Why we should listen to Elizabeth May – Paul Wells

Good commentary by Paul Wells on the shrinking role of government and the reduced capacity it implies:

In 2009, after the opposition forced him to run very large deficits as the price of Conservative political survival, Stephen Harper made a simple, crucial decision: He would eliminate the deficit over time, not by cutting transfers to the provinces for social programs, but by cutting direct spending on the things the government of Canada does. The government of Canada operates embassies, labs, libraries, lighthouses, benefits for veterans and Arctic research outposts. Or rather, it used to. These days, each day, it does a little less of all those things.

The sum of these cuts is a smaller role for the federal government in the life of the nation. Each of the steps toward that destination is trivial, easy to argue both ways (who needs fancy embassies?) and impossible to reverse (if a future government decides, “We need fancy embassies,” it can never get back the prime real estate this government is now selling).

In his long-delayed appearance before the cameras (sorry), Trudeau depicted the Harper government as devoid of ideas. “Its primary interest is the well-being of the Conservative Party of Canada and not of Canadians.” May, on the other hand, is sure the government has ideas; that it is pursuing them even when the rest of us are grandly bored with details; and that it is changing the country. She’s right.

This is not to say that period trimming of government is not needed – it is – but the stealth approach (i.e., the PBO should not have to submit ATIP requests for information on cuts), and limited public debate are worrisome.

Why we should listen to Elizabeth May – Inkless Wells, Opinion, Paul Wells – Macleans.ca.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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