Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dear wankers: Wrong about everything again, I see.


Not surprisingly, all of the residents of Lower Idiotville who have been yapping on about how Stephen Harper is "required by law" to apply the current surplus of almost $14 billion to paying down the national debt appear to have got it wrong again. There is, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing in law that "requires" the above. But hang on ... that's not the whole story.

In the comments section back here, Robert McClelland explains:

The fiscal year ends on March 31st. If there's any revenues that the government hasn't spent by that date, it's required by law that it be used for debt repayment. I don't know exactly where this is in the legislation but it is law.

Ah, now we might be getting somewhere. If Robert is correct, then any surplus that is still hanging around at the end of the fiscal year would have to go to debt reduction. But if that doesn't happen until March 31, then there's nothing whatsoever that stops Harper from spending any or all of that money elsewhere before then. To claim that that entire surplus must go to debt reduction now is sheer dishonesty. But, like many things, it's all in the wording.

So how might Harper go about making that claim so that it's technically correct? Simple. He can merely arrange that that surplus is untouched and untouchable until March 31. If he explicitly sets aside that surplus in a secure place and prevents anything from being done with it until March 31, then, by law, it would have to go to debt reduction. And notice how that isn't just a default outcome -- it requires a conscious effort on Harper's part to not do anything else with that surplus. There's nothing "required by law" about this -- what it does require is deliberate effort on the part of the Conservatives to not spend that money anywhere else, quite a different thing. And that begins to explain the odd wording in this article (emphasis added):

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the massive surplus and added that it would be funnelled into debt reduction during an event in Toronto that had all the earmarks of a mid-campaign event.

His announcement means the end-of-year fiscal windfall is no longer available for program spending. The money must, by law, go into national debt-reduction and the interest savings - about $725 million - will go to tax cuts.

Note the curious wording at the beginning of that second paragraph: "His announcement means the end-of-year fiscal windfall is no longer available for program spending." That would seem to fit nicely with what I just proposed -- that it is Harper's conscious decision and announcement that the surplus would go untouched until the end of the fiscal year that makes it required to pay down national debt. But this opens up a whole can of ugly, conservative worms.

Does this mean that that entire current surplus is now locked into debt reduction? That it is entirely unavailable for anything else and that Harper can't change his mind before March 31? Because, if that's the case (which I doubt), that would make a federal election before March 31 extremely interesting, since Harper wouldn't have any of that surplus to throw around as campaign presents to try to buy votes, would he?

I think this is the perfect time to call Harper on his bluff and bring down the government, then watch as he suddenly redefines "surplus" and "requires" to give him the freedom to star flinging surplus-provided bags of cash at Canadians in order to buy their votes. I suspect the English language would suddenly get an entertaining overhaul, and we'd see the hypocrisy start to ooze out of every pore of Harper's body. Not that that would surprise me, either.

21 comments:

The Right is Where its At said...

The Liberals are starting to get cold feet to trigger a fall election. According to thee Toronto-area MP Bryon Wilfert !!!

Here is a quote:

The Liberals are “never afraid of a fight” but should not pull the plug on the minority Conservative government to trigger a fall election,says Toronto-area MP Bryon Wilfert,a close confidant of Opposition leader Stephane Dion.

Now I can't blame them for this!! If you look in Quebec they would be wiped out,and the big winner would be the Conservatives!!!

After each month that passes Quebec is going more right just look what is happening I know,because i live here in Montreal.

Now if the government doesn't fall this fall i don't see how thee opposition parties are going to make them fall on their next budget especially since they already have a surplus of $7.8 billion,and we still have a few months to go before the next budget where we would have another huge surplus.

Now what do you think about this CC ? Any comments to this ?

Ti-Guy said...

I suspect a lot of ignorant people (mostly Conservatives) have a hard time understanding this because they think public finances are like business sector finances (which they probably don't understand either).

Fiscal periods in the public sector is not really different from household finances within a pay period. In that period, you have a fairly high degree of certainty that you will have a certain amount of revenue (your paycheque, for most of us) and fairly predictable expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, food, loans, etc. etc.). Anything left over is a surplus. You (normally) can't direct that surplus to pay more rent or more utilities or any of the obligations you have.

I think that's where "the law" gets invoked, but it's really the reality that fiscal obligations have already been met. Unless there is really bizarre accounting practices going on (like with discretionary expense accounts) you can't dole out funds when they're not demanded, and most public programmes can't do that.

