Home News The Breakdown

The Breakdown

by Archives January 20, 2009

Canada’s 10 Premiers got their chance to give the Prime minister their ideas for the upcoming budget at a First Ministers conference last week. The meeting was apparently quite civil as most of the Premiers agreed with Prime Minister Stephen Harper that massive government stimulus will be essential to our economy’s survival.
Leaning heavily on everyone’s new favourite buzzword, the Premiers stressed the need to fast-track “shovel ready” projects, or in layman’s terms, work around environmental regulations so the stimulus actually takes effect before the crisis ends.
If the crisis could potentially disappear before a project can navigate regulatory bureaucracy, does that say more about the crisis’ severity or the state of our bureaucracy? If the government is serious about cutting spending, then maybe it should0 resurrect Brian Mulroney’s “pink slips and running shoes” approach to civil service and kill two birds with one stone.
The only Premier who wasn’t being agreeable was Quebec’s Jean Charest who used the opportunity to complain about the “fiscal imbalance,” a favourite talking point of his.
Though he was the grumpiest of the bunch, he agreed the federal government should give more money to the provinces. Canada’s cash-strapped municipalities also spoke out, despite not being invited to the conference; they too are asking for a handout.
If everyone got their way, the federal government would give all of its money to the provinces which would send it down to the municipalities which would give it to citizens, who would then give it all back to the federal government. This means individuals could pay off the interest on the loan they had to take to get the ball rolling in the first place. Sounds like a solution, so where do we sign?
This model doesn’t even mention the private sector, that’s got its own shovels and is just as ready to use them. If the combined provincial governments, municipalities, population and the private sector don’t have any money, and the federal government has to go into debt to give them some, where on earth has all of the money gone? It sounds like everyone wants a handout, but who really needs one?
All of this brings back memories of It’s a Wonderful Life, when Jimmy Stewart has to give up his honeymoon because of the Great Depression. With the banks closed, he offers $2,000 of his own money to the bank’s users, asking everyone to take only what they need until the banks reopen. When a customer, Tom, asks for his entire deposit, Stewart loses hope, but his faith is restored by the modest Mrs. Davis’ request for $17.50. What Canada needs right now are less Toms and More Mrs. Davis’.
Among the figures not present at the conference was Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. But he didn’t miss a chance to make the headlines anyways, as his party held their first caucus meeting since the December crisis. Ignatieff used the occasion to practice his rhetorical skills in front of his own team before taking it back to the house next week, pausing for several enthusiastic rounds of applause. Emerging from the meeting, the Liberals made it clear they would be hesitant to support any broad-based permanent tax cuts, arguing such cuts would leave a lingering structural deficit.
Ignatieff beats the heck out of his predecessor Stéphane Dion on the speaking front, but so far his message has lacked substance. Rather than speaking about specific measures, he’s instead been referring to abstract goals such as protecting the vulnerable and creating the jobs of tomorrow. It may take a bit more than inspiring word-smithery to bring the Liberal party back to power, but having a message is a first step.
In one final aside, the NDP’s Jack Layton managed to avoid the spotlight so far this year. He left December riding high ready to pick his cabinet position once the coalition took over, but has since faded into obscurity. Someone has to tell the NDPers that if they want voters to take their side they need to have a position. Unfortunately for them, it’s hard for a leftist party to have much traction when the governing Conservatives are putting the final details on a budget that includes massive spending increases.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment