Kerry Nation — Canada not immune from dumb politics


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Let me be clear — I’m not against any particular government, I’m just not in favour of dumb. This week, newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford began to deliver on some of his campaign promises to reduce “big government,” as he likes to put it.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/07/2018 (1726 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Let me be clear — I’m not against any particular government, I’m just not in favour of dumb. This week, newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford began to deliver on some of his campaign promises to reduce “big government,” as he likes to put it.

Ford is right inasmuch as government is big, probably much too big. But that’s not really the issue.

The issue, simply put, is what does Ford intend to eliminate or reduce in his battle against big government? And, more importantly, does he understand the implications of his cuts?

The answers to both of these questions, it seems, is “we shall see.” Or, as I would put it, perhaps more honestly: “I haven’t got a clue, but that didn’t stop me during the election and it won’t stop me now.”

I won’t go into the deep grass describing the current cap-and-trade environmental program Ford has decided to withdraw from, but it is important to note that the Ontario government funded a number of programs with the proceeds of cap-and-trade. Argue about the ideological elements of this to your heart’s content, but recognize that new funding will need to be found for the programs that are now losing their existing revenues.

(I find the entire carbon discussion so dispiriting. Why it is ideological to even discuss climate change or who should fund this issue is puzzling to me. We all have a responsibility to our families and our planet, regardless of ideology.)

Brief rant aside, the reality of this cap-and-trade cut is that the Ford government will have to steal revenues from another program cut, or garner new revenues elsewhere, or cut the programs this revenue stream now covers. In simple terms, there is no free lunch. Any government program has to be funded. Hence, an elimination of revenues means either program cuts or government debt will be incurred.

Ontarians clearly did not understand this simple fact when they overwhelmingly voted Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals out of office and replaced her with the buffoonish Doug Ford, the smart sibling of the late Toronto mayor (and noted drug user) Rob Ford.

Make no mistake, while Wynne may have entered office appearing to be a significant upgrade to former premier Dalton McGuinty, she did her level best to drive Ontario to the verge of insolvency. Between the crazed, profligate spending and the accompanying scandals, Ontarians decided that they had simply had enough. Sadly, the alternatives were so limited.

Ford, for all of his shortcomings, is an organizer of considerable skill. His shortcomings, as I like to say, are quite evident to one and all. Despite them, Ford defeated Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney to first win his party’s nomination, and then vanquished a personally popular NDP leader and a sitting premier. Like him or not, Ford has some political skills.

Sadly, to circle back to the original point of this column, I am not a fan of “dumb,” and this entire episode of closing down the cap-and-trade program feels like it perfectly fits this description. It was an ideological promise without having considered its ramifications.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put Canada through several of these episodes, such as his call for parliamentary reform (which has completely disappeared from the parliamentary radar) and the portable cluster that is legalizing marijuana.

The ideas, on a surface level, are both logical and appealing. Legalize marijuana and tax it. Update our political system to ensure every Canadian’s vote counts. These both sound incredibly compelling, and they are, but they are also highly complicated issues that require serious consideration before the Boy Wonder promised them.

You’ll notice I didn’t refer to U.S. President Donald Trump in a discussion of dumb politics. Given that we just had Canada Day, I thought it important to find our homegrown idiocies in the True North.

Kerry Auriat is a lifelong Brandon resident.


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