Your point about Harper willfully withholding spending is exactly right, and shouldn't come as a surprise. His deliberate and niggard cuts to programmes he didn't need to make where an early indication of how he intended to handle this country's budget. Big Daddy Harper decided no one was getting tampons or deodorant this week because they needed to be punished. And now, with a bulging wallet, he can tell everyone else how prudent he was.

Ti-Guy said...

The Liberals are starting to get cold feet to trigger a fall election. According to thee Toronto-area MP Bryon Wilfert !!!

Time to flush this clown. He is the most inept Toree Opewative I've ever come across, although his persistence is somewhat admirable. I'm guessing he's really Gerry Nicholls...really psychotic/sociopathic, in other words.

...The consistent misspelling of "the" is a nice touch.

The Right is Where its At said...
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The Right is Where its At said...
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The Right is Where its At said...

ti-guy i guess you don't know your grammar do you?
Look up the word (thee) if you don't know it is a pronoun genius!!!

Crabgräss said...

It Sat Way Over on the Right: "After each month that passes Quebec is going more right. Just look what is happening. I know, because I live here in Montréal."

And that's why Outremont went to the NDP, right?

Or is that somehow hairbrush?
Hairbrush is a noun genius.

The Right is Where its At said...

Crabgräss did i say every ridding in Quebec? NO !!!

Did the Conservatives win by a large Majority in Roberval? Yes !!! Almost won a second seat.

Did you see the latest polls where thee ADQ is
in the lead here in Quebec. Did you know that the federal Liberals are at 19% and are about to be wiped out of Quebec.

Did you know that thee NDP the last time they won a seat here in Quebec was 17 years ago.

Now can anyone comment
on my post of 11:18 am? Or are you people are afraid to?

Ti-Guy said...

I did comment on your post. You're a fraud.

...go back to sticking your dick into the customers' hamburgers at the MacDo you work in, Johnny.

The Right is Where its At said...
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Cherniak_WTF said...

Ti-guy your an intellectual idiot you know this?
Before calling someone an idiot, I'd make sure I know the difference between "your' and "you're"...

Fucking idiot.

The Right is Where its At said...
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The Right is Where its At said...

Ti-guy you're an intellectual idiot you know this? Happy cherniak_wtf now genius?

Paladiea said...

The government will fall in autumn. Because it's now or never.

However that's the only thing that was right in the first comment.

"People are going right because I said so!" doesn't cut it as an argument.

Ti-Guy said...

Ti-guy you're an intellectual idiot you know this? Happy cherniak_wtf now genius?

Ferme-la, bécasse.

Good catch, CWTF; you nailed Tree-wee-a for his desperate attempt to erase history.

I wonder if Stephen Taylor is...despondent...over the fact that Tree-wee-a is on Teh Bloggin' Torees?

Somehow, I don't think so.

Shannon said...

"Right", you're still using the word 'thee' incorrectly. It's another word for 'you', not a substitute for 'the'.

fergusrush said...

Since the end of March is still six months away, isn't the whole story a bit premature? Who knows what kind of economic misfortune could arise in a half-year's time, requiring the use of the supposed surplus? I get the feeling that Harper is counting his chickens, so to speak.

CC said...

fergusrush:

That's precisely the point -- given that the fiscal end of year is still months away, how is it that Harper can be "announcing" what must be "required by law" now?

Grog said...

There's two bits to this discussion.

First, Harper may have been announcing the finalized surplus numbers from the end of last fiscal year after all the departments have finished closing their books and things have been summarized. (Or, as Fergusrush suspects, Harper's counting his chickens a little in advance)

Second, I believe the commitment around the use of surpluses was a feature lurking in the legislation enacting the last budget. I believe it isn't as absolute as "required by law" would imply, but it theoretically obliges the government to commit the bulk of surplus monies to paying down debt.
(honestly, I can't quote you chapter and verse where in the legislation it is, but I suspect it's one of the "Just Like Ralph" plays that looks superficially compelling but isn't in actuality.

Robert McClelland said...

Since the end of March is still six months away, isn't the whole story a bit premature?

The end of March was six months ago. The $14 billion surplus is from the `06/`07 budget which means it's no longer available to the government. This $7.8 billion surplus racked up in just the first 4 months of the `07/`08 fiscal year however, is still available to be spent until March 31, 2008.

fergusrush said...

Thanks for clearing that up, I wasn't sure if the money was from this fiscal year but assumed it was because of the uproar. I figured that if the money was from last fiscal year the whole thing was moot.