08.14.2011 01:19 AM

In today’s Sun: he hasn’t done as horrible a job as I expected

(EDITOR’S WARNING: If you are a federal Conservative, this column may make you faint. You are advised to immediately locate the smelling salts and lay down on the couch before proceeding any further.)

Yes, folks, it’s true: I am about to say something nice about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Me, the resident Bolshevik at Sun Media. Me, the guy who never met a Conservative he didn’t like.

Here goes: Over the past few days, in which economic turmoil has left quite a few of us feeling exceedingly nervous, Jim Flaherty has been doing a not-bad job. A good job, even.

There, I said it.

31 Comments

  1. Mike London says:

    I agree with you, but I wish he’d stop bragging about it and lecturing other nations. Gloating never goes over well.

  2. Pete says:

    He is not so good as he is fortunate the Liberals forced a stimulus budget in him in 2009. That atimulus saved Canada from the serious effects of a recession. Having oil north of $80 and gold soaring helped our export revenues as well. So lets call him lucky but not good until he slays this deficit as promised.

  3. The Doctor says:

    Flaherty and a couple of the issues you touch on in your article go right to the heart of the dilemma that LPC supporters face these days (and in the next 4 years or so). LPC supporters obviously don’t like to think of this or mention this, but the fact is that in recent months, the federal budget deficit has been going down. It could head back up if the economic doo-doo hits the fan again, but for now, it’s headed down. If that trend continues, it might prove difficult politically for Liberals to pin the “fiscal irresponsibility” tag on to Flaherty and the CPC. So then the other possibility is to tack the other way and accuse the CPC of being big, mean ogres who are slashing programs etc.

    Part of the LPC’s problem IMO was highlighted by Dan Gardiner a few months ago when he wrote about the fact that the LPC has, in its rhetoric, been trying to have it both ways — talking up fiscal responsibility, then tacking notably left (note that it remains a standard refrain among many Liberals that a LPC government should, and would, implement a national day care policy, fully implement the Kelowna Accord (a huge, multi-billion dollar expenditure item), etc.). I know there are nuanced arguments that are possible, to the effect that “jets and jails” could be cut and thus room made for other programs (including new ones), but I’m not sure that sort of nuance could make it through the mind-numbing meat-grinder of talking points that stands for political discourse in this country.

    This is one of many issues that, when you scratch it and analyze it, throws up that fundamental tension between leftish Trudeau Liberalism and Martin Liberalism, and that tension is going to continue to play out while Liberals figure out how to survive in the current environment. It’s going to be an interesting 4 years or so.

  4. Finn says:

    S&P’s downgrade wasn’t idiotic, it was entirely well deserved.

    Canada’s retrieval of its AAA happened under Chretien. It was lost under the conservatives.

    Flaherty said not to take S&P too seriously when they downgraded Ireland a year ago.

    Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Ireland had a solid bank plan and was Europe’s leader in fiscal reform, warning not to take rating agency views such as S&P’s downgrade of Ireland this week too seriously.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/flaherty-lauds-irish-fiscal-reforms/article1685880/

    Excuse me but how’s Ireland doing now Jimmy boy?

    And here’s Deficit Jim on the 2008 recession looking like a goof…again.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkk_OR6Dqt8

    In a world where batting 0.300 will make you a star, I can see how Flaherty would earn some praise.

    But not from those of us who actually understand finance and economics.

    • Finn says:

      Thanks for proving my point.

      Ireland was inevitable you say. To all but Flaherty it would seem.

      As for your Ryan BS, the truth hurts, don’t it bitch?

      Asked about Ryan’s claim, John Piecuch, director of communications for S&P, said: “We did not comment on any of the proposals which may have circulated — just the Budget Control Act which passed and was signed by the president.” He added that as general policy, S&P does not endorse any particular mix of revenue and spending changes needed to reduce the deficit and would not comment on the effectiveness of a plan until it was passed into law.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/paul-ryans-claim-of-vindication-by-sandp/2011/08/08/gIQAKy5J3I_blog.html

    • “Much of the groundwork to address the problem was done by Mulroney by stimulating the economy ? not increasing taxes.”

      Funny you mention that -I’ve heard and read interviews with Paul Martin by American and European news organizations on the subject of getting Canada’s finances back on track in the 90’s but nothing with any Mulroneyites. Lamestream media you say?

      “The US hAs a spending problem ? not a taxing problem ? the S &p guys said as much on that too.”

      Wrong again – the US tax rates are among the lowest in the world. Loopholes for oil companies and the like should be closed, Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire. Some revenue generation is necessary to climb out of this mess but the Tea Party and Grover Norquist have all but expunged intelligent ideas from the debate.

      None other than David Stockman, President Reagan’s OMB Director, has emerged as a leading voice for significant budget reform, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/opinion/01stockman.html

      Perhaps true conservatism will come back into vogue someday but I wouldn’t count on it.

