David Crane of the Toronto Star has always been one of my favourite writers on economics. He usually takes a left-of-centre approach and I find I am more often inclined to agree with his positions than not.
But not today (Sept. 8)! His commentary in an oped for today’s Toronto Star, entitled: What do the Liberals have to offer? reads like something a junior editorial writer would cobble up on the curt instruction of a dyspeptic editor. The effort might please the editor but it sheds little light or reason on a complex subject. David is far too good a writer to be digging up clichés to support someone else’s headline.
He starts from the premise that nobody wants an election. David needs to live for a while in a country where people are unable to vote when there is a need. Stephen Harper called an election a year ago because he saw an opportunity to savage then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and win a majority government. He failed. Now Michael Ignatieff sees an opportunity to fight it out with the Conservatives with a level playing field. David needs to explain what is wrong with that.
And, how dare David complain that the Liberals are not explaining their platform before the election? Dion did that last summer and the Tories spent the summer and millions of dollars to vilify him and his policy ideas. What rule is it that says that the Liberals have to give the cash-rich Tories an unfair advantage?
He complains that it is remarkable that the Liberals have not explained their new thinking on Canada’s future and that Ignatieff is not bound to resolutions from the convention the Liberals held in Vancouver that acclaimed him. David knows very well that the Liberal party directs with a very broad policy brush and it is up to the leader to refine and articulate the direction to those goals.
He wonders why the leader appoints critics for different ministries of government such as John MCallum and Bob Rae. As skilled as those people are at examining the subject matter, David knows how little attention the media pay them. It is very much our media’s fault that all the attention runs downhill into the leader’s office.
We were all amused during the 1993 federal election when Prime Minister Kim Campbell claimed that election time is no time for serious debate on the issues. It is quite another matter when a supposedly knowledgeable economics writer repeats the comment in an article for the Toronto Star.
David concludes that “Unless Liberals can come up with compelling and credible policies, there is no reason to have an election this year.”
What he ignores is that not only our country but the world is in the worst economic slump seen in the past 50 years. We cannot and must not leave the solutions to right-wing ideologues currently in power in Ottawa.
And the problem is not just Employment Insurance (EI). The economic need is to get the critically needed stimulus funds into the hands of the people who will spend it immediately and help the economy recover. We have to stem the flow of jobs out of the country. We have to stop the fire sale of Canadian technology. We need a party in power that has a balanced view of all of Canada.
The Conservatives have proved that they are not adept at that. The Liberal attitude is to be aggressive and help people weather this recession. Not because the Liberals have already told us that is what they will do when in office but because they are the people who have shown us time and again that they can put people ahead of ideology.
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