Today the federal government presents its fiscal budget. Perhaps it’s an indication of my age or my job as editor but suddenly a fiscal budget makes me sit up and take notice.
I have no formal training in studying numbers, like most Canadians. And I don’t know what the immediate ramifications are of many national economic decisions.
But there is one thing I would like to hear in a budget.
For once, at the national level, I would like a government to lead by example.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It simply has to be an indication that if times are tough, they’re giving up something as well as the rest of the citizens.
Following on a recent letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition, in today’s climate nothing would be better than the government of the day pledging to reduce their juicy pension package. The numbers are too staggering for most of us to imagine.
According to reports, “MPs are eligible to take home half of their $157,000 per year salaries starting at 55 as pensions and receive benefits as long as they serve for six years.”
I can’t think of any normal job in the world that offers that kind of package.
Instead of having Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tell Canada that cuts will be felt by ordinary Canadians who will lose their jobs, their benefits or their services, he should be telling what cuts will be felt on Parliament Hill first.
Offering up MPs pensions as a sacrificial lamb might temporarily alleviate the focus on the opulent spending surrounding the crime bill or fighter jets.
But perhaps that’s too simple.
Perhaps in today’s world the leadership has to be stern, cold and force the population to swallow its medicine.
It’s the old, “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you,” ploy.
“We’ll all suffer through this together,” they’ll say in their sound bites later today.
Funny when I was a kid, medicine was always presented in the nicest way possible. Wash it down with some treat and the benefits of the bitter medicine are smoothed over.
It was only a few years ago that governments would try to camouflage cuts by doling out money to regions just prior to a budget.
Even our own provincial government reverted to this tactic prior to its 2012 budget.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
I know the word “austerity” has existed for centuries but I admit after hearing it kicked around so often in the last few years during the Greek financial crisis, the European Union meltdown and the economic shockwaves sent around the world, that I had to look it up again.
It read like an apocalyptic novel blueprint, “cold, stern, devoid of pleasure.”
It was the “word of the year,” in 2010, so once again I’m a little out of step.
But is this what the world has come to?
Flaherty downplayed the use of the word “austerity,” in today’s budget, just like the government downplays the word, “recession,” when times are tough.
Instead he tried to lift our hopes by saying the budget won’t be “austerity-focused.”
So for this we should be applauding him? By telling us the budget won’t take away all of our benefits and security, the government is trying to paint itself as the “good guy,” in this entire cost cutting, debt slaying plan.
Hard to imagine they would point the economic scalpel in their direction. It’s all about sacrifices that ordinary Canadians have to make.
They get to keep their chauffeurs, the exorbitant expense accounts and fat pension plans while the rest must learn to live with a little less in order to get our country on track.
For once it would be nice to see the politicians in Ottawa act like a real “good guy,” and take one for the team.