Ignatieff Fails His Own Litmus Test

Someone asked me this morning why the Liberals are supporting the government’s budget. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good answer. When I heard yesterday that the Liberals would be proposing amendments to the budget I didn’t think that “putting the government on probation” (to use Ignatieff’s expression) would be sum total of demands that would be made. Really… is that it? How utterly disappointing.

Thomas Walkom nails it:

Ignatieff understands what’s wrong with the budget. Yesterday, he detailed some of its main defects – its failure to address the fact that most jobless people don’t qualify for employment insurance, its refusal to deal with child care, the strings attached to its infrastructure spending proposals, its gratuitous attack on the principle of paying men and women equally for work of equal value.

Then, having listed the budget’s flaws, he said his party would support it anyway.

“We are in the opposition,” he explained. “We are not the government. It is the responsibility of the government to govern.”

This political science 101 argument might make sense if the opposition Liberals were planning to oppose. But they are not. They plan to keep this government alive.

Even so, they could use their influence – as others have done in minority parliaments – to persuade Harper to compromise.

Where the government needs to compromise most is in the area of employment insurance. All employees pay into this fund. But only 42 per cent of the jobless qualify for benefits. In bad times, this discrepancy promises disaster.

A solution might cost $500 million a year. But for a government willing to spend $750,000 on a Lake Huron yachting pier, that’s small beer.

Or the Liberals could have focused on the budget’s less expensive but more ideological elements. These include temporary suspension of union rights in the public service and a frontal attack on the principle of pay equity, under which men and women are paid equally for work of equal value.

Had Ignatieff’s Liberals cared enough, they almost certainly could have forced the government to back down here. But clearly they did not.

It’s bad enough that we’re stuck with a government that’s more intent on playing cheap political games than it is in taking care of the nation’s business, the last thing in the world we need is an official Opposition similarly focused that continues to support Tories against the wishes of its own membership.

Update: It seems the media is supportive of the Liberals decision to prop up the government. Need I say more? Speaking of Kinsella — Heh.

Update2: Brent Fullard from the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors (CAITI) weighs in with a detailed critique of just how “flawed” the Conservative budget is, and more germane to our purposes here, how it specifically fails to meet any of the conditions set out by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s so-called “litmus test” that he had said was essential to gaining support of the official Opposition.

Update3: Here’s the latest on the webpoll from SDA — 84% hate the budget and want the spending madness to stop. Only 15% feel that the budget basically gets things right. On our little poll here, 68% of people didn’t want the Liberals to support the budget.

97 Replies to “Ignatieff Fails His Own Litmus Test”

  1. The problem is that, under these circumstances, the alternative is not attractive either. We can’t have another election right now – the cost of the election and the delay in getting any stimulus (which would be not until summer) is unacceptable to Canadians.

    Is this a great budget? Far from it. Is this helping Canadians? While there is a heck of a lot more Harper could and should be doing, it is ludicrous to say that an $85 billion deficit is not going to help. And we need that help as quickly as possible.

    And all of the help that is in the budget is due to the Liberals and a united opposition. Not only that, but the Conservatives would have waited until March to deliver their budget so Canadians are getting that help much earlier.

    And not only that, if Canadians are not getting that help, in only two months from now, we can dump Harper and the country will be behind us in doing so.

    Canadians do not want to see this economic crisis turned into a political crisis. Canadians want to see Parliament work. Harper has done his utmost to make sure it has not worked since May – it has only sat 14 days since then – and the Liberals have forced him to try to make it work.

    We may want to get rid of Harper immediately – I know I do – but we live in a real world and Canadians do not want that kind of disruption right now. Harper has been brought to heel – which is certainly what Canadians wanted, but having been brought to heel, they want to give the budget the chance.

    Iggy has acted responsibly in these economic times. Now it is up to Harper to show that he can too.

  2. Ted — I can certainly appreciate all that, but it doesn’t excuse not pressing the government on some of the issues noted above as suggested by Wolkom.

    Could it be that Ignatieff actually wants the Conservatives to fail miserably and therefore is refusing to have any direct connection to the budget other than presumably having “forced” Harper to indulge in a program of massive deficit creation?

  3. Dude, it’s one disappointment after another with Ignatieff, first Gaza and now the Budget.

    It’s all justified politically of course. But still, it’s hard to swallow.

  4. Ignatieff also spoke to premiers and they need money fast. They can’t afford more delays.

    A majority of Canadians don’t want the coalition nor do they want an election. I saw a poll on CTV this morning and 88% of voters want Ignatieff to support the budget.

    How can you justify $300 to $400 million right now when the economy is in the tank?

    Apparently, according to some in the know, Harper would go to an election rather than give in to demands.

  5. Ted, I have to agree with RT. Iggy has Harper by the short hairs.

    I say, time to grab hard and make some demands. Even a few (like the EI extensions) would help some people feed their kids and keep their houses. This budget does not do that.

