The Globe’s John Ibbitson argued on Friday that the coming federal budget, which he calls the most important in years, will essentially be presented by two ministers, Finance’s Jim Flaherty and Tony “Gazebo” Clement, the minister for profligate local spending who has a side job on the Treasury Board.
Following a script laid out by budget slicers past, the Tories are likely to front-load their harshest cuts early in their mandate. It’s Clement’s job to find the five to 10 per cent in trims the government looking for from every department. The only problem, Clement’s name is now inextricably linked to the G20 spending debacle.
At this point, when the band says “Tony,” the crows shouts “Gazebo.” And that’s a problem. It’s an open question whether a man best known for cleaning up Muskoka in the name of border security can sell bureaucrats and the public on a sweeping plan for budget austerity.
Meanwhile, in the Star, Chantal Hebert wonders whether pension reform is really a priority for the coming budget. Opposition parties have been pounding the government on the issue, and the usually message-savvy Tories have been slow to define the question their way.
Mordecai Richler once wrote that in every magazine story he ever filed, he included one or two obviously unpublishable bits so editors would cut those and leave everything else alone. Pension reform might be serving the same role for the government. Give the opposition something to punch themselves out on, the argument goes, and they’ll have less left when the real reforms come.