Federal Budget 2016: Are We Grasping at “INVESTMENT” Straws or will the straws of “STRUCTURAL DEFICITS” Break the TAXPAYERS Back? 

Federal Budget 2016: Are We Grasping at “INVESTMENT” Straws or will the straws of “STRUCTURAL DEFICITS” Break the TAXPAYERS Back? 

Update 30th April, 2016

In my opinion, the 2016 Budget has many good points that directly add on to or carry on with successful programs of the former Governments – all the while dishing out additional new sexy and unsexy resources in the name of social, educational, infrastructure “reallocations” and GLOBAL AMBITIONS!

The Political Rhetoric or opening remarks at the budget delivery were salient. HOPE and HARDWORK will be REWARDED. To make that change, CONFIDENCE is needed. We must be leaders in CLEAN TECHNOLOGIES. We are at the forefront to SHAPE and LEAD the FUTURE.

Many had worked very hard from a myriad of perspectives to consult, confer, and construct the budget. It is hardly my place to level criticism at the PROCESS.

All in all, the budget is a fabrication – cobbled together from broken promises, manic expectations, and credit card spending. The rationale for doing so is not apparent other than the fact that according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the OECD, and G20, interest rates are low.

According to the Finance Minister who states with much seriousness that they are doing what people have asked them to do – making investments for the future and focusing on the economy.

Others could reasonably argue the budget is gambling on the future, with borrowed money and time and crippling the economy all in one fell swoop of over-promise and under-delivery. That is not leadership or a formula for fiscal responsibility.

Thankfully, the presentation also had levity. An MP with a child wearing sound mufflers sat in the NDP benches while the budget was delivered, amid the odd childish chirp and with the odd giggle arising from time to time. The Speaker of the House did not intervene.

Also of note in the budget delivery, the Finance Minister gave due credit to the Hon Paul Martin on the Kelowna Accord and his First Nations Initiatives; well deserved, a matter of leadership and legacy attributed to the former Liberal Minister and Champion of Balanced Budgets.

In a tit for tat, it was also mentioned and put on record that Former Conservative Minister of Finance James Flaherty, author of “Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity” had received recognition internationally as the best Finance Minister in the World, during the worst recession in modern history.

The HISTORIC STATE DINNER at the White House for the Prime Minister, DAVOS and the fourth industrial revolution, and the Paris Summit and Accord all cropped up at the end of the speech.

Much had been made during the last election and afterwards about the theme of Canada’s Global indispensability on the world stage of GREEN LEADERSHIP and about withdrawal symptoms and rightful places in the velvet seats at the U.N. Security Council table, in the traditions of previous Liberals.

In that context, given these influences, it appears “THEY ARE BACK” in a continuation from earlier dynasties that don’t quite mesh with the notion that we can expect REAL CHANGE in either deficits or SUNNY WAYS as often promised before the tabling of this first budget.

Real Change, it seems, is merely a promotional slogan coupled to the Prime Minister’s PROMISE to revive a stagnant economy. The fact is there is no recession, no national crisis, and most significantly there is NO DEFICIT REDUCTION PLAN.

Even after much hemming, hawing, and evasive replies to questions in the House of Commons, the 2016 budget racked up a $29.4 billion anyway instead of the “$10 billion” promised during the election.

He has also argued the OBJECTIVE OF THE BUDGET was to “GIVE OPTIMISM and TRUST” to Canadians – not to reach some mathematical balance. Oddly, such assurances require an imbedded $6 billion insurance fund, just in case.

It would seem that the objective OF THE BUDGET was off to a bad start or there was some other objective floating out there.

A number of anomalies hit very hard while listening to the delivery of the budget and after taking some time before and afterwards listening to the finance committee, the Auditor General Reports, and presentations at the PUBLIC ACCOUNTS Committee. Frankly they did not inspire either optimism or trust in the matter of Common Services Canada.

Perhaps my viewpoints were coloured by the fact that in the run-up to the budget my notes, observations, and e-mails roundly pointed out the litany of broken election promises, such as: deficits would be no larger that $10 billion a year; the budget would be balanced by 2019, and that the debt-to-GDP ratio would decline each year.

No matter, there is enough practical opposition to tear those theories apart. On the other hand, there are enough deficits, borrowing, and spending to whet the appetites of even the most “optimistic,” “innovative,” “ambitious” spenders and takers, trust aside.

