Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Entry archive:

A bad time to get all Steinbeckian Add to ...

One can make a career these days out of naively trying to find the public-policy good in actions that revolve solely around political imperatives. (And honestly, if anyone's paying you anything to write these days, you probably shouldn't complain.)

Sadly, I'm unable to conceive of how the following - from a thin Throne Speech that was more a technical requirement than a mission statement - is remotely helpful to the current cause:

"Your predecessors, too, were summoned to this chamber at times of great crisis: as Canada struggled to claim her independence, in the shadow of war, during the depth of the Great Depression and at moments when great policy division tugged the very bonds of this union."

I know we're all prone to exaggerating the importance of our work. But no matter how challenging it may be to pull Canada out of recession, it's a ludicrous stretch to put the "great crisis" this country is going through right now on the same scale as those others.

Yes, there's some hardship. There will undoubtedly be some personal tragedies that arise from it. As a country, we'll be tested by it. But it's simply not comparable to wars in which tens of thousands of Canadians lost their lives, nor to a period in which 27% of Canadians were unemployed and the gross national product dropped by 40 per cent. To suggest that it is makes a very convincing case that we really need to get over ourselves.

Worse, from the public policy perspective, it makes it more difficult for us to get past what we're currently going through. I hate to keep coming back to this, but the justification for massive deficit spending is as much about perception as reality; to prevent deeper recession from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, governments have to inject a sense of hope.

If anyone can explain to me how telling people they're going through one of the worst crises in history achieves that, I'd love to hear it. 

***

Update: I agree wholeheartedly with commenters who point out that the Conservatives don't have a monopoly on overheated rhetoric; the opposition parties - and, yes, the media - were the ones who ratcheted it up first.

That might not matter, though, if the government had shown a firm hand from the get-go. Recognizing the economic challenges and explaining in a rational way how we'd get through them, starting in the fall and continuing through the winter, would have gone a long way toward providing stability.

Instead, the Conservatives have gone from no response whatsoever, and a false claim we'd stay out of deficit, to compensating for it by trying to outdo the opposition's hyperbole. As a result, the situation has been made to seem a lot more volatile than it really is.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobePolitics

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories