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The Commons: Everyone’s fault, but Jim’s


 

The Scene. Economic apocalypse beckons. The very foundations of Western society are crumbling. Bloody anarchy is sure to follow. Your children will know nothing but abject poverty or, worse, socialism. It will decades before we fully understand the extent and scope of these horrors.

But it’s never too early to start assigning blame.

So first up was Jim Flaherty, pointing directly towards a Liberal opposition that had voted against various measures in the last Parliament—though not, mind you, in sufficient number to be of any consequence. Then to Bob Rae, whose words and economic expertise had, by Flaherty’s estimate, compelled the Prime Minister to run a deficit. And then to Scott Brison, whose pessimism was reportedly moving people to give up their jobs and claim poverty.

“Mr. Speaker,” huffed the beleaguered Finance Minister, “there the member for Kings-Hants goes again talking down the Canadian economy.”

Who else? Well for one, the Bloc Quebecois, who voted in equally insufficient numbers against the previous Conservative government. Not to mention the NDP, who were similarly unable to impede the government’s agenda.

Jack Layton could not escape individual scrutiny either, the Finance Minister astutely identifying the NDP leader as a treasonous scoundrel. “I call on the honourable member to stand up for Canada,” Flaherty pleaded, “and stop bad-mouthing Canada.”

For sure, the nation has spent untold nights crying itself to sleep as a result of Layton’s mockery.

But what also of the Earth’s 6.7-billion people, each of whom had abjectly failed to inform Mr. Flaherty of this coming crisis? “Mr. Speaker,” Flaherty moped, “it is plain that no one in the world was predicting the kind of economic downturn and the severity and depth of the economic downturn that we have experienced in the last 12 weeks.”

Ungrateful jerks, all of them.

Remarkably, as Gentleman Jim outlined in alternate breaths, this government was wise enough to preemptively combat a recession it never thought would happen. “In October 2007 there were personal income tax reductions, business tax reductions, we reduced the GST by two full percentage points,” Mr. Flaherty crowed. “The GST reduction is permanent. The income tax reductions are permanent. The business tax reductions are permanent.”

That Mr. Flaherty’s department seems, as a result, to be permanently screwed—that all of those measures have emptied the national treasury and limited the government’s ability to do much of anything in this time of crisis—is, of course, unfortunate coincidence.

It was Brison, determined to destroy the Canadian economy with the sheer force of his mind, who wondered if the Finance Minister might, in these desperate times, show equally reductive zeal for the government’s use of luxurious air travel.

“About travel expenses,” Flaherty sniffed, “I am sure he read about that as he flew business class back to his riding last Friday.”

Shortly after the conclusion of Question Period, Brison rose on a point of order, waving a piece of paper in the air. Seems he had his most recent travel itinerary—showing him to have flown economy class—and wished to table it.

The government declined his request. But such frugality will surely serve him well in the apocalyptic future his pessimism is certain to leave us.

***

The Stats. The economy, 14 questions. Violence against women, three questions. Forestry, the auto industry, unemployment, the aeronautics industry, Aboriginals, the environment, Afghanistan and credit cards, two questions each. Affordable housing, energy efficiency, identity theft, the public service, infrastructure and the Ukraine, one question each.

Jim Flaherty, 16 answers. Tony Clement and Diane Finley, four answers. Helena Guergis, three answers. Lisa Raitt, Chuck Strahl, Jim Prentice and Peter MacKay, two answers each. Rob Nicholson, Vic Toews, Gail Shea and Jason Kenney, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Everyone’s fault, but Jim’s

  1. I sense a seismic shift in spin … before it was: The Liberals were worse, they did it for years!

    Now it’s: The Liberals would have been worse if we had let them!

  2. Flaherty accusing other MPs of bad mouthing Canada?

    First of all, none of these MPs were bad mouthing Canada.

    Second, if I am not mistaken, it was Flaherty himslef who called a press conference earlier this year for the sole purpose of informing the world that Ontario is the last place to invest.

