November 12, 1999 Halifax Herald

Federal Surplus: the games politicians play

The scope of damage done to Canada's essential social programs by Liberal cost-cutting lies in the range of the incredible. The armed forces have been reduced to Banana Republic status; the federal public service has been gutted to where contacting a bureaucrat is almost impossible; many essential provincial safety nets have been badly mauled; health services have been reduced; capital infrastructure is in tatters, etc.

And now, believe it or not, realizing a surplus from essential program chopping, the Liberal faithful, except for the Paul Martin faction, are gleefully planning to spend a good chunk of it on burdening the country with more costly, unneeded, paternalistic programs. “Parental leave to double” shouts the headline. It is extremely irresponsible, and probably immoral, to enhance old non-essential programs or fund new ones with money that was realized by cutting to the bone non-vote getting essential ones.

Such irresponsibility makes one wonder how essential programs will be cut to afford luxury ones when the next recession hits. Will the armed forces be reduced to a few Admirals and generals, and twenty or so enlisted men and women? Will they be equipped with a few rowboats, war clubs and a couple of kites? Will the public service be cut to where services are endangered because of lack of staff too disburse essentials? Will medical services be reduced to witch-doctor level? Will taxes be raised to where we pay 75 percent of our income, instead of the present 50?

Adding to the incredibility of all this is that those who advocate spending more on non-essential programs do so believing that such initiatives help the poor and the middle class. In reality, these people are taxed to ruin for programs that have very little value for most of them.

Thus, based on past experience, Liberal plans to double parental leave will not make life easier for the middle class and the poor. In fact, such enhancements of luxury programs will eventually cause taxes to rise and make it even harder for parents to stay home and raise a child. The logical way to assist parents who want to stay home during the early years of a child's life is to lower taxes.

Making the middle class and the poor pay high taxes for unneeded services was, and is, a major factor that helped raise the costs of goods and services to where these people need multiple incomes to survive. Related to this, a mother offered this lament: "My most heart-wrenching moments come every work day morning when I send my children off to the day care centre for strangers to raise, because I have to work to help make ends meet."

Federal political Parties are the biggest impediment to changing this sad state of affairs for the better. Among them, none offer hope for trusted future responsible government.

The far-left socialists, who hold sway over four parties - Bloc Québécois, Liberal, Tory and NDP - and promote the status quo, have no inkling that their condescending, paternalistic socialism is crippling the Nation's economy and making the middle class and the poor poorer. Reform, the far right's darling, because it has policies that are deemed by many to be intolerant and mean, is not a suitable alternative either.

Therefore, the best that can be hoped for is that, someday, a group of fair-minded, responsible individuals will take over a major Party, move it to the middle ground, and take up the task.

And, the task is awesome. To meet the challenge three critical steps must be taken: (1) implement procedures to reduce taxes by at least 15 percent; (2) undertake the orderly retirement of the national debt; (3) prevent political parties from using tax dollars to buy elections by drastically changing Canada's political system.

In the area of tax reduction, much could be accomplished by lowering the immoral, excessive taxes on home-heating oil and other essential services to 5 percent. These actions would put billions back into the economy, give it a major boost and, most important, put money back into the pockets of those who need it the most, the poor.

However, the hardest task to achieve will be retiring the national debt. The task is made exceedingly difficult by what caused it to climb to its staggering size - the absence of checks and balances in Canada's imperial system of government. The shortcomings of the system, which politicians cherish and guard jealously, give them almost absolute power, including the power to pledge public funds to make outlandish election promises and to get lackeys to bow and scrape for favours. They are also the reason that the "spend" philosophies of the present Chrétien regime, and its Trudeau and Mulroney predecessors, seem like clones.

To escape this circus, there is a need to replace, as one pundit has put it, the "King of the Commons dictatorship with democracy." To this end, the senate must be abolished and replaced with an elected body that can review, amend or reject government initiatives. The Queen must be dropped and replaced with an elected executive who can veto legislation passed by the two legislatures. Thankfully, Canada already has a very effective Supreme Court. A People's democracy needs such checks and balances to force its political institutions to be accountable and responsible.

Daniel N. Paul


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