The Commons: Yelling into the abyss

How does a government that once promised never to run a deficit justify being in the red?

The Scene. If the leaders of the opposition parties have not yet realized that it is futile to ask the Prime Minister to account for the things he says and does—what he has said so far having only passing relation to what he has done and what he did yesterday having no necessary bearing on what he might do tomorrow—Mr. Harper is perhaps beginning to understand that he is best off bringing as little attention to himself as possible. So it was this afternoon that he yawned his way through three questions from Michael Ignatieff on the government’s policies on climate change and shrugged away three questions from Jack Layton on the extension of this country’s military mission in Afghanistan. When Gilles Duceppe asked about the risks entailed in offshore oil excavation, the Prime Minister didn’t even bother to stand.

However wise of Mr. Harper this may be, it does deprive the gallery spectators of a good show—the House rarely as exciting as when the Prime Minister is up and shouting some bold declaration to which he possesses at least a fleeting commitment.

Lucky then for those who turned up to watch today that the Finance Minister has not yet learned that it is, in the long view, better to speak softly and avoid any statement that might be construed as a nod to objective reality.

It was Ralph Goodale who provoked Jim Flaherty this afternoon, the Liberal deputy engaging the Finance Minister with an altogether discomfiting analogy. ”Mr. Speaker, the finance minister wraps himself in the flag of austerity, but it is made of cellophane,” Mr. Goodale ventured. “This emperor has no clothes.”

While everyone within earshot tried hard not to think of Mr. Flaherty naked, Mr. Goodale proceeded with the indictment. “He rails against big, risky spending schemes, but what about $1 billion for fake lakes, glow sticks and a wasted weekend on the G20?” he begged. “What about $16 billion for stealth fighters, $10 billion for jails, and $6 billion every year for extra tax breaks for the wealthy? Why are these big, risky Conservative schemes exempt from austerity?”

What followed from Mr. Flaherty is perhaps best taken a sentence at a time.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “we have the lowest deficits in the G7 and the best overall fiscal position.”

Two years ago, nearly to the day, this Finance Minister rose in the same spot and forecast budgetary surpluses through 2014. The Prime Minister had of course promised “never” to put the country into deficit. Now, committed to something like $171-billion in new debt through 2015, Mr. Harper’s Finance Minister boasts that it could be worse.

“Our deficit this year,” he continued, “is lower than originally forecast.”

Here the minister bravely, perhaps necessarily, put forward a unique and thought-provoking understanding of what constitutes originality. In the fall of 2008, Mr. Flaherty projected a small surplus for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. In the budget of 2009, he forecast a $29.8-billion deficit. By the next fall it was a $45.3-billion deficit and by this spring it was $49.2 billion. Undaunted, when the minister released his fall economic statement last month, the deficit for fiscal year 2010-2011 was back down to $45.4-billion—$45.5-billion more than “originally” projected in 2008, but yes, $3.8-billion less than “originally” projected this past spring.

On that, no doubt, the Finance Minister should surely be congratulated. Not least because with that $3.8-billion saved, it will be that much easier for future generations to pay the larger deficits Mr. Flaherty now projects for the fiscal years ending in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“As we have said all along,” he went on to explain for Mr. Goodale’s benefit, “once our recovery is assured we will return to a balanced budget.”

Indeed, when the government acknowledged the necessity of deficit spending, that return to balance was projected to occur in 2013. At last report, it was projected to occur in 2015.

“The stimulus package was necessary to protect Canada,” Mr. Flaherty reminded, “and that meant running a deficit for a short period of time.”

And that means that the government that once vowed never to put the country into deficit will, if current projections hold, spend a short seven consecutive years in the red.

Here the Finance Minister finished with a quote from his Liberal finance critic. “I know it was the right idea,” he said, “because the member for Kings—Hants, my critic, said: ‘The Canadian stimulus package undoubtedly created economic activity and jobs.’” This, no doubt, explains everything.

Otherwise it is surely necessary to note that managing the affairs of a nation is hard and perhaps only to pity that this government, faced with an uncertain, complex and ever-changing world, so compulsively insists on holding itself to such unrealistic standards of certainty and righteousness. For that matter, to regard Mr. Flaherty this afternoon was perhaps to lament for the unforgiving nature of modern politics.

Alas, demonstrating no such empathy, Mr. Goodale pressed on, turning to Mr. Flaherty’s record as finance minister in Ontario, including, provocatively, a reference to Walkerton. This seemed very much to incense Mr. Flaherty, who began yelling his rejection of Mr. Goodale’s version and stepped to the edge of the aisle as if preparing to charge the Liberal deputy. The Liberals happily called him on and the Finance Minister’s face turned red and in the resulting cacophony it was impossible, even with an earpiece, to make out what it was Mr. Flaherty was saying.

