Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So Where's the Stimulation?

One of the tests of a government is how well it handles a crisis. The Harper government failed us on the H1N1, resorting to their usual blame game. However, it would appear that their economic action plan is another dud. An extravaganza ad campaign, financed by the taxpayers, but much of the money went to areas that didn't need stimulating at all.

Now it's easy to say that there was a sense of urgency, but if that was the case, how were they able to so cleverly funnel the money into their own ridings, focusing on those of cabinet minsters or seats they risked losing? It took a lot of effort, so why not put a little effort into determining which places in Canada were the most vulnerable?

The Canada Press conducted a study into the spending and found that "Areas that benefit most from spending measures have unemployment rates below provincial averages."

Canada's high jobless regions are losing out as billions in federal stimulus money flows into areas that have been spared the worst of the recession, an analysis by The Canadian Press suggests.

In six provinces, areas that benefit most from stimulus spending actually have unemployment rates well below the provincial average.

Stimulus dollars for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been poured into regions where workers have been faring comparatively well.

And the area that has seen Canada's most serious deterioration in employment – the Cariboo region in the B.C. Interior – has seen no special treatment from the federal stimulus plan.

“We need to look at creating jobs. And I don't see that happening,” said Robert Leclerc, president of the Quesnel and District Labour Council, in the Cariboo. “I feel sorry for the pulp mill workers. Who knows what they're going to do?”

There is no easy way to account for jobs created by the $16-billion spending program. Unlike in the United States, Canadian officials did not ask funding recipients to provide information on job creation. Instead, Ottawa relies on a macro-economic formula to estimate how much employment should result.

To determine whether stimulus money has been flowing to areas struggling to deal with the recession, The Canadian Press crunched its own numbers to link spending to unemployment rates.

The analysis follows a similar but separate Canadian Press study that found the stimulus money was heavily biased in favour of Conservative ridings.

In a joint report by the Ottawa Citizen and Halifax Chronicle, they concluded that:

The first in-depth independent analysis of federal stimulus spending shows Conservative ridings received millions more than ridings represented by opposition MPs.

The investigation -- a two-week project by the Halifax Chronicle Herald, the Citizen and journalism students from Ottawa's Algonquin College -- found that across the country, Conservative ridings took in $4.7 billion, more than half of the $8.5 billion announced under the federal government's Building Canada infrastructure program, mostly for paving, water, sewer and transit programs.

The analysis found that the federal government has announced, on average, $32.8 million in infrastructure spending in each Conservative riding, $9.2 million more than in opposition ridings.

The riding that received the most money -- $247 million -- is Liberal Ken Dryden's York Centre, which benefits from a third of the largest single infrastructure project in the country, the $697-million York Subway Extension, which cuts across three Toronto ridings. However, this shouldn't have been included in the Action Plan total because this project was approved in 2007, long before the recession hit.

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