    Just a few amendments. Just that one.

  6. I dunno, Red. There are lots of other things I’d like to see in the budget for sure. There are lots of things I’d like to see removed from the budget too.

    What I do know is that in November, Harper’s plan was a few tax breaks and NO stimulus package and nothing that Canadians and Liberals were asking for.

    Because of the Liberals, we have a big stimulus package now, including a ton of things that we were asking for. The compromise is already there, built in. Like all compromises, it leaves a lot to be desired. But it is critical that what is there, actually gets out here where we are all working and living and struggling to get through this mess.

    That is my view, at any rate. I’ve said this before and I will repeat it because it is the truth: Because Harper either lied to us or was shockingly clueless about the coming downturn (not sure which is worse from a PM point of view), called an election he promised he wouldn’t, cancelled Parliament to save his job, Parliament has not been allowed to do its job and there cannot be any further delay.

  7. Perhaps the best thing for Canadians would have been if the 3 opposition parties worked together to support good amendments. But that just wasn’t going to happen. That was the strange thing about the coalition — the partners weren’t really working together in any team sense.

    For Ignatieff to propose amendments without NDP/Bloc support puts him in the position of really trying to work with Harper. That’s not something I would advise. Even if Ignatieff managed to get some good change in, one has to worry about Harper making a mess of it in the implementation. Also, it then becomes Ignatieff’s budget too. One simply can’t trust Harper, but Canadians did give him an increased mandate just recently and we have to operate under that reality.

    I see the NDP has new radio attack ads out. They are on their website.

  8. And as an aside, when all the hardcore far right are up in arms about this budget, that has to be a good thing, that has to count for something, because it means the budget is getting something done. Could it do more, of course. But are we acting responsibly in holding this multi-billion dollar budget up for a few million here or there?

  9. Sandi — Harper would go to an election rather than give in to demands.

    I rather doubt that given the generally fearful mood of the electorate and the fact that people are fed up with elections — especially after the last one that everyone now realizes was entirely needless.

  10. You can’t eat a tax cut.

    If EI is not extended the unemployed will not be able to eat. They will be homeless.

    In the end, nothing else matters.

  11. Catherine — I see the NDP has new radio attack ads out.

    Yeah, I heard one on Newsworld this morning. That didn’t take long, did it? No doubt they were in the can already. I’m sure the NDP saw this situation coming well in advance.

  12. Ignatieff has forced a compromise budget and an amendment on the Conservatives. The details of any other amendments can be introduced in committee, where the real work is done. No need to force Stephen’s hand right at the start but we can ask for incremental changes later.

    BTW, anyone notice how palid Stephen is looking these days? Is he bleeding from the wounds in his back?

  13. Ted — But are we acting responsibly in holding this multi-billion dollar budget up for a few million here or there?

    I don’t accept the premise that this would cause an unnecessary delay. Doesn’t it have to go to committee first anyway? I would expect with the massive dollar amounts involved there would be some wrangling over details of the budget. Or at least I’d certainly hope so.

  14. Isn’t it a little… questionable to support a budget you don’t think will be effective just so the government can “wear it”? Perhaps the Liberal party will be well served by this, but what about Canadians?

  15. Brad — Well, we’ll see what happens in committee, I guess. It would have been nice had Ignatieff alluded to something along the lines you’re suggesting in his response rather than just hanging his hat on the periodic updates (which the Conservatives seem to have no problem with in any case).

  16. “Could it be that Ignatieff actually wants the Conservatives to fail miserably and therefore is refusing to have any direct connection to the budget other than presumably having “forced” Harper to indulge in a program of massive deficit creation?”

    That is what I fear. Jeff has a good post up about this, and about how Iggy could have demanded more. He may be making a shrewd political move, but not one that is necessarily best for the country.

    For my part I wonder if he did not ask for EI reforms because he hopes to use that as part of his election platform should Harper be defeated some time this year.

  17. I’ve been floating my own totally unsubstantiated theory as to why some pretty solid reports of plans to demand the E.I. and matching funding amendments just suddenly evaporated overnight. The theory involves a hypothetical Tuesday night phone call to Jack Layton proposing such amendments, and Jack responding with something amounting to, “Victory or Death!!”

    Like I said, I have no evidence for this theory (as others have kindly pointed out), but it make sense on a few levels. After all, unlike the ‘reports’ amendment which the Cons can support without losing anything, the only way to push more substantive amendments through would be to have all three opposition parties onside. One would have assumed that they would have been eager to support them, and Ignatieff may well have made that assumption. But given Jack’s performance yesterday, I would not be at all surprised to learn that he specifically rejected anything proposal short of bringing down the government.

    I’m just trying to figure out who I could ask about this who might be inclined to give a straight answer.

