Posted: Oct 17, 2009, 10:06 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Since this kind of came up a few weeks back in the Nova Centre thread, I thought this article in today's Herald may be interesting. Political pork is nothing new, but it should never be condoned, and this seems excessive.
Ottawa is sending me into a black rage
STEPHEN MAHER LETTER FROM OTTAWA
Sat. Oct 17 - 4:46 AM
DURING THE LAST election campaign, I interviewed a young woman in a New Glasgow pub who told me she was voting for Peter MacKay because she hoped he would create some jobs, so she and her friends wouldn’t have to move away.
Mr. MacKay has done that. A recent Chronicle Herald analysis has found that he has steered $101.7 million in federal stimulus money to Central Nova.
I imagine that young woman is happy with Mr. MacKay and there are likely grandmothers across Central Nova who are saying prayers for him nightly because all that money for roads and rinks and sewers means some Pictou County boys, who would be breathing the dusty, oily air of Fort Mac, are able to stay at home with their families, inhaling the clean breezes off the Northumberland Strait.
Mr. MacKay, like his father Elmer before him, is doing his best for his people and they have every reason to be happy with that.
People in Dartmouth may have a different view because the programs that dumped $101.7 million into Central Nova put only $5.2 million into Liberal Dartmouth. If I lived there, I might wonder why I am good enough to pay taxes but not good enough to get any of the stimulus spending. I might damn the whole thing as a grotesque game of bobbing for pork, the kind of shabby vote-buying that we have mostly purged from provincial politics but still recurs federally, although not often on this scale.
We haven’t seen it like this since 1997 when voters turfed Liberal kingpin David Dingwall, the guy who paved backwoods Cape Breton with money diverted from the Truro-Amherst highway, which is why we still have to pay a damned toll to get in or out of the province.
Along that highway, voters’ reaction to the stimulus spending may be more complicated than in either Dartmouth or Pictou County.
The riding of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley got $24.7 million in stimulus cash, which is almost its fair share. But voters in Truro might wonder why their recreation centre has yet to get federal cash when the one in Mr. MacKay’s riding got $12 million, even though the municipalities there aren’t sure they want to pay their share.
Is it because people in Truro voted for Independent Bill Casey federally and NDPer Lenore Zann provincially?
Will that kind of calculation make them more or less likely to vote Conservative? We’ll see on Nov. 9, when there’s a byelection there.
As a journalist, it’s not my job to tell those people what to think or how to vote.
It is my job, though, to tell them how their government is spending their money, and I can report that the federal government is making it so difficult to do that, that it’s sending me into a black rage.
In order to create a database of federal stimulus spending in Nova Scotia, it was necessary to look at all kinds of different federal websites, all with scraps of information, and then find out from other levels of government how much money was spent on each project and figure out where the shovels were hitting the ground.
In the United States, on the recovery.gov website, you can, in seconds, download exhaustively detailed databases showing where and how stimulus is being spent, who is getting the contracts, for how much, when, and how many jobs are created.
In Canada, on the actionplan.gc.ca site, there’s a map with icons showing where projects are located, but if you click on the icons, you get a popup with a charming picture of what’s his name, our prime minister, but no dollar amount.
There is a link to a video of the same guy singing a Beatles song, but there’s no database of projects available for download.
Last month in Oakville, when asked about the allegation — made by a Tory candidate — that one project was killed because the riding was Liberal, the prime minister said don’t worry: "We can give you a list of announcements made across the country."
Three weeks later, after repeated requests for that list, his office told me this week to stop bothering them. Turns out the prime minister was joking, or lying. They are not going to cough up a list. Instead, they directed me to the useless actionplan.gc.ca site, and suggested I click on 6,000 individual links and draw up my own list.
These people are either cynically withholding information that would allow voters to see where their tax dollars are beings spent, or they are idiots, or maybe both.
They think they are smart to hide this information — perhaps because it could be politically damaging if they are shown to be shovelling pork into Tory ridings nationwide — but they are not smart.
Canadians want their government to be accountable, and the Tories ought to know that.
If I had a dollar for every time our prime minister promised "accountability" during election campaigns I’d be able to stimulate the economy of the south of France this winter and forget about clicking on stupid websites.
That promise is what got the prime minister elected, and he is now declining to provide the most basic kind of accountability. He won’t let the people who pay his bills — such as me — see how he is spending our money.
It’s disgraceful and deserves to be denounced as such.