The winds of change are blowing from the chambers of power in Ottawa, carrying the call for austerity to all corners of the country.
Speaking Thursday, Treasury Board President Tony Clement announced the Conservative government is planning to introduce deeper spending cuts than the ones detailed in the 2011 budget, when a 5 per cent program spending cut was touted as a means to shave $4 billion a year from the federal budget. Now, Clement says the Tories are aiming for as much as double that target.
“I have led a cabinet committee to review the plans of federal departments and agencies to achieve savings of between 5 and 10 per cent in their program budgets; in other words, reductions of anywhere between $4 and $8 billion,” said Clement.
Meanwhile, a hop skip and a jump away in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was outlining his visions for the Canadian future. And it was a future of skinnier government programs and the accommodation of business interests. Citing the demographic realities of the country—an aging population expected to strain the public purse with social security and old age pensions—Harper told the gathering that Canada will reform its pension system to cut costs.
“In the months to come, our government will undertake major transformations to position Canada for growth over the next generation,” the CBC quoted him as saying on Thursday.
With its major campaign promises out of the way and passed by Parliament last year—scrapping the long gun registry, instituting mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent crimes, and dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board—the Conservatives appear intent on forging ahead with a wholesale re-tooling of the way the government spends money. And with their coveted majority in Parliament, not to mention an Opposition in disarray, who’s going to stop them?