Of all the Harper government budgets, surely this latest one is the most revealing, as to true nature, intent and inspiration. After all, this was the budget fiscal conservatives had waited for, finally in a majority position, this government could implement their true agenda, free the narrow electoral immediacy that minority math produces. And yet, fiscal conservatives are now left shaking their heads, by almost every account this budget is tame, almost entirely relying on future growth to reign in debt, little in the way of true austerity. What we are left with in this budget are disporportionate cuts, targeted and inconsistent, entirely eye opening, simply a political document with undo focus on perceived enemies. In totality, this may be the most PETTY budget document we have seen, it reads like a vendetta more than a path forward for Canadians.
Review the cuts, and a very compelling theme emerges. The Conservatives actually cut Elections Canada, at the exact moment we are having a discussion about its lack of resources and ability to ensure fair elections. Entirely stunning, if anything recent problems have shown a bare bones operations in desperate need of more tools, not less.
The Conservatives went well out of their way to pick on environmental group “charities”, I call it the David Suzuki pay back clause. Perhaps more revealing, a budget supposedly about belt tightening found new money to put charities on the defensive, entirely consistent with the wider assault on the environment. In many respects, these charities are the “little guy” counter to well funded industry groups such CAPP, providing some balance to the discussion. There is simply no doubt this out of nowhere announcement in the budget is an attempt to silence- or at least intimidate- perceived opposition to the Conservative agenda. The legislation is entirely transparent, and again fits in nicely with a very coherent overall thrust.
This government will eliminate the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, it will cut environmental reviews and it will speed up the review process. In several ways, the Conservatives have become a proxy for industry and set out to eliminate and marginalize, in a very systematic way, any opposition. With the backdrop of “enemies of the state” clearly in play, these Conservatives have gone on the offensive. Somehow, in CANADA, we have reached the pathetic reality, wherein anyone who shows concern for our natural beauty, legitimate environmental concerns, is someone who needs to be erased from the equation, they are a threat. Nevermind that much of what the Conservatives are now trying to marginalize evolved because their industry masters have previously FAILED to provide sound environmental stewardship, no, one must dispense of historical memory and buy into the new fantasy land the government apparently believes in.
This government went after the Trudeau era Katimavik program, which was cut once prior, only to be reborn with the Chretien government. This government has slashed the CBC budget by a WHOOPING 12% over three years, we are hard pressed to find this “austerity” anywhere else, already underfunded relative to other nations, our public broadcaster takes a direct hit. Again, Conservatives have used the CBC to fundraise, their “state” broadcaster is obsessed with attacking the CBC, anyone with a functioning forebrain would concede the outlier cuts are politically inspired, rather than a consistent commitment to belt tightening.
When you review where these Conservatives cut, where they focused their energy, a very clear pattern emerges. This is a budget that looks every bit like a vendetta, rather than use their newfound majority to bring in an ambitious conservative agenda, it is littered with pettiness and political inspiration, rather than “good government”. The thesis finds further weight in the post-budget talking points. Our esteemed Finance Minister volunteered a broadside attack on the Ontario Liberals, somehow undermining his old foes at Queens Park was top of mind, rather than selling his vision for the country. Budgets have flavours, overarching narratives, this one REEKS of the Conservatives again looking for enemies, eliminating and intimidating perceived foes, political before practical, a nasty edge that will be their unflattering legacy.