Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sing It From The Roof Tops

There is one line from Budget Officer Kevin Page's fiscal report that Liberals should repeat ad nauseum, over and over again:
"The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions," the report says.

There it is, the "independent" analysis that confirms a "made in Canada" deficit, not simply a result of circumstances elsewhere, the buck stops with the Harper government and their poor choices. This analysis has added weight, when one considers the Harper argument, that being his government foresaw the challenges ahead, a full year in advance, prudent decisions were made. There is no way to reconcile the contradictions, Harper can't claim to be a steady hand that planned ahead, when the Budget Officer highlights the same policies as directly responsible for a coming deficit.

The above statement is a smoking gun of sorts for the Liberals, because it comes from a non-partisan source, it puts the blame directly at the feet of bad policy decisions, not the global economic slowdown. Harper's entire strategy, to frame the challenges as largely out of control, our government merely reactive to foreign developments. If Harper is successful in this strategy, then he largely absolves the Conservatives from responsibility, Canadians will accept a deficit as inevitable. It is CRITICAL that the Liberals seize upon this analysis from Page to hold the Conservatives to account, to ensure they can't take cover because of developments abroad. If Harper did see the looming crisis on the horizon, then it acknowledges that policy was developed within this consideration, a fact that either suggests gross incompetence or revisionist proclamations.

Whether this report fades into background noise, will largely be determined by how well the Liberals use it to bolster their case. We should hear this quote over and over again, until it imprints in the minds of Canadians, until it establishes a clear starting point as we move into a deficit position.

14 comments:

JimmE said...

DAMN SKIPPY!

liberazzi said...

Voters choose to ignore the warnings and wanted the short term gain of a GST cut, without understanding the consequences. All we can do is use this as fodder for next time. Like I said before, Harper knew exactly what he was doing when he called a snap election. Instead, Canadians focused on the messenger not the message. The nearly one million Liberal voters that choose to stay home are getting exactly what they deserve!

A BCer in Toronto said...

Nah, didn't you know his third cousin, twice removed voted Liberal in 1993? We can't take him seriously...

olaf said...

Steve,

Whether this report fades into background noise

Unfortunately, I rather suspect it will. I'm not sure that you can blame this entirely on Harper (after all, every developed nation is facing a massive reduction in government revenues and massive increases in spending), but certainly his fiscal/tax policies have been part of the problem, and were in fact highly irresponsible if he saw this coming, as he suggests.

The thing is, the idea that Harper is a sound fiscal steward, like the idea that he's a raging neo/theo-con, is one that isn't easily dispelled in the public consciousness, no matter how much the evidence points to the contrary (on both accounts).

Steve V said...

olaf

Note, I'm not the one blaming Harper, his creation is ;) I think you can pin Harper though, because of his own words. Harper and Flaherty have continually said that their policies of the last year were put in place to prepare Canada for the coming storm, and they take credit for our relative position. If they want to say they saw this downturn on the horizon, then you can look at their decision within this context. That suggests irresponsible taxcuts, that knowingly put the government at the edge of deficit, little added pressure to put us in the red.

cuzben said...

There's a problem here.

The CBC article misquoted the report. Here's the real quote:

"The budget balance for the first five months of the fiscal year is the lowest in recent years, largely
attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions."

Still damning, but not nearly as much, if I understand it right...

Does a low budget balance mean a large gap bewteen estimated and actual revenue?

Or does it simply mean that the budget is smaller overall due to less spending and revenue?

I think you should be sure before making this your mantra.

Sorry.

oh, and here's the real report: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/PBO-DPB/documents/Ecomomic%20and%20Fiscal%20Assessment%20-%20November%202008.pdf

olaf said...

Steve,

think you can pin Harper though, because of his own words.

I agree - if he wants to be judged as someone who "saw this coming", well then he should face the fire.

I just don't think that he saw it coming, or at least didn't anticipate the extent to it. I don't think there was a country in the world who saw this coming and actually put policies in place that would mitigate the effect on public finances.

Anyways, the broader point is, labels seem to stick to Harper. Fiscal conservative is one of them, even if he has never demonstrated anything of the sort since arriving in government.

cuzben said...

Shit. I'm wrong. The quote is good.
Page says the same thing with slightly different wording about four times.

Oops.

Steve V said...

"I just don't think that he saw it coming, or at least didn't anticipate the extent to it."

I agree completely, but to claim you did, opens you up to unnecessary scrutiny. If you actually look back, you'll see that Harper and Flaherty were basically saying Canada was riding high, pretty much bullet proof, in September and early October 2007. I think this explains the mentality of the mini-budget. If you follow the chronology closely, it was only a few weeks after the mini-budget that the Cons changed their tune, started warning of a slowdown, in a more protracted way. At this time, they pivoted, and Flaherty then said the mini-budget was really a stimulus to offset a downturn. They government pretty much emerged unscathed, nobody really seemed to bother comparing the pre mini-budget rhetoric, with that of December, but it wasn't really surprising, since we seem to just reset our memories everyday in this media climate.

ben

I still think the quote is pretty much intact, because it acknowledges they've squandered our buffer with their policies. It sticks. See ya on the eve ;)

Steve V said...

Another point, if the government did see a downturn in the offing, how can it explain the drunken sailor spending? I mean, it's a complete contradiction to say you're prudent, while the books show "ridiculous" new expenditures.

Möbius said...

Anyways, the broader point is, labels seem to stick to Harper. Fiscal conservative is one of them, even if he has never demonstrated anything of the sort since arriving in government.

He certainly has never behaved as a fiscal conservative in government. Slightly less spend-thrift than Martin would have been, at best.

Nice to see Dion slagging the throne speech, mercilessly, but voting to support it. Not much has changed.

Möbius said...

Another point, if the government did see a downturn in the offing, how can it explain the drunken sailor spending?

If you can find a government that saw a downturn of this magnitude in the offing, I'm all ears. The drunken sailor spending, which I disagreed with completely, from the very first CPC budget, is a result of attempting to satisfy all of the voting core groups, and pull them away from the Libs.

The alternative was the Green Shift, a new publicly-funded child care plan, etc. Fiscal conservatives simply chose the lesser of two evils.

Steve V said...

"Nice to see Dion slagging the throne speech, mercilessly, but voting to support it. Not much has changed."

Ya, let's head back to the polls. People are SO SILLY sometimes.

burlivespipe said...

Yep, I saw the crisis coming, too. So I went out and gave a whole bunch of money to my quebec cousins, paid for a whole bunch of psychic-network phonecalls, played the ponies, went loopy with letters to strangers bragging about my skills at guessing, and drained that savings account on limousine rides and a reaaaaalllllll big party, especially because I told my parents I wouldn't do it for 4 years.
I can't imagine why things are in such a mess.