Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mad, And With Good Reason

Stephen Maher is mad as hell. Out in Nova Scotia, he writes in the Chronicle Herald:

In order to create a database of federal stimulus spending in Nova Scotia, it was necessary to look at all kinds of different federal websites, all with scraps of information, and then find out from other levels of government how much money was spent on each project and figure out where the shovels were hitting the ground.

In the United States, on the website, you can, in seconds, download exhaustively detailed databases showing where and how stimulus is being spent, who is getting the contracts, for how much, when, and how many jobs are created.
In Canada, on the site, there’s a map with icons showing where projects are located, but if you click on the icons, you get a popup with a charming picture of what’s his name, our prime minister, but no dollar amount.
There is a link to a video of the same guy singing a Beatles song, but there’s no database of projects available for download.

Not just one guy's experience, this is being noted by journalists across the country. The Harper government has no intention of telling the people anything. They've figured out that if you can't actually tell where the billions of dollars they claim to be spending are being spent (or not being spent), then they can claim and reclaim and re-re-claim to be spending that money. We saw this before the crisis when they would re-announce the same spending every two to three months, to make it appear that they were actually doing things that Canadians wanted.

Now, of course, they've been handed the gift of a lifetime; a demand for stimulus spending that Canadians understand and support. Not that they have any desire to actually spend it where it will do any serious long-term good, but still, they get to hand out those oversize novelty cheques and people won't be mad at them for doing so.

The rule is that the government in power gets to hand out the cheques, not the MP in a riding. Although, that point is moot when you're only spending real money in riding's that either voted Conservative or you hope you can swing Conservative. But the Harperites aren't content with politics as usual. They have to go one further and add big Conservative Party logos to the novelty cheques and have them signed with the signature of the local MP.

But this isn't the Conservative Party's money. This is money from the taxpayers of Canada to the taxpayers of Canada via their federal government. The MP gets to say "It is due to my efforts that this project was approved for funding, and I get to present this cheque." He (and, painfully, it's still primarily he in this country) does NOT get to say "My party and I are giving you this money." It's not only untrue, but it has been recognized as an unreasonable intrusion of partisan politics into the operation of government. Partisanship and governing are supposed to have a firewall between them: the visibility of being the ruling party is supposed to be all the partisan gain the ruling party gets. The linking of government spending to the way a riding voted is called (what's that name again? oh yeah,) pork-barrelling. And it's been falling out of favour among the electorate for the past half-century.

And the reason it's been falling out of favour is the blatant unfairness of pork-barrel politics. It doesn't serve the public good. Yes, it continues. After all, you have to repay the faithful somehow. But this is more in the vein of "Hey, we can finally fund those projects we think are valuable" rather than "Here's the payoff for voting Liberal (or Conservative)." One can be seen as being sympathetic with "them that brung ya" and still be seen as governing and spending with the best interests of the country at heart.

This is not true of the current government. They are not governing with the best interests of the country at heart. They are governing, and spending, only with the best interests of the Conservative Party at heart. They are proving to be incompetent at practical politics--the art of governing for all while supporting your own. The Conservative Party, Under Stephen Harper, has taken on the Prime Minister's own paranoia. Liberals, the NDP, etc. are not Canadians with differing views, but are at best unwitting dupes of pure evil in the Harperite worldview. Their belief that sometime in the past there was a perfect Canadian world and that we've gotten off track with all this crap about rights for bitches, hos, and faggots, that we need to have respect for our betters (you know them, they already have money and power), and (to quote Denny Crane) "I'm here to enjoy nature. Don't talk to me about the environment" approach to industry and the environment, well, if they had organized supporters who used physical intimidation to shut down dissent, the party would fit nicely into pre-WW II Italy. It's the same line of crap, fuelled by the same hate, the same fear, as we heard then. Thankfully, Canwest-Global is collapsing and the National Post is losing money hand over fist. Canada doesn't quite have a Fox propaganda network yet. That gives us some breathing room to fight this worldwide rightward drift here in our own country.

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