Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

The Smile Test

Posted by JJ in Brass Tacks (Tuesday September 26, 2006 at 8:18 pm)

It’s not the sense of entitlement which spurs demands for consultation on budget cuts but happily accepts disbursements without the same. It’s the fact that sometimes these cuts are justified and sometimes they’re not. Maintaining spending, contrary to the NDP’s charge, is every bit as ideological as cutting it.

But since debate, with or without formal Parliamentary approval (which, incidentally, was given under “cutting spending — $1 Billion” in the budget), won’t go much beyond the names of programs, the Chilly Wonk proposes a new approach: the smile test.

It’s simple. If the sarcastic defense of the program is more laughable than the serious defense, the program shouldn’t be cut. If the serious defense is more laughable, cut that program!

Without further ado, let’s give it a spin on the programs listed by the Globe and Mail:

$50-million: Elimination of unused funding for Northwest Territories devolution

Sarcastic
If we don’t leave unused funding for no one to use, no one will say how much good the government does.
Serious
Unused funding can earn interest if invested — that’s called prudent financial management.

$4-million: End to medical-marijuana science funding

Sarcastic
The government’s only been offering funding for this stuff since 1999. Stoner scientists can’t come up with a two-page research proposal that quickly.
Serious
We should continue to research medicinal uses for a substance whose criminalization had no scientific basis to begin with. Alcohol and tobacco are both more dangerous and more widely used. Was nothing learned from all those prohibition-era gangster movies?

$78.8-million: End to program that gave GST rebates to tourists

Sarcastic
Foreign visitors need a 6% rebate off our notoriously low, low, low Canadian prices!
Serious
A program designed to rebate a small portion of hotel taxes and 6% off goods exported from Canada is crucial to attracting visitors to Canada.

$11.7-million: Removal of unused funds for mountain pine beetle initiative

Sarcastic
What about all that unused initiative? Who’s going to fund that?
Serious
The mountain pine beetle could be regrouping, and the government won’t be able to come up with $11.7 million dollars when the time comes.

$46.8-million: Smaller cabinet announced in February

Sarcastic
Fewer Cabinet members means less patronage — how’s that going to affect the unemployment rate?
Serious
Fewer Cabinet members means more centralised control — how’s that going to affect consultation?

$45-million: “Efficiencies” in Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Sarcastic
You can’t possibly find inefficiencies in a cross between a landlord, a regulatory agency, and an insurance company with $101 Billion in assets and net income of $1 Billion.
Serious
This is the body that’s been steadily reducing required downpayments for new homes, helping to inflate housing prices beyond the average Canadian’s reach while following its mandate of providing more affordable housing for Canadians? You can’t cut that — it’s win-win.

$4.25-million: Consolidation of foreign missions

Sarcastic
If you don’t know the difference between Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, don’t you at least think the government should?
Serious
The absence of a more local Canadian presence will make it harder for us to maintain our international prestige.

$13.9-million: Cancellation of National Defence High-Frequency Surface Wave Radar Project

Sarcastic
Will the government be able to come up with another way to subsidize the oil industry in time to cash in on the current boom in prices?
Serious
Isn’t it about time the Canadian government developed some kind of military technology, if only to boost research and employment opportunities?

$6.5-million: Elimination of funding for the Centre for Research and Information on Canada

Sarcastic
Canadians don’t know much about Canada; and we don’t fund enough groups to talk about national unity.
Serious
The Centre’s work is important to the fight against regionalism.

$4.6-million: Cuts to museum assistance

Sarcastic
There’s no way wealthy museum patrons nationwide can come up with that kind of money.
Serious
If you don’t offer exhibit-by-exhibit funding for Canadian-themed exhibits, they won’t be set up.

$5-million: Administrative reductions to Status of Women Canada

Sarcastic
Without Status of Women Canada funding, women won’t have status. We’re giving women $5 Million less status than they had before.
Serious
This organisation funds research on gender issues. $5 Million is too much to cut from the gender issue studies funded by this department, not including those funded by myriad other departments not solely dedicated to the gender issue.

$6-million: Operational efficiencies at the Canada Firearms Centre

Sarcastic
Contrary to what multiple audits suggested, there just isn’t any way to improve this agency’s performance.
Serious
The Canada Firearms Centre has consistently demonstrated higher fiscal needs than expected. $6 Million can’t be denied it.

$4.2-million: Cuts to Law Commission of Canada

Sarcastic
It’s not as though we pay Parliamentarians to review the law and propose legal reforms.
Serious
We can’t trust Parliamentarians to review law and propose legal reforms.

$15-million Elimination of residual funding for softwood-lumber trade litigation

Sarcastic
You can’t stop people from suing other people just because they’ve agreed to a settlement!
Serious
The threat of renewed litigation just might make the Americans think twice about trying something else.

$4.6-million: Elimination of the RCMP drug-impaired-driving program’s training budget

Sarcastic
RCMP officers aren’t paid enough to learn how to drive while drug-impaired on their own.
Serious
If you don’t train police officers to deal with impaired driving potentially due to drugs, they’ll have to just arrest individuals for dangerous driving and won’t be able to issue stiffer Criminal sanctions easily.

$5.6-million: Elimination of Court Challenges Program

Sarcastic
Shouldn’t the government be paying lawyers to test programs through litigation, rather than by hiring them to evaluate their weaknesses to begin with?
Serious
Without government funding, some crucial cases on rights would never be contested.

So, how’d they do?

1 comment for The Smile Test »

  1. I would be interested in the smile test results for arguing in support for these cuts.

    Comment by eli — 9/27/2006 @ 2:10 pm

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