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‘Honest budgetary numbers’


 

Nice to see Liberals and Conservatives getting together and, seemingly, getting along. To think, all it took was a government threat to bankrupt the opposition, eliminate the public service’s right to strike and limit women’s ability to seek pay equity, unprecedented coalition talks between the Liberals and NDP, the Bloc Quebecois agreeing to support a federalist government, a new leader of the Liberal party, a global economic crisis, talk of a national unity crisis, the makings of a constitutional crisis and cross-country protests in the streets.

And yet, after all that, you still have to make a formal, written request to the Finance Minister if you want to see an “honest” accounting of the nation’s finances.

Are things getting better? Or are things getting worse? I can’t tell anymore.


 

‘Honest budgetary numbers’

  1. Has the rollback on womens’ pay equity been, er, rolled back?

    I don’t recall seeing anyone from the government backing off that little stinkbomb…

  2. I can foresee lots of arguments about what ‘honest budgetary numbers’ means. Presumably, Flaherty/Government are using an acceptable accounting method when they create their budgets but there are all kinds of accounting methods I believe. I know a couple of accountants and they can play fast and loose with numbers but still be within the law.

  3. It strikes me that all they are talking about are projections about future revenues and expenses. Sort of like when Jeff Rubin made all that noise projecting $200/bbl oil. The Libs don’t agree with the Tories projections, just like the Tories never agreed with the Liberals projections (Brison most of all) when they were in power. Its a big game of “who has the better crystal ball.” Perhaps we should ask Kevin Page for yet another projection to further muddy the water.

    In the end the gov’t is the only party that can even try to make the projections work. It can slow (or eliminate) discretionary spending if revenues start to fall off; it can ramp up borrowing to keep spending despite falling revenues; or it can cut transfers to other levels of gov’t and raid the EI fund to make its own books look better (just kidding, no gov’t would ever do that). The only way to resolve the arfgument is to wait until the public accounts are published, roughly ten monthsor so after the books are closed for the year. Of course by then no one really cares anymore.

  4. The issue here isn’t so much “honesty” in the budgetary numbers as it is credibility.

    Per Kevin Page last week, the financial update:

    – assumed the sale of government assets as revenue without specifying which assets
    – assumed cuts in government departments without any details, and
    – failed to detail assumptions in its financial forecast or the impact of the GST cuts on the economy.

    If I ever turned in a business case like this at work, it would seriously hurt my career prospects. It smells like a snow job, and is not acceptable from any government.

    And considering Flaherty’s record of misleading financial forecasts designed to give the impression of a balanced budget, Canadians are right to demand he show his work.

  5. TJ Cook: “assumed the sale of government assets as revenue without specifying which assets”

    Come now, that’s no need to be harsh on them. They’ve decided they need to sell off $2 billion in order to balance the books, so they’ll sell off a few assets. And if that doesn’t get them $2b they’ll sell off a few more. Then a few more. Then a few more. Until finally they have the amount they said they need to get.

    It’s quite simple and nothing at all eyebrow-raising about it, no siree.

    (Why yes, I am being sarcastic. Thank you for noticing.)

  6. Selling assets and spending the proceeds plays hell with the balance sheet. Whatever happened to that “Net Debt” promise, anyways?

  7. I agree with TJ Cook’s comments above, and would add that it is not then a matter of some sort of irresolveable comparisson of hyotheticals. That really misses the specific issues to which TJ Cook rightly draws attention.

  8. I agree with TJ Cook’s comments above, and would add that it is not then a matter of some sort of irresolveable comparisson of hyotheticals. That really misses the specific issues to which TJ Cook rightly draws attention.

  9. Just as there are different rules for accounting, only some of which are “generally accepted”, so to are there different rules for projections. In other words, there are rules. And as far as I know, those rules tend to favour the most conservative result of a given scenario. So, when projecting the revenues gained from the sale of these mythical assets, has the downturn in the economy been taken into consideration?

    I really do think Charles H has hit on Flaherty’s plan.

  10. Need one point out how skewed this piece is? I know it’s just an opinion piece, but stating opinion as fact is out of line in any published work.

    Examples:
    – “…all it took was a government threat to bankrupt the opposition…” No, the threat was to remove publich funding from the opposition. Whether that bankrupts them is entirely up to them. All they need to do is convince people to give them money… as the Conservatives seem to be able to do.

    “…limit women’s ability to seek pay equity…”
    How is removing the Human Rights Tribunal from the loop a limitation? The courts are available, and so there is no limit on the quest for pay equity.

    “…the Bloc Quebecois agreeing to support a federalist government…”
    You are generously assuming it would be a federalist government. With the BQ holding the balance of power, this is definitely an assumption and a questionable one at that.

