Mid-Week Musings

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Budgets | Leave a comment

Can you feel that warm front of hope drifting up from Washington DC? No? Not yet? Well, regardless, here are a few random news stories that caught my eye today:

1) For anyone preparing for their SATs, here’s a handy word association to keep in mind: Sheila Fraser is to Paul Martin as Kevin Page is to Stephen Harper.

Today, Page answers the question on everyone’s mind – how long will it take Stephen Harper to undo all the economic gains the Liberals made during their time in power? You can read all the gloomy projections here.

2) The League of Below Average Prime Ministers Strikes Back! Fresh from their annual Christmas pilgrimage to the grave of Arthur Meighen, the League of Below Average Prime Ministers has decided to re-iterate their call for green infrastructure spending.

3) The Liberals are drafting their own budget up – it’s unclear as to whether this will be made public or if it’s a “just in case” document, but I like the optics of it. It shows you’re ready to govern and that you have a plan.

4) Not that they’ll need to implement it.

5) When I first heard that Iggy was spending his holidays finishing his book, I kind of had a “huh? remind me again why he was in such a hurry to take over?” reaction. But now that we know some details about the book, it’s clear it could be a very useful political document. One of the biggest knocks on Ignatieff remains his time outside of the country. And I think it’s a fair critique, since you want a leader who truly understands what it means to be Canadian running the show. Well, if Ignatieff can show he understands Canada in this book, it might go a long way towards easing some of the doubts that voters may have of him. At the very least, it will help him win the votes of the dozens of poli-sci students who will be forced to read it.

6) To drift off-topic for a minute, I must say that both BSG and 24 have been top notch since their January returns (although I could do with the constant monologuing about the pros and cons of torture use on 24…if I wanted that, I’d read a Michael Ignatieff essay. I kid, I kid.). Tonight, Lost is back with a vengeance. Woo!

Alberta’s NDP Budget

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2008 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Budgets | Leave a comment

Those outside of Alberta may have missed it, but something truly remarkable happened in our province yesterday (no, not the snow storm or the Flames win – both small miracles in their own right).

Remember the complaints by some on the right about Flaherty’s 6-8% increase in spending? Well, yesterday, Lyle Oberg brought in the first Stelmach budget which calls for an unprecedented 17% increase in spending. This may very well make Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives the authors of one of the most free spending budgets in Canadian history. After years of gargantuan surpluses, it is projected to shrink to $2.2 billion this year, $1.4 billion in 2008 and $925 million in 2009…that’s assuming no out of budget spending and oil prices which match the forecasts. Most alarmingly, instead of banking the surpluses to the Heritage Fund, 2/3 of all surpluses will be spent onto miscellaneous new projects while only 1/3 will actually be saved.

Despite the massive spending, there’s no real focus. No plan to make Alberta’s Universities world class. Not a penny for the environment. No plan to diversify the economy. No tax cuts. No end to the health care premiums. Not since the Alexei Yashin contract has so much been spent for so little return.

But enough from me, I’ll let Rick Bell do the talking:

This is a mess. The Tories cannot say it is a mess because they created it.

Many Albertans, and many Calgarians, cannot say it is a mess because they supported the making of the mess, where loyalty to the Tories trumped common sense.

But make no mistake about it. The numbers aren’t lying. In the richest province in the land, we have a mess.

So naturally, there’s all kinds of spending on catch-up construction, though off the top there is a big caution.

A good chunk of change is for projects already approved and announced. Lyle Oberg, the finance minister, admits there isn’t a “huge amount” for new projects.

And well over a billion bucks covers the costs going through the roofs not yet built because the Tories, in their wisdom, wait to bang nails big-time until the economy is good and hot.

The most interesting thing about this budget is that it opens up a ton of space for the Liberals to pass the Tories on the right (appropriate since as Transport Minister, Ed Stelmach proposed moving the “fast lane” on highways to the right). A focus on long term planning, the Heritage Fund or tax cuts right now from the ALP could very well force a few on the right to hold their nose and vote Liberal…at the very least it would make it very hard for them to justify their continued support of the PCs.

Random News

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1) Andrew Coyne is waging one heck of a crusade against the Tory budget and I must say – give me a sword! When this guys picks an issue to feel passionate about, you do not want him against you.

Tuesday’s Column

Wednesday’s Column

-And a link to Jack Mintz’s critique of the ever expanding tax code. Next year: tax rebates on dental floss!

2. Stockwell Day is in trouble again…

3. More reports on the new era of peace between provinces and the federal government.

4. The opposition parties pass Paul Martin’s private members bill on the Kelowna Accord which the Tories plan to ignore. Of note, Brian Mulroney has spoken out in favour of the bill.

