This week, the next election and the ballot question
By Walter Robinson
Prime Minister (PM) Chretien gave up his last opportunity to stand the troops down during last week's caucus meeting. Instead, it looks as though he told his caucus to be ready for a late-November call. Then, in all likelihood, he told his MPs to enjoy the thanksgiving break with their families and finalize plans with local campaign teams.
Later in the day, the PM proceeded to school Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day in Question Period by assuring him that the House would be sitting on October 17th, the day Auditor General Denis Desautels is scheduled to table a scathing report on, amongst other things, the HRDC grants fiasco (a.k.a. Shovelgate).
Recently, both the Tories and Alliance raised the notion of a fall election as a way for the PM and the Liberals to dodge the AG's account of waste and mismanagement at HRDC. So why does the PM show no fear? Because you can rest assured that a mini-budget complete with ways and means motions to accelerate the government's tax cut schedule is also on its way.
With the House slated to recess next week, look for the government to give notice on the "order paper" of a mini-budget on Monday, October 16. Then two days later, October 18, look for Minister Martin to outline a plan for debt reduction, accelerated tax cuts and disposition of surplus dollars to a plethora of priorities including health care, post-secondary funding, research initiatives, fuel tax rebates, etc.
This event should all but bury the AG's report. Especially if the PM goes to the Governor General three or four days later and asks that Parliament be dissolved so a general election can be held with a vote being held on November 27th. Then the PM will talk about defending values. Indeed, every indication suggests that the PM has been itching for this campaign since Stockwell Day was elected leader of the Canadian Alliance.
Taxpayers and voters should not allow a sterile discussion of values to become the "ballot question." The PM will wax eloquently about pan-Canadian values of compassion and generosity. And indeed, while these are values that many Canadians share, this election must be more substantive than mom and apple pie.
If the Prime Minister or any other party leader for that matter asks you to measure our compassion by how much we spend on health care, tell them to get stuffed. Ask them why we spend billions of dollars yet some 200,000 Canadians still sit on waiting lists? Or ask why is it that our access to diagnostic imaging technology like MRI machines is worse than some Latin American countries?
If a politician tells you about our generosity for our less fortunate, again turn this one on its ear. Ask why Ottawa continues to collect $11 billion in taxes from over 6 million Canadians earning $30,000 a year or less while it simultaneously hands out over $4 billion each year in grants, subsidies and questionably repayable loans to some of Canada's most profitable companies through a variety of industrial subsidy and regional development schemes.
Voters deserve more than soundbites. The next election should focus on the role of government in the 21st century. Should government be in the business of playing venture capitalist for businesses? Should Ottawa continue to tax our earnings at a level higher than any other G-7 nation? What political party has real plans for health care, public pension reform and national debt reduction? Which party is best positioned to tackle the brain drain?
These are the questions voters should pose when various candidates come knockin' and talkin' about values. Values are things we teach our children. It's time for politicians to grow up and start facing Canada's problems and offer taxpayers innovative and affordable solutions that is if they value your vote!
Walter Robinson is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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