Different numbers - Macleans.ca

Different numbers


The government releases a partial accounting of stimulus spending to support its particular case, laments that the official opposition has done likewise.

In charts provided to The Canadian Press, government officials note in particular that the major infrastructure component of the Building Canada program has allocated $1.4 billion to large projects in opposition ridings in Ontario, and just $436 million to Conservative ridings.

“This particular fund supports major projects, typically in major municipalities that tend to be represented by opposition members,” said Chris Day, spokesman for Transport Minister John Baird.

“We have different funds for different purposes. It’s wrong to highlight one fund, as the opposition has been doing, and carry that trend.”

Meanwhile, Canwest analyzes another program entirely, finds evidence that it favours opposition ridings, but concedes that its data is incomplete.

If only there existed some sort of independent officer of Parliament—call it, maybe, the Parliamentary Budget Officer—to whom the government could turn over all its data for a full accounting of what has been spent, where it has been directed and whether it’ll all amount to anything. If only.


Different numbers

  1. The $7B Building Canada program announced in the 2007 budget was to run for 7 years – to 2014.
    The $4B Infrastructure Stimulus Fund announced in Jan/09 is to run for 2 years – to 2010.

    Has the Building Canada program been rolled into the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund or has the Stimulus Infrastructure Fund been rolled into the Building Canada program? Labelling of announcements suggests the former.
    Should the government be reporting on expenditures in each program separately?

    • BCF has not been rolled into the Stimulus Fund. Some of the rules and processes governing the BCF – Major Infrastructure Component were relaxed/streamlined to help projects get underway faster and to make the existing infrastructure programs more consistent with the Economic Action! Plan agenda, but the programs are distinct. Baird's office is being particularly disingenuous to cite BCF – Major Infrastructure Component figures as an example of how stimulus dollars are being spent!

  2. You mean there are analyses of stimulus spending that contradict what the Liberals and the media have been offering for the past few weeks? Unbelievable!

  3. So, Ignatieff and the Liberals have been fixated on logos and stimulus spending for weeks now, and it's continuing to impress the Canadian public at large, isn't it?

    Among Iggy's many current weaknesses, one of them might be having a tin ear when it comes what Canadians actually think on issues, including endless allegations regarding stimulus spending. First it wasn't enough. Then it wasn't getting spent fast enough. Then it was all going to Conservative ridings. It all ends up sounding like "blah blah blah", doesn't it?

    • Canwest is in bankruptcy protection. You'd think they'd be saving some money, but obviously not. Of course, ever since Bricker lost the lucrative CTV contract for being .. well, almost always wrong .. he's probably doing these just for the publicity.

      • Yeah, I guess it's the only poll in Canada showing a precipitous drop in Liberal fortunes under Iggy. Oh, wait. Next.

    • Opinion | National Post
      Don Martin: Ignatieff happy to play waiting game with Tories. Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 ….


      Of course there are polls and there are opinions.

  4. Apropos of nothing, but I'm curious. Has anybody seen noted hockey fan and biographer, Stephen Harper, skating?

    Of all the lame photo-ops, isn't it odd that there isn't a single picture of Harper skating, either by himself, or with his children/wife? You'd think it would be tailor-made for his taxpayer and party-funded portrait collection, right?

    There are no pictures of him skiing either, but maybe that's a touch too elitist for him. But skating … not one photo!

    • I"ve never actually seen any photos of him doing anything remotely physical.

      • He threw a pitch at a Blue Jays game. Generally speaking though, politicians are wise to avoid sports photo-ops.

        We all remember Day's wetsuit, Stanfield's fumble, and perhaps Dion's lack of aptitude as a forward. In the US bowling has had some particularly bad results. Bush Sr. once fell over completely while bowling for a photo op (then again he did bowl a strike… a little better than the White House's current occupant could muster). Do we ever remember successful athletic photo ops? Not to my knowledge (I guess Trudeau looked good in a canoe).

    • Stephen does his skating in Question Period.

    • I remember seeing a picture last year of him standing in a pair of skates, he did not look very steady.

      On a related matter, I read somewhere that Deb Grey said she did not notice Harper had any interest in hockey when he worked for her. If that is true, it would seem his interest in hockey a relatively recent phenomenon.

