Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Being the Spendiest

In the lead-up to Monday's budget, Garth Turner calls Finance Minister Jim Flaherty our "spendiest politician".

And this is the big worry about the Conservatives (other than their social policies): They're not fiscal conservatives. Since 1993, the Liberals are Canada's fiscally conservative party. Liberals make balanced budgets and a recession-free economy their priority. The Conservatives are more about ideology than good governance: they want less government and lower taxes for ideological reasons, not to help Canadians. (The same process, only ten-fold, has happened in the US, where the current far-right administration is a reckless steward of the economy.)

Harper likes to describe himself as an economist, but (1) He only has an MA in Economics, and as someone who also has an MA in Economics, I can assure you that an MA in Economics does not an economist make; and (2) During his time as PM he hasn't acted like an economist in any way, shape or form. A year and a bit into Harper's rule, we're still riding the wave of a strong economy built by Paul Martin, but Harper's spending is ineffective and out of control. After Mulroney's reckless (and equally ineffective) spending and tax cuts, we underwent years of privation to make our economy healthy again. It's a damn shame that we're letting Harper put it back in the sewer.

There's a case to be made that many conservatives want to create conditions for a bad economy so that they can slash government spending. Their goal is not fiscal health but a smaller government. For decades they pretended that their goal was to balance the budget, but once the budget got balanced they seem to like to create deficits so that they can continue slashing. Some of us, however, believe that government spending is useful: that we need infrastructure, help for the disabled or sick, enforcement of regulations so we don't live in chaos, human rights, civil liberties, and all that stuff. And by spending effectively and taxing fairly, we (Liberals) have shown we can achieve all our goals.

The current climate has an added threat to good governance: Quebec separatists see a way to achieve their ends through Harper's anti-government ideology, and despite Harper being anathema to many Quebeckers, they may vote for him as a way to curtail federal influence in their province. We used to think that separation was the worst thing that Quebec could do to the fabric of Canada; now separation seems like nuthin' compared to what Harper and his separatist allies may have in store for us.


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