Did he really say that!

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

As this long election
campaign sweeps along, some of the issues which really

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

As this long election
campaign sweeps along, some of the issues which really
register with the electorate, and the howlers which do not, are surfacing. There are national ones, but I’ve watched the dynamics or themes working here in Pontiac (a riding which includes much more than MRC-Pontiac), and there have been several. Generally, a lot of negative carping about competitors back-fires, both attack ads or verbal darts.
Last week’s foot-in-a-cow-plop was the Conservative candidate’s decision to skip out of the biggest debate in the riding – the two-riding debate in Aylmer, co-sponsored by this newspaper. His empty seat spoke loudly, and every candidate, plus multiple questioners from the public, referred to his distain for the voters he claims to be courting, those who drove all the way to Aylmer to participate.
A sinister folly is the attempt by one candidate to introduce an old provincial howler into this federal election: Quebec independence. The claim is that the current MP’s party, the NDP, will make it easier for Quebec to separate, thus scaring away potential investors. This is a surprisingly slanderous tactic – dirty not to its target as much as to us, the voters. This old tactic of scaring the pants off the electorate in hopes we stampede to vote – and refuse to consider any other issue as significant except federalism. That tactic has worked – to our historical detriment – election after provincial election. In Pontiac there may as well be no issues in a provincial election. Apparently we’re genetically coded to vote against “separatism”, even if it isn’t an issue. Now one federal candidate sees the gold ring if he can move this boogeyman into the federal campaign. Voters are smarter than this, but it’s sad to see this attempt.
Another howler, one repeated at the Chamber of Commerce forum in Quyon last week, is the claim that farm supply-management is supported by the present government. That claim met with guffaws, and who in our farming community can forget that it’s the present government that bowed to Cargil and other multinationals and sold the Canadian Wheat Board, and is now negotiating – in secret – the Trans-Pacific trade deal (TPP) which will end supply-management? 
The whole austerity program – cutting public services to allow tax cuts for others and for multinationals – is a genuine stinker. Phew! How is it some ideas smell worse than outhouses?  
Austerity is not identical to the “balanced budget” mantra several parties are chanting. A balanced budget is laudable in any fiscal domain, and in the long run, is what’s sustainable, keeping revenues and expenses roughly equal. But that means, as Keynes pointed out, governments can actually increase services, not cut them, because governments are able to increase their revenues to pay for the increased services: raise selective taxes (taxes in Canada are well below international standards), charging fair royalties for our natural resources (rarely done in Canada), and closing the multiple loopholes allowing tax avoidance – even Paul Martin as Prime Minister presumably shipped family profits abroad to tax havens to avoid Canadian taxes. 
Austerity, on the other hand, is sticking it to the youth who need an education, the ill who need better health
care, new entrepreneurs, young families, veterans, the mentally ill, small local
businesses, and so forth. They pay for others’ tax breaks; that’s austerity.
Today the almost-
universal desire seems to be for regime change. But if those offering it can’t cooperate to achieve it, they’ll be filed in the failed past, too.