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Ottawa's "leadership" flicks: B movies at best

By Walter Robinson
web posted July 29, 2002

This summer's movie season is thick with flicks. Translation: There are plenty of good movies to go and see. Sadly, Ottawa's attempt to compete with Hollywood in offering up entertainment value is not only monotonous and pathetic, it's misguided and runs contrary to the viewing preferences of taxpayers.

The main blockbuster coming out of the nation's capital this summer comes from the NGP (read: Natural Governing Party) Production Group entitled Men in Red II. And it proves the universal rule that anytime Will Smith has a movie in theatres, some Canadian federal political party will be rife with turmoil.

Smaller budget offerings include the Torytoon production of Go, Joe, Go, a Chaplin-esque silent film from SFU (read: Socialist Films UN-incorporated) titled Hey the NDP is Still Here … Really. Meanwhile, Reform-2UA-2CA studios are holding off-site mission statement briefings in Mexico with their new CEO after a disastrous two-year string of failed reality-TV shows on the small screen.

Even though each film deals with human drama and the topical issue of ‘leadership', box office returns are low. The evening newscasts have aired too many trailers and promos for these flicks and newspapers offer far too many front-page reviews for Canadians to stomach. Only 2 per cent of Canadians will even show an interest in watching these films.

The other 98 per cent of Canadians (read: those folks who aren't members of political parties and/or don't make their living from or around politics) are more interested in broader questions of leadership.

Leadership when it comes to Canada's fiscal direction. Leadership on the trade file – both foreign and domestic. Leadership in fundamental health care reform. Leadership in the urban agenda. And leadership in restoring the integrity of public institutions.

With a new Clerk in charge of the civil service, Ottawa's senior mandarins have cancelled summer vacations and have instructed their legions of staff to craft a far-reaching activist agenda (read: big spending) for a rumoured Throne Speech – focusing on innovation and inclusion – to be delivered this fall.

Sadly, this innovation agenda will likely result in more opaque arm's length foundations and corporate welfare schemes through direct funding or industry-specific tax credits. A smarter approach to fostering innovation would be to abolish the corporate capital tax and stop punishing firms who invest in plant and equipment.

This speech will no doubt sidestep the whole question of interprovincial trade barriers even though enforcing the Agreement on Internal Trade is clearly a federal responsibility. On the health care file, pre-funding is the key. Each successive generation of Canadians must be encouraged/allowed to save for more of their future health care needs if our system is to be truly ‘sustainable'.

Ending the gas tax rip-off at the pumps and plowing these revenues into roadway spending is necessary to move the urban agenda forward. Yet this proposal will probably be "excluded" from the Throne Speech. Inclusion could be facilitated by reconnecting Canadians to the political process through voting reform and implementing much needed parliamentary reform.

These choices and issues are the stuff of real leadership. It's time for taxpayers to insist that all political parties hire new screenwriters. The current offering of leadership flicks are B movies at best. Canadians deserve better choices on the government big screen.

Walter Robinson is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation.

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