By Jack Bourassa
(As appeared in the Nov. 29, 2017 issue of ‘Yellowknifer’)
We were slightly amused in recent weeks to see Premier Bob McLeod issue a ‘red alert’ to our federal government. I certainly do feel there is a lot to be ‘alerted’ about as it comes to the lack of commitment by the feds to Northern living and how services are delivered to our citizens.
Unlike the case of the premier’s rage over the moratorium, we are much more concerned about the litany of broken promises and the lack of transparency presented by our federal government when it comes to basic services. The premier may count universal child care among them.
Three of the biggest items that continue to plague our region as 2017 comes to a close include the civil service’s Phoenix payroll system, pensions and offshore tax havens. All are related because all point to a failing record of a government that was elected to serve the middle class and working people.
Phoenix pay system
As many know, the IBM Phoenix payroll system debacle has no end in sight even as we approach the two-year anniversary of its launch date. Earlier this month, the Auditor General of Canada released a report on the pay system noting that the federal government severely botched the roll-out of the new IT program. Northerners ought to be concerned as this foreseen problem is expected to cost Canadian tax payers over $540 million dollars and many years of continued issues.
As federal workers continue to get overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all, we echo the concerns of our union sisters and brothers when they ask how much longer this must go on?
This problem was created by the federal government and it’s their job to fix it. We must keep in mind that there are many federal workers on whom our Northern communities depend.
As for pensions, we should have all learned a hard lesson this year that defined pensions – ones that ensure there is enough money for employees when they retire – are what workers should be demanding.
With an aging population, including one moving quite rapidly in the North, it is incumbent on the government that our seniors do not have to worry about financial security when they retire.
The federal Liberal government has so far not backed away from its proposed Bill C-27 that would allow some employers to break their pension guarantees to workers and introduce target-benefit plans that put more risk on employees.
We more generally saw the drastic impact of not having strong, decent pension plans when Sears Canada collapsed and left thousands of employees with no financial security.
To be sure, as the federal government fails to demand better pensions for our seniors while not responding to those losing them, they are failing middle class and working Canadians.
Offshore tax havens
Finally, the release of the Paradise Papers in early November revealed that more than 3,000 wealthy Canadians have kept funds in offshore tax shelters. According to Canadians for Tax Fairness, between $10 to $15 billion is directly being taken out of the economy annually because of tax loopholes that benefit the rich.
This points to the theme of what we fight for practically every day which is that there is enough money to provide what we need for more equal and democratic communities. We can demand more.
There is enough money for minimum wage increases. There is enough money for publicly owned hospitals, highways and other infrastructure. There is enough money for proper investment in our chronically underfunded Indigenous communities. There is enough money for PharmaCare so that everyone can afford medication or for universal childcare so parents can both afford to go to work.
Serious tax reform is needed. We call on the local Member of Parliament in the North to support fair tax reform that will see the super elites of the country pay their fair share. We do not need to continue catering to large corporations in hopes they will toss crumbs to our society.
What we do need is the public becoming more engaged, informed and willing to demand better from government and private industry.