Perhaps that’s just as well.

The Stats. The environment, seven questions. Government spending, six questions. The military and Afghanistan, three questions each. Julian Fantino, ethics, securities regulation, the Senate, taxation, copyright and aboriginal affairs, two questions each. Air safety, poverty, the census and crime, one question each.

Stephen Harper and John Baird, six answers each. Jim Flaherty, five answers. Peter MacKay, three answers. Christian Paradis, Steven Fletcher, Keith Ashfield, James Moore, Rona Ambrose, Vic Toews and Stockwell Day, two answers each. Chuck Strahl, Ed Komarnicki, Mike Lake and Rob Nicholson, one answer each.

The Commons: Yelling into the abyss

  1. Good.

    Remind Flaherty of Walkerton often. 7 people died.

    Remind him, and the country, of the mess he left Ontario in.

    What he did for Ontario, he's doing to Canada, and we'll never get out of this hole

  2. Is there anyone out there that really takes Flaherty seriously anymore? I gave up on this fool about 15 minutes after he floated the Income Trust tax leakage myth/farce in Oct 2006.

    The only reason Harper keeps him around is to hang a big and heavy anchor around his neck and drown any aspiration Deficit Jim has of going for the Clownservative leadership one day.

  3. You may well hold Jim Flaherty's poor forecasts against him, but these are treacherous financial waters – and the deficit we find ourselves in would have been much bigger if the Liberals and their coalition partners had put their man Edward Jones in as Finance Minister. Yessiree. We are damned lucky we have Jim Flaherty guarding us from the financial tsunami that is washing over places like Ireland.

  4. the finance minister wraps himself in the flag of austerity, but it is made of cellophane, Mr. Goodale ventured.

    Unforgiveable. You can't UN-imagine it now.

  5. Where did the leprechaun get the gold he left at the end of the rainbow?

  6. Edward Jones – good one.

  7. Uh, the liberals wanted all the stimulus combined with the the largest recession since the Great Depression. Pretty simple, to be honest.

  8. "Two years ago, nearly to the day, this Finance Minister rose in the same spot and forecast budgetary surpluses through 2014."

    It's worth going back and reading that economic statement. He basically says, "Yeah, the economies are going to hell in a handbasket… but check it out! We're going to run a SURPLUS!"

    I'm not sure why anybody takes any forecasts from this guy and this government seriously anymore. They'll say anything.

  9. Uh…Harper agreed to the stimulus at the G20 in DC with Bush in charge. Nothing to do with the Libs.

  10. What are you talking about, they were screaming their heads off for it… not to mention planning on green shafting us whilst doing it.

  11. They're programming doesn't allow this enter their brain. It bounces off, to borrow a phrase.

  12. Note to Con Central – you cannot take credit for, and blame the Liberals for, the same thing. Pick one.

  13. Harper agreed to it at the DC G20 when Bush was in charge in 2008. It has nothing to do with the Libs.

  14. Every Canadian knows that every nation on earth is in the Red, some more than most. Had the Liberals been in charge since 2008 we would be well to the most side of that equation. As it is we have kept the debt to GDP ration well balanced.

  15. We had a dozen years of surpluses under the Libs.

    Harp blew every penny of it, and went into hock as well

  16. The Libs wouldn't have blown the surpus, if they're track record is anything to go by. Face it, Harper is not a good money manager.

  17. I thought Charles Schwab was a shoo-in for that post. Ask Chuck!

  18. We had only 11 years of federal surpluses starting in 97-98 and ending in 07-08 if the Dept of Finances figures are to be believed. And I am pretty sure the Liberals were not the government for the last two years of that.

    The fact is that events mostly beyond the control of our governments brought the deficit down to a size where it could be strangled in 95-96 and 96-97, just as events beyond government control caused revenues to shrink dramatically and necessitated increased expenditures to help people get by.

    The coalition proposed a $30 billion stimulus package. Revenues sagged by about $16 billion in 09 compared to 08. Since revenues customarily grew by anywhere from $6 billion to $20+ billion in the immediate preceding years, it all adds up to a potential deficit in 2009 of $52 to $66 billion if we had taken the other path. We can stop pretending the deficits are any particular party's fault.

  19. " The fact is that events mostly beyond the control of our governments . . ."

    Mostly? Beyond?

    . . . just as events beyond government control caused revenues to shrink dramatically and necessitated increased expenditures to help people get by . . .

    You left the " H " out of your surname?

