The non conformer's Canadian Weblog

January 23, 2009

Defecit

 
 
Following the past Liberal Government’s trend, the Canadian Federal Conservative Government, Stephen Harper PM, November economic update was again projecting surpluses for the next few years. Suddenly immediately next rather we’re facing multi-year, massive deficits. How did we get to that point? Tax relief, economic stimulus and  measures to stabilize the financial markets are the supposed  hallmarks of next week’s Federal government’s budget that will drive Canada into deep but short-term deficit, under the Conservative  Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
 
“Interim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is right to oppose across-the-board tax cuts. At a time when Canadians are leveraged to excess, they are not likely to go out and spend the added income on capital goods or even added consumption goods. More likely, the money will go to pay down debt, which is good for the individual, but does little for the economy in the short run. With a huge deficit planned, the money should be used on targeted areas in infrastructure projects, roads, bridges and urban transit – capital projects that will have benefits for a long time to come. With the demand destruction we are going to have in our economy, cutting taxes and even reducing interest rates, is like pushing on a rope – a wrong approach to the current situation.

Stephen Harper is a monetarist of the Friedman/Chicago school, and while monetary policy has its place, in particular where inflation is a problem, lowering interest rates when they are already close to zero will have little effect, at least in the short run. Cutting taxes for people who face job losses is also rather moot, and the recent U.S. experience with a general tax cut was rather dismal.

Of course, tax cuts are popular, especially for the selfish and short-sighted, and will likely play well in an election campaign. Could it be that Mr. Harper is, again, planning a political stand-off in the parliamentary OK Corral, in order to face off with Ignatieff in an election and dangle the carrot of tax cuts for the voters?  Sigmund Roseth, Mississauga”

PS: NDP Leader Jack Layton says it was “absolutely inappropriate” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to allow details to be released on the federal budget deficit. Layton says it’s a move that seems to suggest Harper is trying to build a political case because he’s worried about losing his job. The NDP has already stated it won’t support Tuesday’s budget. A senior government official said Thursday the Harper government will run deficits totalling $64 billion over the next two years – $34 billion this year, and $30 billion next year. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who was also speaking in Toronto, accused Harper of playing political games when it comes to the budget. Ignatieff says the information leak was “irresponsible and costly to our economy.”

“Mandate for listeriosis investigation: insufficient OTTAWA – The mandate given to former Edmonton Health Authority President Sheila Weatherill as investigator of last year’s listeriosis outbreak is insufficient to provide transparency to Canadians, Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter and Health Critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett said today.“Canadians deserve the truth,” said Mr. Easter. “We have no doubt that Ms. Weatherill will do what she can given her mandate, but the fact is, this Conservative government has not been transparent with Canadians with regards to this tragedy. Ms. Weatherill’s resources and powers are too limited to reveal what actually happened. ” Dr. Bennett said the only way Canadians can know the full truth of how the crisis came about is to have a full judicial inquiry with the power to compel witnesses to testify and evidence to be produced.  “But, as we know, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused repeated calls for this,” said Dr. Bennett. “It is only through a full judicial inquiry that all of the facts will be known – and only then can the families of the victims move forward and Canadians can be assured it won’t happen again.” Mr. Easter agreed that only a judicial inquiry would fully expose the information needed to truly address any shortcomings in Canada’s food safety system.  “This is not about assigning blame,” he pointed out. “It is about giving Canadians certainty that their food is safe. The Conservative government and the Prime Minister owe that much to Canadians, but this investigation falls far too short of that obligation.””   http://www.liberal.ca/story_15587_e.aspx 

” the fact that there is increased speculation about the Prime Minister’s job reflects growing concern in Conservative ranks that the party has to start planning for succession. The combination of a credible alternative, in the form of new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, and a support-sapping recession has already hit the Prime Minister’s approval ratings. The suspicion is that this is only a distant early warning of ever-worsening poll numbers. Mr. Harper retains strong support in caucus. Many Conservatives recognize that they are taken seriously only because they have the letters “MP” after their name, a happy circumstance for which thanks must go to the Prime Minister. But, unlike former Conservative leader Brian Mulroney, Mr. Harper has failed to establish a personal rapport with many caucus members. Their loyalty would be strained to a breaking point if Conservative support dropped into the 20s range– thus jeopardizing their cushy sinecures. Many Tories found themselves questioning their political faith during the general election and found it tested further by the Fall Fiscal Update. “The ace the Prime Minister always had was that he was the master tactician. But our guy doesn’t have the ace anymore,” said one self-professed Harper supporter. “Ministers now whisper under their breath that they think we will lose the next election.” In this circumstance, it is not surprising that the volume of chatter about a potential successor has risen. But it’s also true that if the Prime Minister is discredited by his handling of the economic crisis, his Cabinet is tarnished too.  The same applies to other potential front-bench candidates such as Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who may emerge as the strongest candidate from the old Reform Party; James Moore, the young Heritage Minister who despite being a former Reform MP is most often viewed as a Red Tory; and, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who is said to be more likely to encourage his wife Christine Elliott, an Ontario MPP, to take a run at a senior job at Queen’s Park. Some Conservatives believe that a saviour will emerge from the East, in the form of Jean Charest, the Quebec Premier, or Bernard Lord, the former premier of New Brunswick. What is clear is that Mr. Harper’s authority has been dented so severely that the race to succeed him is on and cannot be cancelled by PMO decree. On the upside, the Prime Minister shouldn’t have any trouble empathizing with Canadians worried about losing their jobs in the coming months. ”  http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/story.html?id=9b2a4084-084d-4e62-98e2-0d4e73cc25ce  But all that won’t stop the fools from trying to  take bad Harper’s place.

