Canada Budget 2012 .. “terminus of Tory radicalism” or “conservative nation”?Mar 30th, 2012 | By Randall White | Category: In Brief
There is something to be said for the argument that sowing confusion among his enemies has become one of the mature Stephen Harper’s most skilfully wielded political weapons. And, whatever else, yesterday’s 2012 federal budget succeeds brilliantly at the task.
As a case in point see “Ministers tout ‘modest’ Tory plan to slash spending, shrink public service” in today’s Globe and Mail. (“Harper government ministers fanned out across the country Friday, selling the Conservatives’ restraint budget to Canadians … The Tory message is they have cut spending with a scalpel, not an axe.”)
Various wise commentators and pundits have picked up this message and run with it. See, eg: “Andrew Coyne on Budget 2012: This is the terminus of Tory radicalism … This, then, is the summit of Conservative ambition … a budget that commits the government to do everything it had ever done, only at fractionally less cost. And I do mean fractionally. Indeed, the budget is at pains at several points to spell out just how marginal the changes it proposes really are.”
And yet two columnists for Toronto newspapers who seldom agree about anything do agree this time that when you read even just a little between the lines of Budget 2012 from Ottawa, “PM delivers his vision: Less government for all” (John Ibbitson) and “Budget aims to remake Canada in Stephen Harper’s image” (Thomas Walkom).
Mr. Ibbitson elaborates: “Do not be misled by those who say the Conservatives are cutting program spending by ‘only’ $5.2-billion … This is not the Canada of those who promote equity or social justice … When another party does finally come to power, it will discover that minding the store is all it can afford to do without raising taxes, which the public will resist … this budget … takes a giant step toward Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada’s future … It makes Canada a more conservative nation.”
And Mr. Walkom seconds the motion: “Stephen Harper is remaking the country. That is the message of Thursday’s federal budget … It is not a convulsive remake. Like the Prime Minister himself, it is slow, relentless and inexorable … The government calculates that Canada’s unemployment rate will continue to hover in the 7 per cent range over the next five years. The Conservative remedy … is to make it even harder for those jobless workers to get employment insurance … In the old Canada, that would have been seen as … counterproductive. In Stephen Harper’s Canada, it’s just a sound business decision.”
Meanwhile, while you’re trying to figure this puzzle out, here are four other things that may or may not add to your confusion : “Infographic: Your 2012 federal budget explained” ; “Ottawa betting on the West for economic prosperity” (by the Globe and Mail’s current Ontario politics columnist Adam Radwanski) ; “The federal budget’s declaration of war on environmentalists” (by Peter O’Neil in the Vancouver Sun) ; and “Canadian Govt Slashes CBC & NFB Funding; Layoffs Expected” (an item that has actually made it into the Deadline Hollywood blog, from beautiful downtown Southern California).
Inevitably, of course, a budget like PM Harper’s and Minister Flaherty’s 2012 edition is also meant to include enough variety that even very severe critics will be able to find at least one or two things they actually like. And here I must confess to four more things (although only three of them actually come from the government):
(1) “Penny’s demise won’t change people’s lives” (maybe true, but I like many others have long thought we should get rid of pennies, and at least Stephen Harper is going to do that) ;
(3) “Flaherty said Canada ‘wants to be in the next league. We want to be with the emerging economies. We want to be with the economies of Asia and South America that are growing, and we’re in a position in this country to get there’” ;
(4) “NDP issues two English-language press releases on federal budget: one for Canada, and one for Quebec” … Andy Radia, whose work I often like, writes: “Could Thomas Mulcair, the party’s new leader be pandering to voters in his home province? Why did the NDP feel Quebecers needed a special English-language press release? Aren’t Quebecers still considered Canadians? Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.” To me it’s a sign that Mr. Mulcair probably does know what he’s doing. And I’d just ask Mr. Radia, if he were actually listening: How long is it going to take the rest of us to finally recognize that Quebec really is NOT a province like the others? And never will be. What did it mean when in late November 2006 a massive majority in the Canadian House of Commons voted that the Quebecois constitute a nation within a united Canada? Anyway (and whatever else), I think I would finally vote at least two cheers for Thomas Mulcair’s two-press-release reaction to Stephen Harper’s federal Budget 2012!