Sunday, April 26, 2015

It Deserves A Horse Laugh


The tabling of the budget last week signalled the beginning of the election campaign.  A careful reading of the document makes clear that Stephen Harper's election strategy will be rooted in deceit. Michael Harris wrote:

Still, no one should be surprised. This misbegotten government’s modus operandi is about much more than information control. It’s about soaring, jet-propelled skullduggery in a never-ending political campaign. It’s a power fantasy. It’s Steve’s way.

Armed with his narrative of convenience, Harper programs the electorate with fictions of prosperity, compassion and prudence. In the real world, he acts quite differently. There, he underfunds Coast Guard stations, veterans’ offices, First Nations tribal councils, railway inspections, scientific research and Employment Insurance processing.

Mr. Oliver's budget is full of the new math -- the kind that doesn't add up:

Numbers have a wonderfully elastic quality to them; like Harper cabinet ministers, they say what they’re told to say. Numbers are the favourite tool of fraudsters and politicians alike. One swindles money, the other swindles votes.

Under the old system, the minister assumed an unchanged price for oil over five years in making his projections. But Joe Oliver, viewing the resource landscape through rose-coloured bifocals, is predicting that the price of oil will increase in each of the next five years.

No matter what he says, the minister can’t see into the future. For us to believe his revenue forecast, we have to blind ourselves to some obvious facts. There’s a price war going on in the oil industry. Key producers are turning on the taps to put weaker players with a costlier product out of business. Major producers like Saudi Arabia are also hedging against any softening of long-term demand for their product — because of a working climate change treaty, for example. The last thing they want is to create a situation where demand diminishes or disappears well ahead of supply. The fastest way to diminish demand is to make oil so expensive that it encourages the rapid development not only of costlier product — like tar sands bitumen or fracked oil — but of renewables, like solar.

But besides the convenient oil calculations, there are all kinds of other examples of sleight of hand:

He didn’t, for example, explain that the government is effectively abandoning infrastructure investment until 2017, at which point it proposes to come across with chump change. He didn’t mention the national yard sale the Harper government has been running to funnel public asset value towards balancing the books. (Selling an asset to balance a budget isn’t good management. It’s desperation.)

The final item of fiscal trickery in the budget was almost too brazen to imagine. Oliver slyly waited for the new fiscal year before bringing down his budget — and promptly dumped the government’s last remaining shares it held in General Motors as a result of the 2009 auto bailout.

This allowed Oliver to use $2.1 billion to help balance the budget. It was the most expensive $2.1 billion any Canadian government ever made, given that it imposed a $3.5 billion loss on taxpayers in Canada and Ontario. Market analysts thought it was a bad time to sell. Even the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge pointed out to Oliver that had he waited just two more weeks to sell, Canada would have received an extra $100,000,000 for the shares. Prudent fiscal management — or just another costly bonbon for Goldman Sachs, the buyer?

Sound fiscal management? You bet. If there ever was a budget that deserved a horse laugh, this it it.

Just one personal note: My mother died on Friday. She died as she had lived: determined to cling to life as she became increasingly fragile. She was, as Dan Ackroyd said of Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy, a doodle. And now she's free.

We'll be away for a couple of days this week to attend her funeral.


Lorne said...

Condolences on the loss of your mother, Owen. I felt the same way when my mother died: she was finally free.

Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathies. She sounded like a brave woman. Have a safe trip.

It was clear that the budget was targeted at two strong components of his base, the seniors and the wealthy. His strategy has always been to keep his base happy (25-30% voters) and then strive to fool another 5-10% of voters and he would already have a minority at the least.

Which of course leads one to wonder why the opposition parties, and recently the Liberals, are so intent on keeping him in power by splitting the center and center left votes.

Just spoke to a Liberal supporter yesterday and he was denying that Junior had publicly disavowed a coalition or even co-operating with the NDP. Thus it seems that it is not only Cons supporters who lare delusional but at least a few Liberals as well.

Danneau said...

Condolences on both Mother and Budget.

the salamander said...

.. Harpet et al.. Oliver.. Poilievre MacKay Agluukaq Ambrose Leitch Kenney.. One is left to grimly summon enough humor for a horse laugh..

