Tuesday, October 19, 2010

If we Remain Cynical we Lose Hope. I have Hope.

James Travers has another excellent column in the Star about the fairy tale economic predictions and the importance of honesty. It was a cynical column, reflective of the Canadian mood, I'm afraid.
Let’s be perfectly honest: Sometime before the Millennium, “spin” crept into the political vernacular as an elastic substitute for “truth”. Old promises were recycled as new, brush was furiously dragged across the money trail and governments flying both red and blue colours found ever more inventive ways to frustrate the public’s right to know.
We can add orange to that spectrum, as politics have become far too political, and Jack Layton is not immune to the disease. He's just never formed a government, and if the corporate sector have anything to say about it, never will.

Some people wonder why I'm promoting Michael Ignatieff and my friends wonder why the Liberal Party. I was never really a fan. I am a conservative at heart, but not this new brand of conservatism. Never.

I say that I was "pushed to the left" when the Progressive Conservatives folded in 2003, ending a 150 year old tradition, but I realize that my politics really haven't changed. I wasn't pushed anywhere. I'm still smack dab in the centre. And Stephen Harper killed the only other party in the centre, so I guess I'm a Liberal now. And it's not so bad.

I like Michael Ignatieff's new video. He reminds us that he is not a career politician.

It has been said that he would make an excellent prime minister but a lousy politician. When he tried the honesty thing, once suggesting that "no leader would be worthy of the name if he or she didn’t place the possibility of raising taxes on a long list of future considerations if a deficit couldn’t be brought under control", he inadvertently created a bombshell.

It was the kind of honesty Travers claims he was looking for. But what happened after he made that remark? Glenn Pearson was there and describes the inevitable results.
Political staffers mulled around, worried that it would be taken out of context, which it inevitably was. Media had a field day with it. Ignatieff, suffering from a gruelling cold, sat in a chair prior to the event in London and wondered what became of honesty in the public space. The very next day in the House, Conservative members used every possible occasion to ridicule Ignatieff, calling him just another “tax and spend” Liberal. The media ate it up.
So the media can be critical of politicians who lie, but they don't really encourage honesty. Honesty doesn't sell. They need sensationalism, and if that creates a cynical public, turned off political showmanship, it's not their problem. They got their story.

And then they wonder why politicians lie. In my best Jack Nicholson, they "can't handle the truth".

I liked Michael Ignatieff, because I had read several of his books, and he understood what it means to be a distinctly Canadian. His intellect is not in cunning or political strategy. When he "thinks" it's not about how he can knee cap his opponent. His message is positive and sometimes painfully honest.

The fantasy today is that Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper are economic wizards. And that's because they know what to say to make people believe that, even though it is an absolute lie. As Travers says:
After hitching party fortunes to the twin myths that he’s a practiced economist and a prudent manager, Stephen Harper is now misleading the country about its immediate past and imminent future. Two truths are particularly inconvenient for this Prime Minister. One is that record Conservative spending had Ottawa heading for deficits long before the financial crash and economic stimulus made them inevitable. The other is that this government has no credible plan for balancing our books.

Harper and sidekick Jim Flaherty blew enough smoke to obscure looming deficits during the last election. Now they are counting on voters to suspend disbelief long enough to carry Conservatives safely through the next.
The Liberals are now offering a viable solution. We've already accepted that it will not be painless, so I think we should hear them out. And they are willing to cancel those damn corporate tax cuts.

The message was the same in all three locations: the Liberals would balance the budget in roughly the same time frame as the Conservatives, but would cancel about $6 billion in future corporate tax cuts to spend on Canadians. As well, they would re-establish the "prudence" fund put in place by Paul Martin when he was finance minister to guard against unexpected economic downturns.

And they say they will not introduce any new spending measures that would increase the deficit. "I am no pirate," Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale told the Economic Club in Ottawa in reference to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's
charge that "nothing would be safe" under the Liberals. "Fiscal responsibility, certainly. That's part of our Liberal brand and unlike (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper, we have a track record to prove it."

In Toronto, finance critic Scott Brison said the country cannot afford any more corporate tax cuts while there is a deficit. The full-court press, with Leader Michael Ignatieff holding a town-hall meeting in Guelph, Ont., to round out the program, was meant to counter Conservative charges that the Liberals would act irresponsibly in government. The accusation is particularly galling to Liberals because they believe their record of building surpluses prior to the Conservative victory in 2006 is a key reason Canada outperformed the rest of the G7 economies during the recession.

Their record does speak for itself, and every economist agrees that we weathered the storm because of measures put in place by the Liberals.

Michael Ignatieff wasn't involved in the sponsorship scandal anymore than Stephen Harper was behind Brian Mulroney's deficit. It's time to move on.
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." Abraham Lincoln.

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