On July 4th, while the Americans were setting off fire works and putting out forest fires, Jeffrey Simpson reports that Conservative cabinet ministers were crisscrossing the country, making spending announcements:
Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, was announcing money for John Lewis Industries in La Tuque, Que., at 10 a.m., then hurried along to Saint-Irénée to dump money into Le Domaine Forget de Charlevoix. Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue and Prince Edward Island’s cabinet representative, was in Abram Village, PEI, at 10 a.m., then at Coleman, PEI, at 2:30 p.m.
Ministers were at such places as Martin’s Family Fruit Farm in Waterloo; the Town of Blue Mountains; Minto, N.B.; Plum Point, Nfld.; Fredericton. Tough as times supposedly are for the federal government, Gary Goodyear, the Minister for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (an agency created by the Harper government), was announcing a new fund for Southern Ontario businesses.
Remember: this is the government that just cut spending on OAS, on Employment Insurance and Foreign Aid. This the government which shuttered Rights and Democracy and the Experimental Lakes Area. And this is the government which just beat back every amendment to its budget bill with the same refrain: We can't afford it.
It is, indeed, curious that a government which claims to be a universal beacon of sound financial management could be working so obviously at cross purposes. But, then, Simpson provides a little historical perspective:
In the 16 years that Conservatives have been in office since 1963, they have run just two surpluses – the first two years of the Harper government. These surpluses were inherited from the Paul Martin government that, together with the previous Chrétien government, ran nine consecutive years of surpluses.
The Harperites took a $13.8-billion surplus inherited from the Martin government and made it a $5.8-billion deficit in 2008. Since then, the Harperites have presided over $111-billion in deficits.
No, the Harperites are not stellar managers. But they are stellar confidence men. And, yes -- as the ascension of Julian Fantino makes clear -- they are mostly men. And, like all good confidence men, they have a gift for sizing up their marks -- us.