Thursday, March 20, 2014

Full Blown Paranoia

Commentators are lining up to praise Jim Flaherty. Andrew Coyne is not among them. Under Flaherty, he writes, budgets ceased to have much meaning. They became masterpieces of obfuscation:

Under Flaherty, not only did budgets cease to be budgets — now they are Economic Action Plans — but they ceased to mean much of anything.

The budget and the estimates are not only expressed on different accounting systems, but parliamentarians are provided with no means of reconciling the two. Actual departmental spending, as recorded in the public accounts, routinely bears no resemblance to either.

More and more spending is now disguised as tax credits, materially understating both expenditures and revenues. Even the official spending figures have proved harder and harder to trust. Requests for details on spending cuts from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, which departments are statutorily obliged to provide, have been rebuffed. Sometimes, as in the case of the F-35 program, they’ve simply been false.

And, instead of budgets, we got omnibus bills -- all supposedly in support of the economy. Those bills hid a mountain of contradictions:

Should we remember the Flaherty who, against every axiom of economics, cut the GST rather than cutting income taxes, then larded up the tax code with all manner of special tax breaks for favoured political interests? Or should we remember him as the tax cutter who made deep reductions in corporate tax rates, the policy innovator who brought in the Tax-Free Savings Account and the Working Income Tax Benefit, the free trader who eliminated all tariffs on intermediate goods?

Of course he was both, but the confusion underscores how far afield the Tories have wandered in the last eight years. Even after the recent cuts, Flaherty leaves with spending higher than it was at the start of his tenure — after inflation, after population growth. It wasn’t the GST cuts that drove us into deficit: had Flaherty only left spending where he found it, revenues would have exceeded spending in every year but 2009-10, when with the help of the recession it might have hit $10-billion — versus the $56-billion actual figure.

Of course, the real finance minister has always been Stephen Harper. Those contradictions are his contradictions. They are what the prime minister wants to hide. That is why Joe Oliver's swearing in yesterday was done in secret. Harper's paranoia is now full blown.


Anonymous said...

I am surprised at Kevin Page saying that Oliver only has to stay the course that had been plotted and there will be a surplus next year.

Kevin of all people should have been the first to question the accuracy of the numbers in those "budgets"/omnibus bills.

You'd think that Page would have learnt this from his experience with the F35s.

As Coyne has correctly pointed out, it is almost impossible to reconcile the actual expenditures and revenues with the numbers given in the budgets.

Recall the "balanced" budget that Flaherty left Ontario which turned into a $6B deficit when the numbers were audited after the Provincial Cons were kicked out.

Until we kick Harper out and do an audit, we have to accept any claim that he/Flaherty had balanced the budget with a very large grain of salt indeed.

Owen Gray said...

I think it's a foregone conclusion that the "balanced" budget will be arrived at with the help of some creative accounting, Anon.

We certainly won't get a good look at the numbers until a different government takes power.

Dana said...

Probably not even then, Owen.

If a firm from another English speaking nation that uses the same accounting system we do, with no past ties of any kind to any firms or organizations or corporations in Canada, did an audit of the country's books the result *might* be trustworthy. *Might* because between the time the firm was chosen and the time the report was filed they would very likely have been compromised by some Canadian partisan organization or other.

If a government of Canada official is speaking (include provincial here), elected or otherwise, you are almost certainly not hearing the unvarnished truth. Irrespective of party in power. Ever.

And we probably never have.

Owen Gray said...

If the 2008 meltdown proved anything, Dana, it was that you couldn't trust the numbers.

There were all kinds of things that were off the books.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and don't forget that Flaherty's connection to the present Chair of the Royal Canadian Mint is more than just a close friendship. You know, that tax lawyer from Toronto who knows exactly how to hide millions off shore. Unfortunately, the media has never investigated what their REAL connection is have they?

Funny that Ontario voters seem to have forgiven the transgressions of these same Cons that did in their financial stability.

Owen Gray said...

Our collective memory is short, Anon. And we are paying a price because things go down the memory hole so quickly.

Anonymous said...

The Harper government of course has to use the Harper statistics in its financial projections; it would be no other way. I remember a statistics math course where the prof began the first day first class with a statement that if we paid attention and mastered the discipline of statistics we could make those same statistics prove or disprove whatever we wanted because its all in how you run the numbers and not necessarily what the numbers are telling us.

Which brings us to the hoax of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Harpers figures: $38-million of public money was spent on the tender process a jet that was supposed to cost less than <$20 billion when all was said and done it balooned to over >$50 Billion. True VooDoo economics the way Harper was taught. Harper claims to be creating jobs but in fact he has cut more than he has created another ‘voodooish’ way of running numbers.

“Today we lead the G7 in job creation… -Stephen Harper” –from:

So here is how it works Blah blah Harper and his minions have been frothing at the mouth over the figure of more than 1 million new jobs they have created. This is done through voodoo statistics:

“The federal government never tires of boasting that Canada's labour market has performed better than most other countries through the financial crisis and subsequent recession, and that the number of Canadians working today is greater than it was before the recession hit. That means we have fully recovered from the downturn, and the Tories are good economic managers, right? Wrong.

The whole trick is based on ignoring the fact that Canada's population is growing, and relatively rapidly. Our working-age population has grown by 1.75 million since 2008 (or just under 1.5 per cent per year). So it's hardly an accomplishment to get back to the same total absolute number of jobs (or even higher), when there are 1.75 million more Canadians capable of working.” –From;

OECD chart here that shows Canada in #20 of the OECD 34 countries and that since 2008 we have had a net employment loss in the employment rate.

Who do you voodoo with your statistics mt Harper?

Not me,

Anonymous said...

To set the record straight Mr. Harper you lie as usual; out of the G-7 countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK & US: Germany ranks #1, Japan #2, France #3, Italy #4, with gains and Canada #5, UK #6 and US #7 have all lost. But out of the 34 OECD countries we linger at #20 with a net loss of jobs not a gain inspite of your voodoo statistics.


Owen Gray said...

What Mark Twain said is true, Mogs. "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."

the salamander said...

.. Jimbo the Harper circus clown ..

People need to look up 'Potemkin Villages'

Yes.. that's Jim Flaherty waving from the shore..
Big shoes.. with 'Action Plan' painted on them ..

Do these dwarts, trolls, thuggies take off the Harper costumes? When they go to dinner, home, play with their children, trundle to church.. or PMO sessions ?

Owen Gray said...

They appear to enjoy being puppets, salamander. For all their strutting, the truth is they are masochists.

liberalandlovingit said...

Anon @ 4:54? ...some ontario voters never forget- i remind those who do...

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Loving It, lots of Ontarians have very short memories.

liberalandlovingit said...

Remembering? Or, not being able to give a damn? I say the latter, as they operate with pure selfishness. The sourge of any society. Believe me, I know them well.

Owen Gray said...

It was that former Ontarian, John Kenneth Galbraith, who said that Conservatives have tried for a long time to find a moral justification for selfishness, Loving It.

liberalandlovingit said...

Good man, he. And they haven't a clue what justice is.It's way long past time, that we let the bottom third percentile of the class, and the rejects, run the school. Never mind build it. Whose idea was that, to listen to the likes of RoFo, Flahbomb and Skin Head Harper, in the first place? That's my question. I've been screaming about this in an echo chamber, my whole life. Except for the first 20 Liberal years. Freedom- you sure notice it when it's gone. Welcome to Kanada...Kon style.

Owen Gray said...

You have to remember, Loving It, that these folks looked at Trudeau Sr. as the Devil incarnate.

When they finally achieved power, they went at their agenda as if they were performing an exorcism.