Conservative Spending Strategy

CTV is reporting that the federal government has overridden spending controls to give itself complete control and discretion over how it spends upwards of $8 billion of taxpayers dollars in military spending. (Hat tip to Zaphod’s Heads)

The Harper government is using an extraordinary “national security” clause as part of the continuing purchase of new planes and helicopters, says The Globe.

By using this clause, the spending will be exempt from the Agreement on Internal Trade with the provinces. The agreement, which came into effect in 1995, prohibits the federal government from steering contract work to specific parts of the country. (link)

Geez, politicians directing spending to different parts of the country in order to buy votes. What a bunch of Liberals up in Ottawa, eh? Mind you, this is more the tactic of the Mulroney Conservatives. Whatever the corruption of Chretien’s Liberals, they were the ones that did away with this visible aspect of regional pork barrelling.

What I find odd, though, is the report’s statement of where the money is to be spent:

The Conservative government has given itself the right to dole out $8 billion worth of military contracts to the West, Quebec and the Atlantic, reports The Globe and Mail.

I could understand Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, as those are areas of the country where the Conservatives have a chance of picking up seats. And ignoring Ontario seems to be par for the course for this government, intending to gain a majority by dividing and ruling (despite the fact that I think there are more seats in Ontario that are due for a Conservative pickup). But the West?

Aren’t the Prairies already in the Conservatives’ back pocket? Where’s the Conservatives lauded spending efficiency? Do the internal polls show the Conservatives something we don’t know? Or is the bulk of the work in Western Canada going to be performed in B.C., where the Conservatives are particularly vulnerable?

The report is vague on how it knows that the West, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces are due for this cash, so we have to take the statement above with a big grain of salt. The real news here is that the Conservative government would enact a National Security provision to control not just how the money is spent, but where.

I’m all for spending more money on the military, and I’m also for favouring Canadian companies when it comes to government purchases — within reason. But I find it disturbing that a government which campaigned on openness, accountability and reducing political pork barrelling, would again seek to short-circuit the bidding process, especially after routinely criticizing their Liberal predecessors for doing the same.

So, I say again: what a bunch of Liberals up there in Ottawa, eh?

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