    Now, that’s bad mouthing.

  3. Brent,

    In Jim’s defence, he didn’t bad mouth Canada, though. Just Ontario. Bad mouthing Ontario is cool, and there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s a revered national pastime. Stop being unCanadian and just go with the flow.

  4. Since when is the Canadian Finance Minister responsible for a global recession?

    I worked for many years in the Department of Finance under both Liberals and Conservatives and cannot remember ayone trying to pretend that Canada had that type of influence on the global economy.

    Aaron and his Liberal friends should use the net few months to work on ways to identify the best policies for Canada to get through this global mess. They may even be surprised that it may win them more long term support than mindless and brianless attacks on the government for something that is out of Canada’s control.

    There will be plenty of time when the election comes around in 2012 to cast blame then.

  5. Two Cents:

    Canada couldn’t have prevented the global downturn, but we could have been much better prepared to deal with it. Our government has frittered away most of its levers. A GST cut doesn’t help if people are nervous about their house prices falling and decide to save the cut rather than spend it.

  6. Jim Flaherty is used to assigning blame to everyone but himself.

    ‘Its not my fault’ Flaherty has done this for years. Sometimes it works. Take for example Jim’s logic for killing income trusts and the result.

    Jim ‘Its not my fault’ Flaherty destroys the Income Trust sector to save Canadian Taxpayers from alleged and unproven tax leakage because BCE decides to form a trust (and unitholders pay the tax). But a pension plan and it’s private equity partners buy BCE and pay no corporate tax which cause major tax leakage

    Is this any of Jims fault? No!

    To Jim “Its not my fault” Flaherty. The ABC’s of BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises)

  7. Hey, ease up on Deficit Jim. He is Canada’s foremost leading expert on how to turn a surplus into a deficit, having done it so well before in Ontario. Experience matters in such things.

  8. Deficit Jim needs no easing up on. He is a one man wrecking ball of fiscal common sense with a predisposition to blaming everyone else when his plans blow up in his (our) faces.

    Canada may not have been able to prevent a global downturn, but spending the cupboard bare in the good times is a sure way of having no cushion when times are inevitably get bad.

    But what of Jim’s latest spin that he was preparing us for a recession that he didn’t know was coming?

    Does a 2% GST cut really mean much to a unemployed auto worker from Whitby Oshawa who has had his discretionary income slashed and isn’t in the market to buy anything but basic GST exempt food and goods?

    The 2% GST cut is more about clever marketing by the Conservatives and less about real impact in a unemployed persons life.

  9. It is interesting to note that Canada is doing better than most other industrialized nations. Europe is in bad shape, the Unites States is in bad shape, Japan is in recession officially, and Iceland is bankrupt. So Flaherty has a point: “personal income tax reductions, business tax reductions, we reduced the GST by two full percentage points”. These reductions may be the reason why Canada is much fiscally stronger than the rest of the industrialized world at this time.

  10. I’d say more likely that high commodities prices have helped up to now, as well as having lower than average leverage/tighter lending to consumers. Now that oil has unwound I think you might see Alberta etc. slow significantly.

    A depreciating Canadian dollar could well be quite beneficial to Ontario at this point, as well.

  11. Flaherty didn’t blame anybody. He just pointed out the hypocrisy of the opposition and their lame attack on the government. There is no PM/President or central banker who predicted the collapse of the financial system as we see unfolding in front of us everyday.
    In fact the PM outlined in last year’s year end interviews that the economy was going to be in for a rough time in 2008. Nobody took him seriously as the economy for still doing well. Did he think the world economy was going to collapse? I doubt it. He is good but not that good an economist.
    The opposition are great at reviewing history and trying to make partisan points when at a time of significant turmoil they should be working with the government to get through this thing as best as can be expected.
    Dion standing up in his silly way asking when did the PM know about the deficit and why did he lie to Canadians does nothing to instill confidence in the public and in fact causes them to continue to lose respect (if that’s possible) and feel it is still more of the same.