  18. “it is ludicrous to say that an $85 billion deficit is not going to help”

    Its not going to help. Its not be spent in the right way nor given to people who need it. Its going to corporate welfare and pork barrel. It won’t help anyone affected by recession who lose their jobs nor will it create anything new.

    In the end, we will be no better off. And Harper will have survived.

    I’m wonder if it is a requirement to check your spine at the door to get Liberal membership card?

    I’d also like to point out that over the next 5 years they expect $85 billion in deficit, which is ironically almost identical to the amount of money the government is NOT collecting due to the cuts to the GST – $87 million.

    So I have asked elsewhere, if its ok to temporarily extend EI benefits a few more weeks, can it be ok to temporarily up the GST to 7% again so we don’t run a deficit? I’ll happily pay $1.45 for my Tim Hortons if it means no deficit.

    Of course, Iggy wouldn’t suggest such a move because he’s a coward, whose starting to believe the Conservative press releases and is not too afraid to be bold.

    We have a dangerously incompetent and petulant government and a spineless collection of chickenshits in opposition.

    Oh Canada!

  19. Here’s the thing Ted. I keep hearing that we can take this Conservative govenment down at the first sign of trouble, but what happens when either the Bloc or the NDP just don’t feel like it Ted?

    What then?

    The amendments should have included money for the working poor, daycare money, increased EI benefits for people in all regions and monies for those on social assistance trying to decide whether to pay their hydro bill or eat.

  20. Meanwhile, David Akin reports that the CPC attack ads on the coalition (which they pin on Ignatieff) are still airing today as well. When the Liberals are getting it from both sides, outside of an election, and when Canadians are worried about the economy, I guess things are back to “normal”.

  21. I guess Iggy isn’t “losing sleep” over the economic devastation happening to Canadians across the country. This guy has serious empathy problems. I see the political game being played and as someone who has been looking for work for several months and who’s EI is about to end I can tell you I don’t appreciate it and I will not be considering the LPC as a viable option in the next election.

  22. Has it occurred to many people that we’ve been asked to decide something before we understand it properly?

    That’s what made me despair yesterday…Ignatieff, Layton and Duceppe making a final-sounding pronouncements on something I’m sure they don’t even understand fully and then watching all the partisans dutifully fall in line.

    First the shock, then the panic and after all the decisions have been made and nothing can be changed, then the reality, which always takes its own sweet time.

    Ignatieff knows there’s no imperative to shovel money into the economy right now as opposed to four weeks from now. Jack Layton and the Bloc also know full well that an election at this time is folly. But they’re all insisting, right now, this very minute, that we decide. If they had any sense at all, they’d stop talking for at least a week.

  23. Ti-Guy — It seems they learned nothing from the TARP experience south of the border. I just think it’s insane to be rushing through these “stimulus” programs with such haste.

  24. Meanwhile, David Akin reports that the CPC attack ads on the coalition (which they pin on Ignatieff) are still airing today as well.

    Time to call up Conservative Party Central (or if you’re lucky enough to have a Conservative MP, his/her constituency office) and scream obscenities at them.

    I highly recommend it. It’s very cathartic. Hate mail works too, just no threats or libel.

    These people need to know how much we really do hate them.

  25. The amendments should have included money for the working poor, daycare money, increased EI benefits for people in all regions and monies for those on social assistance trying to decide whether to pay their hydro bill or eat.

    Do you think it should have been essentially a Liberal budget? The tax changes do benefit the working poor and they doubled the working tax benefit for those on social assistance. In each case, the Conservatives did something, just not as much as the other parties would do. The idea that Harper would do anything on many of these items is a huge change. Dion always said you can’t require Harper to produce a Liberal budget, and I agree with that.

  26. If you haven’t already check out that link in the post that goes to the Westmount Examiner from several days ago.

    Stephen Harper was talking with the provincial premiers the other day. It was supposed to be about the economy.

    But he kept kept dumping on Michael Ignatieff and the Coalition. Finally the premiers told him to knock it off. They had come to talk about the economy.

  27. I just think it’s insane to be rushing through these “stimulus” programs with such haste.

    Especially given the fact that we have the benefit of that laboratory experiment to the South of us. I’m hearing now what I heard then from the Americans six months ago.

    Prop up the social spending (especially EI) and then pause so we can at least get a handle on what the Government’s proposing.

  28. Red, I disagree. I look at it this way: what could the Liberals reasonably hope to achieve by demanding substantive amendments against the associated risks and costs of doing so?

    I don’t think the Liberals would have gotten many concessions out of the Conservatives. Their base hates this budget as it is, and if Harper and Flaherty had given any more ground to the Liberals, their position within the Conservative party would have been even more open to challenge than it already is. In those circumstances, they would probably have opted to roll the dice on a possible election than risk their already diminished standing within their party. So the possible gains from negotiation were low.

