Monday, May 23, 2011

It Starts At Home

The Conservatives are ready to move quickly to kill the Canadian Wheat Board, a philosophical irritant to the notion of free markets. The Conservatives are poised to move quickly against political subsidies, just the word "subsidy" an affront to all things the right wing holds sacred. Conservatives are already rumbling about "cutting the fat", "axing" this and that, because austerity and fiscal discipline is a core belief you know. Not hearing so much on MP pensions though, despite the fact, from whatever angle you look, the system appears obnoxious, excessive, elitist and contrary to many supposed ideological principles.

Nobody disputes that people should be given a pension. What is in question though is how the MP pension plan operates in this unique universe, unlike your pension plan and mine, not only is it excessive, but it's immune to market forces, guaranteed in a way that screams "sweetheart" in every sense of the word.

When Harper announced his unnecessarily bloated cabinet, despite simultaneously preaching restraint and belt tightening, he rationalized the size using a host of lame excuses. Not least of which, this argument that "his government" had cut the size of ministerial budgets, a fact which forgets this is largely a function of moving certain expenses like travel for Ministers and staff DIRECTLY into the department themselves, basically burying costs to create a false narrative. This shell game aside, it allows Harper to argue against the optics of a bigger cabinet, despite our large deficit situation.

However, if Harper really wants to send a signal that his government is serious about "walking the walk", in ANY regard, he and his ideological pure supporters should be demanding reforms to the MP pension issue, which everyone agrees is unfairly lavish system. Why not do away with the guaranteed pension system, and replace it by giving MP's a raise, let them invest their own money how they see fit, roll with the economic realities like the rest of us, rather than taxpayers buffering their pensions. It's apparently unfair to subsidize political parties, but Harper has no problem maintaining a system which has no real world exposure, the money is simply doled out by us, zero investments or "funds", just a direct subsidy to former MP's? Why not give MP's a little more in salary while they are in office and let them invest it in the same way all other Canadians do? Why not set an MP pension plan, a fund, just like other professions? Where are you ideological conservatives, where is the pressure, where is the consistency?

Does anyone think it fair that Gilles Duceppe is guaranteed a 3 million pension, with no worry about future economic prospects? Does anyone think a still vital 50 year old Keith Martin requires a 4 million dollar pension? People don't begrudge a pension plan for our representatives, many actually give up bigger salaries to become MP's. Where the disconnect exists, the sheer EXCESS, as well as the entirely different system, shielded from the very free market that is so essential, such a core consideration. If Harper wants to send a signal that his government is really serious about "cutting the fat", then dealing with these obscene pensions would detract from the "do as I say, not as I do flavour" to all these philosophical proclamations.

20 comments:

A Eliz. said...

How can Harper kill the Canadian Wheat Board , when the farmers say it is their Wheat Board, not the Government's. They are not happy about this.

Steve V said...

The funniest thing about the CWB, they can't even ELECT people to the board that are in favour of killing the single desk. It's just pure ideological zeal, that can't show itself democratically.

Kirk said...

I can only assume that Harper's war on the "per vote subsidy" is of interest to his supporters only in how they see it screwing the other parties. Until Harper decided to make it an issue, and his supporters decided it must be an issue since Dear Leader made it one, no one cared. It even had support as a way to get big money out of the political system.

Then there are the other subsidies that will be left untouched.

This appeals more to the mean streak that runs through his base than to any core belief.

Meanwhile, the issue of MP pensions is a long standing core issue with that base.

Another failure by Harper that can be exploited to suppress the vote of his base.

And the self-serving, undemocratic removal of the per vote subsidy is an opportunity to soften his support with more fair minded supporters.



And doesn't the Wheat Board have actual support amongst farmers? Big City Cons might be all for abolishing the Wheat Board but the opinion of those who it will actually effect is much more divided. However, the full effect of these changes to the Wheat Board might take years to be felt and effect rural areas negatively.

Steve V said...

