There have been a couple of important developments since I last posted about StÃ©phane Dionâ€™s lack of progressive economic policy.
A week ago, Murray Dobbin pointed out that Marcel MassÃ©, Dionâ€™s “principal secretary”, was a driving force behind the ChrÃ©tien governmentâ€™s slash-and-burn approach to the Canadian state.
Yesterday, Dion outlined his economic policy in a speech to the Economic Club of Toronto and the Toronto Board of Trade. Dionâ€™s previous statements were so vague that optimists could interpret them in a progressive light. His Toronto speech continued this troubling vagueness about environmental policy as a tool for economic development, but was crystal clear about adhering to right-wing economic nostrums.
In his introduction, Dion argued: “The first condition to succeed is to stay true to the sound fiscal policies of the ChrÃ©tien/Martin government. For me, balanced budgets, debt reduction and competitive taxes are bedrock principles.”
To reinforce the point, he concluded “I would respect absolutely the legacies of the ChrÃ©tien-Martin governments: fiscal responsibility, less debt, competitive taxes . . .”Â Of course, it was this commitment to debt repayment and tax cuts that held federal spending at its lowest level, relative to the economy, since the 1950s during the ChrÃ©tien-Martin years.
Dion mixed environmentalist rhetoric with anti-government rhetoric. He dismissed regulation as “smothering bureaucratic oversight” and instead proposed to “unleash market forces.” As if to accentuate the similarity between himself and Harper, Dion referred to Canada as “an energy superpower.”
Dionâ€™s only proposals to profit fromÂ green technologyÂ were a retread of the vacuous “innovation agenda” and “stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights.”
There has never been much reason to expect progressive economic policy from Dion. Yesterdayâ€™s speech confirmed that none is forthcoming.
Andrew Jackson had brought Dion’s speech to my attention. Before having seen my post, Andrew drafted the following critique of the speech. Great minds think alike!
This week’s speech by Dion to the business crowd at the Toronto Board of Trade (January 16) mostly went over familiar ground in terms of the importance of linkages between environmental and economic policy, and the need to have the former drive a large part of the latter. Little to disagree with in terms of principle, though the details of Liberal policy on climate change remain to be seen.
The most disappointing – though not terribly surprising – point was the short but strong re-affirmation of the Martin record on fiscal and tax policy.
“The first condition to succeed is to stay true to the sound fiscal policies of the ChrÃ©tien/Martin government. For me, balanced budgets, debt reduction and competitive taxes are bedrock principles.”
That doesn’t leave a lot of room for new spending on the environmental and social legs of Mr. Dionâ€™s three legged liberalism.
Also, he had little or nothing to say about the “human capital” side of an economic strategy, trade, or the industrial crisis. But hopefully there is more to follow.
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