November 15, 2005

An embarassment of riches

Here's one lesson the Liberal government appears not to have taken away from the sponsorship scandal and Gomery inquiry: it's not so easy to spend your way out of trouble.

Damned if they won't try, though. With an embarassingly rich ($39b) so-called "economic update" today (methinks the Finance Minister doth protest too much), the Liberals put the finishing touches on a triad of truly bald-faced stuff-the-voters'-pockets initiatives -- the first two being (1) relief for rising energy and heating costs and (2) the ridiculous surplus allocation bill which would automatically tie up 2/3 of any surplus in debt reduction and what effectively amounts to a citizenry-wide "cash back" program.

Not that it hasn't been slick. The energy/heating cost relief was targeted at lower income individuals and families, and today's tax cuts make benefits for lower income taxpayers a priority in terms of timing (including some retroactivity) while pushing the raising of the highest-income-bracket-bar out a few years so that no one frets too much about it now. Meanwhile, the surplus allocation bill takes a page right out of Ralph Klein's Alberta book, promising to distribute ever more widely (and directly) the fruits of Canada's economic success (per the proxy of government revenue). Those Liberals are such populists!

While you have to admire their chutzpah, you can't help but wonder what they're thinking. Somewhere between Paul Martin's big-time healthcare deal last year, the everything-is-a-priority 2005 budget, and today's modest "government fiscal framework", this minority Liberal government is proposing to tie up every surplus in the foreseeable future. I can't help but think this isn't just a sound attempt at "planning ahead".

Update: John Ibbitson has a nice line in his Globe and Mail piece today: "The biggest reductions don't come into effect until 2010. [...] The way things are going, we might as well ask the leader of the Green Party what his fiscal plan for 2010 might be."

Posted by anatole at November 15, 2005 01:11 AM

Agreed entirely...I can't help but get angry about so blatant an attempt to bribe us with our own money. I like debt reduction, I like increased social spending and reduced taxes...I like prudent fiscal management more than any of these and it's starting to feel like the Liberals have lost that skill. It's hard to read the "all these 'incentives' will vanish if the opposition forces an early election" without the word 'desperation' ringing in your ears. (How's my rhetoric doing? ; )

On a related note...have you been reading any of the 'comments' at the bottom of Globe articles recently? I'm putting together a post on it for my blog...I didn't think it possible for the Globe to stoop even lower after their 'Perspective is Everything' campaign, but somehow they found a way.

: )


Posted by: Mike at November 15, 2005 05:50 AM