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Bribing for Votes

iStock_CanadaDollarSign1Canada is in election mode.

By way of explanation for my non-Canadian readers, this does not mean that we are about to have an election; that would be too easy. It means that we’re going to have a federal election in about a year and while you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a little soon to start campaigning – our major political parties would disagree with you.

There are some serious issues facing Canada and you might think those issues would dominate election platforms – but you’d be wrong. Instead, Christmas is coming early to some Canadians as our political masters launch their Bribes for Votes campaigns.

While it is true that Canada finally has a budget surplus after six years of deficit financing; it is also true that the deployment to Iraq to combat ISIS will take upwards of $3 billion from that surplus. The government is doubling its aid to Africa to fight Ebola and government revenues are dropping thanks to plunging oil prices. In fact, the drop in oil prices, which appears to be being driven by Saudi Arabia, could so narrow the gap between the cost of production and revenues in the oil sands that there is a very real possibility that some companies may halt production. That would further reduce government revenues and increase unemployment which in turn would increase the amount government pays in EI benefits.

Add to that the instability in the European economy where there is growing fear of another global recession, falling stock markets and talk of increased interest rates and it begins to appear that the economy may not be quite as stable as our leaders would have us believe.

A 1% interest rate increase alone would double the cost of servicing all government debt.

How likely is a rise in interest rates? I don’t know but the American economy is heating up and the Fed is signaling an increase in the not too distant future.

But why spoil the beauty of a twelve-month election campaign full of marshmallow dreams and tangerine skies with something as boring as reality? At least that seems to be the opinion of our political leaders including the fiscally prudent Conservative government.

They, like all politicians, are always far more optimistic leading up to an election than they are after they get elected and have to deal with the realities they ignored while campaigning.

And so with an exuberant spirit of optimism, the main political parties have started trotting out their Bribes for Votes platforms a full year in advance of the election.

This past week, the New Democratic Party (NDP) revealed its national child care program; a multi-billion dollar initiative to provide one million

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair with election prop

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair with election prop

affordable day care spaces or as the left likes to call them – affordable early childhood learning spaces. It’s a distinction that is lost on me.

My granddaughter, who is three, attends Meadow Muffins – oops sorry, that’s Mini-muffins (I always get the two confused) where she colours, plays with toys, plays with other children outside and has a couple of daily naps. My daughter and her husband pay for it without subsidy beyond the standard $100/month child care tax credit.

The Conservatives, who are opposed to the NDP’s plan, with some of the more enthusiastic among them drawing comparisons to the former Soviet Union, have offered their own bribe – I mean program. The Conservatives are going to double the non-refundable sports tax credit for children and will expand the program to include adults. This will see taxpayers funding gym memberships for the young and the restless.

This makes perfect sense to some Conservative supporters who are highly critical of the entitlements handed out by progressive parties but less so of the handouts made by ours.

Irony, like hypocrisy, is lost on the faithful.

Of course, to benefit from the Conservative tax credit, you have to be able to afford to join a gym or finance your children’s sports activities in the first place. This means that lower income families, which cannot afford those costs up front, do not receive the non-refundable tax credit.

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Stephen Harper, Canada’s current Prime Minister

In the Conservative playbook;, it’s only the children of affluent families that are deserving of government support to play sports and keep fit.

The primary kick against the NDP plan, other than the fact that it is an NDP plan, is that it is not universal and will benefit fewer than a million Canadians while costing all taxpayers a great deal of money.

And that is not only true; it’s a very valid point.

The fact is, however, that the same argument can be used against Conservative’s programs including income splitting which, while not yet officially announced by the Harper government, is certainly the worst kept secret since Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s substance abuse.

Income splitting will only benefit approximately 1.8 million Canadians but will cost all taxpayers in excess of $3 billion/year which after Iraq and other issues are accounted for, ought to pretty much wipe out any budget surplus there was and leave little to nothiing to reduce the national debt. Indeed, if interest rates go up, oil prices continue to remain low or fall further, the economy could start to tank and we’ll be right back into deficit financing again.

On the bright side, if the NDP get elected some of us will have subsidized day care and if the Conservatives get elected, a few more of can join a gym thanks to a generous nation. The fact that it is our children’s children who may end up having to pay for it all seems somewhat irrelevant to our political leadership whose collective national vision doesn’t appear to extend much beyond a year.

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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau waiting for his hair to dry

The Liberal Party, which among the many policies it doesn’t yet have, has neither a child care plan nor a cash for sports plan to offer. But, oh huzzah! They do have a plan to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

In this time of global threats from terrorism, economic instability and diseases like Ebola, it’s always refreshing to see a political party dismissing reality to focus on the existential – or is it the trivial?

