Saturday, February 16, 2008

Good Policy, Sad Distortions

I have to say Stephane Dion’s infrastructure plan is the right approach we need for an issue that sorely needs government attention. Infrastructure and transit are in dire need of more federal funding. Bridges, tunnels across the country are crumbling and it would cost more later to fix them then it would now. As well, governments should be doing everything they can to prevent tragedies like the falling overpass in Quebec from ever happening again.

We also need to be building up strong public transit networks in the big cities of Canada to cut the number of cars on the road, decrease smog and decrease CO2 emissions so that Canada can start taking a lead on combating global warming. Unfortunately the right amount of funding is not there to do this and in fact some cities have had to cut back their transit networks. The Conservatives have provided some funding for infrastructure but not nearly enough and if they are allowed to stay in power longer our infrastructure and public transit systems will only get worse.

While Jim Flaherty and Stephen Harper don’t care, I’m glad to see Stephane Dion does. His plan is fiscally conservative but also as generous as it should be. At a time of economic uncertainty the right approach is not to make billions and billions of dollars in promises and risk a deficit, but to say that we need to be paying down at least $3 billion a year in debt, but beyond that, additional surplus funds should go to infrastructure. So in tough times we won’t be draining the treasury but when a Liberal government helps get Canada back on its feet again economically and we get a reasonable surplus again, the infrastructure needs in this country will be fully met.

We won’t get this under a Conservative government because they have the wrong priorities for this country, don’t know how to manage the economy, and just don’t care about the needs of cities.

Though you’d think the policy was pretty clear and straightforward: only money over and beyond a $3 billion surplus goes to infrastructure. Still that hasn’t stopped the media from having misleading headlines and people like the NDP making stupid statements based on bad spin.

The headline from CTV: “Dion promises to spend billions on infrastructure

You’d think from that headline that Dion has made an iron clad promise to spend billions each year no matter the economic forecast and no matter if it puts us into deficit.

Then of course the NDP chime in with their nonsense:
“The NDP says they are not sure where the Liberals will come up with the money to pay for all of their promises....Where is the money going to come from," asked the NDP's national capital commission critic Paul Dewar on Mike Duffy Live.”

I’m sorry but I guess Paul didn’t actually pay attention to what Dion said, it would come out of surplus money, so in good economic times there would be more and in bad times there would be less. So it’s pretty clear where the money would come from. Surely next the Tories will say “Dion is going to have to raise taxes to pay for this promise”

Well Dion’s plan is much more sensible than the media or the other parties lay out, you can’t say it’s not fiscally responsible and you can’t say this issue doesn’t desperately need to be addressed.

When the Liberals put out a great policy, like the carbon budget, like the poverty plan, like this infrastructure plan, the response from the other parties (and sometimes even the media) is always the same, pretend Stephane Dion said something else, throw in some scare tactics (“this plan wil ruin the economy, he’s gonna raise your taxes, boo!”) and spin every way possible.

Anything but admit that the Liberals once again have it right.

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The Jurist said...

There have certainly been some bizarre distortions on the Con side - I'm still trying to figure out how a promise which on its own terms is paid solely out of surplus amounts could possibly cause a deficit.

But for the same reason, the promise amounts to nothing if no surplus actually materializes. And to the extent that investment in infrastructure is indeed desperately needed, surely it's dangerous to risk investing nothing if the hoped-for surpluses don't develop, rather than making infrastructure more of a priority in the original budget.