    On the other hand, the risks of demanding concessions were high, both for the Liberals and the country. Demanding amendments that the Conservatives are unlikely to accept puts the Liberals in the position of either dropping their demands (and looking ineffective) or risking an election that no one wants and that Harper can blame on the Liberals.

    As for Canadians, confidence is the single most important thing the economy needs right now. What everyone in Ottawa should be focused on is restoring the confidence of consumers, businesses and investors so that they will spend and invest in Canada. Everything is merely a means to that end.

    Wrangling over amendments creates uncertainty as to whether the government will survive. Creating uncertainty undermines confidence at a critical time. That we are in this position is of course entirely due to Harper’s ostrich approach on the economy during the fall, but it is what it is, and I think it would have been irresponsible to pile more delays and risks on top of the delays and risks created by Harper’s inaction.

    So, supporting the budget, even though it is flawed, was an appropriate and responsible position to take, in my view. This isn’t the budget that a Liberal government would have written, but politics is the art of the possible, after all.

  29. Dude. We’re winning. Can’t you see?
    And that sums up Liberal arrogance.

    Maybe James will point out more Blogging Tories that are criticizing the budget, completely missing the point of hypocrisy within the Liberal party and the “Litmus” test of this budget – and by proxy endorsing it…

  30. Rayner Fails His Own Litmus Test
    I C your pasting again, try to “paste” ur opinions, instead of others, thats what a blog is for.
    And to put liberals in power with the ndp is a bad idea, Ignatief knows that, if u like the ndp so much go to their blog sites. U and things like you are the problem, but a party in power just for the name, instead of policies. Thats their way, not ours.

  31. Bob Rae said it all, and said it well, on Don Newman’s show (as linked to by Jeff).

    He explains the position clearly and succinctly. In particular, it shows how he is really stepping to the plate for the party instead of trying to create division and political turmoil in these economic times.

    These are indeed difficult times and they require careful, measured and responsible actions, which in my strong view we saw from Michael yesterday and which Bob is reflecting as well.

    One of the really great things about this all, whatever you think about the budget, is the way The “Team” is really coming together and we are already seeing that in media interviews and in QP yesterday. The maturity and experience and confidence and unity is obvious and compares favourably from those across the aisle.

    The ground has shifted enormously in Ottawa. That much is crystal clear.

  32. but what happens when either the Bloc or the NDP just don’t feel like it Ted?

    Then we get to act all righteously indignant, and run attack ads about how the NDP is in a coalition with the Conservatives?

  33. I don’t see any bench marks with regard to the probation that the conservatives are supposedly on. How many jobs are to be created? Seems very subjective for political expediency. Liberals can say well some jobs were created that’s good or say not enough lets have an election.

    The fact is I believe Iggy has provided an opportunity for the cons to get legitimacy on managing an economic downturn. We know they haven’t been accountable but if they pass the March report which I am sure Iggy will allow, then all unaccountability on the governments part is wiped clean. This will get worse as they pass the second and third.

    Iggy royally f**ked this opportunity.

  34. I can’t stomach a $34 billion deficit. I’m not a purist when it comes to running strict balanced budgets as long as the deficits are the result of a rounding error or an unexpected shortfall in projected revenues, but now we’ve returned to the Trudeau/Mulroney days.

    I for one don’t believe that it will be $85 billion over 5 years either. They’re just going to find another constituency to pander to and we’ll be seeing 50-60 billion dollar deficits soon afterwards.

    Who do I blame? The Canadian electorate for being too complacent or cheering this madness on. 57% of the sheeple approve of it. I despised the Liberals back in the day, but I have to grudgingly concede that their 10 years of balanced budgets was a good thing. All Harper had to do was just keep things on autopilot while providing some modest goodies to his constituency (as the Liberals did in their years in power) until the voters booted the Conservatives out a few years later.

    Why not raise the GST to 7%? Harper could just say: “I admit that keeping it to 5% is not sustainable for the present time.” Then the pundits and talking heads can talk about the novel idea of a politician admitting a mistake or changing his mind. Sure, the opposition will accuse him of flip-flopping or breaking his promise, but honestly, you can’t be too rigid and you have to be flexible.

    It pains me whenever I hear people say “conservative politicians are fiscally irresponsible” because all the anecdotal evidence makes this appear to be true. Rank-and-file conservative voters generally prefer fiscally responsible policies but once the Conservatives are in power, they want to retain it and principles be damned. I believe that it would have been better for Harper to face non-confidence in December ’08 and let the coalition take the hit for the $30 billion deficit and take the political backlash for their coup.

    Maybe it’s a “Only Nixon can go to China” syndrome when it comes to running a balanced budget. If the conservatives try to make budget cuts, they get accused of being insensitive (like the cultural arts funding issue during the 2008 election), while the liberals, and because they are considered to be ‘sensitive’, cosmopolitan and ‘down’ with the secular humanist hippies, can make the same type of cuts and not get criticized as much.

  35. Deficits are a textbook response to a recession/depression. In times like this, they are necessary and should be supported.

  36. Red – Possibly. However, a story like that would make Kinsella’s boss look like he’s basing his decisions on the whims of Jack Layton, and that doesn’t exactly jive with the image they’re going for.

  37. “The fact is I believe Iggy has provided an opportunity for the cons to get legitimacy on managing an economic downturn. ”

    Really? Kind of like their financial update? I just can’t get myself so entrenched on one side of the Igna-fence like that. I just dont buy that anyone in the CPC is a financial genius. Their track record surely doesn’t show them to be.

  38. Couldn’t agree more:

    Conclusion: Harper’s Budget fails to meet criteria laid down by Ignatieff

    This budget should be approved or disapproved based on its own merit (or lack thereof), and not based on its secondary effects on the political fortunes of those in Ottawa. This budget is completely lacking in a vision for Canada, and represents nothing more than a hodge-podge of measures that meet certain political aims as opposed to any clear economic aims.

    This budget should be rejected by the Liberals since it fails to robustly meet any one of the three criteria laid down by Michael Ignatieff, as follows;

    (1) Protecting the most vulnerable in our society: A permanent tax break for those earning less than $80,000 is not protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Since when is $80,000 the threshold upon which to define “vulnerable”? Furthermore, it is deceitful of Flaherty to portray this as a tax cut for those earning less than $80,000, since those earning more than $80,000 will fully partake in this tax cut as well. The most vulnerable in our society are seniors and the unemployed. Giving seniors another $155 per year is a meaningless measure and the benefits extended to the unemployed in this budget are parsimonious in the extreme. Relaxing the rules on RRIFs will not cost the government $200 million as Flaherty claims. This calculation of this $200 million “cost”, is based on the same grossly flawed methodology used to create Flaherty’s bogus argument that income trusts cause tax leakage. Forced conversion of RRSPs into RRIFs serves no senior’s purpose except the life insurance companies as a captive market for their life annuity product.

    (2) Protecting the jobs of today. I fail to see where the jobs of today are being protected in this budget, unless perhaps you work at Home Depot, and your job has been extended by another 13 months under the 15% tax credit for home renovations and building products. I guess it pays to be the CEO of Home Depot Canada and to be appointed to Flaherty’s Economic Advisory Council just in time for the budget. How much of the $85 billion of deficit that this budget will create is being dedicated to protecting the jobs of today? Harper fails to put a number of how many jobs of today are being protected by this budget? Canadians must take it on faith, how many jobs of today are being protected. Faith is not something that should be extended to Stephen Harper, given his past record of faith breaking.

    (3) Creating the jobs of tomorrow. To the extent that this budget fails to meet Ignatieff’s criteria of protecting the jobs of today, this budget fails even more miserably at creating the jobs of tomorrow. This is the portion of the budget that requires a vision of where Canada should be headed and in what sectors Canada is best able to compete in creating well paying sustainable jobs for the future. Having such a vision requires leadership, that Harper has again failed to demonstrate. This is the part of the budget where government could begin charting the course for Canada’s involvement in new areas of economic activity. I see nothing in this $85 billion budget that is devoted to creating the jobs of tomorrow. As with (2) above, Harper fails to put a number in how many jobs of tomorrow are being created by this budget?

    Based on Michael Ignatieff’s own criteria for evaluating the budget, this budget should be rejected by the Liberals. Approval of this budget by the Liberals will, on the other hand, require that the Liberals answer the question that Harper has failed to do, which is am explanation to Canadians of how the Liberals feel this budget will meet their self imposed criteria?

    Even though Harper has failed to set targets for what his budget will achieve, that does not absolve the Liberals from the same exercise. If the Liberals approve this budget, it must be with some expectation about what the budget will achieve. What expectations are either implicit or explicit in the Liberal’s approval of this budget, since Harper has failed to disclose his expectations, apart from the cost side of what properly should be a cost-benefit analysis. What are the benefits as defined by Harper, or by the Liberals if they approve this budget?

    After all, when was the last time you spent $85 billion on a budget, without any expectation or assurances by its architects of what those expenditures would achieve?

  39. So Brent, what? They should vote down the budget?

    The Conservatives went from giving no stimulus to the largest stimulus and spending package in Canadian history. You think Canadians are going to give the Liberals more seats for voting down this budget or the Conservatives more seats for changing their stripes?

    Even if they are just wolves wearing sheeps clothing, Canadians are overall being very clear that an imperfect budget is preferable to an election, delay and political instability.

  40. Canadians are overall being very clear that an imperfect budget is preferable to an election, delay and political instability.

    I don’t know what Canadians are clear on, anymore. No one I know (which excludes economists for obvious reasons) has any idea what to think. Except for Conservatives who are always clear…it’s the Liberals fault.

    I’m really tired of shitty parliaments however.

