Let's put aside what some of us consider Michael Ignatieff's inexcusable capitulation to Steve Harper's ginormous dud of a recovery stimulus budget. What's done is done and even as Mike gets ready to "swallow hard" on Stephen's package, the question is what has Mr. Ignatieff foisted on Canada?
I was watching the news last night. I thought I could use a bit of inspiration so I watched an American newscast. On cue, there was Obama, outlining his vision for stimulus spending. Surprise, Obama actually has a vision! He outlined projects and programmes that will leave America stronger, more resilient, more competitive.
First and foremost was the overhaul of America's Edison-era power grid. Now there's a stimulus package worth going into deficit for. The existing power grid is antiquated and ureliable and, for America, it's actually dangerous. So, it's an ideal candidate for a major overhaul, a programme that will create the sort of electricity grid America will need in the century to come. Then there was a major renewal programme for the nation's highways and bridges. Again, big investment for long-term dividends.
So, just what vision did Stephen Harper bring to Canada's stimulus budget that Michael Ignatieff found so irresistible? What visionary programmes did these two offer a worried Canadian people in their moment of uncertainty? What are we getting? New highways? A new national railroad? Airports, bridges, harbours, schools, what exactly? Exactly.
These two guys turned up for their showdown with no vision. Their best effort was a plan to have the feds borrow billions in deficit bucks and hope somebody else can find something to spend it on. Jesus Christ on a crutch, that's all Canada's two top politicians had to show for their two month Christmas holiday!
I've said quite a bit on Blind Steve leading Blind Mike, so I'll let the Toronto Star's James Travers have a go:
.Canada's ruling elite is what your grandmother might have called hard of hearing. Even when opportunity pounds on the door, as it is now, politicians are too preoccupied with politics to respond
Bad as these times are, they are surprisingly good for making the difference party leaders loudly promise before quietly forgetting. This country has work to do and the money to do it while waiting to be dragged out of the recession it was dragged into by the U.S. Better yet, politicians have public permission to dance with the deficit devil to get the job done.
What that means is this: Between now and when bust swings back toward boom, Canada has a chance to dramatically raise its game. It could make cities more habitable, energize lethargic productivity or open sclerotic trade arteries to southern, sustaining markets. It could get serious about shading brown to green, making Canadians the big-brains of the knowledge economy or erasing the national stain of aboriginal despair.
Beyond vision and focus, establishing clear, quantifiable objectives would demand some of the courage and purpose past generations found in confronting fascism and outlasting the Great Depression. That would ask a lot of fortunate Canadians who don't want for much. So ruling Conservatives, with the conditional approval of opposition Liberals, will be satisfied if you build a deck, buy a furnace or pocket a modest tax cut.
Measured only against the list of beneficiaries, the billions to be spent, and the government's escape, the budget could easily be mistaken for a success. Instead, it's a crushing disappointment. In saving themselves, Tories fell back on the mushy-middle, high-cost, low-return politics and policies of the last century. In failing to seize the moment, they failed to invite Canadians to rise to the occasion.
But it's also true, as well as self-evident, that just getting by is no longer good enough. By not investing shrewdly in the future, Canada squandered a decade of surpluses. Now politicians are so absorbed in partisan games that they're deaf to the opportunity that, along with deficits, has come knocking.
So, yeah, please remind me again what a brilliant coup the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada achieved in backing this stillborn stimulus budget. Coming off his masterful performance on the Gaza crisis, Iggy has succeeded in lowering the bar yet again.