  20. Thank you for a non-partisan, factual post. Very refreshing.

  21. Ad hominem attack. Stay classy.

  22. But just hold on a second…it's true. The Liberals were demanding fir Stimulus. Of course Harper and the Conservatives made the decision: they're the government!!! That does not deny or change the fact that the Liberals spend who knows how many question periods as follows: Mr. Speaker, when will this government get the Stimulus out to Canadians blah blah blah?" No party in Canada opposed the stimulus that got us into this deficit, let us make no mistake. And Wherry is, for once, right. The problem was not that the government went into deficit, the problem was that they were so confident and so clear about never going into deficit, something they should have never been so confident and assured about. Then again, way back when, had they said, "Well you know, I think its possible we might take a deficit", every unreasonable person out there – and there's a lot of them (none of you of course!) – would have thrown them under the bus for saying so, while at the same time demanding that the government stimulate the economy and save GM! Okay?…okay. Let's be clear, as our PM is so fond of saying.

  23. I don't know why I capitalized "stimulus" in the first line…weird.

  24. Oh oh oh…are we playing that game where we just say ridiculous things that have no basis in reality!!!!

  25. Again….Harper agreed to the stimulus at the G20 meeting with Bush in 2008. He then came home and told us about it. It had nothing to do with the Libs.

  26. The Libs eliminated the deficit, paid down on the debt, and gave us surpluses for years.

    Harp blew it like a drunken sailor…with apologies to drunken sailors everywhere….at least they spend their own money

    So when the crisis hit….we had no rainy day fund.

    The deficit is most definitely Harper's fault.

  27. Okay, it was a shortcut (and unkind) way of calling BS. IMHO it's too easy to cite S(h)allow stats in trying to make a point. The "H" could also allude to Hayek and a telling 1932 quote you can read here:

    [ http://organizationsandmarkets.com/2008/09/21/wha... ]

    So, here goes — Sorry Brad!

    Yet I still disagree.

  28. Well, apparently YOU are

  29. So are you saying that if the Liberals had been in power, we would not be running a deficit right now?

  30. Rhetoric 101. What bilious tripe.

  31. Probably not….we had billions set aside after all.

  32. Well we knew that about Flaherty long time ago.

  33. You morons. If the liberals were in power it would be sunshine and roses for everyone, we would all be rich with cozy-comfy jobs holidaying in Cuba right now, the member from Kings-Hants would be our King, or Queen, Barack Obama would visit us more often, our monetary system would be changed to True-dough, more for everyone.
    Yes my moronic friends if only us liberals were in power life would be sweeter, richer, nicer, not blood and soldiers in the streets like it is now. With her Tariq Aziz School of Journalism diploma, Emily could be our GG, not quite CBC nuanced but a true fore-teller of goodness and light that never came to pass, alas poor peers, what could have been, what could have been.

  34. And after all your silliness….we remain in an economic mess that didn't need to happen.

  35. Is this a product of the new chief-of-staff? More creative, but you need to tone down the bitterness.

  36. Well, let's be clear here. (we should have a thread where everyone says that to open their comment :) )

    Mr. Goodale wasn't complaining about the Economic Action Plan, or even the advertising of same today, he was complaining about the G8/G20, the jets, the jails. This has nothing to do with your excuse that the Liberals wanted the Stimulus. [EDIT: Hey, I capitalized stimulus too, having nothing to do with the fact that you did it. Weird.]

    Let us also be clear that a deficit occurs when you go $1 into the red. It does not then mean that, since you are in a deficit position anyway, you can spend like there's no tomorrow and move that stimulus-funding deficit of, say for example, $35 billion or so up to whatever the heck you like. The idea, for prudent fiscal managers, is to keep the deficit as low as humanly possible so that it is easier to a) get out of deficit and b) pay that debt off eventually.

  37. Of course not. It just wouldn't be near as HIGH of a deficit. First, because they wouldn't have blown the contingency fund on the GST cuts, second, because they wouldn't have hit the revenue with the GST cuts, third because they wouldn't have spent a bloody fortune on advertising the stimulus (some, probably, but not like these guys). Fourth because they wouldn't have doubled the budget of PMO, fifth because they wouldn't have spent quite such a ridiculous amount on the G8/G20. I don't understand why the amount of the deficit seems irrelevant around here.

  38. If the surplus hadn't been blown, and the GST cut, we'd have had a rainy day fund and no deficit.

  39. @Greg Garious

    Finally, you get it ! A world without the dark side is a world of sunny light and refreshing air. There's a lot to be said about the politics of CAN to replace the one we have now. Yes, it's true. You and your political masters preach the gospel of NO WE CAN'T ! Don't know about the rest of Canada, but where I live, we're sick and tired of the politics of NO. If you are unwilling to pitch in and make things right, step aside. We're really tired of pretend.

  40. Honestly, minority parliaments are likely to spend more than they should, so who knows what would have happened, but I'd certainly trust Martin more than Harper given their records.

