A New Government in Orbit

A New Government in Orbit

Update 21st April, 2016

Evidently, our new government is hard pressed to come up with evidence-based tax and spend numbers for its longer term innovation agenda.

Amid NASA reports that melting ice is affecting the earth’s wobble, the new government’s U-TURN on balanced budgets deliberately shifts Canada’s axis of political, fiscal, and social gravity…orbit unknown.

Ringside this week it seemed the government was lacking budget transparency and accountability, the Science Community was still trying to carve out some space, all the while the trade pot was boiling in Europe and Asia, China in particular and in the liberal tradition of “Team Canada and National Unity.”

Of course, there is no “public” plan other than a remark made by the Finance Minister while in the United Kingdom recently on matters of budget and investment and risk: “Our ‘plan’ is not built off a short-term sense that we were facing an immediate issue, but off a long-term sense.” “So we’re going to stay focused on that plan,” he said.

In a bid to seek some sense of clarification, the Parliamentary Budgetary Officer (PBO) asked for a year-to-year breakdown of TAX and SPEND numbers associated with the government’s broad themes or concepts that the new Government has chosen to call “New Measures.”

No matter, that’s politics, diversionary or the act of distancing the new government from the real impact of its own “NEW MEASURE” described as “OPEN-TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT AND TAX FAIRNESS.”

Some in the galleries shouted foul at the lack of disclosure in the aggregate especially with matters such as carbon taxes, $6 billion dollar annual cushions in the offing. The prospect of further new taxes and spending, not to mention the possible removal of HST reductions and other tax relief reforms made by the former government to achieve a balanced budget, political arithmetic aside.

The budget shows the new government has chosen new tax and spending to the tune $15.4 billion over its first two years – 2016-18 followed by increases of $7.6 billion for the next three years.

Others muttered “incompetence” and yet others reported the entire Federal Budget lacks transparency or is built on altered or false investment premises where it is impossible to measure the new government’s new measures or where the focus of that spending would occur.

Nonetheless, it was curious that the PBO was aware of some figures they had asked for, but their release was bound by “confidentiality.” Perhaps the former government’s transparency and accountability measures concerning first nations leaders, unions, fundraising and political influence were “in for timely repeal” as part of the new government’s “Diversity and Inclusiveness” theme, just saying.

According to some excellent investigation and reporting by Kathryn May Ottawa Citizen, April 7th, 2016, the Government’s NEW MEASURES were to help the middle class and create a better future for indigenous peoples. New Measures were ascribed to “A fair and Inclusive Canada,” “Canada and the World,” “Open and Transparent Government,” including TAX FAIRNESS.

Of course, the new government’s agenda and measures will involve and depend on cooperation with the provinces and the MIDDLE CLASS because according to “the economic plan” a strong economy depends on a strong middle class. The tax hike levied on “high earners” to provide the middle-class tax relief was not revenue neutral.  A projected deficit in excess of $1 billion was the practical reality.

The second new measure was to provide a better future for indigenous peoples. Recently, in Thunder Bay, the Prime Minister pointed out that the government had committed $8.4 Billion over 5 years for First Nations’ infrastructure, health, education, and other areas in the March budget. This is a nominal $3.3 billion increase over existing allotments of the former government.

It is worth mentioning that the provinces play a big part in health and education. What seems to be missing is the intrinsic spirit of the Kelowna Accord to commit the provinces and the indigenous leaders to A COMMON ACTION PLAN.

It is also worth mentioning that $634 million over a period of five years has been earmarked or described as a RE-INVESTMENT in Child and Family Services on RESERVES.

As to the accuracy of these remarks, the Finance Ministry’s own characterization was that the figures submitted to PBO were NOTIONAL thus giving more legs to feinting shadows and ephemeral tone than to transparent action and commitment beyond election promises and good intentions. The game of apples and oranges comparisons is very evident.

