Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did The Liberals Actually Read The Report?

After reading this Liberal Party of Canada news release, one has to ask if the Liberals actually read the CTF's Western Economic Diversification(WED) report or just looked at the cover and fired out a news release condemning the current government.

After all, the most stark examples of pork barrel spending by this department occurred in 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2006 - all years with a Liberal Prime Minister at the helm. (See p.9 of the report for details)

Instead of trying to pit this regional development department's activities with that of Quebec's, it would have been encouraging to have seen a response which shows the party understood the pitfalls of such an approach to economic development. Instead their news release included this troubling quote from Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal -

"Liberals favour federal funding for regional economic development that will protect the jobs of today, and support innovative initiatives that will create the jobs of tomorrow".

As the report showed, not only is there a strong correlation between spending increases and the timing of federal elections, there is a significant amount of overlap with other departments. While few would object to funding cancer research with tax dollars, why on earth are WED bureaucrats evaluating such projects? After all, these are the same bureaucrats who are reviewing requests for cemetery funding and airport lighting. Certainly department of health officials should be reviewing and funding worthy projects like cancer research.

Also of concern was the fact the Liberals continue to support corporate welfare. As the report showed, only 51.8% of funds loaned out actually were repaid. While that may be a good batting average, it's hardly a reasonable return on investment.

Perhaps most troubling about the claims made by such regional development agencies is the suggestion that they create jobs and drive growth. If they truly did then why don't such bodies keep track of the number of jobs created? Is it because the federal auditor slammed such job creation claims in the past, noting that thousands of the 'jobs created' were no longer in existence as the recipients had gone out of business?

If all that doesn't convince you that the department needs to be discontinued, consider this question - if the government still believes that Western Canada needs "diversification" after 22 years of operating the WED department, isn't that in itself a telling sign of failure? How many years and dollars will it take?

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