5. John Ivison has a good article on the potential of the Tories converting to Kyoto. He opens with a brilliant line: “The suggestion from this week’s budget is, if there was a sizeable voting population of Vikings in the country, he’d offer up a few villages in Newfoundland to plunder.”

6. On the flip side, the Liberals are now not only backing Harper’s crime bill, but trying to fast track it.

7. I’ll leave the comments to those in Ontario, but Dalton McGuinty has brought in a pre-election budget of his own.

The Official Budget Response

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Budgets, Humour | Leave a comment

Scott Feschuk is a friggin’ genius

(hat tip OOL)

Bloggers Hotstove

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I was on a special post-budget edition of the Bloggers Hotstove this week with Tasha Kheirriddin and Antonio DiDomizio. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, it can be broken into three parts:

1. Tasha makes some very smart comments on the budget.

2. Antonio and I bicker about the fiscal imbalance (which I can’t for the life of me seem to pronounce properly no matter how hard I try).

3. Antonio goes on an absolutely amazing rant against Mario Dumont.

Anyways, check is out here.

Budget 2007

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I know most of my fellow Libloggers will classify today’s budget as everything from “a disaster” to “the end of Canada”. Personally, I’d say it’s not bad. I mean, with the Canadian economy in the shape it’s in, it’s hard to deliver a bad budget. Harper resisted the urge to go down the typical conservative route of massive upper class tax cuts, massive middle class tax cuts, massive corporate tax cuts, and military spending. It reminds me a lot of the kind of budgets Ralph Goodale delivered during the Martin months; lots of scattershot spending with no real theme and enough pre-election goodies to satisfy everyone and cut off the opposition. With that in mind, a few general comments:

1. There’s some good analysis of the budget here and here.

2. Via Wells comes this gem from Mario Dumont:

The premier called Dumont “an empty shell” last week. Now Dumont says, approximately: “Well, I say he’s a hermit crab. You know what a hermit crab is. It’s those little creatures that have no shell of their own and need somebody else’s shell to live in. Mr. Charest has no record to run on, so he has to run on Stephen Harper’s.”

The BQ supporting the budget certainly is good news for Charest who I still think can salvage a minority win.

3. Andrew Coyne was, predictably, in a bad mood calling this the most free spending budget in the history of confederation.

4. Not that Phil Fontaine is ever happy, but he certainly wasn’t happy with the budget.

5. Danny Williams waging war with Ottawa has become somewhat comical outside of Newfoundland, but I suspect there may be some repercussions for the flip-flop on equalization on the Rock. There are also some votes to be lost in Saskatchewan. That said, there are a lot more votes in Quebec and Ontario than Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, so I doubt Steve will lose much sleep over this.

6. The Liberals and NDP have both been rather ineffective at communicating why this is a bad budget. I’ve watched the coverage and read the press releases and it’s hard to get a clear message or theme as to what’s wrong with the budget from either of them. Obviously Flaherty has done a good job of not giving them anything to latch onto.

7. If Harper was going to “fix” the “fiscal imbalance” by spending in provincial jurisdictions, he should have directed more to education. The post-secondary component of this budget is a joke. More for the RESP program won’t improve access or quality to higher education for any Canadians.

8. Like I said bellow, anyone who thinks this will mean the end of the provinces asking for more from Ottawa needs to lay off the ganja.

So, when all is said and done, a very political savvy budget which won’t do much harm but won’t do anything to drastically improve the lives of Canadians either.

Monday News Roundup

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Daveberta has the run down on the new legislative session in Edmonton and the performance of Mr. Ed thus far. Speaking of which, Stelmach says he’s not ready to pick a fight with Ottawa over the new equalization scheme but I’m guessing Danny Williams won’t be quite so nice.

There weren’t many leaks for the first Harper budget but it looks like secrecy may not prevail this year. The Globe has some speculation here:

The finance minister’s “fix” [for the fiscal imbalance] is expected to include at least $3.5-billion extra for the provinces: about $1-billion more in annual equalization payments, $1-billion in annual transfers for post-secondary education, an already announced $1.5-billion fund to tackle climate change, and possibly more for other infrastructure projects.

Even though I tend to agree with Dion that the fiscal imbalance is the creation of provincial finance ministers with over active imaginations, it’s hard to argue against money for education, the environment, and infrastructure. All the more reason I can’t see the government falling on this budget. Still…I did find this cartoon pretty funny:

In Quebec, Mario Dumont is upset over the “witch hunt” being waged against ADQ candidates. I know! You find one or two candidates who worry that “the ethnics will swamp us” and complain that we “let them wear turbans” and suddenly everyone is on trial…

Out West, it appears the federal Tories are having problems of their own with a BC candidate who exaggerated his resume. As someone whose current resume has “2006 Time Person of the Year” under his accomplishments, I can sympathize with Mr. Pandher.

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