Saturday, March 23, 2013

They Really Believe We're Stupid

Jim Flaherty's budget is an extraordinary feat of legerdemain. He boldly claims there are things in it which simply aren't there. Take his claim that his government will invest in infrastructure. David Macdonald, at The Progressive Economics Forum, writes:

One the most amazing things about this budget is that one of its three focuses will actually be the opposite of what it’s touting.  You’ll likely hear that $14 billion will be spent on infrastructure over the next 10 years (actually you may hear much bigger numbers but they just re-announce existing programs like the gas tax transfer).  What you won’t hear is that 75% of that money is going to spent on or after 2020.  In fact, there will be an affective $1 billion cut to infrastructure transfers to the cities in 2014-15.

There are at least two good arguments for investing in infrastructure. The first is that it improves national productivity. The second is that it acts as an economic stabilizer which injects money into a floundering economy. But, as economic growth is slowing, Mr. Flaherty will cut infrastructure spending next year. Now you see it. Now you don't.

And then there is Flaherty's proposed  Canada Job Grant. Tom Walkom writes that it is actually Flaherty's "dirty little secret:"

And while Flaherty wants business to chip in $5,000 per worker as well, his scheme remains very much dependent on public largesse.

However, aside from a few vague mutterings, the Conservative government does not seem prepared to seriously scale back temporary worker programs that allow business to cherry-pick cheap labour from abroad.

If companies knew they couldn’t import, say, skilled pipefitters from Europe, they might put more effort into training domestic workers to meet their needs.
But employers know they don’t have to train. Instead, they need only wait until the last minute and then complain of labour shortages.

Canada has always imported workers. Immigration built this country. The difference now is that, under the Harper government, the workers must be paid 15% less than the going rate -- and then go home. The rule used to be that, when we imported workers, we offered them citizenship.

The Harper government has always been rooted in cynicism. This week's budget was another case in point. Our masters really believe we're stupid.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

One get the feel we are watching the finance minister playing a slight of had game on us. "Which shell is the pea under.". It seems many times there is no pea at all.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Philip. It's a shell game -- the purpose of which is to make something out of nothing.

Lorne said...

With a nephew that has had to go to Alberta for a plumbing apprenticeship, Owen, I am all too aware of how destructive the temporary workers program has been to the hopes and futures of young people.

Owen Gray said...

And they keep telling us that a tradesman's ticket is more valuable than a university degree, Lorne.

Whether its a tradesman's certification, a university degree, or climate change, these folks have no regard for the next generation.

Dana said...

Tossing Pebbles - let's not mince words - the finance minister is no more in charge of finance than Petey the Intrepid Poseur is in charge of defence.

This is Harper's budget, not Flaherty's.

Jeez the robot proof thing is getting even more obscure.

Owen Gray said...

True, Dana. There's only one reason Flaherty changed the date for supposedly balancing the budget.

He bowed to the man whose claim to being an economist is as credible as Dick Cheney's claim that he knows how to handle a rifle.

karen said...

May I reply to the tradesman's ticket conversation? The use of a tradesman's ticket as far as the government is concerned is that the holder of such a ticket can be forced to go where the work is. Workers can be torn from their communities, their families and all their support, and they can be housed in huge camps which offer them much in the way of entertainment, but little in terms of security or human connection.

As a 20 year carpenter who stayed in one place throughout my career, I watched as men left for work (often to Alberta) and their families and lives slowly disintegrated. Over and over.

Having just finished The Grapes of Wrath I see similarities between tradesticket holders and the migrant families, Alberta and California, and the promise of huge wages in the tarsands and those fruit picking handbills.

In my tin foil hat I watch for wages in Alberta to drop, and I wonder at the insidiousness of prying families apart in this way.

Owen Gray said...

I've always found it ironic -- no hypocritical -- that the "family values" folks are devoted to policies which help cause the disintegration of families, Karen.

You know better than most that some tickets lead to indentured servitude. No family can survive unless it has some control over its living -- and working -- arrangements.

The Grapes of Wrath is a story which keeps repeating itself.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I finds the discussion on having a tradesman's certificate interesting. I have one (electrician) as well as two university degrees. It has always been a struggle for me to find employment largely because I speak only English in the area of Ontario with the highest percentage of French speakers where the local policy is that every person in retail or a service office of the government must be bilingual. This I think is against the law for the law states in Ontario that a government agency need only be able to serve the public in both official languages. I felt I was being discriminated against due to my ethic origin (English) growing up in an English Ghetto. It turns out language in Ontario is only a skill which must make Quebecois shutter for "language is culture" for them.

Sorry for the long aside. I went to Canada Works and asked them to send me to language school to make me more employable. In spite of 8 years of formal schooling in French I still could not speak it. Their response was that they could not do this but they could train me as a welder if I promised to move out of the area. I could not do this. I already had a portable trade, a farm which tied me to the local area and a child who had only me to care for him. Relocating or working away from home is not as easy as government policy suggests.

Owen Gray said...

Language is a touchy issue, Philip. I grew up on the island of Montreal, where the "two solitudes" were alive and well. Even though I studied French in elementary school and high school, I only learned to speak it when I moved to the Eastern Townships.

I learned out of necessity. I dealt with people who didn't speak English; and, therefore, I had to learn French to get by. Need is more effective than decree.

The government policy on trades education should be the same. People need a reason to do what they do. However, we are dealing with a government which believes the reason should be, "Do as I say."