  41. “I can’t stomach a $34 billion deficit”

    $15.9 of which was the result of this year’s shortfall, before the ‘stimulus’

    “Deficits are a textbook response to a recession/depression. In times like this, they are necessary and should be supported.”

    Only if you buy into Keynesian economics. I think the Austrian school has a much better handle on the business cycle. Plus, I think that if going into deficit worked, we wouldn’t have had the recessions we have had since 1929 – the “depression” of 1920 is one no one ever heard of, because it didn’t last long and the government didn’t interfere. Perhaps BECAUSE the government didn’t interfere.

    I would posit, as the Austrians do, that the running of deficits, the printing of fiat money and the artificial drops in interest rates by central banks change sharp short market corrections into long drawn out recessions and depressions and are the cause of the very next need for a market correction. Around and around we go.

    I’d question the text book Josh.

  42. “Only if you buy into Keynesian economics. I think the Austrian school has a much better handle on the business cycle.”

    Yeah, right. Keynesianism brought us the longest period of time without a major recession, 1945-1973. The world today is once again learning the lesson that your “do-nothingism” leads to speculative bubbles and major collapse.

  43. Hitfan — It pains me whenever I hear people say “conservative politicians are fiscally irresponsible” because all the anecdotal evidence makes this appear to be true.

    Darn those pesky facts!

    I hate this budget — it’s a catastrophic mess. The thought of incurring massive debt for dubious returns just seems completely reckless to me. If, or should I say when, interest rates start going back up and if commodity prices don’t rebound, this government is going to be in a world of trouble fiscally speaking.

  44. “The Conservatives went from giving no stimulus to the largest stimulus and spending package in Canadian history”

    All in order to cover up their own fiscal incompetence at running a government – about 1/2 of the first year’s is to cover their deficit from 2008 (which some bloggers like Mike Watkins had pegged at about $10 billion during the election campaign).

    They went from THAT to no stimulus – just wild, undirected spending and ideological driven cuts, ratcheting up the debt.

    This is a lot of spending and still no stimulus.

    So, in a year when nothing has changed, can we blame the Liberals?

    Gawd, some of you are as partisan hacks as any BT mouth breather. Don’t say a word against your ‘team’.

  45. Red
    I am a Conservative and I am sickened by this budget.
    I’ve been told to shut up by the Stephen Taylor’s of this world (Harper’s blogging mouthpiece moron) but I won’t.
    I have religiously voted Tory and donated my hard earned bucks to the CPC and in return Harper sells his soul and throws away $80 billion of taxpayers money to save his political hide. Completely unacceptable!
    You Liberals under Paul Martin cleaned up the books a few years back yet now you’re working in tandem with Harper. What gives?
    I will not vote Conservative nor give them one more red cent as long as Harper is in charge.

  46. “Yeah, right. Keynesianism brought us the longest period of time without a major recession, 1945-1973.”

    If you ignore the recessions of 1953, 1957, and 1960-61, then yeah I guess you’d be right.

    “The world today is once again learning the lesson that your “do-nothingism” leads to speculative bubbles and major collapse.”

    I’m curious how artificially either raising or dropping lending and interest rates on a bi-weekly basis for years by the Fed and other central banks can be called “do-nothingism”. I’m curious how passing legislation that allows people to have less down payments or to borrow from their RRSP to buy a house is “do-nothingism”. I’d be fascinated to learn how regulations requiring loans be made to people with poor credit is “do-nothingism”. Could it be the same way that bailing out failed Canadian banks and American Savings and Loams in the 80s was “do-nothingism”.

    Their may well have been recessions without Keynesian, but the would have been much shorter and less harsh. Instead we got stagflation (which wasn’t supposed to happen according to Keynes) and more and more interference distorting the market.

  47. Stooner — What gives indeed.

    I seriously doubt this budget is going to have any significant effect despite the billions of dollars the government will be throwing at the problem.

    It’s ill conceived and I don’t trust the Conservatives to implement it with either “good faith” or sound management of the funds being disbursed.

    We’re going to be back to the dark days of spending 35 cents out of every dollar just servicing the debt. Then what gets cut? Because we all know the axe will have to fall before too long.

  48. Agreed. I don’t think “laissez faire” is going to solve the problem. But neither is aimlessly thrashing about and hemorrhaging debt to create less than 200,000 jobs by 2010 at a cost of approximately $273,000/ea.

  49. true but those are Harpernomics 2.0 – Economics for Personal Survival.

    It’s like Canada is the board game Operation and Deficit Jim’s got the delirium tremens

  50. “But neither is aimlessly thrashing about and hemorrhaging debt to create less than 200,000 jobs by 2010 at a cost of approximately $273,000/ea.”

    Even I won’t disagree with that.