    “…you still have to make a formal, written request to the Finance Minister if you want to see an “honest” accounting of the nation’s finances.”
    Of course, an honest opinion piece would admit that we don’t know whether the Minister’s accounting is honest or not, since only the Opposition (they don’t have a vested interest in this, do they?) has claimed otherwise. Perhaps the quotes on “honest” are intended to imply this uncertainty, but the statement as a whole suggests that the Finance Minister has not already provided an “honest” accounting.

    Come on Wherry. I’ve seen you do a lot better than this. State the facts, then state your opinions, and draw a bright line between the latter and the former. Surely the Arts departments across the country haven’t sunk so low as to stop teaching this basic element of good writing….eh…never mind.

  11. Whenever this meeting occurs, i think the libs should throw their shoes at him. doesn’t he need some to present the budget anyway?

  12. Gaunilon,

    There is plenty of peer reviewed research that indicates that the courts are not the best place to ensure women’s pay equity often it requires substantial circumstantial evidence in order to prove inequity. This is why putting forth greater efforts to ensure that women are not only paid equally for the same work as men but it also is simple recognition that women are worth as much as men are in society.

    Secondly, how is your comment not skewed as it does not consider the importance of a functioning democracy but instead suggests only one point of view. A less bias/slanted opinion would be one that duly weighs having a functioning opposition over partisan interests. Wouldn’t most Canadians agree that having a viable opposition would be preferred as to ensure a proper check on the governing party?

    So maybe you should go back to high school civics class. Also read up on the wage gap between women and men in Canada.

  13. The real problem in regards to the lack of government budget numbers lies with the Federal Departments and the bureaucracy’s “wilfull lack of clarity” as to what is really spent in Ottawa!

    We have an Auditor-General who is very good at her job (Sheil Fraser). What we are sorely lacking is the position of Comptroller-General who would have total acccess to ALL Federal departments, ministries, and agencies and who would provide information on all departmental spending down to the last nickel! Then there would be no partisan argument as to where cuts should be made or programs scrapped! The Comptroller would be legally able to fully control all departmental spending – no more $500 lunches or “weekend trips” to Paris at taxpayers expense! No more “kickbacks” in Indian and Northern Affairs (from the numerous band councils) to keep the department lawyers “busy” with never-ending very spurious treaty claims! Tens of millions could be saved in just scrapping all departmental expense accounts! Selling off just the Sports Network of the CBC would save taxpayers close to $400million/year!

    As far as removing the $1.95/vote each party receives for operational funding, the Canadian public is blissfully unaware that all registered political parties already receive a substantial 75% subsidy on all donations by way of the political tax credit! So for every loonie donated, the donor receives 75cts back!
    All in all, the political parties effectively get a “double subsidy” for their participation in the political process! It just so happens that the Federal Tories have been able to raise a very substantial nest egg for future elections from their members and supporters while the Grits and NDP are substantially hobbled because theyy can no longer receive funds from their “sponsors” – the corporations and unions – and the present bunch of so-called leaders in the “left wing coalition” just do not inspire any confidence from the Canadian voters, most especially when it includes the blatantly separatist BQ!

    The West is totally fed up with this “political crap” from Duceppe, Layton and Ignateiff – We want Quebec gone and sooner the better for all concerned!

  14. So Bob’s a separatist then.
    Does this mean he shouldn’t be allowed to have a voice in Canadian politics?

  15. The pay equity “stinkbomb” (nice phrase) is the big remaining FUFU mystery. The Tories have been desperate to tackle gender inequality — in the polls, I mean — and yet they adopt something which is so easily understood, not unreasonably, as an assault on women’s economic status. Why? It’s the equivalent of leaving your queen exposed in the middle of the board. Wasn’t there something about this at their policy convention? Was it just throwing a bone to the base?

    In retrospect, the FUFU looks like a suicide pact.

  16. Alas, Bob, the prorogation delays the Auditor General’s report, too.

  17. Jack Mitchell,

    Speaking of FUFU, I left something (at 17:20) on Kady’s blog post “UPDATED: Paging Kevin Page, paging Kevin Page …” comment board that I should have dedicated to you.

  18. Gaunilon
    Dec 15, 2008 17:02,

    nice intro to further discussions. Sure, there is a huge difference between reporting and opinionating. Both can be done, and can be done well, but the reader must at all time be able to understand the difference.

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  19. “This is why putting forth greater efforts to ensure that women are not only paid equally for the same work as men but it also is simple recognition that women are worth as much as men are in society. ”

    ——————

    James Munro,

    I am a woman, and I wonder often why it is that we pay daycare workers a few pennies above minimum wage, while the women who leave their children in daycare get paid around 20-25@hour for shuffling paper work around.

    You think such ‘inequity’ should be considered also?

  20. Essentially, pay equity wants to challenge the traditional notion of “human capital” in which women’s work are lower skilled (valued less).

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