The federal government's announced $50-billion deficit has a lot of Liberals positively giggling with delight.
I'm trying to understand that.
What possible joy is there to be found in a massive budget deficit? Do we derive some satisfaction in knowing that a future generation of Canadians is going to have to shoulder this debt? Do we believe that the government of the day shouldn't be pumping billions of dollars into the economy in stimulus spending? If so, why did the Liberal party vote for Harper's budget?
It's not like we didn't have that forced, 2-month vacation when the GG prorogued parliament to work out some alternative, recession-fighting budget proposal of our own. But when parliament did return, we didn't have any alternative to throw in Harper's face. We were left to support or defeat the Conservatives on Harper's budget and we did just that, we supported that budget.
And with the greatest fiscal crisis faced by Canadians in at least two generations, what was our new Leader doing? From what he wrote it seems he was taking the time to complete his latest book, a tract on his mother's family that may be of real interest to his fan club but probably won't do much to benefit the country in its moment of need.
So the Conservatives, with the complicity of the Liberals, managed to foist off onto the nation and the Canadian people a sham of a stimulus budget, devoid of purpose or vision but who could expect anything better from a government as persistently inept as Harper's? That's the thing. We had every reason to assume he wouldn't come up with any meaningful stimulus mechanisms in his budget and so we had every reason to put together a meaningful alternative, something clearly understandable that would appeal to worried Canadians, and then club Harper over the head with it on the budget vote.
The leadership of our party did not take that opportunity to genuinely help the country and so we were left in a box of our own making, forced to support a horrible budget because we had nothing on which to win an election.
So, running true to form, Flaherty and Harper once again underestimated the severity of the fiscal mess and the measure of the deficit we'll be enduring. Yawn. We still haven't come up with clear-headed alternatives to the Pinata budget even though Flaherty hasn't even dipped deep into the stimulus fund yet.
In case you're wondering why I'm adamantly opposed to the Pinata budget, I'll try to explain briefly. The budget is an instrument of rank cowardice. Harper was willing to borrow a lot of money but absolutely shunned responsibility for how that money would be spent. Instead he decided to simply dole it out in a haphazard fashion to any qualified recipient who could get an application in on time.
To be effective, stimulus spending must be strictly held to projects that represent new economic activity in the form of investments that will enrich the nation in decades to come to offset the burden taxpayers will then be carrying. Think FDR. Think national projects to build schools, highways, airports, dams. Pre-war stimulus spending that paid enormous returns during America's post-war boom.
Unfortunately that's not what we're getting out of the Harper/Ignatieff budget and I don't see anything to gloat about in that.