Thursday, January 29, 2009

No Matter How You Cut It, Ignatieff Failed Canada

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.


Unknown said...

I don't know if you know this but Layton and the NDP have been talking about modernizing the power grid and creating a east-west grid for a few years and ramped up talk about it during the election.

The Mound of Sound said...

No I wasn't aware of it. I'm of the school that believes no one has a monopoly on good ideas, that they can come quite often from the left or right, especially when they're logical and cleansed of ideological drawbacks.

God knows the Libs and Cons have bought into a visionless scheme that leaves it wide open for Layton to come out with his own alternative stimulus plan, complete with buckets of vision. He ought to find a very receptive audience for it, if only because no one else is willing to offer that sort of leadership.

Unknown said...

The difficulty is that the loads of great ideas that have been proposed by the NDP are ignored by a media that is solely focused on a horse race between two horses of the same colour (this is more true of the LPC under Iggy than under any previous leader IMHO).

I hope that more bloggers who are liberal/progressive but unaligned or less aligned (given Iggy's leadership) might now take the time to look over what the NDP has and is saying and offer a non-partisan analysis and critique.

I don't ask for allegiance but a fair appraisal. I would love to see you do this in particular (maybe Red Tory too) because I do think that you have some interesting things to say.

The Mound of Sound said...

Point me in the right direction and I'll be happy to take a look.