Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rae's budget town hall: From gas prices to gas taxes, and other stuff too

This morning I randomly heard that interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and members of the Liberal caucus were holding a post-budget town hall at the Armenian Community Centre in Toronto. After debating it for a bit, I decided to drop my previous Saturday plan of re-runs of Holmes Inspection, followed by a nap, and head over to the event.

I live-tweeted the event so I'm going to try something a little different. Rather than transform my tweets into a narrative, I've created a Storify of my tweet coverage. Let me know what you think. A few thoughts, and a few videos, will follow.

The event's primary audience was ethnic communities and the ethnic media, and Rae made a particular point of highlighting the budget's cuts to foreign assistance and to the Foreign Affairs, noting it will lead to closed embassies and a reduction of Canada's role in the world, and will make it harder for Canada to intervene in situations such as that in Syria today. I think it will be interesting to see which countries are targeted for reductions, and how those choices correlate, if at all, with ethnic community support for the Conservatives.

The answers I found most both had to do with tax. Asked whether the federal government should get directly involved in funding transit, Rae said he would transfer *all* gas tax revenue to the cities. And asked about what can be done about high gas prices, Rae rightly said not much can be done about global pressures on prices but if prices go much higher, some sort of assistance such as a tax rebate should be considered for low and middle income Canadians.

I agree on the gas tax transfer, but I'm somewhat leery of the other. *If* you do want to do something, it should indeed be laser-targeted to income. But I'm unconvinced you want to do something. Prices are unlikely to drop any time soon, we have no money to throw around, and I don't like the environmental message.

On a positive note though; I don't always agree with Bob on policy but I was very pleased to see his strong defence both of federalism, and as government as a force for good and positive change in society. I strongly share these beliefs, and I believe they offer strong contrasts with the Harper Conservatives (and, on federalism, the Mulcair NDP) that we should be exploiting.

But anyway, I promised you videos, and I have three. First, here's Rae's answer on a national transit strategy where he pledges to transfer all of the federal gas tax to municipalities:

Here's Rae's answer on high gas prices, and musing on a tax break or other assistance for low and middle income Canadians

And finally, here's Rae talking about the budget more generally and how Harper has been increasing the inequality between regular Canadians and corporations in terms of the tax burden.

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