by Lisa Goudy
With Parliament in full swing in 2011, the likelihood of a federal election in the spring is building. The most contentious issue is the budget due out in March.
The Conservatives still plan to go ahead with cutting corporate taxes from 16.5 per cent to 15 per cent in January 2012. So far, none of the parties are showing any signs of compromise that could prevent an election.
“It appears that most of the opposition parties are looking for a reason...to vote against the budget, which of course would be considered a confidence motion, which would cause the government to fall and would make an election pretty much inevitable,” said Tom McIntosh, head of the political science department at the University of Regina.
McIntosh said the Conservatives insist the tax cuts will generate employment, but the Liberals are adamant that the government cannot afford tax cuts because of the economic crisis.
During Question Period on the first day of session on Jan. 31, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that the cuts will be beneficial to the economy.
“Our government believes that the economy, job creation and economic growth are priorities for Canadians,” Harper said. “That is why we believe that it is important to keep employers’ taxes low.”
Regina Qu’Appelle MP Andrew Scheer said the Conservatives aren’t keen on having an election. Their main focus is economic recovery and this will be reflected in the budget.
“I believe that the Liberals’ plan would raise job-killing taxes on business which would lead to more unemployment and greater economic difficulty,” said Scheer. “So I’m happy that our government is planning on keeping taxes low.”
During Question Period on Jan. 31, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff questioned why the government is increasing taxes for large businesses when Canadian families wish to put their children through post-secondary schools and look after their aging parents.
“The government is raising taxes on small and medium-sized enterprises that create jobs in the country. It is giving a tax giveaway to large already profitable corporations,” he said.
The Conservatives already implemented a corporate tax cut in the beginning of January 2011, dropping the rate from 18.5 per cent in 2010 to 16.5 per cent. The Liberals would like to roll back the tax levels to the 18.5 per cent rate from 2010 and use the additional $6 billion for education and job training.
It’s not just the Liberal Party that is opposed to the proposed corporate tax cuts. McIntosh said that while the NDP is siding with the Liberals, they are also trying to distinguish themselves while attempting to hold on to their current seats.
The NDP’s senior press secretary, Karl Bélanger, said in an email that the NDP will concentrate on making affordable lifestyles, such as decreasing federal home heating taxes, defending pensions, and advancing health care.
“Canadians are looking for action, but are getting nothing from Harper’s Conservatives,” Bélanger wrote. “New Democrats are focused on practical solutions that make life better. That’s what Canadian leadership is all about.”
McIntosh said that he doesn’t expect to see very much change in government if an election is called. But he also said that a lot can change during a campaign. Either way, he said people should be ready for the polls in the spring.
“This government has been in power for a pretty long time for a minority government,” said McIntosh. “I think we are edging closer to the inevitability of an election.”
Above: Tom McIntosh sits in his office at the University of Regina.
Photo by Lisa Goudy