Sunday, November 30, 2008

drama in Ottawa

I might well have voted Liberal in the federal election last month had I been in Canada. I like Dion's corporate tax proposals and his remarks about opposing the NDP on this count. I like Dion's willingness to present policy initiatives like the "Green Shift" even if it had problems; at least it's a step better than the cynical populism of the Tories. I also like Iggy's background (it's not a liability to be educated, despite what Sarah Palin supporters might think) and even some of Bob Rae's remarks, like what Bob said about Georgia vs Russia. Of course, there's a lot I don't like about the Liberals, like their immigration policy, but in a number of respect the Liberals seemed the party of ideas in contrast to the party of the angry and pugnacious.

But I can't help but notice the Globe and Mail announcement that "Jack Mintz defends the Harper approach" [to stimulus]. I've referred to Mintz before; - I consider him Canada's top fiscal policy expert. If the opposition takes down the government on this issue (the public financing of political parties issue having been taken off the table), I will be off the fence in terms of Liberal vs Conservative. It would be a huge mistake for the Liberals to get on the wrong side of sound policy, and that's where you are if you are on the wrong side of Jack Mintz.

I don't entirely agree with Mintz re public financing of political parties, but on that count it is not really much of an economic issue. I see little fundamental difference beeen tax privileging political donations and outright subsidies, either way you are steering economic resources towards political parties. Does anyone think cutting tax credits for political donations would be a good idea? I see a vibrant marketplace of ideas as something of a positive externality. That said, the sums do matter. $30 million is a mere drop in bucket budget wise but $300 million is questionable. $30 million would help get messages out, whereas $300 million would get them out and market them in a big way, which shouldn't be necessary since the punditocracy will "market" the messages if they have merit. They just need enough help to get on the radar screen, in my view (of course, in Alberta it works the opposite: the bigger the party, the bigger the taxpayer support).

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