Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Conservative Economic Inaction Plan

The Liberal report on the government's economic "inaction" plan is to be released this morning. Following on the heels of the news of the week, that the government has spent five times the amount of money on the advertising as it has on H1N1 public health advertising, infrastructure critic Gerard Kennedy's report is more damaging news. Kennedy finds that only 12 percent, not 80 percent, of the moneys for infrastructure have flowed thus far. And that this means a maximum of 4800 jobs have been created in total, not the 40,000 advertised.
Thus far, Kennedy said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has announced 1,697 projects worth $2.6 billion.

Liberals were able to directly contact people involved in 946 of those projects. Of those, he said they found construction has actually started on only 224 projects.

Extrapolating those results over the other projects they weren't able to contact, Kennedy said Liberal researchers concluded that only 12 per cent of the $4 billion fund has flowed.

So, there's much more talk here than work that is starting. It's been "announce-a-rama," as Kennedy puts it. Even the projects announced by Harper himself have been misleading, with 14 of 16 being "...regular, pre-recession infrastructure programs, have been in the works for years and will take years to complete."

Further, we've been getting hints to date as to the partisan nature of the infrastructure allocation that's been going on, in Kennedy's daily broadsides in the House of Commons of late that even Conservative-leaning commentators have taken note. That aspect is also set out in the report, B.C. figure emphasized for obvious reasons.:
The average Conservative riding got 13 times as much money as the average opposition riding in British Columbia, 2.7 times as much in Quebec. In Ontario, Conservative ridings got 11 per cent more than opposition ridings.
These two points, that little of the work has started and that what has been approved is going into Conservative ridings to a much greater extent, underscore just how incredible it is that the Conservatives have nevertheless pumped their p.r. effort of late on the economic action plan. It's a misplaced and cynical direction of energy and resources:
Even though the work on the projects is badly behind schedule, Kennedy said Wednesday the government has ratcheted up its "propaganda" machine in the last few weeks to promote its efforts to battle the recession, including a $34-million advertising campaign.

Among other things, he said municipalities have been required to stipulate that they'll post big signs at federally-funded construction projects boasting about "Canada's economic action plan at work."

"If they'd spent as much time on helping to create jobs for Canadians as they have on the spin and the image they're trying to create, we'd have a lot more people working for sure," Kennedy said in an interview.

"We're saying this is quite serious. This is not just a badly run program or politics as usual. This is a prime minister letting the country down on undertakings he made."
This looks like major federal incompetence in action. This government is blowing its own horn, spending our money in doing so on ads and big brother-like work site signs when there's little to tout. They're not doing the hard work of getting the funding out to make sure jobs are being created. And they've politicized the spending to such an extent, it's difficult to characterize it as anything but a breach of trust for failing to act in the best interests of all Canadians instead of favouring those living in Conservative held ridings.

They're hard-wired for partisanship, not good government.