The Commons: Ipso facto governance

Cast off ye shackles of tyranny and step into the light of a world without math

by Aaron Wherry

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The Scene. Adherents to the faith of smaller government take note, for the Harper government has successfully identified and eliminated one of the prime inefficiencies standing between us and true freedom.

“This government cannot say how many jobs were created after having spent $47 billion of Canadians’ money,” lamented the NDP’s Peter Julian this afternoon of the government’s trademarked action plan. “The program was so badly monitored that no one knows if it was effective.”

Of this, Mr. Julian can claim the authority of the auditor general, who apparently found no attempt by the government to determine precisely how many jobs it “created” (in the messianic parlance) with its billions in bridges, roads and hockey arenas.

But just because the government can’t—indeed, won’t—add, doesn’t mean Mr. Julian can’t subtract. “We now know that 72,000 full-time jobs were lost last month thanks to the policies of this government,” he asserted with his next breath. “Now that the truth is out, when will this government put aside bogus and unsubstantiated job claims and take real and immediate action to create jobs here in Canada for Canadian families?”

Jim Flaherty would at least stand to respond to this.

“Mr. Speaker, the positive impact of the economic action plan which the official opposition voted against can be seen in the almost 600,000 net new jobs for Canadians since the end of the recession,” he grumbled in something of a low rumble. “It was a good plan. It worked. It is regrettable that the NDP chose to vote against it.”

In place of math, Mr. Flaherty has here the ipso facto—that which “can be seen.” And unlike addition and subtraction and all the bureaucracy that would entail, Mr. Flaherty’s operation sparkles with efficiency. You see, something positive has occurred. And during the period in which that positive thing happened, Mr. Flaherty and the Conservatives were in charge. Therefore, Mr. Flaherty and the Conservatives are to credit for that positive thing that has happened.

(It is, of course, necessary to note that the same model does not hold for negative things. Whatever has gone wrong these last five years is the fault of external forces wholly unrelated to Mr. Flaherty and the Conservatives, up to and including their periodic concessions to Big Math. It was the world economy. Or the previous Liberal government. Or China. Or the general unwillingness of the Canadian public to elect fully 308 representatives of the Conservative Party of Canada. And so forth, forever and ever, amen.)

Mr. Julian, bobbing back and forth from one foot to the other, insisted here on lecturing the Finance Minister. “The government and the Canadian public cannot compare the goals of the Conservative plan with the outcome,” he moaned. “That is actually what good managers do: goals, outcomes, matching it up. They did not do it. There is no monitoring. There is no transparency.”

Of monitoring and transparency, Tony Clement apparently felt qualified to comment, standing then to sounds of mock amazement from the opposition side. “Mr. Speaker, as my honourable colleague has indicated, this economy has created nearly 600,000 net new jobs under this government, under the economic action plan, which, as my colleague, the minister, indicated, has been praised by Auditors General, and of course Canadians agree with that,” he asserted. “They gave us not only strong praise, but a strong mandate to protect and complete Canada’s economic recovery.”

Mr. Clement does not settle for what is true, you’ll understand, but what can be proven. And what this spring’s election proves is that the Conservatives created those 600,000 jobs.

Or, put another way, it could be worse: that being the campaign slogan that has successfully carried the Conservatives to reelection not once, but twice. “They, on the other side, of course, call for higher taxes that would kill jobs and hurt the economy,” Mr. Clement explained. “Our plan is to keep taxes low, to focus on jobs and to grow the economy. I think Canadians agree with us.”

That should have been that, but then John McCallum was up and whining about all of the ways in which the auditor general had reported mismanagement and disorganization within the government’s operations. And then the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice was declaring it all a farce. And then Mr. Clement began to conduct that orchestra only he can hear, waving his arms about as he ventured an attempt at squaring it all.

“The facts of the matter are the same,” he declared. “The facts are that we have been helping to make sure that our economy is moving away from the recession and toward complete recovery. We have nearly 600,00 net new jobs in this economy as a result of our activities and our actions.”

And if you say that loud enough and often enough, you needn’t worry about whether it’s actually written down anywhere.

