Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Budget shouldn't have provoked an election

OK, the federal budget wasn't a great effort - mediocre even.
But there was also nothing in it that justifies the apparent decision by all three opposition parties to force an election. Unless something changes, Canadians could be going to the polls - or staying home - as early as May 2.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget presentation Tuesday pretty much offered a status quo approach, one consistent with the Conservative's past practices and election platforms.
The government is on track to eliminate the deficits - ramped up after the 2008 economic meltdown - by 2015. It went ahead with planned corporate tax cuts.
And while spending will be tightly controlled, the budget numbers did not suggest draconian cuts lie ahead. Overall spending in the next three years is to rise by about 2.5 per cent a year. Given inflation and population growth, that means some curbs, but not deep cuts.
Uninspiring, perhaps, but hardly outrageous.
The opposition parties disagree. Liberal leader Michael Igantieff says the government's priorities are wrong, urging more spending on social initiatives and less on defence. (The jet fighter purchase will figure prominently in a Liberal campaign.)
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe wants, as always, more money for his Quebec.
And NDP Leader Jack Layton says the budget failed to deliver on the issues he had set out as critical for winning the party's support, including measures to help poor seniors, pension reform and the elimination of the GST on home heating.
The Conservatives could have made a better effort to find common ground with Layton and reduce the chance of an election.
The budget did offer a $50 a month increase in the old age supplement for the poorest seniors, a benefit that will help some 500,000 people. And it extends the EcoENERGY Retrofit program that subsidized home renovations to reduce energy use, another Layton demand.
But instead of addressing the other issues, the budget included measures that seem more aimed at providing photo ops in an election campaign.
The budget creates a Children's Art Tax Credit, which lets parents claim a tax deduction for the first $500 spent on art classes or music lessons. It should be politically popular, but it's foolish policy. Effectively all other taxpayers will be subsidizing people affluent enough to afford private lessons for their kids.
Volunteer firefighters will get a similar tax break.
And, more usefully, people who care for ill relatives will get a tax credit worth about $400 a year - small, but welcome, and a nice campaign plank.
It was tough to find any specific measures aimed at B.C. in the budget - so much so that a news service roundup of regional initiatives left the province out entirely.
There is $60 million in funding for forest-sector research across Canada.
But forest-dependent communities across B.C. face a looming crisis as pone-beetle-killed wood is harvested and future timber is decades away from being harvestable. They need support now, for economic diversification efforts and retraining.
There is still a chance an election could be avoided, by a measure as simple as having a few opposition MPs skip the coming non-confidence vote.
But it appears that within the next 10 days - and perhaps by the end of the week - the Harper government will have fallen and Canadians will be facing an election campaign.
That's likely to be a destructive effort. Not just because the campaigns will feature more of the attack ads that discredit all involved, but because polls suggest voters have no great enthusiasm for any of the parties or their leaders. Too many of us will hold our noses and vote for the least offensive party - or simply stay home.
And worse, the polls also suggest that the outcome will most likely be a return of the Conservatives with another minority government.
That's a lot of disruption just to maintain the status quo.
Footnote: A federal election hands Premier Christy Clark a challenge. The provincial Liberals are a coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives. A hard-fought campaign risks leaving bruised feelings and divisions. The campaign could also limit Clark's flexibility in calling a provincial vote.


Bernard said...

An election in 2011 is a really bad for BC, having one this spring is almost criminal given where our political scene is at.

The BC NDP leadership race is much more important than any federal election.

The HST referendum could be lost in this.

And more


Grant G said...

You missed the boat Paul...The CONservatives still owe BC $1 billion dollars for the pine beetle...

Oh..I guess you forgot about the CONservative promise...

What happened was....Gordon Campbell sold out BC and used/diverted pine beetle money to the Olympics and security...

Try remembering Paul, dust off the cobwebs!

Who gives a rat`s ass about 60$ million, where the hell is the $1billion dollars the Cons promised BC?...

Corporations are flush with cash...
Punt the contempt of parliment Conservatives from here to hell...

As for an election, that my friends is the best stimulus package out there...10s of thousand of people will earn a few bucks..

Flock the Conservatives, they will never get my vote again...Bold faced liars..

Go Layton Go

Grant G said...

One more thing...That Angus Reid poll that came out today giving the BC Liberals the lead in BC..

Mario Canseco had me convinced until I read the commentary provided...

According to Mario...

"The BC Liberals hold a lead in metro Vancouver, Vancouver island and the North while the NDP lead in the interior" snip...

I will bet any amount of cash that the BC Liberals are not in the lead on Vancouver island or even close...

It appears Mario`s polls are designed to compel more polls...

People aren`t that fickle...

Better luck next time Mario, be careful not to close the door on your ever growing nose on the way out!

Bernard said...

Polls about BC politics are meaningless until there has been a new NDP leader for at least a few weeks and we see if someone of some standing leads the BC Conservatives

DPL said...

WE are having an election because Steve Boy figures he might scrape out a majority. Something I rather doubt.He managed to run up massive debt, still wants to reduce corporate taxes, and buy some aircraft that right now, has some models being canceled. The guy is a nutter

Coldstreamer said...

As I watch the cream of the crop media giants interviewing politicians about the pending election I wonder why they do not get to the real points. Just a couple of issues that I think should be better tackled by these self appointed representatives of the public.

The “Harper Government” members often accuse the other parties that they are the ones responsible for the upcoming “unnecessary” election. Balderdash! A minority government must consult with the rest of the parties to ensure that they have enough support for proposed legislation or budget in order to carry on as government. Defeat of a minority government is always the result of a government’s unwillingness to negociate with the opposition. This point should be strongly emphasized by investigative reporters.

Another often heard accusation by government members that the opposition parties wish to form a coalition government in order to gain power to govern. Do they forget the obvious fact that a minority government could not operate without a coalition with one or more other parties? That is the only way minority governments can survive! Why don’t these reporters point out this simple fact to their interviewees?

A favourite subject of the “Harper Government” is the economy and who could manage it better. Would not managing the economy require money? I would think so. Does the government have money? Only virtual money, something like Monopoly money. Just check out the Canadian Debt Clock! The total debt of the “Harper Government” is over $562 billion. Each one of us owes nearly $17,000 and this debt is growing by the minute. Is that managing the economy? Local politicians do a heck of a lot better job of managing their communities economies than do our senior governments. Now, I am not implying that the other parties could do a better job, but to claim that this government is the best manager of the economy is a bit of a stretch. Virtual money is not a solid base for the economy and as long as they keep adding to the debt they are not managing the economy. Paul Martin was the last Finance Minister who had a balanced budget that was actually reducing the debt but then came the current minority Government that managed to reverse that brief spell of prosperity. Should not be responsible reporting to point this out? We can only wish!