Its become a twisted mixture of rapture base holy roller carpet bagger power grab. The smug ignorance of standing to clap or to shrug off real questions via scripted talking points.. the group grope of dogma under Harper

Its as if all Canada and Canadians shall be schooled as if The Harper Party is righteous residential religion, the dour budget as doctrine.. The caucus room as Sunday School for dim missionaries.. political pawn evangelists in training to strip savage citizenry of privacy, pride and independance.. and democracy

All under wonder boy genius Harper who the great energy gawd speaks to from on high.. or Israel or China.. or wherever Harper colllects his shallow ideology from.. Its a disgrace.. too much of this country trusts in entitled fools who cannot stop making it up as they go..

Sweet of you to mention your Mom's passing.. a life well lived I hope.. a doodle ! Shame she had to witness a creep like Harper for her late years

Scotian said...

My sympathies, condolences, and best wishes to you and yours during this time of intense personal reflections and emotions. I'd say more except what is there more to say in such times? Even I, the bloviator know when to keep it short at least once in a while...*wry grin* Take care of yourselves.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks, Scotian. It's not a matter of length. It's the sincerity that counts.

Owen Gray said...

Hers was a life well lived, salamander. There was nothing artificial about her -- unlike the folks you have mentioned.

Owen Gray said...

We have multiple reasons to mourn, Danneau.

Anonymous said...

Um Owen um when you are indebted @ .614++++++ trillion or if you want that said another way $614++++++ billion how can you possibly have a balanced budget?

Okay okay so can I say that one more time? Okay so suppose I have ten loonies to my name but hold on tight I owe the banks one hundred thousand dollars. Have I "balanced" my budget too? They are fools and they ain't foolin me...


Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Anon. This is not a time for wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking will leave Mr. Harper where he is.

Owen Gray said...

It's a shell game, Mogs. Keep the audience's eyes on the pea and deflect their focus from the man who's moving the shells.

Owen Gray said...

I understand completely, Lorne. It was a tough day for us. But it was a terrific day for my mother.

Anonymous said...

Owen your mom lived a long and fear free life she is lucky to escape the Harper-con steam roller we all face.

My mom died when I was nineteen years of age. One of the toughest moments I ever had to face and one of the sadist I cried for hours.

After all your mom is your best friend when you are growing up as a child. Dad's are in second place.

Blessings to you Owen and cheers,

Mogs Moglio

Dana said...

My condolences on your loss, Owen. Celebrate her well and fully. Free, indeed.

Anonymous said...

I and my two older sisters showed up at my dad's well before he died. Death it was a nice closure. My oldest sister called me and said "Do you know dad is dying?" I replied what are you talking about?

Even though he now lived in the excited states I called him and made him promise me he would not die before I gave him a last hug goodbye. Well it was June and until I could get my shit together [sorry for the strong language] it was October and he kept his promise I got to say goodbye in person.

It is really harsh when you lose a parent but more so if you lose a partner in life.


Keep your chin up.

Anonymous said...

My condolences Owen.

Rural said...

My sympathies to you and yours also Owen. Should Harper fool the public enough to get back in we may all wish for "release" I know there are times when seeing what he is doing to us that I feel very fortunate to be in the latter part of my life!

Owen Gray said...

One gets the impression, Rural, that Mr. Harper would prefer to let his granddaughter clean up the mess he has created.

Owen Gray said...

Thank you, Anon.

Owen Gray said...

All of my siblings and I are doing our best, Mogs.

Owen Gray said...

Hers was a long life well lived, Dana.

Owen Gray said...

Thank you, Mogs.

Kirby Evans said...

Good post Owen. I wonder if the capitalist will admit how poorly this government has managed the economy or whether they too will bury their heads in the sand?

As you know, I lost my dad a few years ago. We talked about the struggle and sadness then. And you offered me many words of encouragement and support. My condolences to you and all the best. The struggle continues, the mantle moves on.

Owen Gray said...

The mantle passes from one generation to the next, Kirby. And history judges how well each generation recognizes and solves the problems it encounters.

I worry that history will judge us harshly.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

We DO deserve to be judged harshly by history for this period. The signs and information were all there for people to see, Harper has never been shy about his true nature and agendas, and yet he was enabled time and again not just by those on his side by by those who were supposed to be our protectors from this kind of right wing zealot. When the great challenge of our times came people retreated to within their respective petty partisanships instead of rising above, and uniting to prevent the great Destroyer and Salter of the Scorched Earth with his clear agenda of progressive and centrist governing structures elimination and destruction from reaching the power to enact this horror.

