The government-in-waiting -

The government-in-waiting


Another thing the Brits seem to take more seriously is their shadow cabinet. Indeed, this bit from Bruce Anderson might be the first serious thing ever written about the Ignatieff team.

It seems to me there’s a fair bit of talent in the Liberal caucus, and given the importance of economic issues, Mr. McCallum is the most baffling choice Mr.Ignatieff continues to make. The economy is likely to remain at the top of the public agenda for some time, but the team of Ignatieff-McCallum seems unable or unwilling to muster an argument or a point of differentiation about it. The conclusion one might draw is that they either don’t know how they would improve upon Harper economic policy, or can’t articulate the difference they would make if elected.


The government-in-waiting

  1. The baffling thing is this: Why does the Conservative government continue to hew to a Liberal economic policy?

    • So.. lemme get this straight. On one hand people are praising the government for guiding Canada through these economic difficulties. On the other hand, people who are concerned about our economic state are blaming the Liberals.

      • I don't blame the Liberals, after all, they haven't been in power for 4 years, and they left the economy in excellent shape.

        I'm truly baffled by why the Conservatives can't be conservative. Perhaps I should have enclosed the word Liberal in quotes?

  2. "I'd wager there are at least 10 Liberal caucus members who could do a more energetic and effective job with the finance critic role …. "

    Maybe there are ten caucus members who are more energetic but I doubt there are more effective ones because liberals and dippers don't seem to realize that western world is broke because of their policies and there are not many people who want even more government spending/debt.

    Other than partisans, there are few Canadians keen to have their taxes increased once again to pay for some half-assed Fed program that liberals think will solve all the world's problems. Now if we could only get supposed Conservatives to have some power of conviction they might increase their support even more.

    I think better column would have been about Flaherty and were there better choices than him as Finance Minister. Cons are spending like liberals right when country is moving to right and wants some financial discipline.

    • So when Libs spend, it's because they're Libs. But when Cons spend, it's because they're acting like Libs. Therefore, any and all debt is the fault of the left, regardless of who holds power?

      • And when Libs or Democrats balance the budget, cut spending, pay down the debt and generate surplusses, they are acting like Conservatives.

        See the neat game of smoke and mirrors and shell games they can play with history?

        • But Bergkamp doesn't think History is worth studying…:-)

          • And some cats need to stick to their knitting. ER …

            Some cats need to just go hunt for mice quietly!

          • The cat shtick is getting tired. Seeing them is like stepping into hairballs. Please desist.


          • "Getting" was generous of you.

        • They balanced the budget by cutting transfer payments to the provinces and illegally raiding $54 Billion from the EI fund…… and this is something to brag about?

          Then they had to pump billions back into healthcare after having cut funding off at the knees.
          And the military and infrastructure is in ruins.

          Liberals would set fires, then put them out and say 'didn't I do good'….

          • "Liberals would set fires, then put them out and say 'didn't I do good'…. "

            Hey, why not? They did it before: Trudeau and his finance ministers (e.g., MacDonald and Lalonde) create deficit in first place, watch it balloon, hand it off to Mulroney (whose attempts to get it under control were half a$$ed), then Martin fixes what his Liberal buddies created and is heralded as a hero. No different from shooting someone and then claiming a good samaritan award for driving them to the hospital.

          • Honestly, Wilson, you would be a much more credible commenter if you didn't regurgitate talking points that are clearly false.

            The Liberals did not illegally raid the EI fund and the SCC confirmed that when they took EI funds into general revenue they were acting perfectly legally and the SCC slapped their wrists only on not following proper procedures when they raised the EI rates. But to the point, all of that EI stuff came after the budget was balanced so please check in on reality once in a while.

            The Liberals made tough and difficult and controversial decisions to balance the books. They cut spending, they cut transfers (something conservatives keep saying they want, by the way), they cut programs. That kind of leadership is in sore demand now in government where no one in the PMO has any sense or courage to do what the country needs.

          • One of the amazing things I've learned from the people who post on this site is that, while there are Conservative talking points, apparently there is no such thing as Liberal talking points.

          • No, there are Liberal talking points.

            People generally refer to them as facts though.


