Monday, November 16, 2009

On political considerations

The latest study on stimulus spending from the Citizen and Chronicle-Herald should make it clear that there's no inherent reason why infrastructure money would end up flowing disproportionately toward government ridings - as Ontario provincial ridings actually showed a slight tilt in the other direction.

That makes it all the more worth questioning why such a consistent pattern of government favouritism has played out in federal ridings. So let's consider a few of the possibilities as to how money could be simultaneously funnelled to favour the Harper Cons without any similar effects provincially.

First, let's note that federal stimulus money was earmarked for "shovel-ready" projects - meaning that projects with a greater degree of previous planning would be more likely to be prepared to receive funding. That means that the stimulus funding may prove to have been the Cons' payoff for setting up a Department of Pork a couple of years ago: it would only make sense that the Cons' efforts to seek out ways to spend in their own ridings then would result in there being more projects planned and ready to go this year.

And the Cons' publicly-known focus on pork-barrelling also doesn't seem likely to have escaped the notice of provincial and municipal governments, which leads to the second important possibility: it may be that provincial and municipal governments looked at the Cons' track record and concluded for themselves that their projects had a better chance of being approved if they could be linked to Con or swing ridings. Needless to say, that would result in the Cons effectively being able to rely on the other levels of government to establish a partisan tilt for them, as more marginal projects were submitted (and presumably approved) from Con ridings.

Finally, it also seems clear that the Cons have made sure that opposition MPs were kept in the dark when it came to helping their constituents with funding application. That too would create an obvious source of possible bias without the Cons having to actually reject applications from opposition ridings.

(Of course, all of this is in addition to the documented bias in the approval of some projects at the federal level.)

Now, I'd be particularly interested to see if Ontario actually serves as an example of the converse on the provincial level: if the McGuinty government sent signals that it intended to be even-handed and actually provided MPPs from all parties with equal resources in putting infrastructure projects forward, then those would seem to be fairly clear distinguishing factors between the two levels of government. And if Ontario does serve as an example of how stimulus spending can be doled out fairly, then the federal Cons have even more to answer for in their complete failure to make that happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment