Thursday, November 06, 2008

On journalistic negligence

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has released a study highlighting the value of infrastructure spending as a means of boosting Canada's economy. But it would have a far better chance of having the needed impact if the Canadian Press could be bothered to report what the FCM actually said.

Here's the FCM's message about the delays to date:
Because of administrative delays, the cost-shared $8.8 billion federal Building Canada Fund (BCF), announced in the 2007 budget, has, so far, financed very few projects leaving close to $3 billion in unspent federal money...

“What is needed now is the political will to cut red tape and ensure that the money budgeted for these projects in 2007 and 2008 gets spent immediately.”
Now, the FCM is remarkably willing to avoid casting any blame for the delays, given that it's the federal government which insisted on the agreement process, then failed to get anything done. But given the FCM's relative neutrality, one could understand if coverage merely omitted that detail.

What doesn't make any sense, though, is to try to turn the FCM's message into a one-sided slam at the provinces. And that's exactly what the CP report does:
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities says there are hundreds of municipal projects ready to go that can be financed by existing funding. But it says the provinces are taking too long to sign spending agreements with Ottawa.
And then there are the potential effects of infrastructure spending. The FCM rightly points out that it would actually be far more effective than tax cuts in stimulating the economy:
The study, conducted last June and updated in October, looks at the economic impact of accelerated infrastructure investments. It compares the stimulus impact of $1 billion in tax cuts (personal and excise tax) to the same amount in accelerated infrastructure investment.

The study shows that even a combined $2-billion tax reduction would produce fewer jobs and a lower economic stimulus than $1 billion dollars spent upgrading roads, bridges and water mains.
Which the CP somehow manages to turn into something else entirely:
The reports says accelerating $1 billion in infrastructure spending would have the same impact as a $1-billion tax cut.
So who might stand to benefit from an interpretation which absolves the federal government of any responsibility for delays in funding, while wrongly pretending that tax cuts would serve the same purpose just as effectively?

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