Sunday, April 08, 2007

A tale of two critiques

"(T)ruly bold initiatives are lacking."

"Unfortunately the budget was an opportunity missed ... (filled with) low expectations and an acceptance of mediocrity for our future."

The above two quotes were said by prominent spokespeople about last week's provincial budget.

The quiz of the day is which side said this, that the budget was disappointing to them? The right or the left?

The answer is -- both.

If you didn't know better, by reading the media you'd think Greg Selinger delivered at least two completely different budgets last week.

One version -- there wasn't a single tax cut worthwhile to be seen and social spending is out of control.

The other version -- the tax cuts were far deeper than Manitobans want and a betrayal of core NDP values.

Here is a passage from Dave Angus's predictable missive on the weekend, feigning surprise the budget did not make Newt Gingrich happy on tax cuts: "I was confident that the message of our uncompetitive tax structure was not lost on this government and they recognized the economic benefits to adopting a framework that would attract investment and job growth."

Why was he so surprised? Because"(t)he province had received unprecedented levels of equalization, $117 million increase from the federal government..."

Let's get this straight. Because equalization was finally brought back to the 10-province formula as Harper promised, this should be poured into tax cuts for Angus's members?

Hmm. Didn't Jean Charest do that? We recall it didn't work out the best for him.

But let's get real on taxes for business. In 1999 when Gary Filmon left office, Manitoba's small business tax rate was the second highest in the land at 8%. It is now 1% -- the lowest in the land by far.

So, does Dave Angus or Shannon Martin -- the former Tory staffer who never ran a business, as far as we're aware, but now head of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business -- publicly recognize that Manitoba's small business tax rate is now the lowest in the land? No. Nothing.

(On the same theme, for years the Free Press has campaigned on increasing the provincial funding of education to 80%. Do they even tip their hat? No. All the FreeP does is complain about only $10 million specifically allocated specifically to Lake Winnipeg -- even though more than $130 million is dedicated for water and wastewater infrastructure projects that will help the root causes of water quality in the lake and across the province.)

Anyway, the not-enough-tax-cuts view is in contrast with that of Manitoba's left wing. A piece by CCPA's Shauna MacKinnon and Jim Silver in the Free Press was subtly titled "Doer abandons his principles".

"A major illustration," of the way Gary Doer is supposed to be abandoning his NDP roots according to the duo "is the way in which this budget kowtows to the tax-cutting lobby."


So which is it?

We wager most Manitobans will understand that the 2007 budget is a solid, balanced plan with strong investment in priority areas and good tax cuts for business and families.

At some point both groups should realize they're overplaying their cards a bit and get back to reality.