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Ralph Goodale, MP

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Dear friends,

Thank you for visiting my website. I hope this offers you useful information on the work I am doing as Wascana’s Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the House of Commons.

If you have any questions or comments about any federal program or service, or need help dealing with any department or agency of the Government of Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact my Constituency Office. It is an honour to serve our community.

Ralph
ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

Harper’s Budget Rationale Has Evaporated

Posted on June 29, 2015

The Harper government failed to produce a budget through the entire 2014-15 fiscal year. Do you remember why?

They claimed they were uncertain about unstable energy markets and had to delay their budget long enough to get reliable data. So how has that worked out?

Finally tabled on April 21st, the 2015 federal budget assumed overall economic growth for Canada this year at 2%. That much growth, the Conservatives said, would generate sufficient revenue for the federal books to be balanced and for Mr. Harper to proceed with the two expensive tax breaks that he had promised for high-wealth households.

Those discriminatory tax breaks have now been legislated. But the economic growth assumptions used to justify them have gone up in smoke. The Canadian economy will NOT grow by 2% this year.

In fact, in the first quarter of 2015, our economy not only stalled, it actually shrank in each of January, February and March. For the second quarter, we’ll get the official figures in a few weeks, but more bad news is expected. The economy may not be shrinking any more, but it’s not growing much either.

The last half of 2015 may be better, but according to all the major bank economists and the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), Canada will be lucky to eke out an annual growth rate of about 1.5%.

That mediocre performance is well below what the Conservatives were claiming at Budget time, barely two months ago. It’s well below what they need to balance the federal books. And it’s therefore well below what’s needed to justify Mr. Harper’s tax breaks.

Paltry economic growth is not just this year’s problem. It has been a defining feature of Stephen Harper’s government. Since he came to power in 2006, Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett in the 1930’s.

But don’t blame me, he will say, it’s all the fault of that nasty 2008 recession. But that recession was shallower than expected. It lasted less than a year. And it ended six long years ago. So why is Canada still languishing?

Well, Mr. Harper says, put things in context – aren’t we doing better than every other country in the G-7? The short answer is no, we’re not. Canada hasn’t been on top of the G-7 in jobs and growth for several years now. Among the 34 leading countries tracked by the OECD, it’s projected that 24 will grow faster this year than will Canada. And in the larger group of IMF countries, more than 130 are likely to do better.

It’s time to stop the excuses. Mr. Harper has been in charge for nearly 10 years. No one else is to blame. His economic plan has failed.

Instead of an obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy, the Government of Canada needs to be riveted on the drivers of sustained and sustainable economic growth. That’s what will lift our living standards and bolster a more prosperous middle class. That’s what will help boost all those who are working so hard just to get to the middle class. And that’s what will enable the federal books to be balanced on a sound and sustainable foundation.

For all these reasons, Justin Trudeau is proposing a new economic plan for Canada. It’s rooted in fiscal responsibility with two prime goals — greater growth and fairness.

It includes a more generous, non-taxable and fully indexed Canada Child Benefit. A 7% middle class tax cut. A major boost for public infrastructure. Better access to higher learning and skills. Investments in science and innovation. More effective trade and marketing. And the restoration of Canada’s environmental credibility.

Mr. Trudeau’s plan represents real change. Stay tuned. There’s more to come.

After 10 years of Mr. Harper, much is broken in Ottawa, including the CRA

Posted on June 22, 2015
Courtesy Obert Madondo

Courtesy Obert Madondo

Stephen Harper is well into his 10th year in office, and Canadians are tallying the carnage of that scorched decade.

A prime economic example reaches back to the 2011 election. Mr. Harper promised big tax breaks, worth billions of dollars annually, to high-wealth Canadians – despite the clear reality that the economy was weak, the proposed cuts were expensive and unfair, and middle and lower income people had larger and more pressing needs.

As a sop to fiscal responsibility, Mr. Harper made his tax breaks “contingent” on his government first balancing its budget. That signalled a major assault on federal programs and services. He pledged that “front line” service delivery would not be reduced – only redundant public servants in the government’s “back offices” would be affected, he said. That sounded like nonsense at the time, and it was.

Services and service delivery standards have been severely compromised. Just ask WW2 veterans, or younger soldiers returning from recent wars and suffering PTSD. Ask someone trying to reach a human-being to talk to about Employment Insurance, or a pension problem, or an immigration application that’s two years overdue.

Or ask about the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Taxpayers have been treated to a litany of service failures in this key department over the past several months.

First it was the letters CRA was sending to taxpayers. They were incoherent computer-generated gibberish that no normal person could possibly understand. Even departmental officials were at a loss to make sense of their own correspondence.

Then it was the quality of the tax information being handed out by CRA, especially to small businesses. It was wrong 25% of the time.

Taxpayers with a complaint were told to go to the CRA Ombudsman, but that position has been vacant for a year.

