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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

Not walking the talk on security

Posted on May 26, 2015

9192584400_302b024e4a_z[1]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 the cancellation of the RCMP’s “Project Condor”. Starting in 2007, Condor was a special unit that pursued offenders who were unlawfully at-large. It achieved significant success, recapturing 645 individuals who had been previously convicted of murder, drug trafficking, sexual assault, robbery, fraud and other crimes.

At last count, there were still 444 offenders on the loose. But Condor has now been shelved. Its resources have been reassigned — especially to national security. So the Mounties are being forced to “rob Peter to pay Paul” because they don’t have sufficient budget to do everything that is being asked of them.

The government says the RCMP make all the operational decisions about where their budget goes. But it’s the government that determines the overall size of that budget in the first place. Public safety is being undermined. And Stephen Harper cannot deflect the responsibility.

Since 2010, funding for the Force has been cut every year except one. The chopping now totals more than $630-million per year. After accounting for inflation, that’s a real reduction of 31%.

On top of that, more than a billion dollars has been “lapsed” — i.e., it was approved, voted upon in Parliament, announced but never in fact invested as intended.

So what are the consequences?

Over 600 officers have been taken away from such priorities as the fight against organized crime and reassigned instead to security work. Three national forensic laboratories have been closed. Underfunding has seriously backlogged the national police database (CPIC). And special projects like Condor are being eliminated.

In recent days, Mr. Harper has made a big show of announcing “new” resources for Canada’s security agencies. But it’s paltry. He says $150-million will be coming to the RCMP — spread over five years and back-end loaded. That’s a drop in the bucket. It won’t come close to replenishing what the Conservatives have taken away.

They talk a big game, but all their “tough on crime and terror” speeches are not worth the paper they’re written on without the budgets to back them up.

This government has all the swagger of a dude cowboy with a big hat … but no cattle.

Mr. Oliver is contradicted by his own data

Posted on May 25, 2015

economyA 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 can see it “here“.

The figures, freshly published by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for 2013, together with the pre-budget and post-budget analyses of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), make one point absolutely clear.  There is a good policy case for maintaining TFSAs with an annual limit on contributions at $5500, but there is no compelling argument to nearly double that annual maximum to $10,000.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver felt obliged to respond to my blog.  You can see his comments “here“.  The Minister’s reply was rhetorical and ideological.  He made no effort to address the CRA’s latest numbers because they contradict him.

If he is trying to argue that the annual TFSA limit at $5500 is too low and needs to be drastically increased, he would have to demonstrate that a large and growing number of Canadians are regularly maxing-out and need a higher limit.  But that is simply not the case.

Here are three “killer facts” from the CRA that destroy Mr. Oliver’s position:

First, over 28-million Canadians are legally entitled to hold a TFSA, but more than 60% don’t participate at all.  And only a tiny fraction of those eligible — a very small 6.7% — are contributing the maximum.

Second, any room to contribute that a TFSA-holder does not use up in one tax year can be added onto future years.  According to the CRA, the average TFSA has, within existing limits, some $13,500 in unused room available for more contributions.

Third, the numbers of people maxing out their TFSAs has been dropping steadily in both absolute and percentage terms since the program’s first year.  In 2013, it was down 39% from five years earlier.

So where is the argument for increasing the limit?  Mr. Oliver certainly hasn’t advanced one.

By the government’s own prognostications, what they’re proposing is pricey.  Nearly doubling TFSA limits will cost several hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years, and some tens of billions of dollars over the longer term.

Mr. Oliver seems to think that’s a good thing — even if more than 93% of Canadians get no benefit — because, in his view, anything and everything that diminishes the Government of Canada is a step in the right direction.

But if the federal government weren’t so warped by that ideology, what are some of the other policy choices that might be made?

Veterans could be treated with greater generosity and respect.

The middle class income tax rate could be reduced.

Child Benefits to help parents with the costs of raising children could be substantially enhanced for nine out of ten Canadian families.

The eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement could be restored to 65.

We could have a strong national system for helping military personnel, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders with the debilitating realities of PTSD.

Mr. Harper’s plan to scale back federal support for medicare could be reversed.

Our country could make a quantum leap forward in building vital public infrastructure to underpin a more prosperous, productive economy, generating both jobs and growth.

We could tear down barriers to education and skills training, and climb back into the top ranks of countries investing in scientific research, new technology and innovation.

It’s all about choices and priorities.  There are many better alternatives — to nurture Canadians’ precious tax dollars, break free from mediocrity, and build a better country.  One that works for all of us.

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 of progressive social policy and sound economics. Announced two weeks ago, it was the first of several Liberal policy initiatives coming this spring and summer. Stay tuned for more.

