If Canadians got collectively drunk or stoned out of their minds and put me in control of the federal government, this is what I would change:
-Employment insurance would be 80% of your salary, up to 80,000$. You would get up to 2 years. Payouts would be from the general budget, not premiums (premiums would be eliminated). Current rules about availability for work would still apply, except you would still get the money if you were sick or disabled (up to two years).
-As most people loose their disability insurance when they loose their job, I'd provide disability insurance as one of the benefits of employment insurance for those people with the incredible bad luck of losing their job and then becoming disabled.
-Federal minimum wage would be $10 an hour.
-Unions in federal industries (telecommunications, banking, etc.) would be mandatory (like in Germany). Temp workers in federal industries would be covered under Federal law.
-There would be a minimum 5 weeks annual vacation (for employees covered under federal law).
-The main aboriginal languages would be recognised as "official".
-I'd promote Aboriginal languages, culture and tourism; including off reservations in Canada's cities.
-I'd make Indian reservations bigger. Self government would be a priority, but on the condition of local democracy. None off that elder rule or consensus crap.
-The year round highway to Toktoyaktuk, Yukon, would be finished, allowing Canadians to drive to the Artic ocean in the summer.
-I'd look at other out-of-the-way highway and train projects (BC, Labrador and Nunavut), although I'd probably balk at the cost unless there was a recession.
-Via Rail service between Calgary and Fort McMurray would be a top priority. I'd restore the service from Saint John to Montreal via Maine. I'd also restore the service from Quebec to Moncton via Edmundston. I'd look into other rail opportunities. I'd look into high speed rail, but I'd probably not go for it because of the energy costs (I think the French TGV, for example, uses a lot more electricity per km/person than a regular train).
Immigration and mobility
-I'd negotiate mobility agreements with other countries (USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Europe would be priorities).
-I'd replace the point based immigration system with a head tax. The money generated would be used to expand Indian reservations. To establish the head tax, an auction system could be used. Unlike the racist American Green card lottery system, your chance of getting into Canada would not be determined by your country of residence (with the exception of those countries with mobility agreements, not subject to the head tax). The usual health and criminal/security background checks would still apply. If there were genuine labour shortages in some professions, I might set up a government loan system for those applicants. (Refugees could continue to get in free, and in fact, I'd be more proactive in flying them over).
I'd take down all those "Canada" signs on Hull skyscrapers. I wouldn't change the constitution (too much trouble), but I'd take the Queen/King off our money. In fact, I'd get rid of any and all references to royalty that didn't require a constitutional amendment. For example, pledging allegiance (no longer required of civil servants as of last year thanks to the courts).
I'd be totally anal when it comes to sticking to federal jurisdictions. I would not use the federal power to spend.
-Much of what can be done about the environment is under local jurisdictions. Encouragement programs à la Rick Mercer One Tone Challenge would be restored.
-I'd consider a carbon redistribution tax system, but only if I managed to convince a good chunk of Canadians (including my SUV driving parents).
-I'd make sure there were no artificial favouritism of SUVs and pick-up trucks (such as lower efficiency and safety standards).
-I'd immediately implement a capital gains tax on home ownership. Perhaps I'd put in a minimum exemption (say $100,000) if it appeared I was going to be lynched. Cost of renovations (with receipts) could be deducted from the capital gains income tax.
-Residential rental income would no longer be taxed.
-I would cancel the RRSP home buying program.
-I'd consider getting rid of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
-Not a penny of federal dollars would go to municipal infrastructure. However, I'd give municipalities the "full amount" of property taxes for federal property (including airports).
-I'd eliminate property taxes on train tracks and most rail infrastructure. If successfully challenged, the federal government would pay said tax on behalf of the rail companies.
-I'd look at ways to reduce annual federal highway subsidies (including tolls). However, given that provinces sometimes behave like they don't have neighbours, I'd tread carefully to avoid counter productive retaliation from the provinces (look at the road system between Alberta and Saskatchewan!). Federal gas tax is inherently unfair (most driving is local), so I'd keep it to a minimum (in order to pay for the Trans-Canada and Via Rail). Hopefully, provinces would raise the gas tax (or allow cities to have one), but that would be up to them.
