Canada: Now Hiring

By Dufour, Maurice | Canadian Dimension, November-December 2009 | Go to article overview

Canada: Now Hiring


Dufour, Maurice, Canadian Dimension


IT SHOULD BE CLEAR BY NOW that Canada's current political leaders suffer from a grave affliction, one that is manifesting itself with disturbing regularity. Evidence of the severity of the ailment was revealed in April this year, when the economy was still in free fall. "The worst aspects of instability ... are behind us," claimed our prime minister in front of slack-jawed reporters. Canada's finance minister, Jim Flaherty, also exhibited signs of the same debilitating malady when he announced the same month that the country was facing a "relatively ... mild economic recession." (Similar shocking remarks have been made by Tony Clement, Canada's industry minister ... but that's another Tory.)

At first, the Tories were believed to be suffering from a common political bipolar disorder, which causes them to be conservative with the truth and liberal with the lies. But now that the Tories are talking about a "recovery" amidst mounting job losses, many Canadians now suspect the disorder has morphed into "autawaism." An acute form of autism uniquely found in our nation's capital, this degenerative illness is characterized by an obsession with phony numbers, compulsive self-contradiction, ritualistic adherence to failed economic policies and, ultimately, complete withdrawal from reality.

The Tories' wonky economic projections are the most obvious sign the disease is progressing uncontrollably. As Leader of the Opposition, Harper accused the liberal government in 2004 of being "wildly inaccurate in its forecasts and spending projections." True. But, since they've been in office, the Tories' cynical manipulation of economic data has reportedly made even former Enron accountants envious.

Last year, for example, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) heaped scorn on the Conservatives' budget forecasts which, it determined, were regularly being fudged. By announcing a string of "surprise surpluses" year after year, the Harper government was apparently trying to incite public demand for tax cuts, even though Canada is actually "a low-intermediate tax country," according to the CGA.

This summer, another budget "surprise" was announced, but it was one that yielded an altogether different public reaction. After being promised never-ending surpluses, Canadians were shocked to discover that Canada was suffering its biggest deficit in history. Not to worry, Flaherty subsequently insisted: Canada's budget will be back in the black by 2014 to the tune of $700 million.

No sooner had Flaherty spoken than this projected surplus was transformed into a $17 billion deficit by Kevin Page of the Parliamentary Budget Office. Here we can see evidence of how quickly the illness has degenerated. Sadly, the Conservatives can no longer distinguish between positive and negative numbers.

The official pronouncements out of Ottawa concerning the government's "progress" in stemming greenhouse gases is symptomatic of a dangerous new phase in the illness: the impairment of the very ability to count. This was made clear by a disturbing revelation contained in a recent report by Scott Vaughan, Canada's environment commissioner. According to the commissioner, not only has the government been overstating its cuts to greenhouse gases, but it is unable to show how it arrived at its numbers.

This might not come as much of a shock to most Canadians, who never had any illusions about the Tories' sincerity in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. However, Canadians are still reeling from the news of the Tories' recent corporate bailouts. Recall that it was Harper who pledged in the 2004 electoral campaign to end "corporate welfare" ("the reckless use of taxpayers' dollars will make us less competitive," he warned).

Now that the Tories are announcing that our economy has turned the corner, while the OECD is projecting the unemployment rate to climb to 10 percent, Canadians are fearing the worst: Canada's political leaders have lost their grip on reality entirely and are now in need of professional medical care. …

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