Must-reads: Dan Gardner on the McMurtry/Curling report; Colby Cosh on bailing out the oil patch; Don Martin on Bob Rae.
A long, bumpy ride
And so dawns the new age of economic consensus…
“Maybe I should simply be happy no one’s yet suggesting we rekindle inflation and see if it helps,” a predictably outraged John Robson writes in the Ottawa Citizen. “But I’m not.” Indeed, he’s borderline apoplectic at the speed and obtuseness with which governments abandon solid economic principles—balanced budgets, not “picking winners and losers” in the corporate world, etc.—when the economy goes south. In fact, he observes, most people pushing for some kind of Detroit Three bailout on the basis that allowing them to fail would be untenable have abandoned even the “pretence that GM, Ford and Chrysler are winners,” and yet they still want to throw good billions after bad. But alas, Robson laments, we are at these people’s mercy. Just stay the hell away from the stock market until it’s over, he advises.
Colby Cosh returns to the pages of the National Post in fine form, observing that lots of potential jobs are being lost in the Alberta oil patch thanks to “purely temporary business-cycle conditions,” and yet Tony Clement’s nowhere to be seen with a bailout proposal. What gives? Partly, Cosh argues, it’s the old political truth that the visible (i.e., existing jobs at crap Detroit-based automakers) trumps the invisible (i.e., potential jobs at viable but not-yet-built oilsands facilities) no matter how illogically. And partly, he suggests, it’s because Ontarians’ “understanding of the world remains heavily influenced by the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbilies.”
At this point, Stephen Harper has three options, John Ivison opines in the Post: “refuse to provide stimulus, beyond stabilizing the financial markets, and hope that moves by the Bank of Canada … are sufficient to keep the economy afloat”; “stick to a balanced budget, regardless of all else, by increasing taxes, cutting spending and selling government assets”; or, which is “most palatable to the government,” boost spending “to stimulate the economy in a timely, targeted and temporary fashion.” Unfortunately for the Tories, Ivison observes, this most palatable solution has been compromised by the report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer—which, by Ivison’s reckoning, has closed off just about every escape route through which the Tories could claim not to have created this deficit in the first place.
Looks like the Citizen’s Susan Riley has finally had enough of Jack Layton, whom she accuses of playing his same old oppose-for-the-sake-of-opposing game while everyone from John Baird to Jim Flaherty is at least making noises about playing nice. Why would Layton melodramatically denounce a Throne Speech in which the Prime Minister finally “dropped his theological objection to deficits,” she asks, instead of offering “targeted, reasonable and, if possible, helpful” criticisms? Surely he must realize you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Riley’s inexhaustible capacity to be disappointed in irredeemable people never fails to refresh, we must say.
In the Toronto Star, Richard Gwyn predicts “we’re in for a long, bumpy ride” as Barack Obama attempts to simultaneously usher in a new era of multilateralism and a new era of capitalism. Consider: the one tangible thing the G20 leaders have done, which is committing “to avoid protectionist measures for at least the next year,” will soon run smack into the Detroit bailout, which Gwyn says “amounts to exactly this kind of trade protectionism.” So how will that shake out? Will the G20 “dare to … criticize the U.S. and Obama,” and if so, will Washington give a damn? (And if not, we’d ask Gwyn, will anything really have changed?) Stay tuned. The show starts Jan. 20.
Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling “failed their responsibility” in their report on the causes of youth violence in Ontario, the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner alleges, in that they didn’t adequately substantiate their “explosive” claim that “racism is becoming more serious and entrenched than it was in the past.” This failure is disappointing enough on its own, but particularly so because—as McMurtry and Curling note in their own report—”it can be profoundly damaging to think that you won’t get a fair shake in life because of the colour of your skin.” Gardner suggests, quite logically, that the report could very effectively reinforce that belief among the very Ontario youth they were trying to help.
In the Montreal Gazette, Josée Legault recaps all the attempts Pauline Marois has thus far made to present herself as a distinct alternative to Jean Charest without re-embracing sovereignty, and observes, based on the polls, that these attempts have failed. “While the ADQ remains firmly on the right, the PQ’s more autonomist approach combined with a more centrist socio-economic vision has produced a PQ platform which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Liberal plank.” Why, she wonders, “would voters want to change a loonie for four quarters?”
The Gazette’s Janet Bagnall applauds both Quebec’s success in stacking the boards of directors of Crown corporations with women and Charest’s promise to extend the policy to universities and Cégeps, and she suggests the a similar policy be enacted to benefit ethnic minorities and—whoah, Nellie!—anglophones. Bagnall defends such affirmative action policies on grounds that while they “might seem unfair,” they just aren’t. “Unfair is leaving whole groups to try to crawl into the space they should be occupying one inch at a time.” Seems to us both things are patently unfair, but Bagnall’s shrill tenor on issues such as this doesn’t exactly invite debate.
As “bizarre” as Bob Rae’s Liberal leadership pitch is—basically, I know how to bugger up a recessionary economy and I promise I won’t do it again—the Calgary Herald’s Don Martin doesn’t see many other avenues of attack for the silver-haired waffle. It’s not as though he can ignore either the economic crisis or his disastrous tenure as premier of Ontario, after all. But what Martin found really “unnerving” during yesterday’s official campaign kickoff was that “Rae never actually admitted to making mistakes.” Nor has his penchant for articulate nonsense abated, Martin reports. Ask him if he favours or opposes an auto sector bailout “and you get a five-minute rambling response that ducks a definitive position. Try it again and nouns, verbs and adjectives gush forth in a nice-sounding cascade that still stops short of a coherent answer.”
The Globe’s Jeffrey Simpson files a not-very-novel look at the Liberals’ descent into irrelevance in Quebec, and offers a not-very-specific solution: they “have to decide whether to merely provide an echo for the Harper approach [to federalism] or to find some other voice that is more national in the Canadian sense and take their chances with that voice in a province that is less and less interested in Canada.”
The Star’s Rosie DiManno files a not particularly eventful update from the Jane Creba murder trial, where the prosecution has wrapped up its case.