  12. sf: “These [tax] reductions may be the reason why Canada is much fiscally stronger than the rest of the industrialized world at this time.”

    I think the main reason we’re still doing OKish is that our banks weren’t wildly overleveraged, owing in part to regulation and mainly to the banks’ own risk-averse attitude which, on the one hand, has hurt Canadian entrepreneurship and, on the other, insulated us from the credit meltdown. But, I mean, we have an export economy and we export to the States; we’ll feel their pain in due course, alas.

  13. So Dion and Layton agree in no deficit for 2009. They suggest $50 Billion in new spending on the campaign trail. Again clearly the PM saw the stormclouds offered $ 10 Billion in new spending only. Sourgrapes for the opposition and a lame duck. Voters got it right.

  14. Just say:

    They promised the would never allow a deficit budget. Will Harper vote against his own budget?

  15. “The opposition are great at reviewing history and trying to make partisan points when at a time of significant turmoil they should be working with the government to get through this thing as best as can be expected.”

    What legislation has been put to a vote and defeated?

    It is the duty of the opposition to oppose and criticize, not hold their tongue. The government isn’t interested in cooperation, they want the opposition to stick its neck out and take blame for this situation.

  16. Such great fortune tellers, these CONs. Hence the idea to save seniors and pension plans the hemorraging during these tough days, but pre-emptively pulling the plug on their income trust investments. Wonderful planning that, also, to raise personal income taxes to pay for the initial lipstick gst cut. Let’s not forget that it was this gang that ok’d 40-year, 0-down mortgages — until someone told them that hey, that light ahead is a not sunny Jim’s reflection but a meteor of dinosaur-extinction possibilities.
    Slag the opposition for their 20-20 hindsight behaviour. But look Harper and Flaherty in the eyes and ask them: why did you flush Canadians’ rainy-day fund away on gimmicks, a rushed gst cut, 10-percenter partisan crap, and the most bloated cabinet in history?

  17. As an ordinary Canadian I may not know much about politics, but I can tell that the Harper Party is setting Jim Flaherty up for a big fall. Watched QP on CPAC today (missing PM), watched every Flaherty news blurb available (missing PM or even spokesblob), then watched Kory in the House, and I can tell that Deficit Jim is going to be hitting the curb ASAP.

    Good to know that even the rabid pro-Harper Harper party knows when their schtick ain’t sticking.

    Flaherty is done. Watch now for his golden parachute details.

  18. Another Jim Flaherty related illustration on how bad decisions can come back to bite you. Today we read the BCE deal to go private has hit a snag. So far the the stock is down 14% this morning.

    You’ll remember one of the catalysts for the Harper Party’s decision to kill income trusts was the BCE announcement BCE would convert to an Income trust in Sept 2006…

    On the Trust announcement, BCE shares soared but Deficit Jim worked his black magic and killed the entire IT sector in Oct 2006 on the unproven theory that such trust conversion deals would cause tax leakage. And backed up the tax leakage argument with no-noe-zilch-nada evidence.

    So now we see alternative OTPP-private equity deal is also on it’s way to the graveyard, this after BCE shareholders have already seen their dividend canceled this summer. This OTPP – PE deal BTW would have caused real tax leakage, as pensions pay NO tax, nor do private equity firms who offset their purchases with leverage.

    This is Jim Flaherty’s legacy. The legacy of a Finance Minister who is in way over his head. Not only has he spent the cupboard bare prior to the downturn but he has done a magnificent job of nailing Canadian investors trying to support themselves in increasingly challenging times.

    Disclosure: I don’t own BCE. This deal smelled bad since last summer. I got out then.

  19. Gosh, people have just noticed that Flaherty and the CPC blame everyone else whenever they mess up a file? They’ve pretty much messed up every files they’ve worked on – blame and fire others and call it leadership.

