Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The big year ender

So we got a little preview last night on CTV of the coming end of year sit down among Harper, Bob Fife and Lloyd Robertson of CTV. There's a video preview there at the link. CTV is the only English language network to be granted an interview with his highness, blessed art CTV amongst networks. A major departure from previous years. But are we surprised? No. And maybe a bit thankful given the glimpse of content that we did see. There's only so much of this year end blather a discerning citizen can take.

First issue for Canadians to be apprised of at year end...why it's all coming up roses in terms of handling that monster deficit. No problemo, says Harper, adopting a moderate tone meant for the viewing audience, and giving us the p.r. tested spin:
He says the deficit can be wiped out with restraint in Ottawa, and without tax increases.

“The government's approach will be clear. We won't be raising taxes, but we will be constraining growth, making sure that growth is very much contained in the future, and that the tax base of the country can gradually recover,” Mr. Harper said in a year-end interview for CTV's A Conversation with the Prime Minister , taped for a Boxing Day broadcast.

“And within four to five years, if we follow that path, we should be back to a balanced budget.”
No new taxes, we will just "constrain" growth. "Constrain," "constrain," "constrain," get to know that word. Fresh from the focus groups I'm sure. It is meant to suggest government spending will continue at levels we're used to but without pain, go back to sleep Canadians. They will just be slowing the rate of spending growth. But the real meaning is there to be extrapolated, it means spending cuts, and they will be substantial. The real world economists, for example, think the no-pain Harper view is not realistic:
Former deputy ministers Scott Clark and David Dodge have already stepped forward to challenge the government's plans for eliminating the deficit, which is projected to reach $56-billion this fiscal year. Mr. Clark has said that Ottawa will have to raise the GST, which Mr. Harper cut in 2006.

“I don't think it's very likely that they can balance the budget without some very severe spending restraint,” said Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Douglas Porter.
Given the Harper track record on statements regarding deficits and how far they've been off, I think it's fair to bet on the economists. Harper doesn't dare speak the truth on the cuts that will be required, he's gunning for a majority before the truth will out.

Other issues of interest in the interview...no answer on prorogation, whether it's coming or not. The budget will be in March and while Harper plays coy, it could very well be that there's a prorogation that occurs in the new year, holding off parliament until after the Olympic extravaganza.

Also of note, when asked if a carbon tax for Canada is a possibility, Harper said "I hope not." Again, throwing in haplessly with the Americans, speaking of having to wait and see on the "regime" adopted in the U.S. But he did say it, leaving the door open, despite the frantic spin from his communications staff to CTV at the end of the interview. And Harper ironically blasted environmentalists:
"It's not a simple matter of having moral outrage and marching in the streets," said Harper. "One has to actually develop a plan that will reduce emissions in a way that will not cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs in the middle of a recession."
Yes, serious government types have a plan. Too bad there hasn't been one for four years, we've been in a recession for just over a year. What explains the other years of inaction? And hundreds of thousands of lost jobs? What's the basis? Oh for a follow-up question.

Anyway, that's just from the few minute glimpse we've been given. I'm sure it'll be a fine holiday event.