      • It's amazing that he doesn't get asked about it during Question Period given its pressing importance to the welfare of our citizenry.

      • Ah, yes. Like George Bush's passion for clearing brushes at his Texas ranch like a good ol' country boy.

  5. Where's Kady when we need her to analyse the latest poll numbers?

    • Kady works for the CBC now.

      • I know Kady works for the CBC. I was just commenting that I missed her here.

  6. The problem is not that the Parliamentary Budget Officer does not have all the numbers. It is that these numbers are fluid and will be until all the bills are in. They are a bit like polls. They are only snapshots in time. It is impossible to devlop an accurate assessment of the "fairness" of distribution until all of expenditures have been made. 'Tis so under the Conservatives and would be exactly the same if the Liberals were to form government.

    • "'Tis so under the Conservative"

      And the Conservatives, in opposition, would just sit idly by?

      • Probably not, but I think they might have found a more foolproof way of making the attacks than the Liberals have. For example, you don't come up with your own numbers that can easily be attacked for lacking in credibility. Instead, you keep insisting that the government insure Canadians that the stimulus money is not being used for partisan purposes.

        Furthermore, while in opposition, the Conservatives had the added bonus of a Liberal government mired in ongoing serious scandals. The Harper government is nowhere near that, and it's unsure if it ever will be.

        So, either the opposition can't find a narrative against Harper that resonates, or he hasn't provided them with one yet.

        • Dear Conbot, so, one report by David Akin (who i find, indeed, a credible source) and the Harperites, dismisses what the Liberals (granted, taken with a grain of salt), the Globe and Mail, CBC and other media outlets reported last week?

          • Dear left-wing smear artist, I suggest you read people's posts carefully, address specific points made, and don't simply get angry at people for daring to tell put forth arguments you don't like. Next.

          • That is good advice; can you recommend a Macleans commenter that could be used as a good model?

          • Thanks for applauding my advice. I'll leave it to others more familiar with Maclean's commentators to make recommendations in that regard. However, I'll suggest that kcm and Blues Clair don't make that list, based on my specific experiences with them on here. Thanks!

          • You're welcome. On a slightly worrying note, "they" say that advice is cheap, and so is applause I suppose….

            Anyhooo, too bad you can't help me get the other list started; I'll keep searching.

          • LOL :)

          • Always the enlightening discussion from you, isn't it. lol

  7. As Knick alludes to in a comment above (The $7B Building Canada program announced in the 2007 budget was to run for 7 years – to 2014"), it's extremely difficult to figure out the difference between new and old spending announcements made by this government. From defence spending to infrastructure spending to investments in education, the Conservatives have announced, re-announced, repackaged and restructured their spending across budgets and across departments and even jurisdictions (citing co-op spending and transfers to provincial and municipal govts).

    Combined with their numeracy-challenged deficit projections, it's hard to hold up a Conservative funding number to any type of rigorous scrutiny and have it hold together with some degree of meaning. (This is the case whether one broadly supports their programmes or not.) Further compounding and confounding this whirl of numbers is the media's citation of seemingly endless polls. Take a look back over the past six months and try to find a 4 point swing for either the Conservatives or Liberals that holds up.

    Maybe its time we asked the Conservatives, Liberals and the press to present/scrutinize the respective policy agendas, areas of immediate need and long-term plans based on their merits alone, since the numbers seem to be mutable from week to week, month to month, forum to forum. Harper would have to show where he expects to lead Canada over the next few years (rather than weeks) and Iggy would have to show his cards, too.

    • Hard to find a four point swing over the course of the past six months? What country are you watching, dude? We went from Iggy being slightly ahead in the polls in late spring, to Harper having double digit leads now in almost all the polling? In fact, Iggy is doing worse in ongoing polling than Dion ever did.

      It also doesn't seem to occur to some political observers that Canadians have been completely unimpressed with all the various criticisms of stimulus spending. First it wasn't going to happen, or wasn't enough. Then it wasn't being spent fast enough. Now it's being spent on Tory ridings, or maybe not. Or the Tories aren't doing enough to provide riding-by-riding tracking numbers that the opposition and the media want to use to bash them over the head with.

