Canada standing still in the midst of a global crisis

Lana
Lana Payne
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At this point, Stephen Harper must be thinking that accountability and transparency were not such good ideas.

During the federal election, the prime minister found himself off sides with his government's parliamentary budget officer's report on the cost of the Afghan war. The Budget Office was created in 2007 as part of the Federal Accountability Act.

At this point, Stephen Harper must be thinking that accountability and transparency were not such good ideas.

During the federal election, the prime minister found himself off sides with his government's parliamentary budget officer's report on the cost of the Afghan war. The Budget Office was created in 2007 as part of the Federal Accountability Act.

Kevin Page, the civil servant keeping an eye on all things fiscal, reported the war was costing Canadians about $18 billion, but he also noted that a lack of transparency within government meant that figure was likely on the low side.

The prime minister was left scrambling as he tried to explain away the cost during a volatile federal election.

And this week, Mr. Harper found himself on the defensive again after Mr. Page released his economic and fiscal assessment to Parliament.

In his report, the parliamentary budget officer said Ottawa's poor fiscal performance this year is not because of the global financial and economic crisis, but the fault of decisions made by the Harper government.

He blamed the weakened fiscal performance on cuts to the GST and corporate incomes taxes which saw tax revenues tumble $353 million since April 1.

The economic and fiscal assessment was released a day after the throne speech, which failed to outline any serious plan to deal with the economic crisis.

For people worried about their pensions or whether they will be eligible for employment insurance benefits should they lose their jobs, there was nothing.

For those looking to see if the government was at least going to try to spend its way out of the recession in the short term by investing in infrastructure and targeted industries, there wasn't much, either.

And for those waiting to see if the Harper government was going to join the rest of the world in fixing the rules governing the global financial system by strengthening - among other things - banking regulations, there was nothing but silence.

While most of the world's leaders agree that the rules that govern capitalism, the markets and the global financial system need to be rewritten, Canada's prime minister is dragging his feet.

Harper's position is not surprising, but it is disappointing. The world is in an economic mess - a mess brought on because regulators and governments let us down. It's a mess perpetrated by greed - uncontrolled greed that is causing and will cause incredible hardship for families and citizens around the globe.

The poor will feel it most acutely. Indeed it is certain that people will die as a result of this economic crisis - because the help they need won't be as forthcoming, as wealthy nations struggle to keep their own citizens afloat.

Instead of using this as an opportunity to fix the world order with respect to financial markets, Harper would rather tinker. Tinkering won't help. Globalization is such that we need a global set of rules that dampens the greed; that cracks down on the speculators and puts some kind of cap on executive compensation. We need a global oversight agency. We need to tax financial transactions and we need regulations.

No more can we have unprecedented economic growth that mostly benefits the few at the top while the rest wait for the crumbs to fall or the bubble to burst.

As Japanese economist Richard Koo told The Globe and Mail last week: "Once you have a bubble and it eventually bursts, the repair cost is just enormous." His ad-vice for governments: spend.

Hopefully, we will come out of this crisis with a new set of rules because not to do so would be irresponsible and morally bankrupt. But once again, the man who is running our country with a minority of seats and votes can't seem to shake his ideological ways and do what's right for the people of Canada.

And if our troubling economic situation wasn't bad enough, Canada continues to spiral downwards with respect to its record on women's equality.

Canada plunged 13 rankings in the World Economic Forum's gender gap index to No. 31 - falling behind even the United States which ranked 27th.

Canada's poor showing was largely because of our appalling lack of women in the House of Commons. The gender index looks at economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and political participation.

When just political participation is considered, Canada plummeted to 60th place out of 130 countries.

Our legislatures ought to reflect the face of our society. But when it comes to women in the House of Commons we are standing still while many nations are moving ahead - leaving us in the dust.

Who we elect and the experience, knowledge and perspectives they bring to Canada's Parliament reflects the kind of public policy we get. It reflects the kind of government we get.

Here's hoping Parliamentarians do a better job this session of making government work for people than they did during the last.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns Dec. 6.

Organizations: Budget Office, House of Commons, Globe and Mail World Economic Forum Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, United States

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Recent comments

  • Beverly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Would you prefer Prime Minister Harper hit the panic button like you apparently have done? God help the Federation of Labour with a moron like you at the helm. Just remember you got that position because no body else wanted it.