Free trade and Foreign Aid
-I'd try to eliminate as much duty and barriers to trade as possible (including foreign ownership rules). Although, obviously, I wouldn't want Canada to be taken advantage off (i.e it would have to be mutual). However, I'd be generous with African and Caribbean countries and eliminate all duty for products from those countries, regardless of any duty they may impose on Canadian luxury products.
-I would no longer offer loan guarantees to Canadian companies investing in non-democratic countries such as China or Cuba (inherently quite risky).
-I'd eliminate the luxury surtax (currently applies to all jewelry).
-I'd look at ways Canada may be contributing to international poverty and try and correct them. Canada should try to be rich, but not be starving foreigners. I'd review Canada's role in the International Monetary Fund.
-I'd stop giving Canadian Tire money as foreign aid. Canada would give cash, not Canadian products and services.
-I wouldn't finance AIDS stopping medicine in countries where condoms are not available (because unaffordable or for religious reasons). I'd favour condom distribution. There is something immoral about prolonging the life of an HIV infected person who most likely practices unsafe sex.
You may have noticed that some of the changes I would implement would require additional funds. Although staying out of provincial jurisdiction would save money.
-I'd adopt a general tax the rich policy (nobody thinks they are rich).
-I'd eliminate the capital gains exemption on small businesses and and homes (Americans pay it, why not us?).
-I'd raise the capital gains tax.
-I'd close the family trust fund loophole.
-I'd get rid of the Paul Martin/Cayman Island loopholes.
-I'd review the potential Stronach gift in the 2004 budget (company capital amortisation rule change).
-I'd seriously consider an inheritance tax (they have one in the USA). The inheritance would be added to general income and taxed accordingly. I'd allow the inheritance to be put tax free into RRSP like fund (withdrawals would be taxed). I'd allow a delay of five years in the case of non-monetary objects and property. Since inheritance taxes are incredibly unpopular (everybody hopes to inherit large sums), I'd consider a large exemption (like a $100,000). But the days of inheriting millions of dollars tax free would be gone for good. Spouses would be exempt.
-I'd tax world income to all Canadian citizens regardless of residence. However, I'd give credits for local taxes (including sales tax, duty and things like the British TV tax) and health insurance. The purpose would be to discourage addresses of convenience (for example, Switzerland and Ireland), not international mobility. To avoid expensive implementation and enforcement, I might allow a revenue exemption. For certain "windfall professions" (for example, hockey players, movie and music stars), I'd allow revenue to be put tax free into a trust and taxed as withdrawed.
-I'd eliminate most tax exemptions (including day care and student loan interest). Especially those that could be considered provincial jurisdictions. Quebeckers, for example, currently get screwed because day care is highly subsidized and doesn't cost much. So they get lower tax credits. The British do not fill out an annual tax return! That is something I'd try to emulate.
-I'd call BS on the imaginary federal-provincial "fiscal imbalance". If such an imbalance existed, the provinces missed one heck of an opportunity to raise their sales tax by 1 percent this Spring... Ultimately, you can't expect Swedish style services on American level income taxes. That's just nuts. That said, when you factor in American property taxes, wealth taxes, car and health insurance, utility costs and inheritance taxes, many Canadians are fiscally advantaged by living in Canada, even though the USA has a higher per person Gross National Product!
-I'd leave natural resources out of the equalisation formula. Currently, the calculation is based on federal income tax generated from each province, a relatively straightforward calculation. Put in resources, and you need a team of economists. Worse, you totally advantage electricity rich provinces like Quebec and Manitoba that have chosen low electricity rates instead of provincial revenue. Then you got to factor in the fact that resource revenue is not pure profit as you need to subtract a fair amount of expenses (for example, highways). Then there is the whole aspect of property taxes... A true mess of numbers.
I'd keep defence spending as low as possible (while avoiding the Belgium buffer delusion). A flexible (expandable) military is cheaper. I'd reconsider Canada's membership in NATO. Canada is the only energy (oil) surplus country in NATO. Perhaps an oil rich military alliance would make more sense? The purpose of a military alliance should be to keep costs lower. Defence is by far the largest item in the budget. There are huge potential savings. Diplomacy and foreign aid should perhaps be part of the Defence Department and used as an overall defence strategy.
Tourism promotion and immigration should be evaluated by including the goodwill benefits, particularly when it comes to terrorism.