Saturday, January 23, 2016


Kevin O’Leary’s shot across the bow last week  was simply  Donald Trump-lite--just like we had voter suppression -lite and climate change denial -lite and science censorship not-so-lite under the Harper government. And would have enjoyed invasion of Iraq -- lite and financial deregulation -lite if we had had the extreme misfortune of having Conservatives in  office only a few years earlier.

Not that I am crazy about the corner Justin Trudeau has painted himself into, and us along with him: if he is really serious about “jump-starting “ the economy, and remedying  the infrastructure  problem, he will have to run deficits in the order of 2-3 times what he talked about in the past election.  If there is continued borderline recession and low interest rates for a number of more years, at least  that infrastructure money will go farther than it would  in a high-rate environment, and provide stimulus that is actually needed, and not just inflationary. Cross your fingers.

And that is nothing compared to the corner the New Democrats would be in had they been elected: they would be wearing Mr. Mulcair’s “balanced budget every year” promise like a ball and chain. In the current deteriorating economic environment, that would mean either breaking that promise every year or keeping it,  at the price of reduced spending and/or higher taxes. (It was truly remarkable to watch the New Democrats take a clear political asset—the statistical fact that NDP governments between 1980 and 2010 balanced their budgets 50% of the time, while Conservatives did so only 37% of the time and Liberals only 27%--and turn it into a clear political liability.)  It was a great talking point because it showed what Conservative zeal for tax-cutting actually leads to—i.e. tax cuts do not generally “pay for themselves”. But when the NDP leaned on it too much, and made it the cornerstone of their economic policy, they fell over.

The most vexing question on the horizon for me is what to do about electoral reform.  The politics of voting is characterized by a paradox:  a clear majority of both voters and experts agree that a more proportional and less winner-take all system would be an improvement , but  consensus breaks down when it comes to specifying any particular system. Proportional representation (PR) always succeeds when voters are surveyed or are chosen at random to deliberate about it in citizens’ assemblies, but  has failed to be ratified by voters in a referendum on all four occasions it has been put to the test , three times by a majority. 

On the positive side, what a relief it is not to have to watch those expensive, partisan, blue-washed “Economic Action Plan” ads anymore, knowing that Canada’s taxpayers had paid hundreds of millions of dollars on them. If the Liberals can show even a modicum of self-restraint in this regard, changing governments last fall and all its attendant uncertainties will have been worthwhile. Just like changing diapers is worthwhile—and for much the same reason.

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