The Stats. The economy and crime, six questions each. Pharmaceuticals, five questions. The environment, four questions. Health care and military procurement, three questions each. Agriculture, affordable housing, fisheries and immigration, two questions each. Iran, the long-gun registry and infrastructure, one question each.

Rob Nicholson, six answers. Leona Aglukkaq, five answers. Stephen Harper, Tony Clement, Jim Flaherty, Peter Kent and Julian Fantino, three answers each. Jason Kenney, Gerry Ritz, Keith Ashfield and Diane Finley, two answers each. Bob Dechert, Vic Toews and Joe Oliver, one answer each.

The Commons: Ipso facto governance

  1. The Auditor General and the Opposition clearly do not understand macroeconomics.

    One would never undertake a stimulus program for the direct jobs (X) the stimulus program produces.  One undertakes a stimulus program because of the indirect jobs created and saved (Y) by the stimulus program.

    X << Y.  
    X + Y ~ Y

    One stimulates for Y, not X.  Any direct jobs are a "bonus". Stats Canada measures Y.  And Canada's overall unemployment numbers show the EAP (which the Liberals and NDP demanded)  was immensely successful in maintaining employment levels and the recovery of employment levels in Canada.

    The basic macroeconomic rational for a stimulus program (if a country has manageable debt levels) is the economic flow identity.

    GDP = private investment + private consumption + government spending (investment, social programs, stimulus) + net exports

    The economic identity is the reason one undertakes stimulus programs in a recession if the country is NOT to deeply in depth.

    • if the country is not TOO DEEPLY in debt.  Type too fast.  Make too many spelling mistakes.

      • Well there IS an edit function after all…but then your economics is wrong as well.

  2. Isn’t it astounding to watch Julian Fantino who used to be a brash, confident, off the cuff, no notes speaker, turn into a shy cowering schoolboy reading (and badly) the prepared rote answers from the PMO?

    • Refreshing in his case.

  3. When will politicians of all stripes stop patronizing us with the facile notion that governments single-handedly either “create” or “destroy” jobs by the tens of thousands. In a globally integrated economic system, all governments can do is maintain a regulatory framework that restrains major financial institutions from pursuing their worst impulses. Even there, government impact is limited.

    • All you have to do is look at BC.  Everytime we had an NDP provincial government, our economy went south (literally) and took an awful lot of jobs with it.

  4. Wherry’s fundamental misunderstanding of his opponents (and the economy) is made obvious here.

    The Conservatives are not claiming to have “created” jobs.  They are claiming that under their watch the economy has created jobs.  This is unquestionably true (and is merely a matter of “addition and subtraction”);  jobs have been added since the end of the recession.  One can argue about whether the Conservatives helped or hindered this process, but the fact as stated is mathematically indisputable.  Unless, of course, one is a mildly ignorant journalist with an axe to grind.  But I speak in redundancies.

    The fundamental point here is that government does not create jobs.  Companies create jobs.  Government sets up a stable environment in which companies can do this.  This is why the CPC is being careful not to claim that the stimulus “created” jobs, a most dubious claim, and instead makes the simple arithmetic point that jobs have been gained during the Conservative tenure.

    • Need I, yet again, remind a free-market fundamentalist about who is the largest employer in Canada? Let me give you some clues. It includes the CRA, the RCMP, the Army and Navy, etc. etc. Are you suggesting that what all those people do are not “jobs”?

      • Need I, yet again, remind a socialist about who pays the salaries of government employees? Let me give you some clues, it comes from taxes. Tax revenues are generated by productive work, and most importantly by corporations. Although taxes are paid by government employees, it should be obvious that these revenues can never account for the salaries paid to these same employees.

        Therefore, all jobs, whether government or private sector, are ultimately paid for (i.e. “created”) by the private sector. Not the government.

  5. Clement would know a fact if it came and booted him in the butt.

    • oops, stayed up too late last night. “Obviously ™” that should be “Clement wouldn’t know a fact….”

      • To be fair, some mistakes are so obvious they don’t need correction.

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