Maclean’s on the Hill: Federal spending cuts, revealed

The Maclean’s Ottawa bureau gives its weekly debrief on the hottest issues in Canadian politics.


Each week, the Maclean’s Ottawa bureau sits down with Cormac MacSweeney to discuss the headlines of the week. This week, associate editor Nancy Macdonald joins the podcast to break down her cover story on Indigenous incarceration in Canada. Among her eye-popping findings during a nine-month investigation: Incarceration rates for Indigenous people in Canada are worse than they were during for Indigenous people in South Africa during the height of apartheid.

Tax hikes on gasoline and diesel could be on the table as the Liberal government negotiates a carbon tax with the provinces. That prospect disturbs Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, who joins the podcast to register her discontent. We’re also joined by an economist who’s pessimistic about Canada’s economic outlook. Finally, the Maclean’s panel parses federal spending cuts since 2012—and muses about a possible Bombardier bailout.

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The full episode

Part 1. Prisons are the ‘new residential schools.’

The multinational catering company just hired by the Saskatchewan government to provide meals at eight provincial correctional centres has been the subject of serious complaints about food quality and other issues elsewhere. (Don Healy/Regina Leader-Post)

(Don Healy/Regina Leader-Post)

Nancy Macdonald’s provocative cover story on Indigenous experiences with Canada’s criminal justice system gives readers a devastating look at systemic racism at every turn, from policing to incarceration. The story caught the attention of Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette, who commented on it in the House of Commons foyer shortly after it went online. Macdonald joins the podcast with more detail on her investigation.

Part 2. What’s the price of a carbon tax?

(Todd Korol/Reuters)

(Todd Korol/Reuters)

As Environment Minister Catherine McKenna prepares to negotiate a price on carbon with Canada’s provinces, she won’t rule out a tax increase on gasoline and diesel. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel is steadfastly opposed to any such hikes—and urges the Liberals to follow the same strategy as the former Tory government.

Part 3. A Canadian economy sputters.

TMX Broadcast Centre is pictured in Toronto on May 16, 2011. The Toronto Stock Exchange was essentially flat the morning of Thursday June 18, 2015 as U.S. markets and the Canadian dollar registered solid gains. (Frank Gunn/CP)

(Frank Gunn/CP)

Want an uplifting view of the Canadian economy? Good luck. When John Geddes spoke to David Watt, the chief economist of HSBC Bank, pessimism ruled the agenda. Watt explained why low oil prices and a weak Loonie will hurt consumer confidence, why manufacturing exports may not thrive as much as some had predicted, and what sort of federal spending is most appropriate in the near future.

Part 4. Federal spending cuts revealed.

Jim Flaherty Stephen Harper

When the former Conservative government cut federal spending as part of a years-long attempt to balance the books, largely under the leadership of the late Jim Flaherty, the Parliamentary Budget Officer fought with little success for a detailed breakdown of the reductions across departments. Today, the Liberal government posted many of those numbers online. John Geddes and Paul Wells talk about what they learned from the data dump—and how their expectations of the government on transparency have changed. They also muse about a possible federal bailout of an ailing Bombardier.


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