The Conditions for Proper Change
As Canadians suffer through another federal election we should analyse our outrage at the revelations of the Gomery inquiry. I say this not because there is anything to be happy about in these disclosures but because it is amazing that we can be driven to disgust over these tawdry events while tolerating much worse in our day-to-day relationship with the folks in high office.
Last year the auditor general revealed that up to $100 million of the $250 million paid to publicity firms to promote the value of federal programs in Quebec resulted in little or no completed work. A disgrace to be sure but how does this behaviour distinguish itself from the manner in which our governments function generally? And are we being sidetracked from focusing on the more insidious scandals that prevail?
For years, governments, business and banks have maintained a pious clamour that Canadians have had it too good and the piper finally had to be paid. We were terrorized by the spectre of handing over a huge debt to our children and so we tightened our belts and did what had to be done. Now the legacy our children will inherit is diminished public services - for health care, education, and unemployment insurance. No one called for austerity with more vigour than our own Paul Martin as finance minister. Our indebtedness has been deployed as the perfect excuse to smash government programs and divert billions of dollars to repaying what is owed.
Canadians have watched as the social programs we treasure and rely on have been degraded by the Federal Liberals. But despite the mythology that has sprung up around our deficit spending it is now clear that the expense of our public services only accounted for 6% of the accumulated national debt since the mid 70's.
What is even more disturbing is the data raised in a study by the Dominion Bond Rating Service revealing that in the decade from 1984 to 1994, 93% of the federal debt was due to compounding interest rates and further that during that decade the debt ballooned from $94 billion to a whopping $508 billion. The bond agency observed that this was interest 'on the relatively modest program expenditure deficiency'. In other words. government spending on programs did not account for this vast accumulation of debt.
I don't recall voting for high interest rates or the drubbing of our social programs.
Without missing a beat the ruling Liberals conveniently blamed all our troubles on the social advancements our parents and grandparents had achieved and diminished them to service debt that was clearly created by other policies. As bank profits soar we could all be excused for pondering their lack of restraint while they howled over the high cost of providing for the nation?
So lets recap. Paul Martin has championed a policy that has enriched the most prosperous while degrading every critical public system in our country to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Meanwhile a bunch of enthusiastic carpetbaggers have managed to fleece us out of around $100 million. And this is the crime that we are encouraged to believe should lead us to question our representation.
If it were me, I would welcome the chance to plead guilty to the lesser charge. Who wants to stand trial for the great train robbery when they can take the rap for some unpaid traffic fines? I suggest we use this opportunity to ask the really tough questions about who decides to disperse our wealth to protect the rich and more importantly how can we create the conditions for proper change.