    The Liberals ran large surpluses, which paid down our debt, and the Conservatives railed against it, wanting us to keep national debt but pay less taxes. Personally, I'd rather us pay less interest now, just like I'd rather pay of my mortgage.

    The indisputable fact is that in the good times this supposedly Conservative government spent a good deal more than double the inflation rate, compounded, in every year, prior to the recession, while decreasing taxes.

    Brad, you'd do well to look at expenses rather than surpluses, unless you're caring solely about balancing budgets, and not taxes.

  41. Bilious tripe?

    Tell that to the families of the Walkerton victims. That fiasco was, in no small measure, a by-product of the Common Sense Revolution (which has, ever after, tainted the notion of "common sense") with its blindly idiotic determination to "cut red tape".

    By the time Flaherty and his cronies were kicked out of office, they were looking at holding a fire sale of public assets to mask the multi-billion dollar deficit they'd created.

    Now he's taken his irresponsible act to the big show in Ottawa.

    The man is dangerously incompetent.

  42. We'd still likely have gone into some deficit, Emily. I believe the rainy day fund was only 3 billion or something.

  43. What I wanna' know is where is Bud Abbott while Costello is doing his madcap performance in the HoC?

  44. "So are you saying that if the Liberals had been in power, we would not be running a deficit right now?"

    As I recall, the Liberals were regularly castigated year after year for MINIMIZING the size of the surpluses they were running. I doubt if any government could have responsibly kept the country out of deficit, but the Liberals certainly had amassed a pile of cash to burn through in the attempt.

    Then the Harpocrites blew it all away before the crash even happened.

  45. No, we had surpluses backed up….plus those foundations, plus the GST.

  46. Jenn is correct. The Liberals would have gone into deficit, and it's absurd to claim otherwise.

  47. The PMO must be hiring English grads. Way to go PMO!

  48. "It does not then mean that, since you are in a deficit position anyway, you can spend like there's no tomorrow"

    Jenn, please communicate this to your Provincial Liberal friends!

  49. Somehow I just can't see this article ever being written if it was about the Lieberals. Democracy and us are doomed with the quality of politicians we seem to attract as well as the greed of all those who benefit off the backs of taxpayers with little clout. Greed is gonna sink us.

  50. I have the government's own figures going back to 61-62 from their website. I'm familiar with the patterns of growth and shrinkage in revenue, expenses, debt, and interest costs.

    People would do well to consider the effects of accumulated deficit (ie. debt) and interest rates (govern the cost of servicing the debt) along with revenues and program expenses.

    The short story is that our current debt was primarily grown from 1975 to 1985, at the tail end of which interest rates were high, and compounded thereafter. Debt belongs to the spending for which it was incurred. Roughly 90% of our current debt is due to the spending in that decade. From 92 to 92 revenues grew by $36B and expenses shrank by $6B. From 82 to 97 the cost of debt as a percentage of debt shrank from about 14% to 7.7%. The miracle of slaying the debt is primarily due to revenue growth and interest rate reduction, not spending control.

  51. Should be: "From 92 to 97 revenues grew by $36B…". (And 82 to 97 for the illustration of the relative drop in interest rates is correct.)

  52. We here at Blog Central don`t like it when you inject those pesky facts in to your history lesson.
    We had finally convinced ourselves that Liberals were the good money managers and Cons were evil and incompetent.
    Why, some of us had even projected that we would now be living in surplus times if only that stupid Canadian public had not kicked us Liberals out.
    So, I`d appreciate it if you would keep your economic theories to yourself. Us Liberals do not want our fantasy memories of those Glorious Liberal Years interrupted by your facts.
    All we have are our memories—–Justin, please hurry.

  53. That fiasco was, in no small measure, a by-product of the Common Sense Revolution

    How exactly?

  54. Too late! Already did.

  55. Somehow I just can't see this article ever being written if it was about the Lieberals.

    Somehow, I don't think the Liberals would have spent the entire surplus before the recession even started. The Liberals spent their last decade or so in power with surpluses every year while the Tories complained that this was a big problem and that we didn't need a contingency for hard times (if we've got a surplus it must mean we're over taxed!) and that they'd stop the Liberals dastardly surplus-building and slash taxes instead. Then, the moment they're elected the Tories started killing the surplus and slashing taxes. Fair enough. However, to then blame the Liberals for the size of the deficit because the Liberals supported economic stimulus during a massive recession, and just COMPLETELY IGNORE the fact that it was the TORIES who slashed the GST and spent the surplus months before it was to be needed to help us through a hard time is just completely ludicrous.

    To spend the rainy day fund and then complain that the opposition FORCED you into historic deficits when it started raining is just the height of hypocrisy. Sure, the Liberals would have needed to take us in to deficit to stimulate the economy too, but by my reckoning they would have needed $15-20 billion less in deficits than the Tories, because the wouldn't have spent the years immediately before the recession cutting consumption taxes and spending every last dime of the federal budget surplus.

