On the eve of the return to Parliament here in Ottawa, Stephen Harper and his minions have already laid out enough details to lower expectations for the impending budget.
In short, 2010 is slated to be a holding pattern year with no new tax cuts, and no major new program spending. The notion is that the current deficit situation precludes additional expenditures, but that the government is unwilling to reconsider any of it’s ill-timed tax cuts from previous sessions.
At the very least the remaining 19 billion in budgeted stimulus expenditures will be allocated, but we have been told to expect little else. Even the popular home renovation tax credit is rumored not to be renewed.
As Harper put it: “We’re now in the business of saying what are all the things we have to say ‘no’ to instead of all the things we have to say ‘yes’ to,”.
Frankly, it is hard to imagine that the word “no” was terribly difficult for Harper to get used to – especially in the context of Harper’s well-noted refusals to engage the press in uncontrolled situations, the recent reports of a concerted effort through the PMO to hold up Access To Information Requests, and the refusal to turn over pertinent documents to the Afghanistan inquiry.
Indeed, on many issues it seems to be his favourite word.
Then again, considering that government expenditures have risen at a rate double that of the previous administration, perhaps Stephen has had difficulty saying no – at least to his own caucus.
But by projecting this as the budget of the year, Harper also pulls the rug out from his own stated reason for the prorogue that is finally ending.
It was, we might all recall, needed in order for the Government to “recalibrate”.
How much time is needed to decide on no changes to taxes?
How much time does it take to work out the details of no new programs?
How much time and effort needs be invested by an entire parliament to, in effect, decide to do nothing?
As the character George once commented on Seinfeld: “I think I can sum up the show for you with one word: nothing.”
And that, it is now clear to see, is what this three-month vacations taken by the Conservatives was for as far as actual governing is concerned. Nothing.
A three month vacation which, of course, counts toward towards their pension eligibility.
And it must be noted during a time when it seems that public service pensions are again in the budgetary crosshairs and which may well be included in either the throne speech or budget, that for many Conservative MPs first elected in the 2004 election following the creation of the new Conservative Party from the merger of the Reform and PCs, that this summer becomes the time when they become eligible for their MP pensions.
A pension plan that Harper himself has opted back in to after, early in his career, denigrating it as being a “monstrosity” and “obscene”. But that is another thing that won’t be revisited during a holding pattern year.