Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Prima Facie Lying Minister, Stephen Harper

Flaherty, Harper don't even know what truth is
John Robson, Ottawa Citizen
May 31, 2009

You can't believe a word they say. We face a horrendous truth deficit.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty now says the federal government deficit will be $50 billion this year. And it might. But the fact that he said it makes it less, rather than more, believable.

Permit me to review the facts, a term here meaning "the long sequence of non-facts that issued forth from the mouths of senior federal politicians."
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First, during the campaign Stephen Harper promised us no deficits.

Second, two days after the election he said there wouldn't be a deficit in the current year -- that is, 2008-09 -- but he wouldn't rule out a deficit in 2009-10.

Third, 10 days after that, the finance minister told us he couldn't rule out a deficit in 2008-09.

Fourth, in his Nov. 27, 2008, update Flaherty predicted a small surplus for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Fifth, in December, Flaherty said there would be a deficit in 2009-10 but not 2008-09.

Sixth, a few days before the January budget, in what the Ottawa Citizen called "an unprecedented move to soften the blow of next week's federal budget," a "senior official with the Prime Minister's Office, who declined to speak on the record" told journalists the deficit would be $34 billion in 2009-10 and $30 billion the year after that.

Seventh, in the January budget the government said there would be a deficit of $1.1 billion in 2008-09, $33.7 billion in 2009-10 and a cumulative $50.1 billion in the next three years.

Eighth, on May 25 they told us the figure for 2009-10 would be more than $33.7 billion, but they wouldn't say how much until June.

Ninth, on May 26 they told us the 2009-10 deficit would be $50 billion and claimed they were telling us to avoid "inaccurate" speculation that might confuse markets. A bit rich given their own record of ... what exactly?

Are these lies? Perhaps. But at this point I am not willing to give them that much credit. Remember: A man who lies knows what the truth is and deliberately fails to convey it accurately or completely. He does not merely "say the thing that is not;" he knows it is not.

And it is not now possible to state with any degree of conviction that the people just cited knew whether their remarks were accurate when they made them. Or even to maintain plausibly that they cared.

From a purely practical point of view, it is hard to quarrel with the government's behaviour. It is manifestly clear that they can say whatever sounds good, then change their story months, weeks or even a single day later without political consequences.

And, psychologically, once you discover that you can utter self-serving fibs and pay no price, the temptation becomes enormous. It is so much easier and more fun to assume an air of solemn responsibility and make oracular declarations as a Very Important Person dealing with Very Important Matters in a Very Important Way than to admit that you have no idea what's going on. And why not, if there's no price to pay?

Actually, there is a large social price to pay when you foster cynicism on this scale. It's just that, as with the financial cost of deficits, political leaders don't pay it, we do.
If I may quote my own Jan. 30 column: "Now it's obvious what the pre-budget leaks were about. They were softening us up, so when we saw the actual $84.9-billion five-year deficit figures we'd go, oh well, that's only $20 billion more than the $64 billion over two years they already said, and what's $20 billion to government?"

Does not this cynical passage seem that much more plausible now that we've been through a further series of apparent softening-up steps, including moving from a $34- to $50-billion deficit for next year in two slices of only, say, $8 billion each? But I confess to growing doubts about its accuracy.

Such an analysis makes the politicians sound devious and sinister. But when these guys talk, there may well be no deceit, no depth, no hidden pool of knowledge and cunning. What you see is what you get. Their conceit and fatuity make them say whatever sounds good, and believe it as soon as they hear their own voice saying it.

They couldn't tell us the truth if they wanted because they don't know what it is. I don't mean they don't know the specific truth about the deficit, though they don't. I mean they don't know what "truth" is. When Flaherty said last Monday that he wouldn't reveal the true deficit figure until June, do you think he had a firm intention to reveal it Tuesday? Or a firm intention not to? If so, you misunderstand his mental landscape. It doesn't contain such items.

You can't believe a word they say. Not one word.

John Robson is a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009


Dr Mike said...

Half truths are the best we can expect from the present crew in Ottawa where the long nose Pinocchio Syndrome is prevalent.

If half truths do not work they just toss us a flowery statement or two.

If that does not work , they just keep saying it over & over agin until everyone assumes it must be right.

Come on people , we pay the salary for these guys---they work for us---demand better.

If the opposition will not hold them accountable , then we must do it for them.

Dr Mike

Anonymous said...

A headline in the telegraph reads "Leaders live in luxury while North Koreans starve to pay for nuclear bomb".

I don't see how this is any more enlightening or disturbing than what is taking place in Canada.

The "nuclear weapons" are the politicians and their minions, whose undemocratic policies and laws have effectively set off financial and economic nuclear bombs and whose deadly poisonous and toxic ashes rain daily upon our lives. The theft of our savings; the destruction of our free choices and means to take care of ourselves; the forcing and cramming down onto taxpayers the cost of all the continued entitlements and salaries and bonuses ON TOP OF the costs of the destruction itself - WHAT are the rest of us, that obviously don't count, left with?
This cannot be allowed to stand. And the Opposition would do well to understand that Canadians are SICK and DAMN MAD of watching the wiggle waggle, the lies, deceit, back room dealing, and posturing of the real pigs at the trough.

crf said...

You give them too much credit. Really, they are incompetent. They wouldn't know lie from truth.

There is a reason why the Reform party never won, and why the old PC party died with Mulroney. They have no clue how to manage anything larger than a peanut stand. And, even more shockingly, they don't particularly care about this.

This is how a conservative government is run:

Be able to repeat the words "I'm a fiscal conservative" while suppressing laughter. Because that joke's on the public (and for some reason, they keep falling for it (eg, Mulroney, Reagan, Harris, Bush, Harper)).

Shovel the taxpayers' money back at them, in an effort to get re-elected.

Priorities: Guns, war, crime, fear, sports, wave a flag.

Mock and lie about everyone to the left of you. Count on the public not thinking, and being inflenced by reactionary garbage about your political opponents.

Starve science and education. People who think may not vote for you. People who value evidence over dogma are not "your kind of people". People who think for themselves are anti-authoritarian. Pretend running a government is like running a family, and you're a Norman Rockwell approved Dad. Poor people, pensioners, and the unemployed just need "tough love".

Ignore every long term problem that can't be solved in an election cycle.

Posit that the rest of the world doesn't exist, except when you're at war. Poverty, global warming, AIDS, genocide and African hunger disappear if you don't think about them. And it's easy not to think about them.