Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Flim-flam Flaherty’s Fiscal Failings

Just in case you needed any more evidence of Jimbo’s failings as a finance minister, Stock Day went to Parliament yesterday, hat in hand, asking for an extra $6 billion (that’s with a “B”) for “unforeseen costs” incurred in the current fiscal year which ends in 2 weeks.

It’s fair enough that Flaherty and his minions in Finance didn’t anticipate the Haitian earthquake, or the H1N1 pandemic, although one would expect prudent fiscal managers to have some contingency set aside in the event of such “unforeseen costs”. But I guess that’s just a quaint Liberal concept. The $13 billion (with a “B”) left by the Martin government would certainly have covered those costs and then some.

But let’s look at just a few of the other “unforeseen costs” as itemised in the Edmonton Journal yesterday.

$196.4 million for civil service salary increases. The civil service was not a surprise. They’ve been around for a while and their contracts are well understood (or should be) by Treasury Board. Anyone with a calculator and an extra set of fresh batteries could have calculated, almost to the dollar, what the salary costs would be for the year.

$192 million in extra costs associated with Old Age Security benefits. Ditto civil service salary increases. Did we all of a sudden import a few hundred thousand extra seniors eligible for OAS?

$83.6 million for police and security at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now this is but a tiny part of the billion dollars or so (with a “B”) spent on security for the “Canada owes the podium” games. But with a billion dollars (with a “B”) to play with, surely they should have been expected to stay within budget. Or perhaps this was just for the security required by the steady stream of Con MPs looking for photo ops in the hope that some of that glittering gold would rub off on them.

And the biggie: $5.5 billion (with a “B”) to cover the extra costs of providing employment insurance this year. This is a direct result of ol’ Flim-flam’s head-in-the-sand response (as mandated by Harper) to the financial crisis that hit in 2008 – long before the current fiscal year began, and in plenty of time to make appropriate adjustments to the budget. Instead the Cons were singing “Don’t worry, be happy” all the way into a major employment crisis, and are now professing surprise at the cost.

As I write this I am left wondering whether what we’re seeing is incompetence, or a conscious intent to mislead Parliament, and Canadians, by purposely leaving known expenses out of the budget to avoid awkward questions about the size of the projected deficit.  Sadly, with this government it could be either – and is likely both.

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