30 years of the same old lies

by Ken MacDougall

Even after moving to Saskatoon in1982, I still remember picking up a copy of the Star Phoenix, turning to the Opinion page, then throwing the paper to the ground in disgust after reading an opinion piece written by a member the North Saskatoon Business Association, quoting from Saskatchewan’s top source of fiscal mis-and-disinformation – the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Federation.

Now, if you haven’t read anything about what I’ve written in the past about the STF, you should at least know that it is NOT an organization where one merely buys a membership and contributes policy ideas to their editorial writing board. Its operations are heavily skewed towards extreme American right-wing politicians advocating for unfettered capitalism and minimalist taxation policies from government. Moreover, the very existence of the STF and its national wing, the CTF, is funded by a similar collection of policy forum groups far to the right of the Fraser Institute, most of whom, like the CTF and STF, owe their existence to Koch Enterprises financed organizations.

Back in the 1990’s, you may recall that the Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall was a member in good standing with a collection of western American state governors, and in 2011 was a keynote speaker at the annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-funded group responsible for the production of templated anti-union and pro-unfettered capitalist legislation.

It was from this organization that the Descendants of Devine and Premier Wall “borrowed” their 2012 labour legislation that contained a “right to work” clause eventually deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and ending up costing the government some $5 million in legal fees alone to defend its terms.

Now, the STF and CTF predominately write editorial pieces drawing attention to perceived abuse and lack of due diligence in our government’s handling of fiscal matters – which is just fine with me, as I’m no big fan of paying more than my share of our nation’s tax burden. What drives me insane about their column’s content, however, is their almost obsequious divination of the American extreme right’s worshipping of the capitalist system, as per the Koch playbook. The strangest thing is, I have YET to meet anyone, American or otherwise, who believes in paying $20,000 or more a year for decent health care for a family of four, having no paid vacation time at work, having no paid maternity leave, or having labour categories where it’s legal to pay a worker who relies on tips less than you pay your babysitter, then God speed your emigration request. No, thank you; however, if you send me your new address, I’ll ship you an occasional can of Tim’s “fair trade” ground coffee just so you don’t get homesick.

On May 13th, the Herald, as it occasionally does, ran an article from an editorial content group going under the name of Troy Media, entitled “Canadians Sinking Under a $1,000,000,000 Debt”. What was interesting about this piece, other than its content, was that it was written by Franco Terrazzano, head of the Canada and Saskatchewan Taxpayers Federation.

That number with all of the zeroes is actually $1 trillion; that’s about a quarter of the current U.S. deficit, which exploded after Donald Trump’s Republican friends decided to give the richest of Americans a massive tax break.

The serfs, of course, would “benefit” – eventually, apparently from some voodoo economic process called “trickle down economics”, which takes a few decades longer than the average working American male would take to pass a large kidney stone – and needing that money for his operation.

The $1 trillion number also refers to rumours circulating around Ottawa about the size of the next federal budget, a prospect that has our bored pundits lathering up for eminent vote of confidence and forthcoming election that Prime Minister Trudeau would then have to call.

There are lots of points in this article that simply don’t make any sense. Yes, I understand why Mr. Terrazzano would focus upon the federal budget to make his point; most Saskatchewan and Alberta male voters to the right of reality look forward to a battle with the trust fund PM, and this article merely acts as a piece of foreplay for the electorate before indulging in an ugly campaign. To most of these readers, it’s not the “size” of the deficit; Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have larger “per capita” budgets to theoretically balance, and in any case, Alberta and Ontario are on “our side” in “standing up for Saskatchewan” in our dispute with the feds over the imposition of the carbon tax.

Ah, but the Supreme Court’s decision DID take the air out of our sails, didn’t It? So, what better way to replenish our adrenalin supply than to imagine the neon lights flashing in Mr. Terrazzano’s article, that being, “Just look what Justin is leaving for your grandchildren”.

The problem is, I don’t really think Mr. Terrazzano fully understands the mind-think mentality of those who still believe that Scott Moe and the DoD MLA’s are “their kind of people”, especially when you consider that the Saskatchewan Party’s membership includes the three playboys funding the Canada Growth Council. These are the thugs who, during the last federal election trotted out WestWatch, a non-party-funded political action committee (PAC) promoting western alienation and separation, and for good measure took a few good jabs at Canada’s immigration policies. To add to this poison, they took special delight in hurling rock-sized insults at the only Liberal MP in Saskatchewan, Ralph Goodale, who really is more “Dipper” than “liberal”, and is probably the only MP in Canada whom the majority of our nation knows as representing this province.