    Might as well just cut every unemployed person in Canada a cheque for $150K – it would be cheaper and probably work better…

  51. “Might as well just cut every unemployed person in Canada a cheque for $150K – it would be cheaper and probably work better…”

    Hell, I’d quit my job for that cheque.

  52. Ted asked:

    “So Brent, what? They should vote down the budget? ”

    I don’t appreciate being led done the garden path by Michael Ignatieff, or anyone else for that matter. If Michael Ignatieff sets out a basis for either approving or disapproving the budget, then he damn well better stick by it. It would appear to me that he did not, although I am happy to be convinced otherwise.

    I was fully supportive of the test that Michael Ignatieff had enunciated upon which he would evaluate the budget.

    As best as I can determine that test was thrown out the window and the decision over the budget became a decison about what’s best for the Liberal’s fortunes, rather than Canadians. Those are the unfortunate optics, if not the unfortunate reality.

    Meanwhile Canadians have to live with the gawd awful outcome of this hodge podge budget for an indeterminate period of time. It’s like the movie “Heaven can wait” except in this case the movie is called “Pay equity for women can wait” or “Funding for genome research can wait” or “Income Trust investors can wait”.

    Wittingly or unwittingly, the Liberals have become the co-authors of the outcome of this budget. Any attempt to portray themselves as anything else is as disingenuous as the supposed means by which we were told this budget would be evaluated.

    It is near farcical to hear Liberals in Question Period enumerate all that is deficient in this budget. So why vote for it then?

    As such. my answer is “Yes” , this budget should have been voted down by the Liberals, or at the very least the most distasteful aspects of this budget should have been amended, such as pay equity and UI benefits, etc. etc. Pick your own poison.

  53. Wow, look at all those comments.

    My short opinion: Ignatieff shouldn’t have supported it, and gone with the coalition, supposing that psychopath-enabling GG we have allowed it to happen. And if she wouldn’t have allowed it, provide some serious ammendments to turn this budget into a budget that accomplishes something.

    I didn’t care before, but it’s clear Ignatieff has spent too much time in the US. His role model for opposition is Harry fucking Reid.

  54. Can you imagine the deficit if the NDP were in charge? They were talking about things like $400 per month per child per family, etc.

    So, we have another coalition – the NDP/BLOC coalition.

    I wish I could remember which of the talking heads said that insiders claimed that Harper was prepared to go to election if too many demands were made.

    When you see how the NDP have responded – do you really think the coalition would have worked? Think about it – they must have had those ads prepared ahead of time, just like they planned the coalition ahead of time with the BLOC.

  55. Terrible optics on those radio ads. If nothing else, their immediacy confirms the “bad faith” on their part behind all the talk about co-operation. But then it’s unlikely that the Liberals were truly prepared to enter into a power-sharing agreement with the NDP. Certainly not after Stéphane Dion was deposed. Layton was obviously aware of that and betting on it.

  56. I agree. I dont see how Layton can defend himself even against the Tory attacks without sounding two-faced.

    He was Barack Layton in the last election. Looks like Jack Harper is the next incarnation.

  57. Jack also seems to forget his supporting the Tories on income trust. It doesn’t affect me but it sure does my parents, and their demographic is far more likely to vote than mine.

  58. Unfortunately none of the “leaders” of our political parties really have any credibility outside of their hardcore partisan base. Most people don’t trust any of them as far as they could spit. Kind of sad.

  59. “Their may well have been recessions without Keynesian, but the would have been much shorter and less harsh. Instead we got stagflation (which wasn’t supposed to happen according to Keynes) and more and more interference distorting the market.”

    What you call “stagflation” (actually growth wasn’t bad) was the result of the oil shocks of the 70s. The minor recessions you point to were nothing compared to the depression, the early 80s, the early 90s, and what could be a second great depression today. All those were the result of neo-liberal economics.

    If it weren’t for Hitler, Hayek and Von Mises, and their economic theology, would be the most infamous persons to come out of Austria.

  60. Well I guess Iggy is not a gambling man or the gutsy leader some people though or hoped that he would be.
    After all there was no assurance that the GG would have invite the opposition party’s to form the government,had the Libs joined the NDP & BLOC to vote down the “budget”.
    To take a chance on an election ,was an option the Lib’s would never contemplate,definitly not at this time when the party finances and election prospects are at such a low point.
    They did what we all knew(despite keeping our fingers crossed in hopes that just maybe the Lib’s would surprise us all…) they would do find a way to avoid an election at all costs.The only benefits & risks weighted,were those of the Liberal Party,the needs of ordinary Cnd’s will always play second fiddle.
    Political expediency won the day,Iggy “blinked”,no surprise there.

  61. Can you imagine the deficit if the NDP were in charge? They were talking about things like $400 per month per child per family, etc.
    Pure speculation.
    No one though that the Conservative would go so heavily into deficit either.

