One thing that really stands out about the Conservative government’s budgets and spending priorities is just how heavily they have focused spending in male-dominated sectors of the economy, while largely ignoring sectors where women predominate.
The 2015 Federal Budget, like previous budgets, gave priority to increased spending in infrastructure, construction, resource industries and in defence and security. Employment in each one of these sectors is heavily dominated by men, with women making up less than a fifth of their workforces. Sectors of the economy where women form a larger share of the workforce—health care, education, and social assistance—are almost completely ignored, as they have been for many years.
Once you get past the hundreds of pages of budget documents, their carefully targeted baubles, the reactions, media commentary, the tweets and retweets, the promotional advertising and smoke and mirrors—if you’re still paying attention—there’s something basic underlying both federal and Ontario budgets neither admit to: the big squeeze on public spending is still on.
Austerity may be out of political fashion, but it’s clearly still in practice. They’ve just been doing it in slow-motion, hoping the public doesn’t notice.
Canada’s budget season really got underway in the last week of March, with the three provinces of Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick tabling their budgets. These recent budgets all feature a return of austerity: not the type of immediate deep cuts they had warned about and that have hobbled European countries, but more of a slow neo-liberal bleed that will restructure their states and contribute to stagnant economic growth.
After a cold and bitter winter in Central and Eastern Canada and balmier weather in the west, temperatures across Canada are about to rise—and not just because spring is officially upon us. Budget season has started and it looks like it will soon get hot and stormy.
For the first time in memory Quebec will boast a number of years of balanced budgets while Alberta simultaneously runs deficits—but that’s not where the real dividing lines are.
Over 60,000 Quebec students started rotating strikes to protest spending cuts and austerity measures anticipated in the province’s budget tabled on Thursday and are planning another stormy spring with many actions against austerity. The Liberal government of Phillipe Couillard has already made its intentions quite clear. Its spending review commission proposed cuts of over $2 billion, primarily by slashing support to municipalities, agriculture, education, ambulance and childcare programs, where the government has already hiked rates. This is even though Quebec already has the lowest program spending per resident of all provinces.