    Tory supporters would do well to remember that the Harper government had taken us back into deficit territory BEFORE the recession actually hit.

  56. walkerton was caused by a stupid unionized un-fireable lazy civil servant. he's been criminally charged.

  57. As I posted down below, I`m pleading with you guys to please refrain from questioining those false memories all good Liberals here at Blog Central have of times past when we imagine how Tories as evil and Libs as glorious.

  58. I apologize Blue. Here's the "true" story:

    Before, Ontario was a land of plenty, where everybody was happy and the children played in parks surrounded by beautiful butterflies and citizens would spontaneously engage in group hugs. We were government by the benevolent Bob Rae who, out of the kindness of his heart, gave civil servants extra days off – they were called "Rae Days", and everybody loved Bob Rae and Rae Days.

    Then an evil wizard named Mike Harris used his evil magic to fool us into voting for him, and he started to scream at babies until they cried, and he would do evil things like "spending within our means" and "reducing the deficit", and stuff. Children stopped playing in the park and people no longer gave each other hugs. It was a dark dark time.

    Mike Harris knew that, based on a prophecy, only one boy could defeat him, Dalton McGuinty, so he tried to use his magic to kill him. But the boy survived! with only a lightning scar on his forehead. Then Dalton grew up and used magical lies ("i will not raise taxes") to be elected. Then everybody was happy again.

  59. I have a great idea for reducing the deficit: end the $1.75 per vote party subsidy!

    Im sure the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP will be in favour.

  60. That`s better—-remember, all us good Liberals here at Blog Central have are our memories—thanks for helping out.

  61. Goodale is first-class, used car salesman sleeze.

  62. Your version of 'history' is illustrative. You might want to look up this whole thing called the 'coalition'. You know, the one that tried to topple the duly elected Conservative government for the crime of not doing enough stimulus spending during the economic collapse. The one that had Elizbeth May all moist in the loins at the thought of being installed as a senator.

  63. Don't remind them that the Liberals 'balanced the budget' by slashing transfers to the provinces for health and education, eviscerated the military, nearly destroyed the RCMP and increased taxes to record rates…all while filling the pockets of their friends and well wishers with stolen tax-payer money.

  64. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a tractor!

    Hypothetically, someone else could be better/worse as finance minister. Yes, this is true. But to say because Flaherty was in charge things are better than they could have been, well that's. Hypothetical.

    The facts are facts, however. If we look at his track record, every prediction he's made on the budget has been wildly wrong. How can it be that someone who's economic outlook differs so much from the banks outlooks (which turn out to be correct) has such a great handle on the economy?

  65. Got some evidence to back that up?

  66. Don't remind them that the Liberals 'balanced the budget' by slashing transfers to the provinces for health and education, eviscerated the military, nearly destroyed the RCMP and increased taxes…all while filling the pockets of their friends and well wishers with stolen tax-payer money.

    I say that the government start by cutting the subsidy Canadian magazines receive for producing crap nobody reads.

  67. Nobody's suggesting that a Liberal government would have not run a deficit during the recession.

    Not even the Liberals.

    It's the federal Conservatives that have said time and time again, there would be no recession. There would be no deficit spending. THAT's the problem here.

    Also, that we were in the red even before the recession. Did you even *read* the fine article?

  68. From Walkerton to the listeria crisis. What some people call "cutting red tape", other call "removing basic safeguards that Canadians assume to be in place".

  69. My (sarcastic) point, exactly

  70. Because, when presented with a report telling them the dangers of the cuts in inspections they were planning to safe money, no one responsible for the issue at the cabinet table bothered to read it.

    Or, at least that's what they'll tell you on advice from their lawyers to avoid suit because incompetence is much harder to prove than willful negligence upon admission.

  71. Hm. Slashing spending to control the deficit.

    If I were a conservative, I'd vote for that!!! I'd vote for it anyway, if it meant the country was on good financial footing. Can't have good social programs with a mess of a budget. It's just prudent money management.

    Have you read any of the recent articles about the renovation of parliament? Or handing out of giant checks with the Cons logo plastered on it?

    And who the heck is Brian Mulroney? He certainly never accepted any bribes. Conservatives are immune to corruption.

    "Our election platform is not full of grandiose, costly promises. It's a prudent approach. We can afford it. We'll never go back into deficit." http://www.thestar.com/FederalElection/article/51

  72. What did the report say, specifically? Where can I get a copy of thisreport?

  73. Walkerton should never have become political for cheap shots. The tragedy was the two responsible received such light sentences. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkerton_Tragedy
    "For years, the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission operators engaged in a host of improper operating practices, including failing to use adequate doses of chlorine, failing to monitor chlorine residuals daily, making false entries about residuals in daily operating records, and misstating the locations at which microbiological samples were taken. The operators knew that these practices were unacceptable and contrary to Ministry of Environment guidelines and directives."

