In February 10 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Cho!ces, a coalition for social justice in Winnipeg, Manitoba, released the fourth annual Alternative Federal Budget. A four-page summary, as well as the complete document, can be obtained from the CCPA web site http://www.policyalternatives.ca or telephone 613-563-1341. The CCPA site can also be accessed via the CAUT web site at http://www.caut.ca.
The alternative budget is prepared annually by the centre and by coalitions for social justice, and is made public shortly before the federal government releases its budget. Two of the alternative budget proposals are outlined here.
National Social Investment Funds -- Major changes to social and other public programs are already in effect or contemplated for the near future. According to the alternative budget, the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) offloads federal responsibilities for health and education to the provinces and serves to erode national standards. The alternative budget proposes a set of seven National Social Investment Funds, "separately funded and with national standards attached to each." The seven funds would be: the Health Care Fund, the Post-Secondary Education Fund, the Income Support Fund, the Child Care Investment Fund, the Housing Investment Fund, the Retirement Fund, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The Post-Secondary Investment Fund would be designed to increase access to post-secondary education for students of all socio-economic backgrounds. The fund would accompany a Post-Secondary Education Act. "All provinces (with the right for Quebec to opt out) will adhere to standards of public administration, full accessibility, comprehensiveness, transferability of credits, and mobility with regards to student grants and awards," says the alternative budget proposal. The fund would be set at the 1995 level of federal government transfers to the provinces, or $2.1 billion, and would grow with the national economy. Such a fund would provide an additional $80 million in 1999, with a further increase of $760 million over the next five years. A second means proposed to reduce tuition levels and cut student debt, is a National Student Grants Program. The grants program would provide grants based on need, "and specifically acknowledges students with special needs, such as disability, or regional differences in cost of living." In 1998, $400 million would be set aside for the grants program, and in 1999, $575 million. Funding for First Nations students would be $21 million in 1998 and $23 million in 1999. A National Advisory Council on Post-Secondary Education and Research would also be established. This council would be headed by a federal minister, and would "bring together representatives from the education and research communities, students, constituency group representatives, faculty, support staff, administration and government, democratically elected or selected by their peers."
Industry, Research and Development -- The alternative budget for industrial, regional and scientific-technological support programs would be $4.4 billion. There would be a $1 billion infrastructure program funded from new sources, as well as $100 million supporting community economic development initiatives. The core industry budget would be stabilized in 1998 and increased by three per cent in 1999, thus improving the research capacity of the National Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Statistics Canada, and presumably the Medical Research Council.