There were a few letters of outrage written to our newspaper editors expressing total disgust at the way WestWatch treated Mr. Goodale, so perhaps a few of the saner voices in the DoD and Progressive Conservative camp might just decide to tell the CGC cabal to turn the “hate” volume down a notch or six, and pay more attention to the platform the Conservatives are now slowly introducing. Somehow, however, I don’t see what issues might light up the Conservative fire starters than the deficit or a more sensible plan to address climate change issues and the carbon tax as its primary weapon. But then, how the Tories plan to introduce their own version of a carbon tax isn’t getting much traction from either the Opposition OR the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The Liberals have already given it the slogan, the more you burn, the more you earn”, while the CTF, which is already tearing Alberta premier Jason Kenney apart for even thinking of finally imposing a provincial tax to balance their gaping $100 billion deficit, adds Erin O’Toole’s anaemic carbon tax proposal as costing the equivalent of about two rental payments for a three bedroom apartment in downtown Winnipeg. That’s no oxygen the CTF is giving the Conservatives to breathe; it’s helium, because the only thing left on the Conservative platform plate is O’Toole’s ranting about the CBC, which even by itself needs no stimulus to engender a laugh in an increasingly jaundiced electorate.

I have to also admit that Mr. Terrazzano’s choice of back-ups for his argument, budget-busters Janice MacKinnon, former NDP Minister of Finance1 in dealing with the Devine bankruptcy and Paul Martin, federal Liberal Minister of Finance tackling the Mulroney crater, are good ones. It shows that he’s at least giving the impression of being objective, but for one small problem: what caused those budgets to implode were bank interest rates running as high as 21%; whereas today’s prime rate is what – hovering around the 1% mark?

Simply put, Mr. Terrazzano, the economics of debt repayment are NOT “equivalent” in these two eras.

As far as our national deficit is concerned, virtually every Canadian KNOWS that it has radically increased in size as a result of our federal government having to go to war with the Covid virus. In other words, our government was doing its job PROTECTING the public’s health. Now that the efforts to control the virus spread are starting to work, despite the conspiracy theorists who still believe Covid is nothing more than a flu, the government must now consider how to re-establish budgetary priorities to get our economy moving again.

Here in Canada, the Conservatives have no plan but to continue to point to the deficit and pour gasoline on their “hate” agenda targeting Prime Minister Trudeau. In the United States, however, the Democratic Party has identified key elements of economic stagnation caused by the tariff wars imposed on various nations by former President Donald Trump, and that have allowed China to gain ground on the U.S. hold of having the world’s strongest economy. To address that problem, they have proposed a $3 trillion infrastructure plan that will for the first time include technological concerns, including providing high speed Internet service to its nation’s agricultural communities, “green” energy research, and education, particularly in the area of producing more workers trained in STEM-related fields, and the teachers necessary to provide the education to do so.

It is widely anticipated that the U.S. government will fund their infrastructure plan by taking advantage of current low interest rates and moderate tax increases upon corporations and high income earners, especially those whose incomes are derived from stock exchange activities. The remainder of the debt would be dealt with by the release of government bonds carrying slightly greater than prime interest rates at the moment, but guaranteed by the federal government – the same strategy that was used to garner funds for the United States to fight World War II against Hitler.

Canada has similar needs, particularly in education, as I’ve stressed time and time again. We need a high speed rail system as well, and while tax rates may go up in some areas, our nation has to look at taking away the power of certain sectors of the economy, particularly with banks and communications.

As for raising monies, we, too, as a nation sold bonds to finance seemingly bottomless deficits.

In the MacKinnon / Martin era, Smiling Jack Gallagher and petroleum entities could walk into main bank offices on Toronto’s Bay Street and write their own cheques in order to keep their seat at Alberta’s petroleum-based poker table, so radical surgery to the deficit was eventually required. For this plan to work now, the banks will have to stop feeding the fires of consumer overspend at 24% interest rates, and for once play a key role in helping the government work itself out of this fiscal hole. That is the ONLY impediment to this idea not working to our satisfaction.

In a nutshell, this plan is built upon sound economic and mathematical principles. As a mathematics teacher, I like that – very much.

  1. (As an “aside”, you should stop using DoD disinformation in describing Ms. MacKinnon’s area of budgetary concern, Mr. Terrazzano. The NDP didn’t “close” 52 hospitals – unless of course you believe that Dr. Paul Albert, when he was still in Climax, could do heart surgery using kitchen forceps as “rib crackers”, or were present when I heard Eastend’s Dr. Anthony Price, rave about how much more he could do with his newly modernized “hospital” – which even had his office relocated to the new health centre. And it was a combination of doctors from Eastend, Climax, Shaunavon and occasionally Gull Lake who gathered in Shaunavon to do minor surgeries; mostly performed by Dr. Price.
    The major tasks, however, were sent to Swift Current, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Saskatoon or Regina to be handled by specialists.)