BIG TAX and SPEND IS BACK. Cobbled carbon taxes, cap and trade are coming and the PROVINCES are PILING ON. They are swimming in deficits and long-term debt and have deferred or failed to come up with a Pan-Canadian CLIMATE PLAN, weather permitting.

Reading between the lines, what does all that really mean? The budget needs to outline STEPS and INTENT in order to deal with Climate Change. It is about putting Canada’s economy on a GROWTH path and budget balance. It is about delivering GOOD SOLID JOBS.

The agenda pulsing in the background of VISIONARIES is to nudge Canada into a high-tech global world of new ideas. This implies wholesale changes in the roles of STUDENTS, PARENTS, COMPANIES, EMPLOYEES, and GOVERNMENTS.

Throw in the SHARING ECONOMY and a WIRED WORLD for good measure. As such the BUDGET “INVESTMENTS” are more social than economic. Such a transition is hugely disruptive, high risk, destabilizing, and traumatic, yet the budget makes claim to being focused on the ECONOMY.

The COST of Conversion and the effects on Industry and Small and Medium Enterprises, the engine of the economy, have been given a poor start. Goodbye to an expected tax reduction for the now “so-called tax cheats.”

Apart from the economic out year projections and forecasts to 2018 and the promise to return to balance budgets in 2019 – forget it. Aggregate Projected Deficits until 2020-21 amount to $118 billion with the assurances this will be done in a responsible way.

The Prime Minister said that the 2016 budget puts THE GOVERNMENT on track to return to balance five years hence, warning that depends entirely on economic growth.  The GROWTH is very large when it comes to Government and spending while economic improvement is estimated to be ZERO POINT FIVE PERCENT in 2016-7; hardly a mathematical balance.

On that basis, it is fair to ask what happens from now on when it comes to sustained increase in PRODUCTIVITY as a factor in boosting the economy, when the rationale stated by the Finance Minister is that the budget puts the people first and gives them HELP NOW – oil prices, East-West pipelines, and approximate $56 billion reduction in oil revenues aside.

Another significant factor is the big gamble, drawn out hype and money for infrastructure such as sewers and waste water treatments; sounding more like tail than teeth when stacked up against $1 billion over 4 years to support future clean technology investments.

The links to a Global “World Stage,” Green Energy budget of $2 billion over 2 years, starting in 2017-18 is anything but clear, except for the dark carbon tax clouds or the so-called “INNOVATION AGENDA, theories, evidence-based policies, and notions of creating leading “GLOBAL” Companies, driverless concept cars, electric-electronic “plug-ins” aside.

Sunshine and Windmills, CLUSTERS and Climate Change, hubs of discovery, Silicon Valley Waterloo and the CREATION of the NEW-NEXT ECONOMIES are budget play dough, special selection panels for GROWTH aside. (Earlier Opinions in Upfront Ottawa apply – more to follow)

Add to that the broken promises of tax relief to Small and Medium Enterprises, the engines of the economy, will pay in spades, as history has shown and until the LIBERALS stop borrowing in 2021. Meanwhile, elitism and the betrayal of the middle class continue until these new economies take hold, whatever their real and balanced scientific and economic maturity means.

Chuck in the $3.5 billion raid on the DEFENCE budget in the name of a new more agile strategy, and reallocations over 2015-2021 to ensure money is available WHEN needed. The Vestiges of predictable Liberal Policies such as Peace Dividends and Soft Power all loom large once again.

Silicon Valley North and Common Government Information and Communications Services and an additional $800 million is earmarked to get it right this time. Throw in more broadband for everyone as the vehicle for the future of a shared economy. Government contracts and proof of concepts are all part of the package. This is nothing new.

Candice Malcolm’s Article – Trudeau can’t create a new Silicon Valley – Ottawa Sun, March 24th 2016, refers. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US Government Accounting Office, Fraser Institute, and National University of Singapore all concluded that GOVERNMENT “innovation cluster” policy and funding simply does not work.

This is 1970s-80s history repeated in spades from the senior Trudeau era and predicted in reference to the raiding of defence Department funds or a forecasted “Silicon Valley Defence Cluster,” given the local liberal mantra in the last election. “We can always do better.”

