Thursday, February 24, 2005

How much is a Liberal promise worth?

Babble on.

I've been wanting to rant about this for two days now, but I decided to wait for the actual budget to come out instead of frittering my indignation away on purely speculative stories. But Ralph Goodale's big day has come and gone, and the final numbers for the military are out in the open: $500 million dollars more in the DND budget than last year.

"But wait," you say. "I've read the papers, I've watched the news. The Liberals have given $12.8 billion dollars to the military - the biggest increase in twenty years!"


I can see how the general public might think that, given how the media has essentially parrotted the government's PR on this, but it's simply not true.

First of all, most folks watching the political scene wouldn't bet a wooden nickel this Liberal minority will survive another two years. With over $11.7 billion of the total promised to be delivered more than two years off, how much do you believe that promise is worth? Even assuming the Liberals survive in government through the full five years of their timetable, what unforseen circumstances - a downturn in the economy, a natural or manmade disaster, a drastic rise in interest rates, whatever: pick your poison - might make them rethink their promise to what is undoubtedly the last priority on their minds: the Canadian Armed Forces.

Secondly - and kudos to the Sun/Canoe journos for being the only media outlet I could find who pointed this out - $8B of the spending has already been announced. It's not new money.

Don't get me wrong: this is much better than the kick in the teeth our people in uniform have gotten for at least the past ten years. But to sell this bandaid as some blessed newfound commitment to our military is typical political dishonesty.

I agree with Declan. There should be accepted conventions for reporting and commenting on budgetary matters that allow the public to cut through the misleading shell-game rhetoric, and see just what the government is doing TODAY.

TODAY, the Liberals are giving our military $420 million to patch holes in in its fiscal situation and another $80 million to start the process of recruiting new soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The Toronto Star reports (registration required) that DND will also be required to find $640 million in cost-savings/efficiencies, although they don't specify over what time period.

As far as the rest of the promises, you'll forgive me if I wait until the money is in hand before slapping the Grits on the back and congratulating them on a job well-done.

Babble off.

Update: I'm reassured when a clear-minded individual like Paul shares my skepticism:

Given the typical lifespan of a minority government and its budgetary promises, I think I've seen pyramid schemes with a better chance of delivering upon their promised returns.

Even Timmy says "it is not so much a budget for this year as a payment plan for the next five years." Since many of us are working to see that Mr. Dithers doesn't hold the reins of government for nearly that long, I'll continue to dispense salt with this budget - grain by grain.


At 1:04 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

Beware of Liberals bearing gifts. Don't trust them an inch, B. The backloading tells me all I need to know about how serious they are.

At 1:43 p.m., Blogger James Bow said...

Welcome to the club. Remember when the Liberals promised $1 billion to the TTC, but the fine print meant that their commitment for 2004 was just a measly $70 million? I feel for you.

At 1:34 a.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Like Greg said, the funding schedule tells you everything you need to know. It's a ploy to suck support away from the Conservatives by appearing hawkish. Nobody with basic political acumen is going to fall for it.

It may also be an attempt to bring Gen. Hillier into the fold and neutralize his very legitimate criticisms.


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