Job creation projections in the amount of 57,000, presumably attributable to NEW Measures for a “Fair and Inclusive Canada,” is overstated, according to the PBO. Recent events, and the upcoming $10 billion deficit budget of Alberta Premier Notley, the shifting sands on pipelines and the NDP’s leadership rethink puts a new focus on the Unemployment Insurance Package and revenue neutral carbon taxes.

All this to say, some economists claim that there is a migration to Ontario and Quebec where manufacturing jobs are claimed to be on the rise, the new inclusive centre of political gravity.

Such a migration between provinces has not occurred since the 1980s when the Liberals were in power, when oil and exports disrupted the economy and the National Energy Program was introduced with all its alienating fears and divisions.  

The previous governments’ legacy was to bring Western Canadian Provinces to a more Political and Economic Centre and to open up Trade and Market Access opportunities. NAFTA and deals with 5 countries and 51 pending deals in place (TPP and EU).

By way of comparison and taking “the current migration to ONTARIO” as an example, according to an Ontario Press Release April 8th, the Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure announced that Ontario’s economy continued to show signs of strength, adding 13,900 jobs in March. Of course, the real question is: what sort of jobs?

A quick look at the green energy companies in Ontario would indicate that green represents more international travelling salesmen, environmental consultants, engineers and remediation types of services than actual manufacturing or green plumbers and sanitary water experts using green tools.

Much of the national job growth for the month of March, according to TD Economists came from the services sector (up 25,000), while construction jobs shrank by 5,500 and the manufacturing sector lost a massive 32,000 jobs.

The Ontario Government, according to their website also wants Ontarians to know that they have created and retained 160,000 jobs through INVESTMENTS.  All the while the Ontario Government is offering off another slice of HYDRO ONE hoping to raise $1.7 billion for “reinvestments in infrastructure.”

According to Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario lost 300,00 manufacturing jobs from 2005-2017 along with other sweeping indictments associated with the GREEN ENERGY ACT such as $1.5 billion doled out to companies with no plan, no transparency, or how the money was spent. Unemployment increased by 11% between 2005-2014.

Enough already. Real JOBS and the MIDDLE CLASS are the most important new measures put forward by the Government in its 2016 budget. Without provincial accords, transparency and accountability are shell games. Ottawa Sun, Anthony Furey, April 5th, 2016, Donations to Grits Pay Off illustrates another form of grants and political intercourse. It is well worth a read.

The real matter of accountability rests in the measure of the outcomes. As for transparency on new initiatives such as small and medium enterprises and economic development funding, the Ontario Auditor General’s report indicated that since 2010 80% of funding was made through “Non-PUBLICLY ADVERTISED PROCESSES” and that only 4% went to small and medium-sized enterprise.

In terms of the Five Year Numbers, projections or so-called notional amounts, it is fair to say “CONFIDENTIAL” really means pending further cabinet decisions and “POLICY DEVELOPMENT.” My Opinion Piece on Climate Change – Wreckonomics in Upfront Ottawa dated 2nd December 2015, refers.

Yes – Evidence-Based Science Decisions brings us to the fourth new measure “CANADA IN THE WORLD.” In the context of “Notional Budget 2016 numbers,” it is fair to say that evidence-based policies being the key to implementation are likely only capricious and spatial at this stage.

The Government announced an “EMERGING INNOVATION AGENDA.” Part of the “Notional Budget figures” is the fact that “emerging stuff” suggests that budget numbers could easily change, be moved and reallocated from one scientific venture or innovative agenda to another. The real question is how much of the $26 billion in planned deficit spending is for the innovative agenda.

The second question is how much of the combined sciences or innovations budgets in the Ministries of Innovation, Science and Economic Development as well as the Minister of Science Minister of Small Business and Tourism are new and associated with the need to launch the country into deficit.

What we do know is that anything in defence development will be housed there, global affairs wouldn’t touch that. We already know that small businesses were given short shrift on a tax break and the Minister has stated there will be growth in areas of tourism and money for the 150th year Celebration of Canada’s existence.

It is fair to say there is a restructuring going on, along the lines of “INNOVATION” meaning “POLITICALLY NEW.” It is also fair to say that the National Research Council, formally dropped its Centennial Celebrations on February 11th because of a “RE BRANDING”.

Scientists with the support of the Union are in the midst of a “professional” quandary. Some believe that helping businesses detracts from investigations on the Frontiers of Science, to what extent this cross-pollinates with research grants and funding for universities is unclear.

On the other hand, there is a notion that scientists could work with industry from the start – rather than shoving science up their noses. For example, the National Research Council, a $1 billion organization has a magnificent international reputation and record of accomplishment in space, aerospace and communications technologies, to my knowledge.

This scientific excellence is juxtaposed with those who favour theoretical work, known as BASIC SCIENCE, some arguing, particularly the union, that some research was not benefiting Canada or putting new technology to work sufficiently for the expenditures involved. The unions during the last election sided with the latter, having an influence on the outcome of the election.

In short, the Notion of Change has now been coupled with innovation full spectrum science, reorganization, and a review with the aim of instituting the GOVERNMENT’s LARGER AGENDA and the Government’s NEW MEASURE “CANADA in the WORLD.”

We have foreign policy, science, defence, trade and taxes under review, among others. On matters trade according to reports and interviews at the Recent Nuclear Summit in Washington, the Prime Minister in the context of NAFTA and possible renegotiations he said: “NAFTA has worked extremely well for our economies,” adding that if it’s reopened, “the whole thing can start to unravel.”

As for the recent blockbuster trade deals by the former government, the TPP is signed but not ratified. That and the European Union is another chapter.

It is FAIR and INCLUSIVE for the 42% of Canadians TAXPAYERS who voted for balanced budgets plus another 9% deserve to know where close to $26 billion of new 2016/7 deficit, over and above some $4 billion worth of new infrastructure money will end up. “Notional” and deficits dressed up as “investments” falls far too short of transparency and accountability obligations.

It also seems fair to say that the new government seems to be rebranding, repealing and making things up as events occur much as they did during the recent election. We the taxpayers have a RIGHT to expect MORAL CLARITY on MATTERS OF POLICY (Evidence-based as promised.)

Ottawa Sun:  April 21st, 2016 – Mark Bonokoski – These are the “GOOD OLD DAYS” for TRUDEAU LIBERALS.

Trudeau’s remarks [ about quantum mechanics vis-a vis computing]  were not off the cuff but contrived. But rest assured the media who follow him around will not be tricked again into soft pitching him a PLANTED QUESTION.

His government released a budget that wasn’t a true budget, reversed a couple of Harperite decisions (like the Long Form Census and retirement age), passed three housekeeping bills of little consequence and lied through its teeth about the SAUDI ARMS DEAL.

National Post Comment (NP2) April 21st 2016 – Andrew Coyne. GOVERNMENT STYLED BY DORIAN GREY

Justin Trudeau is very much the face of this Government [….] the government behind it has already amassed a record of cynicism, deception, secrecy and cronyism that for most governments would take years. Take as an example the Saudi Arms Deal [……] the F35’s that were to have been ruled out of the bidding on the new fighter jet contract, the “combat mission” against ISIL that was to have been ended [….]and of course the litany of broken promises in the budget.[…..]

But away from the cameras the LIBERALs are building up a DEFICIT of TRUST and ETHICS to match the FISCAL DEFICIT. It has just been six months since they were elected.


Kevin Murray-Mourne is a former Trade Commissioner for Space, Aerospace, Defence and Security with the Department of External Affairs and International Trade Canada. He is a Veteran of Her Majesty’s Armed forces. He attended the Canadian Centre for Management Development, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Institute and is a Graduate of the American Management Associations Management Program.

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