Self-promotion wrong priority for tax dollars

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.”
Yes, those iconic words were put together 40 years ago in an iconic song by the Five Man Electric Band. But last week, those words came to mind again when I read the latest report from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.
Mr. Page found that the Harper Conservative government has spared no expense in telling us all about their stimulus plan for Canada, which they dubbed “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” and that the program has failed to create the jobs that were promised and that our economy desperately needs.
We all have seen those Economic Action Plan ads on televisions and in the newspapers, and those signs that have popped up everywhere work is being done.
Well, when Mr. Page finished crunching all those numbers last week, he found Stephen Harper has spent more than $50 million of our tax dollars to promote this great plan to us and the benefits it was supposed to bring.
Seems like an awful lot of money for self-promotion when the Conservative government is running a $56-billion deficit, doesn’t it?
The main benefit that “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” was supposed to deliver to Canadians and the economy was more jobs.
Without providing any evidence to back their claims, the Conservatives have fanned out across the country claiming the stimulus program has created 420,000 jobs. It sounds good, but it is completely unsupported by the facts.
Mr. Page’s report on the effectiveness of the stimulus plan concluded it has missed the mark in spectacular fashion when it comes to job creation. He polled each of the recipients of federal stimulus funds and found 43 percent of municipalities and organizations that received funding said there was “no net impact” on employment in their community—none gained and none lost.
Another 21 percent said employment actually decreased in their community–that jobs actually were lost in their communities because their projects received funding.
And finally, just 33 percent of respondents said that employment increased as expected in their communities as a result of the funding under the Economic Action Plan.
So what has been Mr. Harper’s response to this independent report by an officer of Parliament? Did he regret the findings and say he would try harder or do better? No. He shot at the messenger, and said only his Conservative government could be trusted to tell the public the truth because the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report “lacked credibility.”
He really said that.
Regardless of Mr. Harper’s spin and denials, some sad facts remain about his management of the economy. Canada’s unemployment rate is higher now than it was before the recession, most of the new jobs that have been created since the start of that recession are of the part-time and temporary variety, and thousands of unemployed workers are beginning to exhaust their Employment Insurance benefits because of the sluggish job growth.
When people can’t find full-time work, household debt skyrockets as families increase their use of credit cards to pay for daily expenses. This is the cycle this stimulus package was supposed to help end, but this simply hasn’t been the case—and Mr. Page’s independent and non-partisan report confirms this.
Mr. Harper’s inability to help Canadian families weather this economic downturn is troubling. His inability to get the job done for families on the employment front is why New Democrats have been calling for measures that help make life more affordable.
It is why we are calling for the repeal of the HST on home heating, the ending of federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries, and closing loopholes and tax havens that only have helped well-off tax dodgers at the expense of working families and balanced federal budgets.
Unfortunately, Mr. Harper does not share our priorities. As Mr. Page’s report shows us, Mr. Harper’s priorities start and end with self-promotion, electioneering, and lots and lots of signs.
Let’s not forget about those signs.

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