Friday, November 28, 2008

Opposition Parties: Too Late to Turn Back Now

The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc have seized on the capital error committed by the Conservatives in their Economic Statement. Now, the three opposition parties have no real option but to see it through and install a new government.

In their Economic Statement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and his boss, Stephen Harper, exposed themselves as unreconstructed followers of the Herbert Hoover school of economic policy making. Their approach to the economic crisis, unlike that of any other government in the West, is to hunker down, slash government spending, sell crown assets (at what would be fire sale prices) and try to squeak through with little or no deficit.

They don’t get it.

Along with the rest of the world, Canada needs a massive program to stimulate the economy, not in the form of further tax cuts, but in the form of infrastructure spending. For the past thirty years, during the neo-liberal age (call it the neo-conservative age if you prefer), the emphasis has been on holding down government spending, deregulation and letting the private sector enjoy the fruits of the cheap labour of the third world. Infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate in many countries, not least Canada. In this country, where bridges fall down, many highways are a shambles, city streets are more noteworthy for potholes than pavement, hospitals and schools are in disrepair, and public transit falls ever further behind, tens of billions of dollars need to be invested.

As it turns out, Canadian governments will get the biggest bang for their stimulus dollars through infrastructure spending. The labour that is hired is local and most of the materials are purchased from inside Canada so there is much less leakage outside the country in the form of increased demand for imports as a result of the stimulus than would be the case with tax cuts.

Economic stimulus will preserve and establish jobs. Intelligent infrastructure programs are an investment in a more productive and greener future.

The Conservatives have over-played their hand. By putting themselves so much on the wrong side of history, they have forced the three opposition parties together. The government, having discovered the extent of their miscalculation, may now try to buy off the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc with compromise wording in the economic statement and the removal of the measures on campaign finance from the package.

It’s too late for that.

If the opposition parties were to settle for a few new phrases in the Economic Statement, they would be opting to allow Harper to push them and more importantly the Canadian people around during several years of government austerity that would deepen the economic crisis.

As it now appears, we could be heading for a Liberal-NDP coalition government with the Bloc providing support in Parliament. These three parties hold the majority of seats in the House and they won the majority of votes in the recent election. In forming a new government, they will be acting in the best interest of Canadians and will be taking a crucial step in the revitalization of democracy in this country.

1 comment:

darthcricket said...

Harper is a reckless leader despite his ability to see "three moves ahead".

He brought us an election a couple of months ago at the cost to taxpayers of $300,000,000.00 and now he is taking a knife to a fairer party funding formula that amounts to less than $30,000,000.00.

10:1 against the majority of Canadians.

The Liberals were corrupt and were brought down by Harper's devious manipulations and so now we require a coalition to punish Harper for his reckless lack of action on the economic mess that we are in.

He makes bragging statements about Canada's financial systems and though they are better off relative to other G8 countries we are still tanking. The world does not like braggarts at this moment. He was lucky the markets crashed when they did because he would have embarked on less regulations for the financial industry which has got the rest of the world in disaster recovery mode. And these countries are stimulating their economies toute suite except for Bush pumping trillions into the bankers' pockets.

Harper would be wiser to follow the British example.

Harper is lucky and therefore does not have the authority to brag to the rest of the world a coalition is the only way to stop him..