      • Sean, can you point out what was so "c"onservative about the latest abomination of a budget?

        • No True Scotsman fallacy.

          If they were "true" conservatives, they wouldn't be doing that. Yeah, that's a nice out for pretty much everything you don't like, eh?

        • I sense the need to repeat the question over some white noise. Sean, can you point out what was so small-C-conservative about the latest abomination of a budget?

          • Generally none of it. But the "lefties made us do it" is a bit of a tired excuse, as is the trope saying anybody but conservatives are poor managers of money (there's too many examples of conservatives making a mess of treasuries too, and too many examples of responsible management by left governments). If conservatives spend foolishly, then they own that decision.

            One thing that *is* in line with conservative spending is the tendency toward populist programs (sports tax deduction, monthy cheques to parents, GST cut, home reno program, etc…). It's sort of a twisted libertarianism that thinks doling out cash to everybody is the best way to go. I'd argue it tends to result in a lot of money spent or surrendered, with no way to measure the benefits. Their allergy to more targeted programs is fair to describe as conservative in sensibility, but wrongly executed (like Harper's crew) is something of a death by thousands of cuts.

            None of this is to defend reckless 'progressive' spending. Just to challenge bergkamp's idea that any and all spending is a lefty disease.

          • No question the "meany lefties made me" is a pathetic excuse for an adult capable of wiping his or her own bum.

            I am not sure, however, that all these stupid retail-politics micro-credits gumming up the income tax system are seen by anybody as small-C-conservative or libertarian. They are really dedicated spending programs administered through the tax code. Which is dumb, inefficient, a waste of everyone's time, and pandering to the ridiculous hey-what-about-me special interest whine-group.

            But I would maintain that advocates for limited government, who make no effort whatsoever to advocate for limited government, are betraying conservatism, and are afflicted by "lefty disease." Harper called it pragmatic. I call it a shameful betrayal.

          • I don't think many Canadians, and more particularly many nominal conservatives, really want limited government. It's bit like the fuzzy agnostic spiritualism many follow these days – agreement on principal but no courage to accept the work and sacrifice that accompanies dedication to the ideology.

            Sure, lots of nominal conservatives want smaller governemnt and lower taxes, but they still want public arenas for their kids to play hockey in, cheap university educations, subsidized roads, and so forth.

            So, they make themselves happy with some token social conservative trappings (law and order legislation, tweaking some boards on government funded agencies, etc.)..

            Don't even get me started on the paucity of true libertarian thinking in this country. It often takes the form of "cheques for all!", which is hardly the point of it. Or worse, a desire to be left alone until one requires a bailout of whatever kind – which is a bit like moving away to go to school, but bringing your laundry home every weekend for Mom to do and hitting your Dad up for more spending money. It's a childish libertarianism, at best.

            The political spectrum of Canadians – in terms of what they will actually vote for and support, and not just make noise about – arguably runs from die-hard communist to dedicated socialist. Those who identify as conservatives don't really want to walk the walk – they want a party that will make them *feel* like things are being done differently. In that respect, Harper has done admirably and hasn't really betrayed them at all.

          • Or shorter: Hypocrites like Harper.

          • To a great extent, large swaths of Canadians are incredibly hypocritical in how they shape their society politically.

            I sure remember the unions turning on Rae approximately one second after he started trying to pry some compromise out of the public service sector (and despite the incredibly robust worker friendly legislation he passed).

            I don't recall a lot of Liberal faithfuls howling about their party's utter failure to follow through on our Kyoto obligations. Nor were they quite so concerrned about the potential for prisoner torture in Afghanistan. And arguably, their deficit-slaying contributed to a heck of a lot of political instability and provincial empowerment via downloading (which runs rather contrary to their strong federalist ideology).

            It's hard to escape the conclusion that a lot of Quebecers' support for separatist parties has more to do with calculated sh*t-disturbing than any real desire to create their own country (and if Bouchard's sovereignty-association wasn't about the purest form of hypocricy ever hatched, I don't know what is.)

            Anyway, my point is that one could pretty much dissect all political factions in Canada and draw the same conclusion.

            Which doesn't mean Harper gets a pass or anything – just that the reasons to object to this particular government aren't easily boiled down to hypocritical supporters. A constant can't explain variation, after all.

