Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Does Fiscal Conservatism Exist in Canada?

Many years ago, I rented a winter apartment in a South Florida beach town. One January evening a knock on the door revealed a sprightly eighty-something senior in that stereotypical track suit, who asked me if I would participate in a demonstration at city hall, protesting taxes.
I explained to this senior, perhaps a bit too condescendingly, that I was but a tenant and as such had no vested interest in the argument.
"Then you're an idiot! There's taxes built into your rent. It's people like you who don't participate in democracy that allow us all to get screwed!"


I never forgot the confrontation, because in my heart of hearts, I knew she was right and it brought me to the sad realization that when it comes to political activism, Canadians are poor citizens, all too willing to be rolled over by politicians who buy our votes by spending our very own money.
When it comes to political issues, there's just about zero passion, we'd rather be watching hockey or sipping beer in the back yard. While it's true that every couple of years the anarchists come out to enliven the political scene, they too, eventually grow up to adopt the Canadian virtue of political apathy.
We smugly believe ourselves superior to those silly Americans who passionately believe and demonstrate their commitment to their democracy. Whether the issue is abortion, taxes or health care, the zeal at which they carry on the political debate shames all Canadians.

Even in Quebec, a good separatist rally can muster a few hundred people at best.

And so we get the government we deserve. It matters little if it is Conservative or Liberal,  they both operate exactly the same way by maintaining a policy of spending our money foolishly on lavish social and pork programs in an attempt to buy our loyalty. We're not the only country running on this dysfunctional treadmill, the whole western world is deeply in  debt because governments overspend in a crass attempt to stay in power.

Cruising along the Mediterranean and reading the news story that our illustrious Prime Minister spent over one billion dollars on the G20/8 summit didn't surprise me, it was to be expected. But the lame reaction of the public did set me back. It seems that not even a billion dollar waste of money is enough to jolt us out of a political lethargy. A CTV news poll indicated that 78% of Canadians are opposed to the billion dollar price tag attached to the G8/20 conference but apparently not enough to send Mr. Harper on a precipitous fall in the polls. In fact the latest poll, taken after the revelation about the over-spending, indicates that Mr. Harper has actually climbed a couple of points in popularity!

The CTV poll about the Summit spending is just one more confirmation that Canadians are politically lazy, the only thing of interest that I could pull from the survey is the irrefutable proof that 22% of Canadians are outright morons.

When Harper was first elected, I thought he might be different, a conservative who would break the cynical practice of buying our votes with our own money, or money borrowed on our behalf, but he proved me wrong and I take comfort in the fact that I didn't vote for him.

Sitting on my cruise ship, I took out my IPhone calculator and punched up some numbers that you might find interesting.
What would be if the Prime Minister held his Summit aboard a luxurious cruise liner similar to the one I was now aboard?
The ship is perfectly suited to the task and has all the facilities necessary including lodging for 2,500 guests, gourmet dining facilities, conference rooms and enough bars to satisfy everyone, even the press corps!

 There are a least a dozen or so "presidential' type suites aboard, so the eight leaders could still be accommodated quite nicely. There's a 600 seat theatre that could serve as a venue for all the speeches and the ship boasts an extraordinary array of facilities for whatever it is they do at these types of meetings.

 There's a massive and beautiful dining room fit for any state dinner as well as two private restaurants that could accommodate a smaller gathering. The plebes of the press corps could be fed in the buffet restaurant, as well as being housed in the cheap rooms down below. VIPS could be ferried on and off the ship via a helicopter which the ship is equipped to handle.

As for security, a couple of warships could create a 'cordon sanitaire' and the air force could declare the area around the ship a no fly zone, with coastal based jets on standby to shoo away any one silly enough to violate the airspace. It would cost a pittance compared to what was blown in Toronto. Aboard the ship, a dozen or so officers is all that it would take to maintain security.
The ship could sail along the beautiful British Columbia coastline providing attendees a breathless vista and invigorating backdrop to the conference. Why build a zillion dollar fake lake, when we could sail the entire Pacific Ocean?

How much would all this cost? Well a week long cruise on a first class boat costs about $4,000 per person, which rounds off to about $10 million dollars to rent out the whole ship, a pittance compared to what was spent in Toronto. That includes all the food and lodging. If the working press were charged for their accommodations, that bill could be knocked down by a million or so. Add in incidentals of say another $10 million for booze and another 80 million on transportation and security and you're left with a saving of about $900 million. Another plus is that demonstrators would be left high and dry ashore, twiddling their thumbs and the meeting could go off without any disruption or inconvenience.