Conservatives are opposed to the legalization of Mother Nature but are not unaware of the fact that approximately 70% of Canadians are in favour of it or don’t really care one way or the other. So in response – just in case the Liberals are onto something – they are now considering an ‘almost pregnant’ version of the Liberal idea. The Conservatives are toying with the idea of decriminalization. Possession of pot would still be illegal but the penalties would be a fine without a criminal record. They consider their plan to be much different to that of the Liberals (That’s more of that irony thing).

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had enough coffee this morning but the Conservative idea seems to be just one more revenue tool (as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne likes to call taxes) which is one thing it has in common with the Liberal plan.download

One would have thought that a budget surplus might be God’s way of telling politicians generally, and government in particular, that too much of the money we earned was being taken from us. Christ in Heaven; even God only expects us to tithe 10% of what we earn and not the 50% being taken from us by all levels of government.

The message government and politicians received from our Lord and Maker, however, was that the time for prudent fiscal management is over. It’s election time – let the spending begin. There is still a small bit of room left on the Visa card and it’s time to go shopping for votes.

debtPerish the thought that government consider using the budget surplus to significantly cut income taxes for all Canadians and not just those keeners who work out regularly or who have kids. Put aside any thought that government might consider starting a program to pay down debt or put some of the surplus into a contingency fund to address emerging challenges.

As for using the budget surplus to address this country’s crumbling infrastructure or to finally procure new equipment for the military that seem to be regularly sent into war zones – give your head a shake! Taxpayers have gym memberships for which to pay.

Despite the promises of fiscal responsibility, when elections loom; money – our money – flows like water without regard for anything even closely resembling fiscal prudence or the national interest.

We’re still a year away from voting but the gloves are not only off and the personal attacks already started – the wallet is open and the bribes are starting to flow with supporters of all parties lining up like pigs at the trough to get their share.

The mainstream media are so excited that their nipples are hard and their columns are dripping with fresh daily commentary about who is right and who is left – I mean wrong.

I suppose none of us should be surprised and I’m not really, but here’s the thing that annoys the good humour right out of me. (Yes, I actually can be in a good mood – sometimes). That’s our money they throw around like Lords of the Manor handing out alms to the wretched at Christmas.

And what really gets under my hat is that it’s tossed about on disconnected policy and random programs targeted to special interest rather than to the nation as a whole. There is no universality; no comprehensive vision of the country being put forward by any political party. It’s trying to build a stronger nation like you would make a patchwork quilt from bits and pieces of scrap material you had lying around.

Denmark and The Netherlands, for example, have a very solid understanding of what they consider to be the national vision and all government programs; taxation and spending are focused on advancing it. Sure, there’s opposition to various programs but the national vision of the people remains reasonably consistent and is typically reinforced by government regardless of which party gets elected.

What is Canada’s vision? Who knows anymore – certainly not our political leaders.

Canada’s current Prime Minister won’t meet with the provincial premiers to plot a coordinated approach to dealing with national issues; the Liberal leader is still fussing with his hair and the NDP seem to have a vision that is little more than left is right and the right is always wrong.The-Sopranos-TV-Series-1999–2007-quote

It’s like we’re being governed by the Sopranos without the cunning consistency. At least the mob is honest about its business. They just take from us without the pretense of giving.

In the end, the NDP are the closest to being correct. Left is right and right is left because in this day and age where bribery is as important to political campaigns as smearing your opponents (because unlike with the mob; you’re not allowed to kill them) – there really isn’t much difference between the left or the right when it comes to election politics.

In the end it always comes down to the same thing and we are merely a means to an end for political parties and they bribe us with our own money to manipulate us for their own purposes.

But then, sadly, because a bribe is only successful if someone is willing to be bribed – it works because too many of us are too willing to be manipulated if there’s cash or benefit in it for us.

1 stomach crunch....2 stomach crunch...3....

1 stomach crunch….2 stomach crunch…3….

Stay tuned; there’s more goodies to come because as the saying goes: C’est la vie. Les plus des choses changent, plus elles restent les memes.”

Now if you’ll excuse me; I have to get to the gym. I don’t like to miss my workouts now that the government is offering to have taxpayers pay for them. I feel it’s the least I can do to thank them for their largesse.

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© 2014 Maggie’s Bear

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Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca

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  • morri

    for 60 years I have been watching this sh-t and the expression, same sh-t different day is applicable. that is the English translation.

    • MaggiesBear

      ain’t that the truth. We keep getting promised something better as Harper has done through four elections but in the end, we end up right back where we started. Someone told me once that while political parties might campaign from the left or the right, they govern from the centre and there was little difference from one to the other once they were in government. He was right.