  3. Funny, I thought both Iggy and McCallum have been pretty clear on a number of points.

    — The stimulus money would have best been delivered to provinces and municipalities directly, so the money could have been put to use during the recession. Instead, the money was held up for approvals in Ottawa (they needed time to print the novelty cheques?) and much of the cash didn't reach municipalities until after the recession because of Harper's centralized approval process.

    — The EI premium hikes are job killers, punishing companies that actually want to hire employees and further burdening employees who have managed to keep their jobs.

    — A further round of tax cuts mean nothing to corporations that are struggling (you don't pay tax if you don't turn a profit) and are uncalled for for those that are in the black

    — We have no coherent energy, industrial or foreign direct investment strategy (hello broadband, hello Areva)

    They are the Opposition. They are supposed to hold the government to account for ITS actions … not toss them solutions when the homework gets tough.

    • McCallum can't even be clear about the type of car he drives. Is it any wonder that both Chrétien and Martin kept him at arm's length from finance? I don't think Bruce Anderson is breaking any new ground here with his criticism of McCallum.

      A further round of tax cuts mean nothing to corporations that are struggling (you don't pay tax if you don't turn a profit) and are uncalled for for those that are in the black
      Actually, Ignatieff is not ruling out tax cuts to corporations. He merely wants them delayed a few years, so that extra 3B$ (which I'm told is nothing in the context of the overall federal budget) can be put to use somewhere else in the short term.

      much of the cash didn't reach municipalities until after the recession
      The recession's over, everyone!! Now get back to work.

    • "A further round of tax cuts mean nothing to corporations that are struggling (you don't pay tax if you don't turn a profit) and are uncalled for for those that are in the black"

      Hey look. It's McGuinty-omics circa 2005. Where we subsidized failing corporations with the profits of successful ones. An absolutely brilliant economic policy and key factor in Ontario's relative economic success since 2003. I can't understand why he abandoned it in favour of Flaherty's corporate tax cuts and sales tax harmonization approach.

      • Not applying a tax cut is not subsidizing anybody.

      • Yes, because it makes so much more sense to subsidize failing corporations by saddling future Canadians with the bill.

        It does make sense, on account of future Canadians not having the right to vote today and all, I get that, but I meant make sense as in a common-sense good way to run a country–not a political party.

        • We have been miserable failures before the genius of capitalism, because we just cannot accept that creative destruction is our friend. So we keep the deadwood around AND make the kids pay for that stupidity.

  4. "The conclusion one might draw is that they either don't know how they would improve upon Harper economic policy, or can't articulate the difference they would make if elected."

    Wrong. The Liberals are so traumatized by the way the punditry tore into Dion's green shift that Iggy and co. have now stupidly decided that they would refrain from providing any detailed alternative policy to what this government is advancing.

    • Or perhaps their alternative policy is so darned similar to the Conservative policy, that it's best not discussed, lest someone notices.

      • Or a third alternative, they're well aware that Harper et al don't really have any ideas, so aren't going to give them any ahead of the next election.

        • Or a fourth alternative, which is that they did offer alternative policies and they weren't utilitized, as Amateur Hour so succinctly reminds us above.

          That the Liberal party offered these alternatives in a sincere and serious way–not having "sexy" or "busty hookers" in the press release, caused the media to all but ignore them. I suppose I shall have to find out which Liberal writes press releases and implore him/her to make sure some scandalous words are included. For example, take this augmenting from Amateur Hour's post:

          – The stimulus money (applied with soft, warm hands and in full view of the public) could have been delivered (in unmarked envelopes stuffed with cash) to the provinces and municipalities.
          – The EI premium hikes (up around her ears) are job killers (and gangland thugs)

          That better?

  5. Oh, please. You don't see what Anderson is doing here? His whole family are Conservative and/or Reformers

    • Uh, how do you know this exactly?

    • I thought they were all Liberals, and that Rick Anderson became the black sheep when he went over to the dark side.

  6. I like Bruce Anderson's suggestion that Ignatieff should reevaluate his bench strength and replace McCallum as finance critic. How about Justin Trudeau as finance critic? Justin is popular within his caucus, and he's often mentioned as a potential Liberal leader. As finance critic, Justin would gain valuable experience to help groom him for his future leadership role.