  74. Be specific. How did the Ontario government contribute to the Walkerton disaster?

  75. Sorry TJC, alfanerd is closer to the truth.

    "The water supply for the town of Walkerton was operated by the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission, with Stan Koebel as manager and Frank Koebel as water foreman. Neither had any formal training in their position, retaining their jobs through three decades of on-the-job experience."
    "as a result, both would eventually plead guilty to a charge of common nuisance through a plea bargain. In their plea, they admitted to falsifying reports and Frank admitted to drinking on the job"

  76. Thank you CR and Jenn, for both being sane and rational.

  77. I don't really disagree with anything you've said there. But as CR and Jenn have pointed out, it's basically nuts to assert, as Emily has, that we would not have gone into deficit under a Liberal — or for that matter any — government. Massive stimulus program (which all federal parties agreed to) + biggest economic meltdown since the 1930s = guaranteed deficit.

    I agree that Harper started frittering away the surplus during the lead-up to 2008. The thing is, though, we don't have a real Liberal government against which to compare that performance. All we have is conjecture — we can only guess at what a hypothetical Liberal government from 2005 to 2008 would have done. It's what historicans call a counter-factual — e.g., what would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Russia?

  78. At least one authority (n addition to the O'Connor Commission) has concluded that the Walkerton tragedy happened, in part, because the provincial government (Harris Tories) cut back on the number of provincial inspectors in the field, creating an environment in which lax standards and incompetent monitoring could (and obviously, did) occur.

    See the "Critical Approach" at http://www.thefullwiki.org/Walkerton_Tragedy

  79. I concur…your original question seemed to invite such counter-historical speculation.

  80. There's a difference between an "authority" and a decidedly left-wing University of Toronto academic, who is clearly hostile to anything right-of-centre.

    Just sayin'.

  81. So they "created an environment"? And then a couple of incompetent, alcoholic brothers neglected to do their jobs, fabricated or falsified monitoring records, covered up the danger even when they finally, belatedly discovered it. And all in "an environment" created by the provincial government?

    Sorry dude, that's crap. The one concrete finding against the provincial government is that they failed to require the private labs testing water samples to report any dangerous samples to the Provincial Health Units. And that's a serious failing in itself… but it would not have made any difference in the Walkerton case because the actual culprits – the guys who actually killed those people – were misrepresenting the origin of the samples anyway. The commission findings suggest that 400 additional people might have been saved from illness if that reporting requirement had been in place but it still would not have saved any of the seven who died.

    So the province screwed up in failing to anticipate that some local drunk would go so far as to falsify records, substitute water samples and hide information to cover for himself even as people dropped dead around town. But the funny thing about that, the part that never seems to get mentioned, is that such a regulation would have cost nothing to implement. And the failure to make such a regulation did not save the province or anyone else one thin dime. It wasn't a cost-cutting measure, it was a failure to adequately assess the level of the depravity of a drunken loser trying to protect his job.

  82. I could, if I wanted to further the debate, cite other sources (including O'Connor himself) apportioning culpability to the Harris government.

    And who "decided" this particular authority was "left-wing"? You?

    Just askin'.

  83. Have you seen this guy's list of publications? Give me a break. Res ipsa loquitur.

  84. I`m trying to think of a suitable analogy concerning 911 using the brooster method of logic.
    Try this:
    Jimmy Carter is responsible for 911.
    He created an environment where he should have known that Immigration officals would eventually allow potential jihadist terrorists into the USA and they would take flying lessons and would hijack planes and fly them into buildings.
    There—-Jimmy Harris,…Mike Carter…..same thing.

  85. Thanks…interesting but have to disagree with your "one authority". Scott Prudham publishes books on anti 'neoliberalism'. U of T seems to be full of these nanny-state promoters. (long-gun registry anyone?)
    Where was the evil self-regulating market in this case? Bottom line – two 30-year government employees did not do their jobs, falsified reports and lied – killing 7 people. Stan Koebel got $84,000 in severence pay…….

  86. De-regulation and cut-backs in the number of inspectors contributed to the set of conditions that led up to the tragedy, according to the Commission:

    "The [O'Connor] report says the system failed on several fronts. It says:

    * The government failed to put proper safeguards into place after privatizing the water supply
    * The men who ran the town's water supply, Stan and Frank Koebel, lied and cheated to cover their tracks
    * A weakened Ministry of Environment failed to detect the problem
    * The local health unit didn't issue a wide enough boil-water alert
    * The town's water officials didn't respond properly to quality concerns raised by the environment ministry in 1998"
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2002/01/18/walkert

    I suppose you could dismiss this as the spin of the left-wing CBC and O'Connor as some bleeding heart member of the judiciary.

