The ultimate measure of a person, as the quote goes, is not where they stand in moments of comfort but at times of challenge. The same is true of governments, and the recent and belated federal budget contains plenty of warning signs about where the current government – and consequently Canadians – stand at this extremely challenging time. Stark choices lay ahead as we look to recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
In this edition of Merit Canada’s Construction InSites, we take the measure of the budget and recent government performance more broadly, and examine some of the policy implications for open shop contractors and for our long-term shared prosperity. We focus on five key areas of crucial interest to our members and to the Canadian economy, and on which Merit Canada made recommendations in its pre-budget submission.
In our view, the government has earned middling and even failing grades. The budget leaves us without a sense of focus or urgency with respect to the need for meaningful spending control, nor any tax and regulatory reform to enable and indeed super-charge a private sector-driven recovery. It also renews the fears we should all share about Canada’s debt burden – now at levels never before seen in our history – particularly since the government has committed to no more than shrinking the size of the debt relative to the economy in an undefined “medium term”.
Canada was already lagging other countries on productivity and competitiveness before COVID-19 hit – recently ranked 51st in “trading across borders” by the World Bank, and an embarrassing 64th in “dealing with construction permits” – so if ever there was a moment to measure up and boldly seize the opportunity that is embedded in a crisis, that time is now.