  • Harry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Lana do you ever see any good in ANYTHING? You seem to thrive on only the negative things. How sad for you. Must be tough constantly going around with such a huge chip on your shoulder. Take the advice Phoebe gave you. You and Danny would hit it off just great. Two peas in a pod.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Lana heres a thought for you. Why dont you get a job working with Danny Williams? You would fit right in. Your just as negative and anti Harper as he is. What a sad life you must live when you can only view things from one side your side and everyone else is wrong.

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Great arguments Bev and Phoe's...you used a lot of words without actually making a point. That is quite a talent.

    Anyway, great article Lana...keep pointing out that as the rest of the world is trying to change things and cope with the worst finiancial crisis in decades our current PM is comtinually lying to himself and the Canadian people and continues to drag his heels.

  • Thought so
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Well girls I take it you don't like Miss Payne very much....Too bad! The premise is that this is a fabrication. The fact is these comments have been tagged directly from Harper's own Gman.. The Budget Office was created in 2007 as part of the Federal Accountability Act. Kevin Page is doing the job that he was mandated for; bringing forward the shortcomings of government...and I might add very similar to the Auditor General in her job....Kudos, for having the gumption to call a spade, a spade..As well I might add, Page's observations are NOT unlike those who have watched from a distance and have made their own conclusions about Mr. Harper's policy and actions. As usual there are those who for whatever reason always attack persons in the labor movement....Lana Payne's beliefs are echoed pretty much right across this country. Panic buttons were hit long before we were told about this economic problem but they were hit, just as a bank clerk would do to set off a silent alarm so the robber wouldn't it.. I like this statement -- you can only view things from one side your side and everyone else is wrong. ----

    Well apparently she is not alone in the boat....and that boat contains some of the nation's most experienced economists and financiers......COULD they ALL be wrong...I highly doubt it...Spend like Santa; save like Scro oge!! Only difference Scro oge squirled away enough cash for hard times when he was doing well..The PM didn't..........No wonder Santa has that jolly old laugh as he glides into the night sky.....as WE pay for it....

  • Beverly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Would you prefer Prime Minister Harper hit the panic button like you apparently have done? God help the Federation of Labour with a moron like you at the helm. Just remember you got that position because no body else wanted it.

  • Harry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Lana do you ever see any good in ANYTHING? You seem to thrive on only the negative things. How sad for you. Must be tough constantly going around with such a huge chip on your shoulder. Take the advice Phoebe gave you. You and Danny would hit it off just great. Two peas in a pod.

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Lana heres a thought for you. Why dont you get a job working with Danny Williams? You would fit right in. Your just as negative and anti Harper as he is. What a sad life you must live when you can only view things from one side your side and everyone else is wrong.

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Great arguments Bev and Phoe's...you used a lot of words without actually making a point. That is quite a talent.

    Anyway, great article Lana...keep pointing out that as the rest of the world is trying to change things and cope with the worst finiancial crisis in decades our current PM is comtinually lying to himself and the Canadian people and continues to drag his heels.

  • Thought so
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Well girls I take it you don't like Miss Payne very much....Too bad! The premise is that this is a fabrication. The fact is these comments have been tagged directly from Harper's own Gman.. The Budget Office was created in 2007 as part of the Federal Accountability Act. Kevin Page is doing the job that he was mandated for; bringing forward the shortcomings of government...and I might add very similar to the Auditor General in her job....Kudos, for having the gumption to call a spade, a spade..As well I might add, Page's observations are NOT unlike those who have watched from a distance and have made their own conclusions about Mr. Harper's policy and actions. As usual there are those who for whatever reason always attack persons in the labor movement....Lana Payne's beliefs are echoed pretty much right across this country. Panic buttons were hit long before we were told about this economic problem but they were hit, just as a bank clerk would do to set off a silent alarm so the robber wouldn't it.. I like this statement -- you can only view things from one side your side and everyone else is wrong. ----

    Well apparently she is not alone in the boat....and that boat contains some of the nation's most experienced economists and financiers......COULD they ALL be wrong...I highly doubt it...Spend like Santa; save like Scro oge!! Only difference Scro oge squirled away enough cash for hard times when he was doing well..The PM didn't..........No wonder Santa has that jolly old laugh as he glides into the night sky.....as WE pay for it....