Friday, September 28, 2007

It was a Conservative election promise. Pay no attention. That was then. This is now. (The embarrassment of riches edition)

Do you remember this little bit of information? (Yes. I've added emphasis because it was spoken with great emphasis at the time.)
In the spring of 2004, the Liberal government told Canadians that the 2003-04 surplus would only be $1.9 billion. In fact, it was $9.1 billion. In 2004-05, the Liberals spent about $9 billion at the end of the year to reduce their surplus to only $1.6 billion. Just this year, the 2005 Budget estimated the 2005-06 surplus at $4 billion, a number no reputable economic forecaster accepted. In the economic update only nine months later, this estimate had ballooned to $13.4 billion. Governments cannot be held to account if Parliament does not know the accurate state of public finances.
That final line is so true. When a government is swimming around in excess cash, way more than they told you they intended to collect, some of it is going to, well, perhaps just go missing.

Perhaps more importantly, it's not their money. It's yours, mine, ours. So the government is duty bound, as the statement above says, to accurately present the whole picture of public finances. Coming up with more than they said they would collect means their hands were far too deep into your wallet.

Where did that quote come from? Oh yes. Sorry. It's on page 11 of this document. That would be the Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform 2006.

Of course the problem of inaccurate budget projections was solved with legislation which created a Parliamentary Budget Officer, a part of the Conservative promise to provide accurate budget forecasts. Well... sort of. There doesn't seem to be one of those PBO things yet.

So, given that Harper and Flaherty have announced an unforecast budget surplus large enough to run some small countries in the black, you'd think they'd be falling on their own swords having violated their principles and gouged Canadians for more money than the government needed to operate.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced a higher than expected surplus from last year's budget and said paying down the national debt would remain a priority.
And then Harper went on to announce that the entire surplus would be given to the banks to pay down the national debt.

But wait.

The 2006 Budget Plan has completely different language.

From page 154:
For 2005–06, the federal surplus is currently estimated at $8 billion, based on monthly financial information through February 2006. The final result will reflect developments in March and year-end accrual adjustments.

Starting this fiscal year, the Government is planning on achieving annual debt reduction of $3 billion.
So, to follow what Flaherty said he needed to achieve the goals set out in the 2006 budget, he was looking for an $8 billion surplus, $3 billion of which would go to reduce the federal debt.

Instead the Harperites have almost $14 billion in excess cash. Taking $3 billion to debt repayment and $5 billion to tax reduction (the Conservatives don't do social programs, so forget even thinking about it), that leaves almost $6 billion which Harper tells us will go to debt repayment, essentially because it's windfall money, there was no plan for its use and debt repayment has always been a first priority.

Oh. Hold it. From page 11 of the 2006 Budget Plan:
The Government will examine the possibility of allocating a portion of any surplus at year-end larger than $3 billion to the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan, in order to make them more equitable for young Canadians and improve economic competitiveness.
Examined and apparently dismissed. Because what that says is that the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans could have received a boost of almost $11 billion or a portion thereof.

Those plans didn't receive a penny of that excess cash.

Lying con-men, in the worst sense of the term, and proud of it.

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