How much is too much?

When the earnings reports were released for the big five Canadian banks on the same day the federal budget was presented to Parliament, I had only one question: how much is too much?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see some Canadian companies are doing well during this economic downturn. But I have to wonder if we should be handing those companies $60 billion more in corporate tax cuts when the money can be put to better use helping other sectors of the economy that are struggling, assisting the unemployed, or protecting our pension plans.
I’ve heard some say that New Democrats are too critical of banks and oil companies, or suggest that we are jealous and just complaining about the success of others. But nothing could be further from the truth.
We want Canadian businesses and core industries to succeed. But the problem we have today with banks and oil companies is that their success often comes at a huge cost to the greater good.
Sometimes their shareholders get wealthy by depleting a key resource and polluting our natural environment, and other times they do so by gouging families on credit card interest rates or charging them heavy fees to access their own savings.
Far from opposing the banking and energy sectors of the economy, New Democrats simply feel there should be more balance since these industries tend to take from our society more than they can possibly deliver.
We also feel all levels of government should be more focused on helping industries, communities, and families that are struggling rather than those which are reporting record income and profits.
Now, before we look at how our Conservative government is spending and wasting our tax dollars on corporate tax cuts, let’s look at how the banking sector, in particular, performed last year during the deepest recession since the 1930s.
Total yearly profits for the 2009/10 fiscal year for the “Big 5” Canadian banks were TD Bank ($5.6 billion), Bank of Montreal ($1.8 billion), Royal Bank ($3.8 billion), Scotiabank ($3.5 billion), and CIBC ($1.2 billion), for total profits of $15.9 billion.
Now, looking at those figures I think you’ll agree that when compared to the manufacturing, forestry, mining, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism sectors, the banking sector is doing just fine. So if the banks are doing so well, why then does our federal government continue to heap money upon that industry while ignoring the needs and failing to help those that are struggling?
The answer to that question is that this Conservative government, like the Liberal ones before it, simply have the wrong priorities and have made the wrong choices. They’ve forgotten they were not elected by the shareholders of the Canadian banking industry who live and pay taxes in London, New York, Tokyo, or Dubai, but the people who live and work in every industry across Canada.
Now, contrary to Conservative folklore, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) confirms that, when taking provincial and federal corporate tax rates together, Canada has a lower corporate tax rate than the United States.
Despite having this tax advantage, the Conservative government continues to cut our corporate tax rate—and has given away a full $60 billion from the federal treasury to profitable corporations in just five years.
By design, these massive income tax cuts only assist corporations that make money and must pay taxes on that income; the greater the profit, then the greater the taxes and the greater the benefits that are realized from these tax cuts.
In other words, Canada’s most profitable industries (banking and oil and gas) necessarily get the lion’s share of this $60-billion giveaway while and unprofitable and insolvent companies (forestry, mining, and manufacturing) get nothing.
I happen to believe that if an industry is doing well enough, then you leave well enough alone. What we have here, though, is a government that only helps companies that are raking in the profits, and puts the interests of foreign shareholders ahead of hard-working Canadians.
New Democrats don’t oppose helping banks if they need it, but we believe today that our federal tax dollars should be put to better use by assisting struggling industries that want to modernize, helping laid-off workers keep food on the table and a roof over their head, and by helping pensioners get access to the retirement income they have earned over years of service.
Life and government are about choices, and it is obvious the Conservatives and Liberals continue to stand with hugely profitable banks and their wealthy foreign shareholders while Canada’s New Democrats choose to stand with you.
Now that is something you can bank on.

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