Well, some sides. Ok, one side.
So far, he's met with the CEOs of the big banks, the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation (aka "The Canadian Federation of Really Rich People"), and of course his 'economic panel' of top corporate movers and shakers.
Funny. I'm not seeing the word "labour" anywhere here. I'm not seeing the word "poverty" mentioned, either.
Happily, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - which, as the media has helpfully informed us, is a "left-wing think tank" - has come out with its own proposals for a stimulus package that focus more on jobs and strengthening the social safety net than anything being proposed by Flaherty's advisors.
The stimulus package, whose promised impact was validated by Informetrica Ltd. -- which has a macroeconomic computer model -- would boost GDP by three per cent and create 407,000 jobs, it said.
A breakdown of the proposed key investments includes:
- $12.4 billion to strengthen the employment insurance system so more out of work Canadians receive benefits, and to provide income support for low-income seniors, children and the working poor.
- $14.7 billion to strengthen municipal infrastructure and affordable housing, invest in child care, post-secondary education, and honour the First Nations Kelowna Accord scrapped by the Conservative government.
- $5.8 billion investment in "green infrastructure, training and education, and energy retrofits."
Most significantly, CCPA's proposal omits the one element almost guaranteed to figure prominently in Flaherty's budget.
The package does not include any broad-based tax cuts.
"Simply put, government-spending initiatives outlined in this plan provide far more job-creating stimulus than across-the-board tax cuts," said David MacDonald, an economist who co-ordinated preparation of the alternative federal budget.
"People who have jobs spend; people who lose (jobs) do not."
A few things need to be understood here. One is that, fundamentally, tax cuts cost just as much as government spending. 'Tax cut' sounds better in an election, but translated into personal terms it amounts to the difference between having a $500 rent increase and a $500 cut in your paycheque.
Another is something that Ali Velshi just pointed out on CNN, talking about the possibility of Obama bringing in tax cuts: that giving everyone, say, an extra $500 in their pockets doesn't really solve anything because if you are out of work or losing your house, it's not enough to help, whereas if you are doing ok then you won't really need it.
The third point is this: a lot of the stuff we buy here in Canada is made elsewhere. So a goodly chunk of the money spent at Wal-Mart or Loblaws or Canadian Tire, is just going to go to support the economies of the U.S., China and Mexico. And that's assuming that people would actually spend that money and not just sock it away in, say, one of Flaherty's not-really-tax-free savings accounts.
All of this would be perfectly obvious to Jim Flaherty if he were listening to those who speak for the low to moderate income Canadian workers (i.e. most of us) who are going to be hardest hit by this recession. Instead, he is choosing to consult only with those seeking to protect their profits and wealth. Who, incidentally, are the very people whose opinions on economics are pretty much identical to Flaherty's.
Welcome to the echo chamber.