Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On failed programs

There looks to be plenty of discussion today about the possibility that the Harper Cons may reverse their previous plans and turn a P3 fund into a source of stadium funding. But it's worth taking a closer look at why the money is just sitting around in the first place:
Federal Conservatives are eyeing an unspent pot of more than $1-billion from the 2008 budget as a way of funding pro-sports venues without coughing up new cash.
The $1.25-billion P3 Canada Fund was created in the 2008 budget but has so far only approved two projects – a $25-million road extension in Winnipeg and a $50-million project in the Maritimes to expand emergency radio services. A spokesperson for the fund could not confirm whether Quebec City or the Quebec government submitted applications.

The fund is under the responsibility of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who has largely been cool to the idea of federal funding for pro-sports facilities.
So based on their commitment to shovel public money into private hands at every opportunity, the Cons set aside $1.25 billion as part of their work in pushing Canada's budget into the red even before the 2008 recession hit. And in keeping with Jim Flaherty's usual financial prowess, the program was off by a tidy 1,666% in anticipating the level of demand for that money under the initial rules.

Now, the Cons have apparently decided that money previously budgeted for a failed venture doesn't count as new spending. Which might make sense as a rationalization for Con supporters, but hardly looks like a position that any other party should be willing to accept: after all, the choice between putting a billion dollars into stadium funding or reducing Flaherty's deficit is no less real whether or not the money has previously been allocated.

So what we have now is the Cons looking to rely on their previous ineptitude as a means of pushing yet more public money toward their own political interests. And while that may be an entirely predictable result, it's hardly one that should be allowed to pass without challenge.

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