Ignatieff ‘s odd plan to raise productivity

NationalPost.com – Opinion/Editorial
Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010.

Politicians are coming up with ever-more creative ways of describing government spending.

In 2009, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives recast it as “stimulus.” Build a bocce court? Subsidize a shoe museum? Ottawa’s not spending your money — it’s stimulating the economy.

Now the Liberals have done them one better, by equating spending with “improving business productivity.” This week, in an open letter to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Liberal MP Scott Brison reiterated Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff’s view that “a Liberal government would be a partner in helping business actually achieve a productivity revival–by making investments in learning, innovation, families, and clean energy.”

Mr. Brison made his remarks in response to an advertising campaign mounted by the chamber, which calls for planned corporate tax cuts to take effect Jan. 1, as promised. The Liberals would cancel these cuts and redirect the money to social programs, including daycare and homecare.

Increasing productivity by imposing higher costs on business is not a new idea for the Liberals. In 1998, former Liberal industry minister John Manley mused that: “Arguably, high tax levels, if anything, should increase productivity because it would drive innovation in order to lower other costs.”

The Progressive Conservative finance critic at the time riposted that “If Mr. Manley believes that high taxes improve productivity, I would question his competency as a minister.” The name of that finance critic? Scott Brison, back in the days when he was still a Conservative.

Instead of dissembling about “investing” in the country’s future by repairing roads, building community centres and funding daycare, our elected officials should call it like it is. They are spending the public’s money to provide them with goods and services — some needed, some not, but also redistributing wealth to raise certain groups’ standard of living, and padding pet projects for electoral gain.

If you ask us, we’d just take the tax cut.

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