    When you see how the NDP have responded – do you really think the coalition would have worked? Think about it – they must have had those ads prepared ahead of time, just like they planned the coalition ahead of time with the BLOC.
    Sure, why not?

    Last time I looked, Lib, NDP and BQ were part of the coalition.

  62. Layton and Duceppe, with Dion in tow, were part of a group that got together to try and become the government. If Layton and Duceppe figure out that they can do the same and become a coalition for the Official Opposition, what do you think Iggy will do then? The movers for Stornoway could get real busy, lol.

  63. I hate this budget — it’s a catastrophic mess. The thought of incurring massive debt for dubious returns just seems completely reckless to me.

    Finally, a budget we can all hate, regardless of political stripe!

  64. Don’t let facts get in the way of your kooky speculation Barkman.

    And how is that speculation kooky? It was a fact that it wasn’t too long ago that people thought it unlikely that the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc would have got together so soon after an election occurred to try and get into power via a coalition. Oh sure, the idea was always there, and people always speculated that it could happen. So why would the idea that Layton and Duceppe getting together to form a coaltion for the Official Opposition be any more far fetched?

    Not that I’d ever want that kind of horror show becoming the Offical Opposition. I’m quite happy with the Liberals where they are, thank you very much!

  65. Barkman — I’m not sure that such a “coalition” could form the official Opposition. Is that even within the rules of Parliament? Besides, I think Jack and Gilles prefer just to snipe from the sidelines — it’s what they do best.

  66. The Liberals and Conservative voted down an amendment from the BQ – should we talk about that coalition?
    The amendment was:

    The amendment would have forced the Conservative government to eliminate promised tax breaks and abandon plans for a national securities regulator.

    It would also have enhanced Employment Insurance, provided direct assistance to manufacturers and forestry, and left untouched the existing pay equity and equalization formulas.

    So why do Liberals hate Canadians?

  67. The Liberals and Conservative voted down an amendment from the BQ – should we talk about that coalition?

    Cherny, I’m speaking in a more official, more stable capacity.

    Red, I’m not sure if that is in the rules of Parliament either. And I know its mere speculation again, but it very well could be.

    If a government can be formed because a coalition believes that the current government is not sufficient to the task, then why couldn’t the same rule apply to the other opposition parties if they feel likewise about the Official Opposition?The BQ has already formed the Official Opposition in the past, so its probably already crossed Duceppe’s mind. As for Layton, well, we already know that forming one coalition to advance his agenda isn’t beyond him. If Layton believes that the Liberals have already lost all moral imperative to oppose, then why not?

  68. Thanks for bringing that up CWTF. Further to the Bloc’s amendments:

    The Bloc amendment also included a section to “maintain the right of women to settle pay equity issues in court,” which became a hot-button issue during the Conservatives’ fiscal fall update as the opposition accused the Tories of attacking women’s rights.

    Is there any justifiable reason for the LPC to vote against these proposed amendments when Ignatieff’s pre-amble to his “report card” demand identified all the same things as problems?

  69. Barkman — Maybe Sharon can find out for us. She’s really good at stuff like that. Unfortunately, I’m kind of busy with work at the moment.

  70. Many if not most of you all are far wiser than I. Still, why not let the Harper budget pass? It’s not like a whole lot is going to actually get done since Harper is closing up shop again in two weeks.
    Hardly time to get debate, votes, committee work done… real money or real relief shovelled out the door.
    Harper plans to have no-one home in Parliament when Obama visits. Why?
    15 or 16 days sitting and this Harper government is working?
    Seems to me the real work gets done in Committee, and Harper is allergic to committees. But he is almost immune from outside legal pressures as long as Parliament sits.
    Quite the tightrope Harper walks.
    Sad what he puts lesser Canadians through to avoid accountability.
    Piecemeal government at best.
    Sooner or later.
    Unless he calls or causes another election to avoid court…
    Which seems quite likely considering the alternative for him.

    The most frightening thing I learned from the McCain/Obama fight was that the PM of Canada actually wields more power and can operate under less scrutiny than the POTUS and ruler of the free world.

    Be careful out there.

  71. So why would the idea that Layton and Duceppe getting together to form a coaltion for the Official Opposition be any more far fetched?

    The leader of the official opposition is the leader of the opposition party that holds the most seats in the house of commons. Even if NDP/Bloc wanted to form the official opposition, what would be the method for showing that the house has lost confidence in the official opposition? In the case of the government, the government loses a confidence vote, and then either an election is called or another party/parties are asked to form the government. There is no such methodology for replacing the official opposition.

  72. Is there a point to an opposition coalition like the one presented? Other than to garner some media attention and to piss on the proverbial fire hydrant, I can’t see a point.

    Also, consider the optics of such a coalition. It becomes even hard to slough off the moniker of socialist separatist as ridiculous as it is.

    Bad budget, bad decisions and bad behaviour. I agree with Red that all the leaders are a very poor calibre of politician these days.

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