  87. I could, if I wanted to further the debate, cite other sources (including O'Connor himself) apportioning culpability to the Harris government.

    So you don't want to further the debate?

  88. Well said, lgarvin.

  89. Not if the exercise involves my continuing to cite authorities for you to dismiss. I fear they would all lack your apparent expertise on the issue.

  90. So 2 of the 5 main points you cite from O'Connor relate to the role of the provincial government. I think it's fair to conclude from that that the provincial government bore some responsibility, but that other actors (e.g., the Koebels themselves) also bore substantial responsibility. That's quite different from concluding that Walkerton was "Mike Harris' fault", which is the standard refrain of the Harris-haters on this site.

  91. I haven't dismissed your authorities, I've rejected some of their conclusions. And the only "expertise" I bring to this issue is the fact that I've read portions of the Inquiry report. Granted that gives me some small advantage over the people who solemnly swear that it's all the fault of Mike Harris, but it hardly makes me an expert.

    Anyone with the ability to read and a touch of curiousity can check my opinions against the record.

  92. I think that's consistent with my original assertion. I used the terms "in no small measure" and "in part" in my attributions of government responsibility. The whole event was obviously the end-result of complex factors and nowhere have I suggested that the Harris government was solely responsible for it.

    Neither is it "bilious tripe", however, to assign some culpability to the government (to re-visit the comment that incited this whole thread).

  93. Nor, if you look at my comments throughout this thread, am I one of those "people who solemnly swear that it's all the fault of Mike Harris". That would be ridiculous.

  94. Yet the common shorthand version of the Walkerton tragedy is exactly that – Mike Harris went nuts slashing and de-regulating and 7 folks ended up dead in Walkerton. When you ask people to explain the cause and effect you get a lot of vague bullsh*t about "creating an environment" and "contributed to the set of conditions that led up to…" and " in no small measure, a by-product of the Common Sense Revolution".

  95. None of which says "it's all the fault of Mike Harris". Save your critique for those who make that claim.

    You seem equally intent on exonerating his government completely.

  96. But still not one specific allegation about what the government did. What safeguards were removed and what was the proximate effect in Walkerton? How was the Ministry of the Environment "weakened" and what specific effect did that have in Walkerton?

    Please be specific… "This was the action of the Government ________________ which lead directly (or even indirectly) to the failure of the water system in Walkerton."

    There's no there, there… there is only "woulda, shoulda, coulda & maybe if…" If you're pointing your finger at an individual or a government for causing a wrongful death then you ought to put a little meat on the bone. At least in my opinon.

  97. I've read it thanks.

    You're making the assertion, you can support it or not as you choose.

  98. I'm not trying to exonerate anyone, I'd just like some evidence of wrongdoing to go along with the accusations. You say it was "in no small part" attributable to the provincial government. Show me the part you're talking about and maybe then we can discuss how big or small it is…

  99. In view of the fact we have a debt, we are never "overtaxed" – provided the excess of revenue > expenses in the current budget year is used to reduce the debt, dollar for dollar. Debt is, after all, just tomorrow's taxes, today.

    But if any of the surplus is used to pay for wish-list end-of-year discretionary spending, it is overtaxation.

    Taxes can always be raised again. Instead of whining that taxes were cut, perhaps a party could stake out an unambiguous platform plank to raise taxes to close the deficit and reduce debt – and nothing else.

  100. Taxes can always be raised again.

    Really? Do you think that arguing that the GST never should have been cut to 5%, and promising to raise it back to 7% would HELP a political party to get elected?

  101. That'll save us about $20-30 million. Good job!

    Only about $58 billion to go!

  102. How much do you think the magazines are getting???

    The deficit's in the range of $57-58 billion. You could slash every dime of every subsidy going to every magazine in the country and that last sentence wouldn't need to be changed at all to still be accurate.

  103. Clearly humour is lost on you.

  104. The hated Mulroney managed to introduce the tax of which progressives are now so fond. Perhaps Ignatieff and Layton between them can find enough cojones to raise it by 2%.

  105. You should update your LPOC talking points they have been revised to $ 45 billion.

  106. ERADICATE THE DEFICIT BY 2012

    Our progressive Prime Minister's immense expansion of government size and expenditures since 2005 denotes that he has abandoned his small-c fiscal conservative principles. Harper must follow Britain's paradigm and concede that we can no longer put off the train wreck of high, unsustainable deficits, and refuse to pay down the debt. Announcing the extension of the superfluous infrastructure program that will eventually lead to tax increases, when our economy has recovered, is one more example of how fiscally negligent this lefties government that always caves into Quebec's demands, is.

