Friday, February 21, 1997

Towards a brighter fiscal future

With only months to go until the next federal election, Finance Minister Paul Martin has brought down a budget designed to show the voting public that he has a firm grip on the economy.

Not only is he determined to bring the national debt under control; he's also following a political strategy to keep the Liberals firmly on the fiscal high ground as they head into the next election.

With the budget goals for the deficit comfortably met and exceeded, Martin wisely ignored calls for tax cuts. Reducing taxes when servicing a national debt that still consumes 46 per cent of government spending doesn't make sense. Inevitably, tax cuts seem to benefit those who need them least.

Martin has decided that his first priority is to bring the debt under control. Once it is a manageable size, only then will he entertain the idea of tax cuts or increased spending on social services to "rebuild" the kind of Canada Canadians want.

In his budget he kept spending commitments to social services to a minimum, principally increasing the child-tax benefit by $600 million. Additional spending on adult training and literacy should benefit the North, as should increases to the Community Access Program .

Cuts in federal transfers to the territories will continue to effect life in the North. However, you can't spend money you haven't got. In times of restraint, where you spend what you've got is the issue.

Whether we like it or not, the national debt has to be dealt with. Martin is gambling that most Canadians, while still feeling the impact of federal cuts, are prepared to stick with him for the long haul.

They would be wise to do so. Paul Martin hasn't offered Canadians a radical solution or a realignment of the social order. Instead, he has sensibly kept his aim on balancing the books. The real test of his word will be what he does with the budget once it's balanced. (21/Feb/97)

Out of control

What on earth is going on in Yellowknife? Every week, 250 people turn to the city's food bank to fill their stomachs. And every day, about 50 women and their children make use of the Women's Centre's food or shelter services.

This is in the city with the highest per-capita income in the country.

Yes, the cost of living is also high, but is that any excuse for what can best be described as the abject failure of the federal and territorial governments to provide the basics of life to all citizens?

Something for our MLAs to think about while they review the GNWT's latest budget. (21/Feb/97)


Leaving an unsigned organ donor card in your wallet and forgetting about it can mean a fellow Canadian doesn't get a second lease on life.

We should all take time to decide whether or not we would like our organs to remain with us into the grave or the crematorium and then pass that decision along to our loved ones.

Several stories in today's Yellowknifer detail the importance of such decisions in a world in which the number of available organs nevers seems to catch up with the number of people on transplant waiting lists. (21/Feb/97)