Monthly Archives: August 2009

Photo ops in Pangnirtung: That’s the plan?

The past week has seen a typical flood of press releases from the federal government claiming to highlight “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.” They make it sound like not much of a plan yet at the same time a very bad one.

Let me cite three telling examples: “PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER ANNOUNCES CONSTRUCTION OF NEW SMALL CRAFT HARBOUR IN PANGNIRTUNG”; “PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER LAUNCHES NEW REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY FOR CANADA’S NORTH”; and “PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER LAUNCHES NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY FOR SOUTHERN ONTARIO.”

Do only ideological purists object when the Conservative Party, headed by an ex-libertarian, thinks the prime minister should not merely interest himself in but fund and announce the construction of a dock in the Arctic? But government, of any stripe, is overstretched if such matters occupy the time and attention of the guy or gal at the top. I think it’s also worth debating whether a new regional economic development agency could possibly play a meaningful role in the long-term economic development of Canada’s North. And whether this one is likely to have the appropriate structure and philosophy when the same government that created it had, five days earlier, announced a similar body for Southern Ontario. Continue reading

Blame Obama’s lack of a real plan

The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama is in trouble over government health care. The truth is, government health care is in trouble over Barack Obama.

True, some of the president’s political troubles stem from the inflated expectations of his supporters. There is a tendency in politics to invest unrealistic hopes in the election of “our guy” as a triumphant vindication of who we are rather than his probable performance in office. (See for instance the boppy 1952 “I Like Ike” ad at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ml9VZW7V_U where the sun rises again because we’ve sent Ike to Washington not because of anything we expected he’d do once he got there which, indeed, he largely did not.) But that’s a side issue.

The main problem is that there never was a health-care plan. There was simply an assumption, as persistent as it was unrealistic, that government could easily provide more health care for less money, more fairly, than the private sector. What has driven Republicans out of the bipartisan reform effort, while giving so-called “Blue Dog” democrats the cold robbies about the probable political, fiscal and medical results of this reform, is that it was meant to save money yet has been revealed as horribly expensive. Continue reading