CRA has closed all of its “service to the public” offices. Its budget for “service” has been chopped by more than 25%. Staffing is down by 20%. The department is directing Canadians to its telephone call centre to pick up the slack. And even that is proving to be a debacle.

Data obtained from CRA this past week shows an appalling level of bad performance.

Last year, some 12-million Canadians tried to call the tax department for information, help or advice. Collectively, they made more than 60-million phone calls. Two-thirds of those calls were never answered. They got a busy signal and hung up. For those taxpayers who persisted in trying to get through by making call-after-call over a full week’s time, still 20% never made it.

The figures so far this year show even worse service — 78% of the calls incoming to CRA are not getting answered.

For all these reasons, Justin Trudeau has promised a major overhaul of the tax department. To start with, new performance standards for CRA services will be established to raise the bar, measure results and report publicly. This must apply urgently to the quality of correspondence and the accessibility of the call centre.

Our aim will be the achievement of operating practices that treat taxpayers as “clients”. For example, where the department notices that someone is entitled to a benefit or deduction which they are not actually receiving, they should pro-actively contact that taxpayer to let them know.

CRA could also offer to file routine tax returns for lower income Canadians and those on fixed incomes when their financial situations remain largely unchanged from previous years. There could be more support for Canadians who want to file their returns on-line with no paper forms.

Greater efforts should be made to go after international tax evasion. The CRA should halt its partisan harassment of charities. And the government should clarify the rules on charities to reaffirm the important role that non-governmental organizations can and should play in the development of public policies.

The trouble at CRA is just one aspect of the brokenness that Stephen Harper has inflicted upon Canada. For a more comprehensive look at Justin Trudeau’s plan for fair and open government, go to: RealChange.ca

Conservative hypocrisy on “payroll taxes”

Posted on June 18, 2015

In an attempt to vilify any proposal to expand the Canada Pension Plan, the Harper Conservatives try to make an argument that higher CPP premiums would constitute a “payroll tax”. And they’re against it.

But the late Jim Flaherty said there was strong support for an enhanced CPP and called for a modest, phased-in, fully-funded expansion. Public opinion research suggests that 60% of Canadians quite readily agree.

Mr. Flaherty’s successor, Joe Oliver, is incoherent on the topic. He admits that all the funds that go into the CPP do not belong to the government. They always belong to the pensioner as a long-term investment in retirement security, and the CPP Investment Board is getting “impressive results”.

Still, a few weeks ago in the House of Commons, Mr. Oliver said this:

“What we will not do is reach into the pockets of middle-class Canadians with a mandatory payroll tax…”

Based on the government’s actual behavior, that statement is 100% false – because the Harper Conservatives have imposed massive mandatory new payroll taxes with respect to Employment Insurance.

In 2011, they increased EI premiums and thus extracted some $600-million more in new higher EI payroll taxes. On top of that, in 2012, they extracted $600-million more. And in 2013, they extracted another $600-million more.

So by 2014, this government was collecting close to $2-billion per year more through higher EI payroll taxes. They then froze the rates at that artificially inflated level, and they will remain frozen until 2017. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says they are at least $5-billion too high.

The evidence is irrefutable. Between 2011-2016, the Harper Conservatives have, in fact, reached into the pockets of middle-class Canadians with a mandatory payroll tax. What Mr. Oliver condemns with respect to CPP, his government has implemented with respect to EI.

Time to rejuvenate a debilitated Parliament

Posted on June 15, 2015

Within a week or so, this current 41st Parliament of Canada will adjourn for the final time. Sometime during the summer, the House of Commons will […]

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Good to hear Oliver contradict Harper on CPP

Posted on June 8, 2015

The Canada Pension Plan got support last Friday from an unlikely source – Conservative Finance Minister, Joe Oliver. In praising the CPP, Mr. Oliver contradicted two […]

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Retirement insecurity is a big middle-class worry

Posted on June 1, 2015

Last week ended with the bad news that Canada’s economy not only stalled through the whole First Quarter of this calendar year, it actually shrank — […]

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Not walking the talk on security

Posted on May 26, 2015

On national security, the Harper government is long on rhetoric, but short on putting its money where its mouth is. More evidence emerged this week with […]

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Mr. Oliver is contradicted by his own data

Posted on May 25, 2015

A few days ago, I published an article examining the Harper government’s most recent statistics on the public’s use of Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).  You […]

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Progressive social policy & sound economics

Posted on May 18, 2015

Justin Trudeau’s plan to achieve greater fairness for middle-class families, and all those working so hard just to get to the middle-class, is a constructive mixture […]

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93% of Canadians get nothing from doubling TFSAs

Posted on May 15, 2015

Originally published on Huffington Post Canada At a time when the Canadian economy is sputtering – with virtually no growth, weak job creation, poor job quality, […]

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