“Signs, Signs, everywhere a sign.” Rafferty


John Rafferty MPOTTAWA – “Signs, Signs, everywhere a sign.” Yes, those iconic words were put together 40 years ago in an iconic song by the Five Man Electric Band, but this week those words came to mind again when I read the latest report from Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. Mr. Page found that the Harper Conservative Government has spared no expense in telling us all about their stimulus plan for Canada, which they dubbed “Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” and that the program has failed to create the jobs that were promised and that our economy desperately needs.

We have all seen those Economic Action Plan ads on televisions and in the newspapers, and those signs that have popped up everywhere that work is being done.  Well, when Mr. Page finished crunching all those numbers last week he found that Stephen Harper has spent over $50 million of our tax-dollars to promote this great plan to us and the benefits that it was supposed to bring.  Seems like an awful lot of money for self-promotion when the Conservative government is running a $56 billion deficit doesn’t it?

The main benefit that “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” was supposed to deliver to Canadians and the economy was more jobs.  Without providing any evidence to back their claims, the Conservatives have fanned out across the country claiming that the stimulus program has created 420,000 jobs. It sounds good, but it is completely unsupported by the facts.

Mr. Page’s report on the effectiveness of the stimulus plan concluded that the Economic Action Plan has missed the mark in spectacular fashion when it comes to job creation.  Page polled each of the recipients of federal stimulus funds and found that 43% of municipalities and organizations that received funding said there was “no net impact” on employment in their community – none gained and none lost.  Another 21% said employment actually decreased in their community – that jobs were actually lost in their communities because their projects received funding.  And finally, just 33% of respondents said that employment increased as expected  in their communities as a result of the funding under the Economic Action Plan.

So what has been Mr. Harper’s response to this independent report by an officer of parliament?  Did he regret the findings and say he would try harder or do better?  No.  He shot at the messenger, and said that only his Conservative government could be trusted to tell the public the truth because the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report; “lacked credibility.” He really said that.

Regardless of Mr. Harper’s spin and denials some sad facts remain about his management of the economy.  Canada’s unemployment rate is higher now than it was before the recession, most of the new jobs that have been created since the start of that recession are of the part-time and temporary variety, and thousands of unemployed workers are beginning to exhaust their Employment Insurance benefits because of the sluggish job growth. When people can’t find full-time work, household debt sky rockets as families increase their use of credit cards to pay for daily expenses. This is the cycle that this stimulus package was supposed to help end, but this simply hasn’t been the case and Mr. Page’s independent and non-partisan report confirms this.

Mr. Harper’s inability to help Canadian families weather this economic downturn is troubling.  His inability to get the job done for families on the employment front is why New Democrats have been calling for measures that help make the life more affordable. It is why we are calling for the repeal of the HST on home heating, the ending federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries, and closing loopholes and tax havens that have only helped well-off tax dodgers at the expense of working families and balanced federal budgets. Unfortunately, Mr. Harper does not share our priorities.  As Mr. Page’s report shows us, Mr. Harper’s priorities start and end with self-promotion, electioneering and lots and lots of signs.  Let’s not forget about those signs.

John Rafferty MP

Thunder Bay Rainy River

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