      Hoping anything will stick seems to have been the opposition strategy so far. When has that ever worked, by the way?

      • I'm not shilling for any side here. The part of the statement I made that you left out of your rebuke was about a four point swing in the polls "that holds up". We've seen the Conservatives swing to majority territory in some polls, then fall to within striking distance by the Liberals in others, then surge again … all within a few precious points/margins of error, which all have marked differences when you look at different polling organizations. Watching polls in 2004-2006, nearly all were wrong most of the time. I really don't care about polls today, unless they are the voting kind.

        My point is that as spending numbers seem to be all over the map, too, maybe we would all benefit from some explicit statements about policy directions and goals from all parties … especially for the longer term. Voters could assess whose ideas seem to be best for the country, businesses could plan for the next business cycle, etc. Based on the past 18 months, the Conservatives have no credibility on the budget/deficit projection front and Harper hasn't put forward any ideas that reach much beyond the current sitting of the House. Iggy hasn't articulated a clear agenda about anything, except platitudes. Jack's still trying to figure out how to avoid going down to a 7th straight fourth-place finish for the NDP. I'd like to hear from the two main national parties about what they would do for Canada over the next 5 years, how they would ask taxpayers and businesses to finance it, and how their plans would make Canada healthier and more prosperous than we are today. Then we could start to hang some numbers onto these plans that might have some meaning. That's all.

    • And your problem is? The $7B Building Canada program was announced before the stimulus package, but there is nothing wrong with the government (Liberal or Conservative) moving ahead on any infrastructure project if it is in the country's interests. What has been notable is that the Liberals have not complained about the spending. They just want more of it — in thier ridings.

      • Whether or not the Liberals have complained, it seems to me that Canadians are entitled to know the details of how the government of the day is spending their money. If the Building Canada program is now being included in the Infrastructure Stimuilus program, then the government should make that clear because otherwise it skews the Infrastructure numbers, Baird's cheque presentation of Building Canada funds yesterday for a bridge in Victoria included signage for the Stimulus program.

    • The story, you may note, is incorrect. It says Dion won 28% of the vote – he only won 26%. Iggy is still lower, but I'm a little unimpressed that the National Post couldn't get its facts straight.

  8. The comment from Two Yen above concerning the pointless exercise of evaluating dollars allocated to whichever riding in the middle of a program makes more sense then the other 100,000 comments in the past few weeks. Until this round of stimulus is complete and until we know if there will be another round, how can you have a comprehensive evaluation of where the spending took place. That is why this story has no importance to the public. So whether it`s Maher in Halifax playing with numbers, or the PBO in Ottawa, or Ted the internet sleuth, or some balding litigious basement dweller, the public knows this is all just a vain attempt to discredit the gov`t.

    Having said that, it is real good to see our man Wherry point out that there is indeed fairness in today`s gov`t. His attempt to maintain balance in his reporting is truly inspirational.

    • Well let's not get carried away. I don't recall Wherry calling for the PBO was when he was pointing out incomplete Liberal research that showed the Conservatives favouring their ridings for the RinC fund in Ontario, or even pointing out that the Liberal reserach was incomplete (when it so clearly was). He was quite OK to let those allegations stand without any further scrutiny as to whether they held water or not. It's only as the evidence mounts that there is in fact no discernable partisanship going on that we get a call for the PBO to weigh in.

      Wherry has also been very quiet about the Liberals being caught using their parliamentary websites to solicit donations…which should seem surprising considering how much attention he's paid to GiantNoveltyChequeGate (but of course isn't).

      • Extremely well said (written).

      • sarcasm

    • Thanks for the comments.

      The political problem for the Liberals is that they asked the government to spend more money on infrastructure. They also complained that money was't being spent fast enough. So what happened? Money is being spent. Indeed, it is being spent so quickly that not all the "t's" are being crossed or "i's" being dotted as to which fund it is coming from. I don't think many voters care which "fund" the money is coming from. Moreover, any money being spent on infrastructure acts as stimulus.

      Bottom line. Liberal complaints are either being ignored by the public or are merely reminding the public that money is actually being spent as promised. This is a no win situation for the Liberals.