Monday, January 16, 2012


Over the coming weeks that old beast we call policy will rear its ugly head, as politics watchers prepare for and then comment on the 2012 federal budget. In this budget the government will present the fiscal health of the country and then lay out its plan for tackling the deficit.

A reduction in public spending will be the main focus of the government's plan. The expected scaling down of some government activity was foreshadowed by the Prime Minister this weekend in a letter to his caucus, in which he wrote that Canada's future prosperity will require "tough choices."

The use of the word "choices" interests me. More to the point, it is Mr. Harper's additional comment that the choices to which he was referring would need to be made "together with the Canadian people" which has caught my attention.

To start, the fact that choices need to be made is entirely correct and in keeping with what we should expect of government. Governing is about making choices, and given what is happening in Canada and around the world it is clear that there are a number of policy areas which warrant discussion and decision-making.

My question is where is the discussion?

Some time in the coming weeks you and I will get to see the government's decision. We will get to see what they intend to do (and will safely pass with their majority). What we won't have is a real opportunity to actually consider the choices. And there is no evidence to suggest that any meaningful changes to the budget presented would be accepted by the government.

What we get is, for all intents and purposes, a done deal. There is no choice on offer that can reasonably be described as being one that will be made "together with the Canadian people." Equally frustrating, there is no sense as what options the government has considered as it built this forthcoming budget.

In the absence of any meaningful transparency, I found myself reading two articles today. The first is on health care and the need for the government to think more broadly about how we fund the system and the role of the federal government.

The second is about austerity, arguing that governments have made austerity the defining issue of the day without having a good debate about the other options we face.

Two articles, both thoughtful reads and illustrative of the type of dialogue we should be having as we debate policy. Unfortunately, we are about to debate decisions that have been taken - something which is tantamount to being able to say your peace, even when you know it won't change things. We deserve and should aspire for better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment?

Canadian Blogosphere