Flaherty deserves more credit than Nordicity gives

Al Pope's "Break out the rainy day funds" article in the Jan. 31 edition of the News misrepresented facts and took cheap shots at Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.


by Rick Tone

Al Pope’s “Break out the rainy day funds” article in the Jan. 31 edition of the News misrepresented facts and took cheap shots at Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Pope wrote that Flaherty “spent” $60 billion on “tax cuts” to corporations. Perhaps its a question of semantics, but are not cuts and spending opposites? Regardless, those cuts may have helped keep many businesses, small and large, in business and/or in Canada rather than closing or moving to lower-tax jurisdictions and taking jobs with them, in which case the damage to our economy may have been a great deal more than the $60 billion Flaherty supposedly “spent.”

Pope failed to mention that those cuts were encouraged and generally applauded by most businesses and economists. I also would have thought Flaherty deserved credit rather than derision for his intent to present a “stay the course” budget, especially given that the government is still running an annual deficit, which Pope took pains to criticize while at the same time seeming to criticize Flaherty for not spending more money. Go figure.

As for Flaherty’s supposed record setting deficit of $50 billion, Pope failed to mention the context. That deficit was created when the wheels fell off the world economy and unions, companies, the other political parties, economists, and provincial governments were all urging Flaherty to turn on the taps to counter the recession, save jobs and help the unemployed.

If anything, that deficit was created by broad consensus across Canada, not just by the Conservative government. It therefore seems to me rather unfair for those same parties who asked for the deficit spending to now attack the government for it while at the same time complaining about spending cuts to get back to a balanced budget.

When Pope asserted that Flaherty’s $50-billion deficit was “record setting,” he also forgot to compare deficits going back over the last several decades in constant dollars by applying the CPI index, or perhaps something less complicated like the price of gas when the Liberals under Trudeau were governing Canada. (It was 45 cents an imperial gallon then, or about 10 cents a litre compared to $1.40/litre now – 14 times more expensive today.)

Had he done so, Pope would have noticed that the largest deficit in Canadian history happened under the Trudeau Liberals. They had a $30 billion deficit, which, if we multiply by the increase in the cost of gas (or for that matter the cost of cars, food, housing or the average of many other products) Trudeau’s deficit would be well over $100 billion in today’s terms. Moreover, Trudeau spent all that money when our economy and the world economy was strong compared to the spectre of a 1930s-type depression and mass unemployment which Flaherty faced.

To draw meaningful conclusions, one has to be able to show how one set of numbers and facts measures up against some other set of numbers and facts or against some standard.

Sure, Canada’s national debt is now a record setting $600 billion, but that doesn’t look quite so bad when we consider that under the Liberals it was $580 billion and those were more valuable dollars back then.

Sure, Flaherty left Ontario with a $5.6 billion debt, but under Bob Rae of the NDP, Ontario’s debt soared to over $10 billion and those also were more valuable dollars. In fact, even compared to the recent Ontario Liberal governments of McGuinty and Wynn, Flaherty looks very good indeed.

How about Pope’s “38.2 per cent” jobless rate among Canadian adults? Where did that come from, given that the recent official rate was only 7.2 per cent unemployment? Did Pope include every retired senior, stay-at-home parent, baby and school kid (and perhaps a few moose) who are not even in the job market to arrive at his number?

I do agree that things are tough for a lot of Canadians, but that too has to have a context. Compared to the robust full employment economy we would like to see, we are well off the mark. Nevertheless, given that we are doing quite well compared to most other developed countries, accusing Flaherty of “running the Canadian economy with all the facility of a cheap con artist” was unfair to say the least.

In future I hope Pope will give full and fair context to his numbers. As it is, in my opinion the column at issue was well off any standard that would merit his best columnist award.

Rick Tone is a Whitehorse resident.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading


Wyatt’s World for Oct. 21, 2020

Movie poster for <em>Ìfé,</em> a movie being shown during OUT North Film Festival, which includes approximately 20 different films accessible online this year. (Submitted)
OUT North Film Festival moves to virtual format

In its ninth year, the artistic director said this year has a more diverse set of short and feature films

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Most Read