On the political campaign

A few of the regular readers of this blog have suggested that I delve more deeply into the current political campaign. Warren Kinsella, the Grand Poobah of political bloggers, said on CBC yesterday that 90% of all new blogs are political. I am not sure if I agree with that. When I do a search on ‘Moncton’ using Google’s Blog Search, and I filter out the growing number of advertising sites, I get a lot of personal blogs: Examples titles of recent blog posts with Moncton in the text:

I’m more drunk than a three-legged chicken.
Kiss was my Grandfather
day trip to moncton
Junk that happens in Moncton – http://monctonjunk.blogspot.com
To The East I Go….
The day we climbed the wall
Mouthin’ off in Moncton! – http://worriedinmoncton.blogspot.com

In fact, it was hard to find a blog mentioning ‘Moncton’ that was political in nature.

But maybe that’s just Moncton…

However, being the faithful servant of my readership, here are some general observations about the economic side of the winter election:

No party seems to be targeting a specific messages to Atlantic Canada (beyond the vague).

Harper wants to ensure us that he doesn’t think we are lazy, stupid and beset with a culture of defeatism because his great, great, great grandfather lived in New Brunswick one summer in 1827.

The Liberals seem to be saying – we’re at 47% in the polls in Atl. Canada – a few campaign stops there and that will be fine. They have added a couple of top shelf candidates in New Brunswick – Brian Murphy in Moncton and Marcel Mersereau and hope to make even more gains down here.

The NDP – not sure – haven’t heard them mention Atl. Canada.

The local Premiers have been pretty quiet except Lord. He, once again this time, has taken a highly confrontational stance towards the Federal Liberals while Hamm, Binns and Williams lay low (you’ll remember that Williams actually indicated support for the Liberals last time because of his ‘side deal’).

A number of national columnists have started to use this phrase ‘buying us off with our own money’ to describe how the Liberals have used ‘unforeseen’ surpluses to target billions of dollars to specific constituencies – arts, sports, natives, universities, unions (Buzz is urging his members to vote Liberal), Atl. Canada, etc. such that we wouldn’t dare vote against them and risk all this gravy. Andy Scott apparently outlined all this gravy in a letter to Premier Lord last week.

This is, in many ways, political genius (although I admit my track record on this is terrible). If the government had put all these side deals and surplus spending on targeted groups in the legitimate budgeting process it would not give them nearly as great a political impact. Think about it. Let’s say they added $500 million per year for the natives – no end date, no special deal, just a straight budget process. Well, then how could they get any political benefit from that? That would be like saying “We’re giving the senior citizens of this country the Canada Pension Plan. Look at us!”.

Of course that would be idiocy. We know about the CPP. We are ‘entitled’ to it.

But if you carve out a few more billion for seniors and call it ‘something special’. We will love you forever.

This is very much in play in Atlantic Canada with the one time ‘side deals’, the Atlantic Innovation Fund, etc.

The government of Canada is spending no more – maybe less – on economic development in Atlantic Canada today than it did in the early 1990s. Back then the money was flowed directly to the provinces through COOPERATION agreements and REDAs and now it is spent directly by the Feds through the Innovation strategy but the amount of money is no more and may be less.

But, the Innovation Fund, is having way more political impact. The universities couldn’t dream of a non-Liberal government. Many local governments couldn’t dream of a non-Liberal government (and, it seems, many provincial governments as well – read: Williams).

But, if this money had just been added to ACOA’s budget, if it became ‘entitled’, no political impact whatsoever.

So, extending this to its zany conclusion, I expect that the Liberals will win again and ante up the stakes even more. In fact, beyond the core funding, I expect the Liberals will push every penny of additional money into these little side deals, year end announcements, conditional funding, until we all are highly dependant on government for our livelihood.

I’m only partially kidding on this. I read somewhere one time that the government issues 40-50 million cheques per month (now direct deposit but you get the point). There is hardly a Canadian rich or poor that doesn’t get a cheque from the government (GST rebate, income tax back, CPP, EI, child tax credit, the supplement). Now, it’s pretty clear to me that they could have structured things so that if you are at the lower income level, you just pay less HST/GST but it is far more impactful to get an actual cheque from government than not pay it in the first place.

In the interest of full disclosure I get several cheques from the Feds every year and they come in handy.

Until I add up all that I pay:

Provincial income tax
Federal income tax
Gas tax
Property tax
Licences & fees
(I am not rich enough to pay capital gains/dividend taxes)

But, to end this extra long rant, government should not be about how many cheques they dole out. It should be about creating a climate where business can prosper, where we can generate the tax dollars required to have a generous social system and where we take care of the poorest and most needy in society.

So, I suggest we vote for the party that most reflects this ambition.

Good luck finding it.