Now for that $900 million saving, let's see what could we do with it.
Quebec's portion would be in the 200 million dollar range and placed in a long term investment might bring in about $18 million dollars a year, enough to fund about sixty new family doctors permanently.

Those sixty doctors, could carry out 7,500 consultations a year or almost half a million between them. They would help fill the gap of the more than 1,000 family doctors missing from the Quebec landscape.

Let's see the equations extrapolated to include the whole country;

A G8/20 conference held one time in Toronto
o new family doctors across Canada, funded forever


A G8/20 conference held one time on a cruise ship
300 new family doctors across Canada, funded forever

In light of the choice, I wonder what the 22% of Canadians (who thought it was okay to blow a billion on the G20/8) would say? Perhaps they too would agree, once they understood the real cost of wasting a billion dollars on a one-time boondoggle, that perhaps the money would better spent elsewhere.

Remember, under my cruise ship scenario, we could have hosted both the conference and hired the new doctors all for the same money.
A lot of my numbers are crude, but they are real enough.
The wasted money can be attributed straight to arrogance, incompetence and a complete disdain for the taxpayer. Those in charge should be sacked and the politicians held accountable, but it will never happen.
Harper, Ignatieff and Layton are all cut from the same cloth. While they would each spend the money differently, they would all spend it foolishly, it's in their nature.
In Canada, we don't have a true conservative politician who really believes in reducing spending and increasing efficiency. We don't have any because we don't elect any.

When a group of  Quebec intellectuals (lucides) published a letter begging for a more rational approach to government, they were roundly panned. Read the manifesto.

Like I said, we get what we vote for.

What's a real fiscal conservative? Watch this video of New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Electable? Not a chance. I have no doubt that he would be laughed out of Canada.

We enjoy getting screwed by our politicians too much.


  1. Part of the problem for the Canadian sheeple is our dysfunctional political system. We can't vote for the senate, unlike Americans. There is no direct vote for the prime minister. You can only vote in your own single riding. The first past the post system is not even semi-democratic. One can be elected with a tiny minority of votes depending on how the vote splits work. Look at the 1970 provincial election in Quebec. The P.Q. got 23% of the vote and 7 seats. In 1973 they got 30% OF THE VOTE BUT ONLY 6 SEATS. Another problem is space. Canadians live in separate groups in a huge country. Issues that affect Newfoundland may be irrelevent in B.C. This makes it difficult to build a consensus. But part of the problem is the Canadian people themselves. They are very complacent and thus get, as you say, the governments they deserve. The Toronto guy.

  2. Well stated, 8:02PM! My girlfriend says we're a wishy-washy country. I'm not going to go through that whole speech and warning Patrick Watson gave our country 21 years ago when "The Struggle for Democracy" was aired on CBC. Watson called it 21 years ago, and our complacency is leading us to the democracy we deserve. It's not pretty, but it is pretty wasteful when you take into account the idiotic spending that was done at the recent G8/G20 summits. It WAS a colossal waste of our tax dollars. Where is that fake lake now? What good did it do? In addition to the billion plus taxpaid waste, it cost the private sector probably billions more. I work for RBC, now in Mississauga, but I used to work downtown at Front near Spadina. Everybody there who could not work at home had to be relocated, many to our offices, at great expense.

    I was listening to the radio on my drive home and they were talking about how many downtown restaurants lost tons of business before and since the Summit. Many planned ahead of time and either worked from home, or planned for their relocation. Even businesses 10-15km from the location of the Summit suffered.

    The whole thing was so ill conceived and cost far more than it was worth. Now Ignatieff is glad handing on his broken-down bus criticizing. As if Jane Stewart's magic act of making a billion disappear without books and records isn't something, or the fact Sheila Fraser had to get the public on her side to audit the MPs and their lavish expenditures, the first such audit in 20 years. While I'm sure Sheila Fraser would like to put the worst offenders in chains and irons, I doubt anything will happen beyond simple admonishment.

    Fellow Canadians, you get the Canada you deserve. Then there are the packs of hounds in Quebec looking to freeload from the rest of us. Fascinating how Lucien Bouchard goes to the federal trough, then the Quebec trough with his French b.s. then states in that 2005 "Manifesto" how learning English is important...especially when ever increasing stringent laws are making that ever increasingly tougher to do.