The plan is progressive and fair because it’s related to income levels and focused on “need”. In other words, for those on lower incomes where needs are greater, more support is provided. The plan is good economics because it’s simple, efficient and transparent in putting more dollars into the hands of lower and middle income families who will quickly reinvest that money in the economy. Reducing inequality is good for economic growth.

Carefully costed to be fiscally responsible, accounting for all revenues, expenditures and offsets, Mr. Trudeau’s plan has two components:

(a) a targeted and much improved Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to help families defray the costs of raising kids up to the age of 18; and

(b) a Middle-Class Tax Cut which lowers the tax rate on that portion of Canadians’ incomes between about $45,000 and $90,000.

The new CCB would provide some $22-billion in targeted financial assistance annually to families who need it. That’s $4-billion more than current federal child benefit programs.

The money would come from consolidating three existing family “benefit” schemes, adding in the annual saving from not proceeding with the flawed Income Splitting idea that the late Jim Flaherty said was too expensive and unfair, and then topping that up with tax dollars saved by cutting such things as wasteful government advertising and exorbitant spending on external consultants.

The existing programs are a hodge-podge of inconsistencies. Some are means-tested, others are not. Some are taxable, others are not. Because some are dribbled out in small equal amounts across the entire income scale, top to bottom, they are inadequate for some families and superfluous to others.

The government’s tax rules add further complications, some of them quite perverse. Families with the same number of kids and the same incomes, can end up being treated in sharply different ways, depending on whether they have one-parent or two, or one-income or two. Income splitting on top of that provides a further bonus of $2,000 to some of those with earnings of a quarter-of-a-million, but nothing at all for the single mom or dad at the poverty line.

By rolling all these funds together, topping them up with money saved from eliminating waste, and then targeting lower and middle income families, the new CCB would provide a lot more help per child every month, completely tax-free, to nine out of ten Canadian families.

Mr. Trudeau’s plan starts at $6400 per year for every child under six years of age in the lowest income families (i.e., those with a total family income below $30,000). For children over six but under 18, these lowest income families would receive $5400 annually. The new CCB would be gradually reduced as family incomes gets bigger. The benefit would phase out entirely at $160,000 of income (if the family has one child over 6) and at $190,000 (if the family has one child under 6)

Take the example of the statistically “median” Canadian family — two parents, two kids (4 and 8 years old), with a total income of $90,000. Under current child benefit programs, such a family gets about $3300 a year. Under Justin Trudeau’s plan, they would get $5875 — better than $2500 per year MORE.

Repeat: Because it’s focused, linked to income/need, and tax-free, Mr. Trudeau’s plan would provide MORE to nine out of ten families!

The other element of the plan — the Middle-Class tax cut — is pretty straight-forward. The tax rate applicable to the “middle” income bracket (approx. $45k – $90k) will be chopped by 1.5 points, from the existing 22% down to 20.5%.

To cover the cost of providing this tax break at the middle level, we will ask the top one-percent of high-earning Canadians to pay a little more. A new upper income tax bracket would be created. The top rate would be 33% on that portion of higher incomes above $200,000.

People in this upper income range contribute a great deal to the success and well-being of this country, economically and otherwise. They include many generous nation-builders. We’re asking them to do a little more to achieve greater fairness and strength for the middle class and all those working so hard just to get there. A successful middle class with expectations of progress and upward mobility is good for all of us.

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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A sound fiscal framework

Posted on May 12, 2015

You may have noticed the dust and smoke that Conservative spinners are trying to create around the costing of Justin Trudeau’s plan for a simpler, fairer, […]

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Economic goals must be growth & fairness

Posted on May 11, 2015

Feeble jobs and trade data last week underscore what most Canadians know only too well – the national economy continues to falter and Stephen Harper’s long-delayed […]

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Finance mouthpiece epitomizes what’s so wrong!

Posted on May 8, 2015

As controversy continues to swirl around Stephen Harper’s belated budget — featuring a concocted “surplus” and benefits that are heavily skewed toward wealthier households — the […]

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My questions today on fairness for the middle class

Posted on May 5, 2015

Here are the two questions I asked the HarperCons in Question Period today – no reply, just false spin and twisted fabrications: Only a third of […]

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Fulfilling the promise to “public safety officers”

Posted on May 4, 2015

Firefighters, police officers, paramedics and other front-line emergency workers carry the serious responsibility of ensuring public safety. They are skilled professionals, trained to cope with life-threatening […]

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Harper boosts TFSAs … at the expense of OAS/GIS

Posted on April 27, 2015

There’s growing controversy about Stephen Harper’s changes to “Tax-Free Savings Accounts” (TFSAs), especially compared to how he chopped the old age pension a few years ago. […]

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