I mean really, in those last fights with Martin he even said himself about how the Liberal civil service and courts would protect us from him, the fact that Harper even said that should have been a massive alarm to anyone who actually gave a damn about our system itself regardless of their usual partisan preferences, be they PCPC, Lib, or NDP! Then the NDP deliberately took the path of not opposing Harper and his agenda first and foremost but instead continuing to primarily work towards the annihilation of the Liberals as a party even AFTER they were no longer the government from 2006 through to the last election. While I will never say the Libs didn't have their own issues in all of this, they were the ONLY party with a national voice that kept warning of just how scary dangerous Harper was, and instead of reinforcing that truthful argument the NDP chose to aid in normalizing the Harper CPC with many things, not least that Lib Tory Same Old Story false equivalence!

I mean no small part of the reason I have such burning rage in my soul for the NDP these days is precisely because they let me and those like my wife down when we needed them most to truly be that party of principles first, and then not content with that sellout they continue to act like they are that party and claim only they can be trusted with power. Really??? Based on such wonderful decision making so far that has set back the progressive agenda, the agenda the NDP itself is supposed to consider its core values and mission/purpose for being by literally decades? Far more than not just anything but EVERYTHING the Libs may have done to undercut those policies and values over the last few decades?

We deserve every bit of the harsh judgment coming from history, because we saw how this sort of politics plays out from watching the rise of the GOP machine from the Reagan years to the Gingrich Revolution culminating in the GWB/Cheney Administration next door. We had the forewarning, and I remember how so many Canadians, especially progressive Canadians during the GWB years were so smug about how we would never let something like that happen here. Well, here we are.

To be concluded...

Scotian said...


So much of my anger, fury and distrust of the current NDP and not wanting them to win in this election comes from the fact that they proved themselves to be untrustworthy when and where it mattered most, even or perhaps especially when it came to defending their own stated core beliefs and values! When I measure them by the standard they themselves have laid out for themselves they failed across the board, and the fact that so few Dippers seem to be able to face that truth despite the reality staring us all in the face is one of the main reasons after my demographics argument why I do not want them getting the main anti-Harper support this time out. The Libs, for all their own issues, generally have provided competent government and left us with a Canada we loved and recognized as reflecting our values. I'm not sure what to expect anymore from the federal NDP seeing as they have shown beyond all doubt to not be the party they once were, and that failure is going to be one of the main reasons why we all deserve history's harsh judgment IMHO.

As I said many times before Layton's political legacy and epitaph will should and I believe history will have it be "he won the battle to lose the war". I know I rant about the NDP a lot, but I do so because of how much they failed us all, including their own core base, when their values most needed defending from the worst threat they have ever faced, and yet they still want to claim they are the ones we should turn to now that all this damage was done? For me, I would suggest history should judge us that much more harshly again should we be foolish enough to actually reward such base expediency and clearly non-existent or at the very least secondary principles/values to the pursuit of power in a party.

I hold the NDP in particular to such because they were the ones with the power and position to stop this and instead not only failed to do so but actually allied with Harper because they both were more interested in the destruction of the Liberal party. As I said in the past at the time, were we seeing this with the NDP and the old PCPC I would have said let things shake out as they will, but that with Harper and his CPC it was something far too dangerous for us all, and I was right. The NDP leadership clearly saw what Harper was yet chose to allow him to gain and hold power for a decade thinking they would become the natural alternative afterwards despite the damages that would be done rather than allow the Libs any chance to survive.

Given the clear antipathy Harper has always had for anything progressive, and indeed even typically centrist Canadian in values and policies, this can only be seen as a direct selling out in the pursuit of naked power of all those core values and beliefs the NDP had stood for since its creation, by their own words and historical deeds. So why, Why WHY should they be allowed to profit from such treachery, why should any of us trust that they will in power be any less driven first by expediency than by anything resembling real values than their actions already showed over the last decade? THAT is why I have such issues with the idea of the NDP winning this time out even after my demographics argument, and it is the underpinning of why I believe history really should judge us all for this period very harshly indeed, ESPECIALLY those smug sanctimonious progressives!

Owen Gray said...

Your explanation of how we got here is thorough. I can't argue with any of it, Scotian.

What bothers me now is the thought that, by putting party before country, both the Liberals and the Dippers will make Harper king yet again.

Alison said...

My sympathies on the loss of your mum, Owen. A couple of years down the road from the loss of my own mother, I find she has become unmoored in time in my memory, existing for me now at all different times of her life at once and not just her frail end.
Care to you and yours.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Alison. A cousin sent a picture to us yesterday of my mother holding me as a baby.

I looked like I had gas. My mother looked like she was enjoying being my mother. That is how I will remember her.

Steve said...

Owen it hurts to lose ones mother, my sympathies.

Owen Gray said...

Thank you, Steve.