Not Bad, Mr. Flaherty


I’d have to say that Flaherty released a pretty decent mini-budget yesterday. There were some tax cuts that I opposed, but overall I think the whole thing ranged from innocuous to decent.

I disagree with the percentage-point cut in the GST. Most Canadians didn’t feel this cut the last time it was made and, as I said before, it makes this tax an even more inefficient gathering of revenue. Or, to put it another way, with this cut, a greater percentage of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars is wasted in administering this tax. If you’re going to do anything to the GST, cut it entirely, or leave it as it is. Indeed, it might make more sense to raise this tax so that other taxes could be eliminated entirely (as Dion is contemplating), saving Canadians money in their pockets, and giving their tax dollars more impact in government than spend time in the tax administration processing plant.

And the corporate tax cuts do little but irk me. The numbers all suggest that we’re doing just fine in terms of our competitiveness with all important competitors. And while Canadian tax freedom day is sometime in June or July, corporate tax freedom day is sometime in January. Much as they may bleat, they don’t need the money, and besides they’d be more likely to get more of it if their customers received some income tax cuts instead. Or were able to contribute to the economy thanks to a few well-placed government programs.

However, those are nitpicks. Overall, the mini-budget offers no major program cuts, eases up the tax burden of Canadians on the lower end of the scale (I especially like the increase in the basic personal exemption to $9600), and still maintains a healthy $11 billion surplus for this fiscal year (and hopefully something similar for the next). As long as this government can maintain services as well as pay down the debt, then I won’t object to a tax cut or two.

Will it make Canadians more likely to vote Conservative? I have my doubts. The simple fact is, this is a budget that Paul Martin himself would have brought in as finance minister. Those who are currently committed to voting Liberal are unlikely to change their minds.


Food Fight! Food Fight!

Don’t let anybody say that Canadian politics is dull.

A bit of background: Jack Layton is, of course, the leader of the federal New Democratic Party and Elizabeth May is the leader of the rising Green Party. May won her party a fair amount of publicity by successfully negotiating a controversial no-compete agreement with Liberal leader Stephane Dion a few months ago, and she and Stephane (she more than Stephane, it seems) have been on about leftist vote splitting and the need to coordinate candidates in order to stop Stephen Harper from winning a majority government with less than 40% of the vote.

Say what you will about her, she has successfully gained a lot of media attention, and seems to be doing her party a world of good. Notice how the Greens netted a record breaking (for ANY provincial fourth party, I believe) 8% in the Ontario election earlier this month. So what if her methods are a little bit… unorthodox. And they are.

Jack Layton has rebuffed May’s advances to try and put together some Dion-led coalition to stop Harper at the ballot box, and not just because he’s a married man. I have to agree with him when he says that there are serious ideological differences between the Liberals and the NDP and as much as the Liberals hate to say this, for many real leftist voters, the prospect of a Liberal majority government is just as bad as a majority Conservative one.

So May appears to have gone to a fundraiser (actually the Press Gallery dinner) and has bid enough money to win a particular auction item: a dinner for her and a guest with Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. And her guest is… Stephane Dion. And now, potentially, May has that grand coalition meeting that Jack Layton did not plan for.

The media and the blogosphere are chuckling over the affronted reactions of various NDPers, but while I admire May for her audacity, I can see where they’re coming from. The way this has been played by May has all the makings of an ambush. After weeks of Layton cordially and not-so-cordially turning down offers to meet, May took the rather unprofessional step of obtaining that meeting through… well, one could be hard pressed to call it trickery, but she used a technique that most professional politicians would not. And which, in the business world, would cause most business executives to rethink the entire idea of auctioning themselves off for a dinner party — particularly one involving steak knives. “Hi! I’m the person who won your auction Mr. Landlord. And I’d like you to meet my guest, the Tenant Association family!”

But then this shows that May is not a professional politician, so point to her.

Idealistic Pragmatist has some excellent advice for Jack Layton on how best to handle this strange turn of events, and I have to admit the NDP’s initial reaction is not one where they’re seeing the opportunity that this chance meeting really is, despite the unorthodox means that May brought this meeting about. My advice would be to accept the meeting with grace, be polite and cordial, and stick to whatever guns you have. If any bad publicity arises from discord here, it will be over and done with in a day or two (unless, of course, the whole thing degenerates into a food fight). But if a miracle happens and some common ground can be found (especially in the manner that IP suggests it be found), then I think everyone benefits.

And you still walk away with a full stomach (unless, of course, a food fight erupts. Try not to let that happen, okay?).

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at this event.

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