    • Please remove your tongue from your cheek. You'll catch no flies that way.

      • Heh.

  7. You're running behind Wherry. This was in the Globe a week ago. You must have missed it.

    Anderson was speculating and was thinking about the old party whereas many of the old guard are now out to pasture.

    Paul Martin tried some of these so called competent MPs and they failed miserably i.e. John McCallum, Ujal Dosjangh, Ken Dryden.

    Wherry and Anderson need to catch up with the times. The Libs starting with the leader is no where near the party of old.

  8. I can think of a few Lib MP`s who are trying to keep their distance from this leader… future with Iggy.
    McCallum is near the end of his time in Ottawa…..The younger ones will let him go down with the ship.

    • Because you are so well informed about the inner workings of the Liberal Party, common man. I bet everyone is just waiting to run to you with all their juicy tidbits. Hey, how come I'm not running to you with juicy tidbits? Oh right, because I'm not a make-believe member of the Liberal Party!

      • Jenn, I could care less about the inner workings of the LPC, and no thanks…….no juicy tid bits for me.
        But I do think Iggy is a lousy leader with little or no ability to build morale within his Party.
        And I think young ambitious Liberals like LeBlanc, Trudeau, and Kennedy do not want to be thought off as part of Iggy`s team lest they be labelled as last year`s losers. Why do you think the best iggy can come up with to lead his charge are the likes of Easter, McCallum, and Jennings.
        And I think the longer you keep your head in the sand then the greater the chance the NDP will become the party of choice for those unhappy with the gov`t.

        • Well that's fine, common man, you are well within your rights to think whatever you want about the Liberal Party or any other. I disagree with you, but that's my right as well. I simply took issue with the way you worded your first post, as if you *know* the thought process of various Liberal Party members.

  9. Paul Martin tried some of these so called competent MPs and they failed miserably i.e. John McCallum, Ujal Dosjangh, Ken Dryden.

    Perhaps you'd care to enumerate some of these failures?

    • That was a question for hollinm of course.

  10. They don't articulate, because they're caught in a conundrum. Move to the left, and lose votes to the CPC. Move to the right and lose em to the NDP.

    Life was so much easier for them with a fractured right. A strong united right and an ideologically focused party on the left, has left them a reactionary headline chasing party.

    In other words, a party destined to become obsolete in the next decade. The rise of the two party state is upon us, and the true party of the left will rise with it.

    • I agree the fractured right was a godsend to LPC fortunes. But I do not see complete obsolescence in the coming years. How do you foresee the disappearance of the LPC? The brand is not that weak…

  11. Yes, by all means the Liberal problem is that they have the single most qualified economist in parliament (McCallum has PhD in economics, and was the former chief economist for the Royal Bank) as their finance critic. The reason the Liberals are not scoring points on the economy is that the Canadian economy is doing very well. Growth is very strong, Toronto real estate just surged by about 20%, our banks are strong and we are the only G-8 country on course to reduce the size of the deficit significantly (despite making few cuts).

    Canadians don't develop a sense of how the economy is doing (and how good a job the government is doing) based on the blow-by-blow in parliament. They get their sense of how the economy is doing by looking at how they and their friends/family/colleagues are doing. Back when the economy was in the depths of a recession, Ignatieff was ahead of Harper in the polls. Indeed the Liberals will probably gain ground in the near future for a number of reasons. Economic recoveries are usually robust because firms and individuals defer spending decisions in bad times. Additionally, Carney is going to raise interest rates, which will put a damper on some of this growth. I also suspect that there are still a few rotten apples in the global economy – bubbles that have yet to burst. Vancouver and Toronto house prices look iffy to me.

    Want to score points on the economy? Wait for it to fail.

    • You nailed it. There are no political points to be scored by the opposition on the economy right now because our economy is the envy of the G8. All they can do is (quietly of course) hope for a double dip recession.

  12. Even if Anderson was right (which he isn't), McCallum is head and shoulders above 3/4 of Harper's Cabinet in terms of competence.

    Don't make me laugh, Bruce.