And doesn't the Wheat Board have actual support amongst farmers?

That's the thing, farmers keep electing people that support the status quo, the "reformers" can't win using democracy, so they have to dictate.

Kirk said...

This article discusses the possible effects of Harper's changes to the Wheat Board (he isn't eliminating it completely):

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/making-it-count/2011/05/prairie-strong-no-longer-harper%E2%80%99s-renewed-attack-canadian-whe

Steve V said...

The most bizarre part of that article, Ritz saying people must respect democracy, they won the election.

Kirk, he is eliminating it, just leaving it up for appearances, even that article shows how the CWB becomes a non viable in the gov't scenario.

Tof KW said...

If the Liberals want to start growing some roots in the rural west, it's these types of issues they should get behind. Maintain the Wheat Board and MP pension elimination.

Not sure Alberta's farmers will ever change their votes, but you might get traction in Saskatchewan and Manitoba by picking up a few key populist issues as your own. It would certainly help to show the new Grits are no longer your grandparent's old Liberal party.

Steve V said...

4 of 5 directors elected last year supported the single desk. 2 from Alberta, one supported, one didn't.

Morakon said...

These are the kind of issues the New Liberal party should be taking as there own. Get your Interm Leader asking Harper why he thinks it's fair that Gilles has a $3 million pension yet he won't stand for an increase the CPP for the people he's suppose to represent. Steve you have my vote to get on some kind of policy committee.

Steve V said...

Ha! Well thanks anyways.

Omar said...

How can Harper kill the Canadian Wheat Board , when the farmers say it is their Wheat Board, not the Government's.

Because they can kill it and still have these fools vote for them come next election. If CWB elimination came at the cost of several seats they wouldn't be doing it.

Kirk said...

Harper seems to be planning to do enough to dull the impact of his effective elimination of the Wheat Board. You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time etc....

A big issue with Harper on the Wheat Board and on the "per vote subsidy" is that he always provides himself with political cover. The media seldom attempts to penetrate that cover and it often dulls the fallout from his actions and out-right misdeeds (such as election fraud).

On these issues we need to first slice through that political cover before starting to make our points. That might be easier to do with farmers and the Wheat Board but never underestimate Harper's ability to sell his effectively eliminating the Wheat Board as only providing "choice". Then when the truth wins out it will be too late, all water under the bridge, etc.

Add in just how much grain prices vary for so many other reasons and if the first few years after the "changes" prices are high then you could easily have an elimination of the Wheat Board being successfully sold as a causing those good prices. (We've already seen Harper take credit for our banking system and low federal debt after all.)

Leeky Sweek said...

Does Harper actually want to kill the NWB or does he just want to give farmers a choice a to whether they want to use it or not?

Steve V said...

Farmers can vote for that choice, and they've voted against it over and over, in convincing fashion. Obviously Harper wants to destroy the CWB, because it simply can't function properly with some in, some out. The only reason the dual option was floated was because they knew that farmers would resist the stark choice, this option disengeniously tries to convince people they can have the best of BOTH worlds. What this scenario demands over time is the steady erosion to an eventual extinction, there is no other end point as far as I can tell.

Jerry Prager said...

You the man.

Jerry Prager said...

Steve V for liberal leader.

Steve V said...

Way too much baggage ;)

sharonapple88 said...

An interesting article on the work of the Canadian Wheat Board. Besides selling wheat, they also fight trade cases and fund research and marketing for wheat.

Ralph Goodale did a bit of work in the previous parliament with respects to the Canadian Wheat Board, and he's apparently still trying to fight for it, which is good to see.

Steve V for liberal leader.

Sample Conservative attack ads: "Far and wide?"... Doesn't sound like he's "near and close" to the issues that matter. ;)

A Eliz. said...

Funny a good Progressive Conservative, RB Bennet was the one that brought the WB to the farmers

Steve V said...

sharon

Ha!

Eliz

Times have sure changed, haven't they....