Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Canadian Stimulus

I wrote this piece in January after watching Michael Ignatieff the leader of the Canadian official opposition Liberal Party respond to the unveiling of the Canadian budget. The purpose of this budget was to counter the effects of this economic downturn.


I had the privilege of witnessing the hyperbolic rope-A-dope otherwise known as a Press Conference from the leader of the opposition this morning. I’m sure it was no coincidence that Iggy hit the podium 30 seconds after Flaherty started giving a speech in Oshawa. It was eloquently timed so that the CBC would cut away from the Finance Minister after only having enough time to make a self-deprecating opening joke. I’m not certain if Iggy has a speech writer or if he pens his own material, but one thing was abundantly clear, the author certainly pushed his Thesaurus of superlativeness to its outer limits. As I’m writing this, Jack Layton is on my screen spouting off his usual nonsense, but I have muted it because at this point I don’t really care what the love child of Colonel Sanders and Sinead O’Connor has to say.

I suppose I should start my “budget critique” critique by emphasizing that this stimulus, bailout, emergency rescue plan (aka Federal Budget) is like administering morphine to a patient in critical condition. It can ease the pain, but it absolutely cannot cure the underlying global economic meltdown that has us lying on this gurney in the ICU while Doctor House and his team of extraordinary students try to cobble out a diagnosis. The Canadian government is not responsible for the collapse of the American housing market and the subsequent irresponsible behavior of Investment banks all across the Western World who packaged toxic debt into supposedly high yield equities. The bubble burst on the housing market and it dragged the financial sector down with it. Everything that was connected to it got sucked into the vortex, and the inter-connective dependencies of the rest of the world on the American market has us teetering at the precipice of another Great Depression.

Just as this crisis was not sewn by Stephen Harper, neither does it rest entirely on the shoulders of George Bush. If I’m not mistaken, the dream of putting low income people in big houses visa vie federally subsidized mortgages can trace its roots back to Roosevelt and Clinton. George Bush was so consumed with thwarting evil doers that he failed to recognize the Pandora’s bubble that was inflating at dangerous levels. Bush junior also jabbed a knife in the back of fiscal conservatives by encouraging the citizens of the world’s most powerful economy to defeat evil by spending money that they didn’t have.

Canada’s ability to sell manufactured goods is entirely dependent on the health of the American economy and the ability of the American consumer to buy stuff. As a net exporter of natural resources the health of our markets are dependent on the Global commodity prices. Stephen Harper doesn’t drive the world price of oil. The purpose of this federal budget is to inject morphine into the IV, but the real problem won’t be solved until conditions outside of our control improve.

Now we come full circle back to Michael Ignatieff. He clearly understands that the budget is not a solution, and the strategy he is deploying makes sense to me. I understand it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. He is using superlative language to describe both the government and the opposition. Such as the Conservative government is extraordinarily reckless and the Liberal opposition is remarkably innovative. His speech really ran the gauntlet of hyperbolic adjectives. But when it comes to describing specifically what needs to be in the budget, he regresses into this ambiguous fog of war strategy.

Fortunately I have the ability to filter through the language and read the real message. He wants the current government to bear all the risk if Global conditions worsen, and he knows that there is nothing that could possibly be included in the budget to avoid Canada feeling the effects if Messiah Obama is unable to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Iggy’s demands are for a loosening of EI restrictions, which will appeal to the current and future unemployed, but again he won’t specifically say how much that should be; because if the Prime Minister does exactly what Michael wants and it bankrupts the treasury, the opposition shares responsibility.

Mr. Ignatieff also demands that we get this stimulus money into the economy lickity split. Knowing the amount of time and planning that goes into large infrastructure and construction projects, I would ask the government to proceed with caution rather than haste. Rushing this “Manhattan project” without the proper planning could quickly and easily blow up in our collective faces with astounding force. The Liberal party does not want their fingerprints on the murder weapons if Global conditions deteriorate or if the stimulus package goes Chernobyl; and blindly hastening it only increases the probability that it does. The Liberal Party seems content to restrict their demands to simple thumbs up or thumbs down every couple of months; which I suppose is the benefit of being in Opposition and not having to bear the burden of actually piloting the Hindenburg across the Atlantic.

All I will say to Michael Ignatieff in closing is that if he wants to leave this Coalition alternative on the table as a very real imminent possibility, he can’t hide behind the veil of opposition. If he wants Canadians to be comfortable with the alternative that we wake up tomorrow and he is our Prime Minister, he had better display the testicular fortitude of taking a tangible policy position that accompanies true leadership. Don’t one hand tell me that you don’t need to present a specific plan, while on the other hand saying you are ready to lead Canada at a moment’s notice.

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

1 comment:

  1. Great post, but you're way to reasonable when it comes to Iffy and his posse of Coupquistadors. The Churchill quote was okay, but my favorite WWII guy was Bomber Harris.