James Bagnall, Ottawa Citizen – Scarce details to go with innovation dollars -23rd March 2016, perhaps captures the nebulous nature and unclear proportions of spending between bureaucrats and educators in contrast to investments in the business innovators the funding is designed to help.

We can look to an expensive period of Research Development, Study, Environmental Assessments and oversight on how to proceed. As the Finance Minister stated in the context of the education industry and its infrastructure needs, we depend on evidence-based criteria.

While it is not my place or choice to comment on my own experience in that regard, James Bagnall points out there is a separate issue at stake involving the distinction between traditional technologies such as telecom and software before leaping into the GOVERNMENT’S EMPHASIS on GREEN TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENTS and SUBSIDIES.

Sadly, the budget was overshadowed or put in place by the Violent TERRORIST ATTACKS in Belgium in the midst of brandishing new definitions for WAR, COMBAT, GENOCIDE, FIGHT euphemisms and lectures in international law before the budget was ever presented.

The 2016 Budget then fell to further background on the death of the former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford and then M.P Jim Hillyer who represented the electoral district of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Accordingly, debate and challenge to the premises in the budget were postponed until after the Easter Break. No matter, scrutiny still has to take place in order to set the ground rules for the GOVERNMENT’S TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY OBLIGATIONS.

That is another chapter: putting more flesh on the theoretical premises, technologies, actual deliverables and their economic impact on the people of Canada who carry the tax load.

Whichever way we cut it, Enough Promises partisan or otherwise have been cast by the wayside. Credibility, Confidence, Trust in the budget and, Sincerity in its implementation need some serious fine tuning before our money passes from Treasury to Makers and Takers.

Kevin Murray was an unsuccessful Canadian Candidate for the position of Director of Procurement at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear research in 1969.

Instead he embarked on the implementation of Silicon Valley North Initiatives involving the formation of the Department of Supply and Services Canada as a Corporate Systems Manager until 1979.

His concerns at CERN were that he did not know what he would be expected to buy or where to go to get it, even when the money was available. The objectives and the specifications of CERN’s mission were just twinkles in the eyes of the beholders and probably still are.

Scientific and economic evidence-based policies – the key to successful implementation and delivery, were merely “WORKS in PROGRESS” much as the 2016 Budget appears to be. (See previous Opinion Piece, Upfront Ottawa.)

Canada’s new posture or re-branding of the ISIL mission also cropped up at the tail end of the Finance Minister’s budget speech. Enough said, given that the Global initiatives and the Budget had been overshadowed by the Paris and Brussels terrorist bombings and killings.

There was an historic Liberal Prime Ministerial fig or maple leaf cover in the 90s within the context of WAR and the thrust of Quebec Separation. All that to say, the Budget and indeed the PARIS summit and accord were overshadowed by the harsh realities of ISIL, terrorist bombings and subsequent debate.

Hon Jean Chretien’s own White House invitation during the Clinton era and Gifted Golf Balls much touted pre-election claims about United Nations endeavours were pre-election precursors to the theme of Canada’s Global indispensability.  To keep Canada out of the Gulf WAR against Saddam Hussein comes to mind, though the Finance Minister mentioned Canada’s new posture in the FIGHT against ISIL – and best left there given the tragedy that occurred in Brussels.

The Finance Minister made the best quip of all amid a backdrop of laughter and guffaws. When he announced funding for our National Parks, he drew attention to their scenic beauty and canoeing in the wild. The Prime Minister “Paddles the River” enjoys doing that and does so frequently.

GLOBAL initiatives carried out with STYLE on the WORLD STAGE were also recognized. The PARIS – Green House ENVIRONMENTAL GAS Agreement for one and the DAVOS 4th Industrial Revolution gathering got some closing remarks from the Finance Minister as well.

Trust, of course, could be restored. However, it was patently obvious that a BUDGET is not A PLAN or an instrument to measure success or failure with respect to OBJECTIVE.

Update: Ottawa Sun April 30th 2016 – Jamey Keaten – Mighty Hadron Collider Laid low by Weasel.

The large HADRON COLLIDER at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland is one of the physics’ world’s most complex machines has been immobilized temporarily – by a weasel. [….] a weasel invaded a transformer that helps power the machine and set off an electrical outage. Authorities say the incident was one of several small glitches that will DELAY PLANS to RESTART the $4.4 BILLION COLLIDER.




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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