  20. Canada isn’t fairing well, Saskatchewan, BC and Alberta are fairing well, and as a result the struggles and failures in Ontario and Quebec are being masked by the massive cash boom flowing from the western mines, forests, fields and oil patches. The moment these three economies hit a bump Canada won’t look any better off then New Zealand. That the three economies continue to go strong is in spite of not in any part due to Jim “deficit” Flaherty. All credit should go to the provincial governments that have wisely, ignored the folly in Ottawa and worked hard to establish realtions with Asia, open provincial borders for trade and labour, expand local banking administration, security and regulation and redistrubute taxes. They haven’t been perfect, far from it, but none of them ever destroyed a robust economy, or undermined an entire employment sector.

  21. Having watched the question period that this article is about, I came away with the distinct feeling that Canada will miss yet another boat with this government in charge. The conservative idea of co-operation is always, do not fight us on anything. If anyone paid attention to the spring session of parliament, you could almost skip this one… almost.

    The part that will be the most interesting now, is that since being repeatedly shown to have – at best been morbidly ignorant of the coming economic trouble – or at worst, deliberately not been honest with voters in the desperate bid for a majority… the conservative party will either be reluctant to be defeated with such a nasty record up close and personal … or eager for a defeat, so thay can oppose others rather than be accountable for the mess they have definitely had a hand in.

    In either case, it will not be four years to the next election.

    As to the blaming that goes on, you can hardly be surprised. It is the MO of this government to answer questions – especially direct questions – with reasons why either:
    a) The person asking it is inept.
    b) The problem began with someone else, they just inherited it and struggle to come to terms with it.
    c) They do not get involved in issues of that nature.
    d) The question just shows how little the other parties think of this great country.

    That is, of course, when they bother to address the actual question asked. It is nearly as common for the government member to ignore the actual question, to read from a sheet of paper, a statement that may be similar in nature, but not an actual answer to the question asked.

    I often wish there was a position in parliament for someone with a cattle prod that would “zap” every mp that stands up to respond to a question, that doesn’t actually answer it. If nothing else, it would increase the number of people that watch, and see what our government is doing.

    As for Jim Flaherty specifically, I would refer any interested parties to look up his track record in Ontario, while working for Mr. Harris.

    YIKES is the polite reaction.

    I cannot fathom why anyone in the province, knowing that Mr. Flaherty was in the mix could have been convinced that he would do any better for the entire country… but then, misery loves company.

  22. (Opening)
    MANSBRIDGE: Tonight!
    MANSBRIDGE: On Parliament Hill today, you won’t believe what happened. A partisan politician responds to a partisan attack with a partisan parry. Keith Boag tells us what might happen next.
    ANNOUNCER: The National, with Peter Mansbridge.
    MANSBRIDGE: Good evening, …

  23. “it is plain that no one in the world was predicting the kind of economic downturn and the severity and depth of the economic downturn that we have experienced in the last 12 weeks”

    I find this both hilarious and frightening. Many respected international economists have been warning of this for over a year. I received an e-mail from someone in the know back in March that nailed September as the month it would all start to unravel (which is why I moved all of my RRSPs to a non market-based fund in August and haven’t suffered any losses). Does Flaherty really believe that nobody knew, or is it part of the script? I find it pretty hard to believe that he wasn’t even at least exposed to the possibility of a financial meltdown.

    If he thinks we’ve it bottom he’s crazy. The US bailout cost was up to $8.6 trillion as of yesterday. When you created that mush money out of thin air, your currency CAN NOT survive. There is no way the US dollar doesn’t start into hyperinflation in the very near future.

  24. Flaherty keeps reminding us that Scott Brison
    made mincemeat out of him in the CBC
    pre-election debate. I think that the
    final score was Scott 52% and Jim 29%.
    Contact Jim if you need the exact results.
    He remembers. This is why he singled
    out Brison in Question Period.
    Pathetic little man that he is.

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