      • The Doctor says:

        I suppose it depends on what Gord means. The US does have a taxation problem in that tax receipts as a percentage of GDP are ridiculously low, given the expenditure and entitlement programs that the US runs and its infrastructure and other requirements, not to mention defence. The US does not have a taxation problem, in the sense that it definitely has the means to raise rates and get itself out of this mess.

        • Yes – there’s no political will on the Right to cut expenditures AND raise revenue, however it may be done. The Tea Party rhetoric has extinguished the chance for any real reform.

          And there’s a lack of leadership from the President so far on sticking to the Dem’s requirements.

          Time will tell.

  5. VH says:

    Warren,

    any mention of Jim Flaherty in a column should always include the fact that via the hated 407 he facilitated the transfer of billions of dollars of value from the people of Ontario by taking expected revenues from a highway that was already built by taxpayer dollars and giving it to his friends in big business for basically nothing.

    That being said, there’s a few factual issues with your column.

    First, the Harper government was running deficits before the economic recession started. When you give him credit for running a surplus because of a stimulus, the only thing Flaherty has ever run is a surplus – good times or bad.

    Second, Flaherty has stated that tax cuts pay for themselves, so when you write that a Cdn finance minister must be a “shrewd” manager of words, that’s laughable.

    Third, the above two points are not unrelated.

    Fourth, Liberals can never win again if you don’t buck up on tax policy and economics. The folly of Flaherty praising the race-to-the-bottom tax cut crazy country of Ireland before they crashed their economy should have generated a lot of blowback from the Liberal party once the economic lesson was revealed. But it didn’t. Flaherty and the other movement conservatives are full of sh*t on taxes and the economy.

    Just remember, U.S. bond prices went UP after the S&P AAA downgraded not down. If the “market” believe US debt notes were risky as S&P said then T bill prices should have went down. But they didn’t. Demand for US debt increased last week not the opposite. Stocks crashed, T Bills prices soared. When you focus on taxes instead of putting your focus on jobs, this is what happens. In that regard, your article doesn’t help.

    • VH says:

      Sorry the above s/b “when you give him credit for running a deficit because of a stimulus, the only thing Flaherty has ever run is a deficit ? good times or bad.”

  6. James Bowie says:

    The man who is personally responsible for Canada’s structural deficit is doing a “good job?” Sigh…

    • Attack! says:

      Yuck. Doesn’t your tongue ever get tired from all the boot-licking?

      And how do you reconcile all your support, excuses & explanations for their following behaviour with your own views… and/or sleep at night?

      So, was Harper just LYING when he answered Mansbridge’s q. about this (“some would argue that you’ve taken the positions you’ve taken because you’re in a minority. That if you were in a majority position you wouldn’t have had as extensive a stimulus program as you did…”) thus:

      “No, we’ve taken the positions, Peter, because they’re the right positions for the economy. There’s lots of things we’ve been pressured to do in this minority government that we’ve refused to do… [like on reducing the hours for EI eligibility].

      …We took the positions we took because they’re affordable and they’re the right thing to do.

      We faced, Peter, what we faced in 2008/09 were circumstances that I thought I would not see in my lifetime. But economic theory is clear. When you have a complete collapse of market confidence, when you have a global financial system that has become dysfunctional, such that no matter what is done in terms of savings, that does not translate into private investment, then the only alternative you have is for government to move in, absorb those funds at – by the way, borrowing them at almost nothing or an interest close to zero – and put them to work productively to stimulate business confidence.

      That was the situation we were in in the 1930s. We haven’t been in a situation — we’ve had some recessions before but we have not been in a situation like that in 80 years. I read about it in my textbooks, I certainly was aware of it. Did I think it would happen? No, I didn’t, but it did. And so when it did I think we took the appropriate action.”

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/inside-politics-blog/2011/01/transcript-stephen-harper-the-mansbridge-interview-part-one.html

      And are the CPC being COMPLETELY two-faced for running what amounts to a non-stop campaign for the last 3 years touting the need for, existence of (with a sign at EVERY rinky dink project) and supposed vast economic and employment benefits of their Economic Action Plan! — that they didn’t believe in, in the least, themselves?

      http://www.actionplan.gc.ca/eng/feature.asp?featureId=16

      http://www.actionplan.gc.ca/eng/feature.asp?featureId=21

      And you’re, what, okay with that, since it’s a means to their finally getting a majority to implement austerity end, which will, um, hopefully restore the size of government and the operating surplus to, um, pretty much the same levels they were at when they TOOK OVER, 9 years earlier, albeit with another 100+B in DEBT?

      And what do you make of Flaherty saying, just yesterday, that, well, gee, I guess he WOULD consider pausing the austerity plan and doing stimulus spending again if we had about a year of negative growth in the global double-dip recession that might be coming up.

      http://ca.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idCATRE77C2H420110814

      re: this ‘The House’ interview at the 5:00 mark

      http://www.cbc.ca/thehouse/news-promo/2011/08/13/weathering-the-economic-storm-ahead/

    • Jan says:

      Everyone’s an economist. Amazing that with all the supposed expertise available, we are where we are.

