets, but they remain displaced. The creation of low cost housing is a viable solution to eliminating homelessness in Canada. This not only gets citizens off the dangerous streets but also gives them a quality place to live. Additional money for this initiative should become available over time as the debt reduces.
Although poverty has many different aspects and affects a variety of Canadians, children are hurt most by it. Over the past few years the idea of a national daycare program has been brought forward. Realizing the importance of daycare to all Canadians, my government would enact several plans to make this service more accessible.
First, the expense of daycare would become 100% tax deductible for all Canadian families. The cost of daycare will be determined by the average cost of daycare within the citizen’s province. This ensures that people sending their children to expensive or cheaper daycares will be equally compensated. If a family does not make enough money annually to pay tax, then the money spent on daycare will be fully refunded; the amount refunded is also based on the provincial average daycare cost.
Currently Quebec runs its own provincial daycare program, which has won much acclaim. Other provinces may also want to set up their own systems for daycare. This is why to ensure the success of this new federal program it must be flexible to allow provinces their autonomy. Any province offering a daycare program would be compensated for their efforts. Therefore, the money people would have claimed for tax deductions would be noted and all the money the federal government would save would be transferred to that individual’s province. For those families not earning enough to pay tax, they would be refunded their cost of daycare, and any federal savings left over would also go towards their province in the form of a transfer payment.
An additional solution, to be run at the same time as the tax deduction, is to set up with the help of the provinces a new system that will provide assistance to single parent families. A single parent eligible to receive welfare could choose instead the Single Parent Assistance Plan. This federal-provincial program would provide these single parent families with an annual income equal to that provinces poverty line. Poverty line adjustments may also be made to address higher living costs in urban areas.
In order to pay for this new Single Parent Assistance Plan and still meet the objectives in the debt reduction plan previously mentioned, the government would reallocate funds to this program. Some money will come from current welfare payments, as well as the fifty-percent savings from debt reduction. These new initiatives will give single parents the choice of working or staying home to raise the family. Although these single parent families may not become rich, these new programs will help keep them out of poverty.
For families that have one parent working full time and another staying home to raise children, the working parent will receive a 4% tax reduction. This would allow the family to choose one parent to stay home without decreasing their standard of living. This action is not to put a price tag on the value of a stay at home parent; there is no way to calculate that. It is a way for households to choose how to raise their families without enduring such a drastic drop in household income.
Money spent today in these areas will return a profit in the future. For instance, parents choosing to stay at home to raise their children will most likely end up volunteering in the community and at schools. As well, if these families have less stress there is a lower expense to the health care system; the number of youth in detention centres and prisons will also drop significantly, creating additional long-term savings.