It’s the beginning of winter in Canada, so why shouldn’t it snow? Only we find that for the moment, all the snow is indoors. Both our federal and provincial governments are drifting us in with billion-dollar snow jobs, while advocacy groups are creating blizzards of their own, trying to fool us with some rather specious expertise.
Here’s a sampling:
• The federal government spent upwards of $47 billion to stimulate the Canadian economy in 2009, and now we hear the federal auditor can find no evidence that any of this massive dollar deluge saved or created any jobs at all. That’s not to say zero jobs were saved or created; it’s just that an auditor — tasked with assessing value for money to the Canadian taxpayer — has no data to measure if all that money was spent well, or just poured down a hole.
John Weirsma, an interim replacement for Sheila Fraser, says he needs to see real figures from the government on the $47-billion Community Adjustment Fund. The best information Canadians have is that there simply wasn’t much monitoring done. There are no reports, no figures. That’s $47 billion spent and nobody can honestly say if we got value for money.
Basically the federal government can claim it was all a success, using unaudited numbers, in the same manner they want to spend billions for prisons to house those guilty of crimes nobody reports.
For $47 billion, you can build quite a snowdrift.
• The Alberta government is putting a lot of faith in its carbon offset program, where heavy polluters are made to pay large sums to offset their carbon emissions. An old, stinky coal-fired power plant, for instance, can invest in a wind farm to “cover” its greenhouse gas footprint.
Only, as provincial auditor Merwan Shar points out, there’s no proof that many of these offset credits represent what they’re paid to represent. For instance, farmers who practice zero-till techniques can apply for carbon credits and receive funding per acre. It adds up to a lot of money.
But does the program work? Nobody knows, and for $2 billion, nobody’s even checking.
All we get from the Alberta government is the same snow job we get from the feds, about what marvelous planners they are. Just don’t look past the (tax-paid) signboards.
• The Fraser Institute has ranked Alberta as the most economically free jurisdiction in North America. Yes sir, we’re more free of government red tape, environmental constraints, taxes, social programs and all that other socialism than anywhere else, even more than Texas.
Interestingly, Fraser’s boys noticed that “economic freedom” equated side-by-side with per-capita wealth. The richer the average, the more free you are.
No mention, however, of income disparity or polarization of the economy. Such light would likely melt the snow.
• Dr. Fraser Mustard, who fronts for the Early Childhood Education Index, released a report ranking provinces on their efforts at early learning for children. For them, early learning means getting children into school at age two — probably just to interrupt their potty training. Yes, at age two. Did this guy have children and was he home during the age known as the Terrible Twos?
Anyway, Quebec got a ranking of 10 on the scale, while Alberta got a failing grade of 3.
That must explain why Quebec has the most expensive tax-paid child care in Canada and why Alberta high school students are ranked the world’s best in math and science.
This report is a snow job.
• Finally, the current issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine reports that Montreal is the most bike-friendly city in North America, edging out perennial poster child, Portland. The Bicycle-Friendly Cities 2011 index, compiled by urban-planning Danish consulting firm Copenhagenize, used a variety of factors to determine that Montreal ranks eighth in the world as a great place to ride a bike — along with Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen itself. Well, the experts can’t be wrong all the time, can they?
Enjoy your winter.
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.