Do we care?
When it comes to federal politics, this has been quite a week and I cannot help but wonder how many Canadians really give a damn.
First, we had the government’s economic statement. It was devastating. Much of it necessary, but, devastating nevertheless.
None of us were ready for a pandemic. But the Trudeau Government was less than prepared, not even for a widely anticipated slowdown in the economy, let alone a pandemic. As Andrew Coyne said in the Globe and Mail, they should have been paying off debt and preparing for an economic turndown for the past five years.
But they didn’t. Instead, as more than one critic has said, they were spending money like kids in a candy store and, in some ways, they still are. When first elected, they projected a deficit of $10 billion. By September of last year, they had managed to turn that into a deficit of $28 billion, almost tripled.
And now, with the pandemic spending, putting it all together, we face a deficit of $343.2 billion and a national debt of more than one trillion dollars! Here is what that looks like: $1,000,000,000,000.
And don’t kid yourself, it is not pretend money. One way or another, it will have to be paid back. At this point, it represents a debt of about $26.6 thousand for every man, woman and child in Canada. That is without any new spending or pandemic surprises.
When the economy is seriously threatened, as it is in a recession, a war or a pandemic, it is necessary for the government to spend money, especially to help those who are adversely affected. Few people will argue with that. It would be helpful if they were prepared for it, but in any event, they have to do it.
But even during a pandemic, it is hard to determine, with a government who has a demonstrated penchant for spending money, how much of it is really necessary and how much is thrown in under the guise of crisis spending for political reasons.
Robert Benzie, a Toronto Star journalist and often, in my view, a Liberal apologist, said it best. “There is nothing Justin Trudeau likes more than handing a cheque to millions of voters…but at some point, someone has to pay the piper.” He has that right.
The more challenging the crisis, the more governments tend to grab power and the more potential there is for the mismanagement of public funds and therefore comes the real need for effective accountability and oversight by Parliament.
When that is supressed, as it has been by the Trudeau Government, then you know that the table is set for things that should not happen.
There are a number of examples where the Trudeau Government, under the COVID-19 umbrella, have given away money—gifts really—where there was not a serious need but certainly a political or personal advantage. I have outlined some of these in previous columns. But the granddaddy of them all is the ever growing WE Charity scandal.
There are of course the issues of ethics and conflict of interest; the sole sourcing without competition of a $900-million contract, including a $19-million fee to an organization that paid out more than $300,000 to the prime minister’s mother, wife and brother as well as employing children of the minister of finance, neither of whom thought it necessary to distance themselves from the matter. It certainly doesn’t sound like an arms-length relationship to me.
But let others take that on. Frankly, I am more concerned about the $900 million of taxpayers’ money, added to our debt, that went to WE Charity for a “volunteer” student jobs program. Why was it necessary?
There was already in place an initiative called the Canada Summer Jobs Program which provides grants for student summer jobs. In addition, there is a COVID-19 program to assist students with costs related to college and university fees. Further, there appears to be no shortage of summer jobs for students who really want one. Just talk to organizations who have a role in helping these young people find employment. In many cases, there are more jobs available than there are people to fill them.
So, what is really going on here? What is it we don’t know and, assuming everything is on the up and up, why was it important for the government to give more money to WE Charity and yet another student program than they have given to Canada’s farming community who have suffered significantly from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Two comments have caught my attention this week. The first was from Prime Minister Trudeau who said, in defense of the projected $343.2 billion deficit, “We [the government]took on debt so Canadians don’t have to.”
He really doesn’t get it and there’s the rub. The government does not have a dime of its own. When they spend money, they spend Canadians’ money, and when they incur debt, they incur it on the shoulders of Canadians who must pay it back.
The second one came from someone who commented on Doppler about my article last week. He said this: “Thanks for demonstrating once again the truth about Conservatives. You care more about money than you do about people who struggle to survive.”
Actually, as I see it, Conservatives care as much about people who struggle to survive as anyone else. The difference is that they believe there is a need to have the money to pay for it. Without that as a priority, without controlled and strategic spending, the well will eventually run dry.
That is not a theory. That is an inevitable fact. Then the very people who need help from government will not get it. The cupboard will be bare. We need to think seriously about that.
It really is something we ought to give a damn about.
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