    • VH says:

      Gord,

      I don’t know exactly what the heck is wrong with you but there is no such thing as a binding g20 agreement. Thus there is no such thing as a g20 agreement to use stimulus instead of tax cuts. The European countries in the G20 care only the Euro agreements they made to create and stabilize the EURO, China doesn’t care about what anybody else says, and neither does the USA. And there is absolutely no one, no one, in Washington who said “gee the G20 says we have to do this so we’re going to do this”. To write or believe otherwise, you have to be absolutely crazy and insane or totally unable to process and understand how Americans think or work.

      Secondly, I don’t know which set of economic indicators and news story you read and watch but there is one G7 country that has a lower unemployment rate since the start of the recession and that country didn’t do any “tax cuts” and for that matter that country’s tax rate is significantly higher than the USA’s or Canada’s.

      At least if you’re going to argue to nonsensical conclusions, perhaps you could try harder and fashion together a collection of data points that are actually true rather than rely on a bed of outright falsehoods. Please? It’d be more interesting.

      • VH says:

        So if we understand you correctly, you’re claiming that the outgoing Republican president of the US in the middle of a presidential campaign agreed to an international deal to refrain from cutting taxes? And in 2008 the Cdn gov’t agreed to a deal to not cut taxes to solve a problem that at the time they refused to acknowledge even existed?

        And if we further understand you, you are claiming (in your earlier comment) that Germany, which lowered their unemployment rate, is having second thoughts about doing that?

  7. allegra fortissima says:

    “Idiotic”? There, you said it. I am just wondering: what exactly is “idiotic” about Standard & Poor’s decision?

    http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

    Kudos to Senator Sanders who, unlike many others, recognizes the unsustainable social-economical path of the US:

    http://youtu.be/2MebCyBEGQc

  8. Rick Thomson says:

    “idiotic” about Standard & Poor’s decision? I don’t think so. When your in the area of a 14 trillion debt, I am supprised it took so long for the down grade. It is time for the US to pay the Piper and he’s come a knockin.

    By the way it’s nice that you seen the light with Flaherty.

    • Attack! says:

      um, saying that he’s doing a good job over the past few days in trying to calm nerves and not inciting more investor and “job creators” panic (by repeating the same “sound fundamentals” mantra they gave at every stump speech for a month in the election, BTW) is hardly much of an endorsement.

      BTW, I’m still waiting for you to respond to the food for thought I gave you on why you think Hudak would be any better at attracting family doctors to non-urban areas, or why you even think that it’s a Premier’s job do that, anyway:

      http://warrenkinsella.com/2011/08/harper-ford-and-hudak-bad-things-come-in-threes/#comment-48476

      • Rick Thomson says:

        By the way it?s nice that you seen the light with Flaherty. This was intended to be humour, but I see it went right over your head.

        Of course it is a Premiers job. Health Care is a Provincal responsibility.

        As for Hudak being better attracting family doctors, only time will tell. The present Premier’s track record on this subject speaks for itself.

        • smelter rat says:

          Premiers don’t attract Doctors. Period.

        • Attack! says:

          if it does, you’re not hearing it too well:

          as the link I provided shows, almost 600,000 — or 6% — more Ontarians over the age of 12 had access to a regular medical doctor in Ontario in 2010 than in 2005.

          And the National Physician Survey has determined that the number of actually practicing Family Physicians and General Practitioners operating in Ontario has increased from 10,344 in 2004 (when they did their first survey) to 11,768 — i.e., a 13.8% increase.

          http://www.nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/nps/results/PDF-e/FP/Tables/Demographics/ON_Demographics.pdf

          http://www.nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/nps/2010_Survey/Results/pdf/en/provincial/on/other/on_demographics.pdf

          Sounds like progress to me.

          And as I also noted, the Canadian data from the family doctors themselves indicates that family influences and the allure of the actual location were far most important as inducements to relocating to smaller and more remote areas than any provincial financial incentives:

          which puts the ball in YOUR town’s court to advertise and sell yourselves as a good place for someone to come and live and raise (and possibly first meet) a family.

          So, the provinces are responsible for paying for and overseeing many aspects of health care and hospitals, yes.

          But where is it written that it’s their job to furnish a doctor (or dentist? or chiropractor?…) in a community of any given size?

          These are independent, self-employed people we’re talking about, here; are you hoping a Conservative government is going to dictate where they must work, like a Communist country?!

  9. Pedro says:

    I just wished Dalton McGuinty had used his political capital in a similar fashion in the past term.
    He had lots of it.
    He squandered it being such a politacal wishy-washy.
    Any Liberal can raise taxes. Canadians expect it.
    A gutsy one might be willing to bet some capital on releasing the reins of private industry without government intervention (funding).

  10. WildGuesser says:

    Did anyone else bust out laughing with the Ontario Provincial counterpart line?

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