    Rather than wait until the fiscal calamity arrives, its time for tough choices and authentic fiscal reform; if Harper was a legitimate small-c fiscal conservative who merited continuing support from what use to be his authentic small-c fiscal and social conservative base, rather than a Keynesian progressive, he would immediately inaugurate a substantial expenditure reduction initiative, and institute a tax reduction, and productivity enhancing agenda that that would result in a structural balance budget long before 2015-16:

  107. ERADICATE THE DEFICIT BY 2012

    Return the remnants of the $22 billion of superfluous stimulus program that has not been spent (wasted) by March 31, 2011 (no extensions) ;

    Rather than increasing program spending, he must expedite discretionary spending cuts of 20% over 2 years;

    Lay-off 20% of overpaid, redundant bureaucrats within the next 2 years, and freeze the salary and benefits for at least three years;

    Rather than increasing health care spending by 30% over five years, a genuine small-c fiscal conservative would re-write the Canada Health Act so that the private sector could more fully participate, through private clinics for example, in the provision of health care services. Reduce, over the next decade, the rate of increase to provincial transfers that have been increasing by 6% annually;

    Reform the current welfare-state social assistance system which cost us 16% of GDP, debilitates initiative, individualism, and self-esteem.

    Gradually increase the retirement age to 69 by 2030, and reduce cost-of-living increases for higher earners;

  108. ERADICATE THE DEFICIT BY 2012

    Rather than continue to increase foreign aid by 8% annually, cut billions of dollars of improvident foreign aid that never reaches the deprived, but end up in dictators' off-shore accounts, finances armies, finances unborn person's slaughtering, or end up in fundraisers' bank accounts;

    Op out of the The Climate Change Fund (CCF) that will further empower global governance, and transfer at least $100 billion a year to mostly corrupt, totalitarian nations who repudiate creating their own wealth;

    Using the tax system the government must encourage corporations to increase capital formation which lead to additional economic activity, and make more/better use of technology in order to increase productivity.

    Stop the enormous expansion of draconian regulations that are de facto taxes on employers and employees. They increase prices for

  109. Decrease, over the next decade, progressivity of the income tax system so that the most productive workers are not burdened the most. This is a tax on productivity;

    Or, investigate the legitimacy of a flat tax with two rates: personal income, and net business income. The personal rate would be on all forms of income including wages, dividends, and capital gains ect.;

    Redeploy Federal secondary funding into a voucher system;
    Eradicate federal employee's unions which would introduce wage competition thereby lowering government expenditures while increasing the quality and productivity of work;

    Over a relatively short duration, close, downsize and/or assimilate departments (Veteran Affairs for ex.), and incrementally discontinue hundreds of worthless crown corporations/agencies/boards starting with the far-left, unbalanced, affirmative action bimbo-ran CBC and the CRTC, as well as privatizing Canada Post and Federal prisons;

  110. Eliminate, over a relatively short period of time once the recession is wholly over, or at least vastly decrease most of the corporate welfare starting with The Defense Industry Productivity Program and Technology Partnerships Canada which subsidies Quebec much higher than their % of the population, agricultural subsidies and regional development funding;

    Sell the government's 9.7% stake in Government Motors (GM), and Chrysler and end the other benefits including tax breaks and subsidies. An authentic fiscally conservative government would have allowed these wrecks to pass through the bankruptcy procedure where the destructive unions would have been dealt a serious blow;

    Encourage corporate investments by increasing the Capital Cost Allowance write-off for new structures, equipment, and research. This would not only encourage more employment and greater productivity, but would also lead to more exports;

    Purge, over a short duration, the Regional Development Programs that bail out declining industries and/or companies, keep regional incomes artificially high, and dissuade movement of labor;

  111. ELIMINATE DEFICIT BY 2012

    Reduce transfers to lower levels of government which simply encourage, through share-cost programs, government to increase expenditures and taxes;

    Abolish marketing boards like the wheat board which drive up food prices, promotes wastefulness, ineptitude, and impedes productivity increases;

    Radically transform immigrant/refugee policies starting with decreasing levels by at least 33%. Do away with the pricey Family Reunification Program;

  112. ERADICATE THE DEFICIT BY 2012

    Harper must immediately end the bidding war between the Quebec provincial government and the federal government that began in the 1960s in which each misappropriates and squanders tax dollars to win the hearts of the Quebecois. The PM must acknowledge that the perils of separation no longer subsist. He must also accept that for each Quebecois vote he buys by sending a disproportionable profusion of unwarrantable, unjustifiable, and inexcusable federal dollars to Quebec, he forfeits a vote in the rest of the country!

    Unfortunately Harper's “view of the economy could be summed up in
    a few short Ronald Reagan phases describing liberal governments: “if it moves tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Sign in to comment.