Friday, April 05, 2013

The Forest And The Trees

Devon Black writes that the Harper government suffers from tunnel vision. It is focused on eliminating the deficit. Why? Because, these wise ones say, it will lead to lower taxes. But will it lead to a better Canada? And, to put that question in perspective, Black looks at the legacy of the recently departed everyman of Canadian politics, Ralph Klein:

One of Klein’s most striking successes was balancing the budget in 1995, a mere three years after he entered office as premier. In 1992, Alberta faced a $23 billion deficit. Klein oversaw major spending cuts, massive layoffs (including thousands of nurses) and substantial reductions in government services, all with the goal of eliminating that deficit.

He did put Alberta back in the black, and he did so two years earlier than promised. Still, it’s hard to see the elimination of the deficit as a legacy. Alberta is once again billions of dollars in the red, and is confronting the long-term consequences of Klein’s cuts.

Once the deficit was gone, it seemed that Klein didn’t have a grand vision of the Alberta that he hoped to create. Instead, his policies were sometimes reminiscent of the dog that, having caught a car, isn’t quite sure what to do next. Ralph bucks for everyone? Sure! After all, what else would we do with all that extra money?

Klein didn't have an answer to that question, and neither do his federal stepchildren:

Without an articulation of that vision, we’re reduced to watching a sort of “placeholder politics,” biding our time until the next election. Decisions are being made not in pursuit of a better Canada, but in pursuit of another election win. This leads to a degradation of both our politics and our policy.

Moreover, without an articulation of that vision, voters don’t have the opportunity to fully evaluate the options with which they are presented. What sort of Canada does abandoning the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, or eliminating the Experimental Lakes Area, or alienating First Nations people create? What is the Conservative vision for Canada, and are they achieving it?

Alberta is in worse shape today -- after Klein -- than it was before he became premier. And Canada will be in worse shape -- after Stephen Harper -- than it was before he arrived.  The man can't see the forest for the trees.


Lorne said...

In a similar vein, Owen, Nick Fillmore wrote a post recently ( punctuating the hagiography that has arisen since the passing of Klein. The fact that his death brought forth such a wave of eulogies perhaps says more about the values of the corporate press than they do about those held by average Canadians.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Lorne. I was particularly impressed by this passage:

"In many ways, Klein was a tragic figure. A drunkard, a buffoon, unreasonably stubborn, and the sad victim of Alzheimer’s in his young, late 60s, he never had a vision for what should have been done in Alberta. He was a one-issue populist who got elected to eliminate the deficit dragon – an unnecessary calling that damaged health care, education and social services so seriously critics say they still have not fully recovered."

If -- as Twain wrote -- history doesn't repeat itself, it certainly does rhyme.

thwap said...

Klein's was part of that idiotic world view that holds that the public sector can't do anything right.

They manage roads, highways, power generation, universities, hospitals, ... but supposedly it's a given that they're incompetent.

Therefore, it's impossible for us, as a people, to decide to do something via our governments, vote the money to pay for it, and achieve something good.

And so we are left with "placeholder governments" who just sit there and cut shit, and spend on wars, policing and tax cuts.

Paul Martin's inability to do anything once he became PM is the greatest example of this.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, thwap. The goal is to create a self fulfilling prophecy: Make it impossible for government to do anything. Then claim that government is incapable of doing anything.

It's the same argument the kid who kills his parents uses when he throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan.

Fightfordemocracy said...

It is ironic that Klein at the end of his life used the much despised health services and other support services a lot more than most of us. In fact, with his self-inflicted dementia he was a super user. Interesting that Reagan was and Thatcher is in the same boat. Rob Ford will probably follow - hard to assess Ford's health until you realize he is only 44.

Those out to destroy public services shouldn't be their greatest users. No, I'm not convinced they never took a penny, rich or not. The rich people I've met are more than happy to use public services.

Owen Gray said...

Like Ayn Rand -- who railed against "moochers" -- they are quite happy to avail themselves of services -- particularly near the end of their lives -- that they so loudly despised and did their best to destroy.

Empty barrels make the most noise, Fighting.

the salamander said...

I know about as much about Klein as I know about the editor of the Globe & Mail or who changes the kitty litter in the Harper household. Nor do I know who will have the strongest legacy.

What I do know is that concerned & caring Canadians need to copycat one of Stephen Harper's nasty ideas and turn it against him.

To wit - form a 'shadow government' extending far beyond what he did with his 'shadow MP's'

For every single announcement, obstruction, secret, failure, redaction, denial, assault, prorogue, deficit, poll, legislation.. we should be announcing either the complete opposite, or whatever common sense and what is good for the country and canadians would indicate.

When he muzzles science, we must declare science to be free. When he invokes Chinese trade we advise fresh fish from Fort Chipewayn to the parliamentary buffet. When Oliver spouts green bitumen froth, we suggest urban agriculture for the poor.

Nothing that comes from these posturing illicit dangerous fools should go unanswered, un-anticipated or be accepted. This is a government that is pro desert, anti wild salmon, pro deficit, wants a war, by the numbers is anti free choice, exports raw logs, would sell asbestos if possible.

This is a 'captured government' .. and its time to start building the intervention that will carry over after they complete their own distinct buffalo jump off the high cliffs of sanctimony, entitlement and corruption.

I hope they do a little lemming wiggle in mid air.. just to entertain us as they depart. We're already seeing the stupefying spectacle of Christy Clark warming up herself and her 'Liberals' for their spectacular leap.

Remember the idea .. 'The Shadow Government'
And let's start identifying good policy, honest practices, positive attributes .. and getting them out there in contrast to the rancid pablum Harper et al are spewing.

Apologies for veering so off course.. but the current Alberta aint Klein's Alberta .. last I looked it belonged to Stephen Harper & Ray Novak

Owen Gray said...

Far from veering off course, salamander, your suggestion is right on target.

The Harper government has so thoroughly adopted Orwellian methods that, by definition, a shadow government could show the doublespeak for what it is -- lies.

Beijing York said...

I'm not adding much to the discussion but is that not an American Idol competitor from Season 9 or 10 in your picture? Siobhan Magnus?

Owen Gray said...

That's the lady, Bejiing. The American Idol connection is a bit tacky.

But as an illustration of Harper's inability to see with depth or breadth, it seemed appropriate.

Come to think of it, perhaps that's what Stephen Harper -- in his heart of hearts -- wants to be: An American Idol.