Fun Speculatin’

I usually try to avoid horse-race or speculative political blogging, but I think it bears emphasizing that Tony Clement has made 2 Health Care wait time guarantees in two days, today’s with Liberally-governed Ontario.

Yesterday’s was for radiation treatment, today’s is for Cataract surgery. It would be interesting to see what the current maximum wait time is, as well as the median and mean wait time, both of which are not in the press releases or the basic news articles that I read. No word, ofcourse, for those that are waiting for an MRI, hip or knee surgery, or to see some other sort of specialist.

No word either for those that are trying to find themselves a family doctor, rather than rely on the mediocrity that is Clinic care.

Promises Made, Efforts to make promises look kept.

Neo-Definition Watch: “historic”

There is little doubt that the budget will zero in on solving the historic fiscal imbalance with the provinces, with many experts predicting that Ontario and Quebec — vote-rich provinces expected to be key battlegrounds in the next election — will be getting millions more from the federal equalization program.

Link

From Dictionary.com:

1. Well known or important in history.

From Wikitionary:

1. having importance or significance in history

For what its worth, I think that a sentence reading something like the following would be pretty close to accurate.

“Voters in suburban Ontario and Quebec can expect to see their votes bought with an historically large cheque”

Coming soon: Where I chide the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (and to a certain extent conventional wisdom) for, shock of shocks, a limited historical perspective.

Uniforms?

I’m at the archives, as I usually am on Fridays, and there are people here with matching embroidered golf shirts, complete with their names on the side.

They seem to be with The Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association Recovery Team, or at least so says the back of their shirts- and it seems to be pretty neat stuff. I can only assume that they are looking into documents relating to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, be it for places to dive or more general information.

This is probably the most visible demonstration of the non-university/museum use of the archives- there are firms and individuals that do lots of contract work for government or private organizations, though they usually come dressed just as casually as your average grad student, and tend to work individually. The CHAA folks seem to be working in a team, which is unusual, and pretty interesting to see.

New Shoes, New Spending?

Sometime this weekend, Jim Flaherty will go shoe shopping so as to be perfectly ready Monday’s Budget. You can read speculation as to its contents elsewhere, but it is safe to assume that there will be gifts for the provinces and tax cuts for everyone else. Canada’s New Government, after all, certainly has learned how to pander to an electorate.

So, with Billions in surplus, what’s Flaherty to do? Well, this is what our “non-partisan” friends at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would have us do:

Budget ’07 affords the finance minister an opportunity to deliver tax relief to Canadians. Thanks to Mr. Flaherty’s sound decision to use last year’s budget surplus of $13.2-billion to pay down debt, Ottawa will save $700-million a year on interest payments. The surplus in the current fiscal year is projected to be $7.2-billion and despite rampant public spending, many observers expect it will top $10-billion when the books close on March 31st. If this surplus is also applied against the debt, the combined interest savings will permit Ottawa to cut taxes annually by $1.2-billion. That’s a good start.

The bolding is, obviously mine. It’s an important question to ask whether or not we actually have rampant public spending. For this, it’s worth looking at the last two graphs in this post by the ever-useful gentleman over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. The two say somewhat different things- In the first, we see that we are spending (after adjusting for inflation) about the same as we did in the early 1980s, despite an ability to pay that hasn’t been seen in 50 years. In the latter, the suggestion is that expenditure is at its lowest point in more than 50 years.

So what is my point? Well, the government is in a fiscal position where it can make the kind of investments that will make Canada a substantially better, and more competitive, place to live. No longer are we bound by the financial pressures of a deficit, nor should we be bound to think that the best way of spending surpluses is cutting taxes. Go crazy? Obviously not. But in a time where people campaign on tying some budget items, like defence spending, more or less to GDP, I have a hard time seeing why it is a difficult or controversial proposal to extend that same concept to other areas of the ledger sheet.

Jetset Politicking

Harper’s political travels have (kind of, sort of) come under attack in a couple of recent news stories. Essentially, he likes going to partisan events like John Hamm’s retirement and plain old non-government events like the 40 year exercise in futility that is a Maple Leafs Game. This is all very fair.

He does, however, have to take a DND challenger, to which there is some suggestion that the Conservative Party should reimburse the taxpayer. Sandra Buckler says:

“There was no previous protocol, as the former Liberal government never reimbursed Canadian taxpayers when they used the Challenger for non-government business,”

Which is all very interesting, except:

That kind of fluid partisan-government mix was a frequent target of Conservative complaints when Liberal prime minister Paul Martin was in power.

The Liberal party did not reimburse the federal treasury for any of the flights. But Martin personally did pay for his family’s vacation to Morocco aboard the Challenger in December 2004, basing repayment on commercial airfare costs and then almost doubling the figure.

Emphasis mine. Seems fair, no?

This is a lesson in how it is dangerous to forget that the goal of every politician in opposition is to be in government, and casting as perks which are necessities of government should be done only at their own peril. Obviously the Prime Minister cannot just get on an Air Canada flight- he’s not even allowed to cross the road from his office to the House of Commons on foot. And yet  lazy opposition always goes after the low-hanging fruit: as a friend of mine told me over the summer, the optics of using the government jet are never very good. The raw numbers for a flight, especially given the prohibitive cost and hassle of civilian travel, are shocking.

I would prefer, being an idealist at heart, discussion on real issues. Talk about our abysmal record on adult literacy, our defaulted commitment to end child poverty by 7 years ago, the environment, making businesses have an easier time dealing with the rules of government, flat taxes, anything other than the mundane battle of ATIP reports that we have at present. But I suspect, being a cynic in everything but my heart, that politicians don’t create the demand for low-politics, they just feed off of it. We expect politics to be fluffy theatre, and so it is. We like the idea that they only scream at each other, so they do it for the 45 minutes a day when the cameras are on them.