Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lawrence Martin: Government PR masks mediocre economic record in Canada

By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, February 7, 2012
To talk of the Tory economic record, we might first address the reddened state of our treasury that’s occasioning the cuts in the coming budget. A pertinent question is whether our deficit is the result of natural economic factors or whether it owes itself to vote-getting political expediency.

In this context, let’s recall a few things. Let’s recall the two-point GST cut that tore a giant hole in the revenue base, accounting for a good deal of the deficit. Let’s recall the prerecession spending – having inherited a $13-billion surplus, the Harper/Flaherty team spent so excessively that we were close to a deficit by the time the recession began. Let’s recall the slashing of corporate tax rates and the government’s easing of mortgage rules and backing of risky loans that further bled the treasury.
Put it all together and what it shows is that, with more prudent fiscal management from the same guy who lectured other countries on debt in Davos, we could have coped with the recession without driving our treasury into a large deficit hole.
Some other things should be recalled. In the fall of 2008, when the economic crisis hit, was the dynamic Harper/Flaherty duo on top of things? Or were they still saying that the budget would remain in balance and that there was no need for stimulus spending, and bringing in a foolhardy budget update that almost brought their government down?
With the opposition parties putting a gun to their head, they introduced a stimulus package that virtually every other country was doing. With the exception of Tory logos on cheques and Tony Clement’s G8 spending boondoggle, it was not badly administered.
Jim Flaherty has performed more ably in the past couple of years. But what’s in his record that makes him the greatest finance minister in the world?
Given the coming squeeze the Tories talk about on health care and Old Age Security, is it smart economic management to commit a staggering $30-billion to increasingly discredited F-35 warplanes? It’s nice that, on trade diversification, the government is waking up to China. But how many years did Ottawa ignore it?
I was talking to a plugged-in guy at the Finance Department the other day and asked him what the Tories have done that’s so wonderful. “The PR,” he responded.
Hard not to agree. It’s been a great shell game. Their propaganda has masked a middling economic performance.
And then, even the propaganda game has been a sham!
Every a grade five student can and does see the absurdity of that aspect of the government's ploy.
No one, not even this government, can square a circle.
There is no pressing need for military Fighter Jets....... ...................$30 billion
There is no need for more prisons and longer sentences.................$10 billion
There is no demonstrated need for new war ships..........................$  8 billion
There certainly was no need to "advertise" the stimulus...................$50 million
A pledge to enhance border security went to Muskoka gazebos.....$50 million
There was no need to spend 22% more on consultants...................$ ? million

And that is just the tip of the iceberg! And these are not small numbers!
The government's infatuation with its own economic record is merely a mediocre acting performance, to comfort their big donors on Bay Street and in Calgary....and Texas....
Their crying foul over the intervention of "foreign" money into the environmental assessment hearings on the Northern Pipeline is also a sham, given the dollars their government has received from the oil barons, whose connections with U.S. oil are indisputable.
Thanks to Mr. Martin for his insightful piece, and let's hope the rest of the Ottawa media will wake up to the fact that this government "pulls the wool" over our eyes on every occasion, including the insertion of 6 bureaucrats into  a televised immigration ceremony.
How stupid do they think we are? And how insulting and patronizing will they become?

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