Follow Obama’s lead on transparency, PM told Saying ‘the fog is thickening’ in Canada, Information Commissioner pounces on U.S. President’s decision to have more official documents released to the public  Globe and Mail  January 21, 2009 at 5:32 PM EST  OTTAWA — The Harper government should follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s lead in shunning secrecy and releasing more official documents to the public, Canada’s Information Commissioner says. In his first full day in office, Mr. Obama ordered the American government to release more documents under its Freedom of Information Act.  “Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday.  The announcement did not go unnoticed in Ottawa, where the Canadian government has moved in the opposite direction.  Canada’s Information Commissioner Robert Marleau   said that unreleased figures show more and more users of the Access to Information Act are hitting a wall in Canada. He added that his ATI report cards, to be released next month, will show a number of departments and agencies are failing in their legal duties. “The fog is thickening,” Mr. Marleau said. “Things are clearly going backwards in the amount of information that is being released, and there is a clear increase in the use of time extensions and exemptions. The numbers should be of concern to Canadian citizens.”In its current form, the act calls on the government to release requested documents within 30 days. But a number of officials who administer the Access to Information Act regularly complain that the Privy Council Office is playing an increasing role in vetting documents before they are released, causing delays that commonly reach six months and sometimes drag on for more than a year. In addition, the government relies increasingly on exemptions to censor information on contentious matters, such as the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. In the United States, Mr. Obama said he still wants his government to protect national security and personal information, but that the rules should favour those who are seeking information. “The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does mean you should always use it,” he said.”The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.” Mr. Obama said “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” That message is similar to the Conservative Party’s promise in the 2006 election. However, the Harper government has failed to live up to its promise to “implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to Information Act.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090121.wPOLtransparency0121/BNStory/politics/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090121.wPOLtransparency0121

Ad scandal isn’t dead yet  The Telegram  It may seem like it died quietly, but an interesting Elections Canada investigation into the conduct of the Conservative party in the 2006 federal election is still chugging along.  Wednesday, there was a court hearing in Toronto over material obtained by search warrant by Canada’s chief electoral officer when his office raided Conservative offices in Ottawa last year.  The Tories are vigorously fighting Elections Canada over the seized records.  The elections officer is investigating “in and out” financing. It’s a dodge by which the federal wing of the Conservative party transferred money to individual riding associations, ostensibly for riding advertising, and then had the money sent back to the party again where it was used to buy more national advertising.  The Conservatives allegedly moved $1.3 million to 67 riding offices, and then used that money to buy national ad space, even though they had already reached their limit of $18.3 million in national advertising. The Tories argue they are being singled out, and that they haven’t done anything that other parties haven’t done in the past. What complicates the story is that the national ads were booked long before party officials could have had any idea how much local ridings were going to spend on advertising, suggesting an orchestrated attempt to get around election spending rules. Beyond the Elections Canada investigation, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs held hearings, but many Conservative party officials refused to attend, even though the committee issued 31 summonses.  Before the issue could come to a head, Stephen Harper called a snap election, stopping the committee in its tracks.  In fact, that committee, and other fractious groups with similar issues, played a role in the “dysfunctional Parliament” that Harper said he needed to replace via an election.  You can understand the Conservatives’ position – to a point. House of Commons committees can be a bit of a “Gong Show,” and are regularly overtaken by partisan posturing. The problem is that they are also a legitimate part of the Parliamentary process, and ignoring them shows clear contempt for that process. Now, there are suggestions that the committee will regroup and call witnesses all over again, should Parliament sit next week. But there’s a fly in the ointment: one key witness is Irving Gerstein, head of fundraising for the Tories and their official agent for the 2006 federal election. But Gerstein was appointed to the Senate shortly before Christmas and, as a senator, he can no longer be compelled to appear before a House of Commons committee. Wheels within wheels within wheels. If members of a political party are willing to thumb their noses at a legislative committee – to the point of ignoring legally issued summonses – what other rules are they willing to flout?  Certainly it’s about time we knew whether or not the party with the most seats in the House of Commons played by the rules, or whether it has decided it is above such things.  http://www.thetelegram.com/index.cfm?sid=214228&sc=80 

Drinking alcohol cause permanent brain damage, it also causes a significant deterioration of one’s mental capabilities, inter personal relationship skills, it also causes more car accidents than speeding or not having adequate winter tires, it also reduces significantly one’s work productivity as well undeniably too.  So  tell us all now:
 
– How much money did the Prime Minister, the Premiers themselves now spend on Alcoholic consumption entertainment last year,
– How Much money did the federal, provincial cabinet ministers now spend on Alcoholic consumption entertainment last year
– How much money did the civil and public servants now spend on Alcoholic consumption entertainment last year
 
I trust you all can readily supply us all with the answers

Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Pat Hoy is stepping on the toes of his federal counterpart in his call for Stephen Harper’s Conservative government make changes to Employment Insurance.  Hoy issued media release calling the EI program unfair to unemployed workers in Ontario and demanding changes to the program in Tuesday’s federal budget.  “An unemployed worker in Ontario gets $4,630 less in EI benefits each year than someone in any other province,” Hoy said, adding Ontario is being short-changed $2.1 billion annually in EI benefits. ” http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1400733

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