Fiscal update out of touch

Last week, the Harper government presented its economic update and showed that it is completely out of touch with the needs of the people of Thunder Bay-Rainy River.
The government has failed to assist what I and others call the “real economy.”
In a nutshell, the real economy is you. It is your job, your mortgage, and your pension.
GDP numbers, the value of the dollar, and macroeconomic growth are very important when discussing economic issues, but how these things actually affect you is my concern. My concern is for the real economy.
So, we are in an economic crisis now, but what does this mean for the real economy in Thunder Bay-Rainy River?
Let’s say that reduced demand for lumber and manufactured goods declines even further. It then is likely that a mill or a factory will close, a lot of people will lose their jobs, and they will have to stop or cut back their spending on food, clothes, medicine, cars, and tuition.
Small business owners would be next to feel the pain since their profit margins are slim and they can’t afford to lose a lot of sales. Some of these smaller businesses then would start to go under and take more jobs with them.
Many people in our community will have to stop making RRSP contributions or buying savings bonds, which then will put their retirement income at risk. Some even will lose their homes.
We’ve seen it before in recessions, but it doesn’t have to be like this. There always are ways in which the federal government can help the real economy survive a crisis.
As such, when I watched and listened to Finance minister Jim Flaherty present his economic update to the House of Commons last Thursday, I was utterly shocked that the government offered no assistance or stimulus to help our struggling forestry and manufacturing industries.
Every other national government in the industrialized world has unique sectors of their economy that are struggling. The United States and Britain are helping their banking sectors, which employ hundreds of thousands of people and hold the savings of hundreds of millions more.
China, meanwhile, is investing heavily in infrastructure to help keep millions of people working while their manufacturing sector slows. Germany is helping its auto sector.
The Harper government could have used its economic update to present a stimulus package of its own to Parliament. They could have helped our forestry and manufacturing sectors, made Employment Insurance more accessible to those who have and will lose their jobs, and could have offered loan guarantees to small businesses struggling to find credit and stay afloat in the crisis.
These measures, like others taken by every government in the world but ours, would be aimed at keeping people employed, at helping families pay their mortgage and keep food on the table, and at keeping large and small employers solvent, especially in small towns.
In short, the economic update was a missed opportunity to help the real economy.
Many things are happening in Ottawa right now, but I can tell you this: the New Democratic Party and I will not support this government while it sits and watches our local mills, factories, and warehouses close without offering meaningful assistance to those companies or the working families who are affected.

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