Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On distorted pictures

In other ridiculous Con stories originating in Nova Scotia, Stephen Maher and the Chronicle Herald have assembled a conclusive set of proof that federal stimulus spending has been strongly biased toward Con-held ridings within the province. But it's their response even more than their pork-barrel politics that most thoroughly demonstrates the problems with the Harper government.

Here's the list of sources assembled by Maher in putting together his article:
The Chronicle Herald compiled a database of federal stimulus projects using several lists on the federal government’s Building Canada website. The longest list — Nova Scotia Infrastructure Initiatives — is missing the dollar amount for many of the projects, so the newspaper acquired them from the provincial and municipal governments.

The paper also included all projects that aren’t on the lists but have been the subject of news releases under the federal government’s Economic Action Plan — for example, $10.3 million in federal funding for the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre, a new recreation centre planned for Bridgewater, in Conservative MP Gerald Keddy’s riding of South Shore-St. Margarets.
And Maher went to that trouble because...
The main federal website tracking the spending — actionplan.gc.ca — has a map of the country with icons showing projects but no details about the amount of spending or the schedule.
In other words, then, the Cons are doing an absolutely atrocious job of actually informing the public as to what money has gone where. But the Chronicle Herald has assembled all of the information publicly available to determine that the three Con-held ridings in Nova Scotia are receiving more money than the other eight put together.

So what can the Cons possibly say in the face of such damning evidence?
(A spokesflack for Peter MacKay) pointed out that the final numbers may paint a different picture than this database does.

"When you look at figures out of context, you paint a picture that isn’t complete," he said.
Naturally, the first obvious problem with that claim is that there's exactly one entity with the theoretical ability to provide a "complete" picture. And it's because the Con government has chosen to hide its spending numbers that any accountability has had to come from third parties sorting through a mishmash of information which could easily be made accessible to all if the Cons were the least bit interested in facilitating an honest evaluation of their spending practices.

But given that it's the Cons themselves who have spent millions on self-promotion while keeping the facts hidden, it's particularly stunning that they're now suggesting that Canadians should hope that some combination of hidden and/or uncommitted spending could counterbalance a glaring partisan slant in the first 90% of their stimulus budget. Leaving aside the question of whether it's even mathematically possible for the money left to be committed to level out an imbalance as glaring as the Chronicle Herald and others have found, it defies belief to suggest that the Cons are somehow being more even-handed in the spending that they're keeping hidden than in what they've made public, or that they'll suddenly reach an epiphany about governing in the interests of the country rather than their political ambitions before doling out what's left.

In sum, there's no apparent reason to give the benefit of the doubt to a governemnt which is vehemently if implausibly denying that the current slanted numbers reflect any problem, and whose penchant for selective information suggests that what's being buried is far more likely to reflect even more waste and pork-barrelling rather than an out-of-character outburst of fairness. And the more the Cons ask the public to simply hope that their government will be reasonable in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary, the more reason Canadians will have to be wary of everything that comes from the Harper government.

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