Crawl Across the Ocean

Sunday, April 30, 2006


So I spent more time spring cleaning, watching the NHL playoffs and enjoying the sunshine than I did blogging this weekend.

The big news next week (as far as Federal politics goes) will be the Conservatives first budget on Tuesday.

As far as budgeting priorities go, I'd like to see Robert's plan to eliminate the debt in 15 years implemented.

The Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has also released it's Alternative Budget. Alas, they are still debt-friendly. Somehow, they take the fact that we have a big surplus due to reduced interest payments on our debt as evidence that we should stop paying it down, rather than the opposite:

"The federal government currently enjoys a fiscal situation of unparalleled prosperity and flexibility. The government has ample fiscal room (in the form of status-quo surpluses of $15 billion per year or more) to fund a range of important initiatives to enhance the quality and security of Canadians lives."

The unwillingness of many (although fewer each year) voices on the left to see that debt repayment is not sacrificing social spending for some abstract concept, but rather is sacrificing spending now for the sake of spending more later, is part of why a left-wing government would make me slightly nervous.

If I have more time at some point (long time readers with good memories will have figured out by now, that when I say this, it is pretty much a guarantee that I won't follow up) I'll go into the CCPA's alternabudget in more detail. For now I'll just say that it is a mix of sensible spending plans (increasing the child tax benefit) and not so sensible spending plans (increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors). Also, I wish they had taken the problems of global warming and high oil prices more seriously in their proposals.

The part that I found most interesting was the section on the Conservative's financial plans:
"Thus the total fiscal room required for the Conservative platform is $112.7 billion between 2006-07 and 2010-11. How will the Conservatives fit a $112.7 billion platform - including the surpluses to which they are committed - into $74.8 billion in fiscal room? There is a $37.9 billion gap that must be made up by spending cuts.

In order to find the $37.9 billion over five years required in their electoral platform,the Conservatives build in both explicit and implicit spending cuts. Two avenues through which the Conservatives plan to realize savings on the expenditure side were acknowledged in their platform: saving $44 8 billion over five years.

The Conservative platform indicates that $6.8 billion over five years will be
reallocated. They promised to terminate the National Child Care Plan, hereby saving $44 8 billion over five years. They also promised to take $2 billion from the Climate Change Fund,


The Conservative platform also promises to 'moderate spending,' thereby saving $22.5 billion over five years. A Recent report by the TD Bank's Don Drummond has confirmed suspicions that this is a very ambitious target for spending restraint.

These avenues free up $29.3 billion in fiscal room, but they are still $8.6 billion short of generating the full $37.9 billion of fiscal room they require."

This all reminds me of the typical right wing pattern. Start with tax cuts, while making statements that enough money will be saved by spending cuts to maintain balanced books. Then when the time comes to actually make the cuts, back down in the face of political opposition. Then downplay the fact that we are not running surplusses any more.

Perhaps economic growth will continue to beat expectations and the economy will grow enough to cover the Conservatives tax cut agenda, but as the CCPA report shows. If you were to spin the wheel of adjectives to come up with a descriptor for this plan, 'conservative' shouldn't be one of the options on the wheel. Which reminds me that the refusal of right-wing governing parties to act fiscally conservative is one of the reasons I am reluctant to see a right wing party in power.


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