What has Your Government Done for You Lately?

All politicians will be heading back to their constituencies now for their year end recess. It’s a good time for you to ask yourself [and them]: “What has your government done for you lately?”

Offered some technical changes to pension legislation – check! Made Employment Insurance easier for long tenured workers – often older workers – check! Passed a resolution in the House of Commons saying we need to do more for “our” seniors’ retirement security – check! Spent $13 million on an elder abuse awareness campaign – check! Introduced a modest caregivers allowance in Nova Scotia and Manitoba – check! Offered to bring in a made in BC and Alberta voluntary pension plan – check! Ram through HST legislation in Ottawa and Queen’s Park despite widespread opposition – check! check! check!

The federal and Ontario governments were in such a rush to get the HST legislation passed that we barely had time to call out members to email their MPs and MPPs. But even with the late notice and computer glitch, more than 1,200 CARP members used e-Voice to tell their elected representatives that they did not want the HST or demanded some income tested relief.

The politicians must have heard you because they started running – they couldn’t rush passage fast enough. In Ontario, the Tory antics reflected citizen discontent but also used up valuable debating time. In Committee, where some amendments might have been negotiated in the one afternoon allotted for that purpose, the Tory stunt of bringing in a cartload of paper meant that no useful business could be conducted. The NDP had used a procedural tactic to get a few extra hours of public hearings and CARP rushed in to present our case as did many other groups concerned about the new tax burden.

To no avail – the government majority passed the HST in Committee and again in the Ontario Legislature the next day with barely much more than a whimper from the Opposition.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, after the opposition Liberals decided to support the government’s Ways and Means Motion, the actual debate and vote on the bill to facilitate the HST passed in rapid succession – First Reading Friday December 4, Second Reading Tuesday December 8, followed by a momentary Committee meeting and Third Reading the very next day. When the Liberals wavered under pressure from their constituents on the Ways and Means Motion, their Leader made it a whipped vote. Just the same, quite a few Liberals somehow managed to fail to show up to vote at all. That was blamed on the bells ringing too soon and some Liberals did not make it back for the vote – from where – you might ask.

But all is not lost. Despite harmonization taking effect, it is still open to the government to provide a rebate for home energy costs or a tax credit to offset the burden of the new provincial tax. And this can be done as part of the federal or provincial budget this Spring. And in British Columbia, the legislation to bring the HST into effect has not been tabled. It is expected in March, likely coupled with their provincial budget.