Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Calgary School must be fuming

So after reading the budget put forward by the current federal government I am left with the impression that Stephen Harper's mentors in Calgary are probably wondering what it is going to take to have their ideas implemented by a Canadian government.

This first budget from the majority Conservative government was probably the only real chance for them to implement some of the policies that they fought for during their time in Opposition.  They had an opportunity to radically remake the Canadian government as they stated they wanted to do many times during the late '90s and the early '00s, while still having plenty of time to recover from any political fallout that might have occured. 

They did none of that.  Instead they crafted a budget that would have passed a minority parliament if it were necessary. 

The structure of the government that existed on March 29 still exists today.  True it is less well funded but otherwise it has not changed.  Any succeeding government to this one will not need to rebuild the government infrastructure if they want to improve existing programmes.  They will only need to increase the funding.

Even the reduction in the number of federal public servants is small when you compare it to the overall size of the Canadian federal bureaucracy.  As some media commentators pointed out the government did not even reduce the public service to pre-2006 levels.  That is, they did not get rid of all of the public servants that were hired under their watch. 

So, this budget is a rather mundane document, with two exceptions.

The first one being the reduction in the budget for the Canada Food Inspection Agency.  What is it with Conservative governments reducing budgets of agencies charged with protecting our food and water supplies?  The Harris government's decision to reduce the number of water inspectors in Ontario lead directly to the Walkerton tragedy according the judicial inquiry that was called to investigate that event.  That event was also a great contributor to the bath the PCPO took in the subsequent election.  You would think that the Harper government would have taken a lesson from that, particularly since that government contains so many former Harris cabinet ministers.

The second exception is the favourtism in this budget to the oil and mining industries over the manufacturing industries.  Resource extraction is not the answer to long-term economic health in this country.  Over 150 years of history should prove that.  They are too prone to boom and bust cycles and the Canadian economy needs a robust manufacturing sector to help mitigate the damage to the economy a resource bust will have.  Like governments that came before this one the current government has failed to realize that reality.  It will come back to haunt them and to haunt Canadians.

I do not know why the current government did not take a bolder approach in this budget and I can only imagine that many in the Calgary school are just as stumped as I am.


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