Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How is this hard to understand?

So the Blogger's Hotstove features a debate between CalgaryGrit and Antonio from Fuddle-Duddle over the fiscal imbalance, and Charest's decision to spend some of that money on the all-important goal of... income tax cuts. Antonio's argument is summed up at his post here:
Seriously this mock outrage over the Charest tax cut is absolutely ridiculous. In the late 1990s, the Quebec government decided not to cut services like other provinces were doing. They also modestly cut taxes. Faced with the choice, Quebecers (or their government) decided to keep their generous welfare state.

Charest did what anybody would expect him to do. Quebecers have been overtaxed because we chose to wait out the federal transfers to solve the fiscal imbalance. Now that we have them, Quebecers can celebrate and Charest can return some of the money to the citizens.
What Antonio seems to totally ignore is the idea that Quebec should even be asked to consider reducing its own spending. Don't get me wrong -- I'd love to have the low tuition and high social spending that Quebecers enjoy here in Ontario. But the money that supports Quebec's social programs does not, will not, and has not come solely from Quebec. That changes things. We'd all love free money, but the real world doesn't work like that.

In the podcast, Antonio takes some Liberals to task for not believing in the Separatists Pixie Dust that is the fiscal imbalance, but here he really seems to lose his grip on facts when he talks about the money "the provinces send to Ottawa". (Um, no province sends any money to Ottawa. At all. The federal government raises and borrows money independently. Geez.) It would be easier for Antonio and other pro-Pequiste-rhetoric-Liberals if they could come up with a standard and enduring definition of what, exactly, the fiscal imbalance is. First it was that some Provinces were sending more money to Ottawa then they get back (Quebec isn't one of them) and now there's a vague idea that Ottawa needs to create "fiscal space" for the provinces, usually defined as the provinces getting a guaranteed chunk of the Federal tax revenue.

This is, in short, political cowardice of the highest order -- and not at all because it's coming from Quebeckers. Any politician who, with a straight face, says to his or her constituents that:
a) We need more money.

b) I refuse to do the honorable normal thing and cut spending, raise taxes, or run a deficit.

so c) We intend to go to Ottawa and demand, self-righteously, that our province be given money so that I don't have to face your wrath come election day.
Is a coward. No, I don't like it when Dalton McGuinty does it. But he at least hasn't been on a decade-long tear on this issue.

What's especially galling is that Antonio claims to be some kind of constitutional fundamentalist who believes that Ottawa has no role of any kind in provincial matters... except, it seems, for cutting blank checks. Look up your Canadian Political History, Antonio: the provinces were deliberately given a weaker financial position in the BNA, relative to the Feds. This has, after all, been the PQ talking point -- the Feds have the money, but the provinces have the needs. This wasn't an accident, people. The provinces were designed from the outset to have cap in hand.

This is the problem with this crap: "Fiscal imbalance" means any one of seven different things, but all just happen to mean more money for Quebec. "Constitutional powers" means that Ottawa should keep the magic money flowing, but can never, ever overstep its boundaries... meanwhile, Quebec has a Ministry of Foreign Affairs!

What a weird fucking country I live in.

1 comment:

Closet Liberal said...

What a weird fucking country I live in