There is nothing wrong with the Liberals calling for the head of Jim Flaherty. It would be hard to imagine a parliamentary system anywhere in which the finance minister’s validity wouldn’t be questioned by the opposition, on a day when he announced he had managed to turn 2% of GDP of fiscal stimulus, spread over two years, into 3% of GDP of deficit in the first year. Recall that we are still only five months from the good old days when Flaherty was projecting no deficit at all, in an economic update whose policy proposals were disowned by the transport minister two days later.
So I say the following with real regret. I’m the guy who endorsed Flaherty to replace Mike Harris for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership in 2000, after all. (The OPC preferred to herd lemming-like off a cliff named Ernie Eves.) But come on. This guy is easily the most ineffectual federal finance minister in decades. Why believe a word from his mouth? Does anyone seriously believe he believes most of it?
So it’s fair for the opposition parties to call for Flaherty to be fired. But realistically now, would it make any conceivable difference?
- Who would replace Flaherty as finance minister?
- Would that person have any more influence over budgetary policy, fiscal projections, his own public statements or objective reality than Flaherty has had?
- Then why bother?
For comparison’s sake, look over at Environment, where the minister’s job has gone from Rona Ambrose to John Baird to Jim Prentice, arguably a considerable step up in clout and seriousness every time. (I know, I know. I said arguably.) And how’s that going? Risibly. By the government’s own standards, its environmental policy is now fully self-mocking. Excellent news for a government that wants to base its entire bilateral relationship with the new U.S. administration on a credible energy-environment partnership.
But I digress. What I’m saying, without believing for a second anyone will listen, is that since replacing Jim Flaherty will not address the real problem with this government’s pillar-to-post management of the economy, it is pointless to be cruel by calling for his replacement. He is a funny wee leprachaun, and as long as nobody ever listens to another word from his mouth, there is no harm in letting him continue to ride around in the fancy car.