Monday, October 26, 2009

Closing the stimulus door after the narrative got out

Many, many weeks (months, really) after the Liberal opposition began hammering on the partisan distribution by the Conservatives of stimulus funding, and many weeks after several media organizations did their own studies which largely supported the Liberal contention, we've finally started to see some organized response from the government.

The response comes in a CP story today, which reports Transport minister John Baird's office has done its own study that shows, surprise surprise, nothing to see here. In fact, apparently the big-heated Conservatives are over-favouring opposition ridings. Because they're just that generous.

CanWest's David Akin also crunched some of the numbers for a fund that is intended for educational institutions and found that it favoured opposition ridings. David is a straight-shooting journalist but I have a methodology quibble here: major universities tend to be in major cities where tend to be represented by opposition ridings, so the result would only make sense and doesn't render mute the point made by the other studies at all. Indeed, what would be more valid would be to look at the total number of ridings with major universities, and then see if Conservative university ridings were over-favoured on a percentage basis.

Certainly, there's lots of playing to be done with these numbers. As Baird's spokesperson said they have different funds for different purposes. His office's study was of a fund aimed at major cities, and since urban ridings skew opposition of course those numbers skew toward opposition ridings. Just as Akin's study of the education fund did.

But unless the Liberal and other media studies were of funds designed primarily for rural ridings (and they weren't) then their analysis stands, and Baird's cherry-picked study is just designed to distract from the already cemented narrative. And as Steve pointed out, their counter-argument falls apart there as well, as within rural ridings, the data shows Conservative ridings being favoured.

One of the major problems noted even in Akin's reporting is the difficulty, or imposibility, or getting full and complete numbers on government stimulus spending. The government can complain that these studies are incomplete, but their unwillingness to provide complete information makes a full accounting impossible and supports the thesis there is untoward activity because it makes it seem like they have something to hide.

Really, though, my point is this: the government is many days late and many dollars short on their response here. The narrative here has been set, and the logo cheque scandal cemented it: the Conservatives are playing partisan games with stimulus and are favouring their own ridings. And all Baird's studies and all Baird's spokespeople won't change that narrative at this point.

Who knows what the final numbers will show. When the auditor general gets involved in a few years it could turn out to be not that big a gap. As I recall, the "billion-dollar HRDC boondoggle" turned out to be a few thousand dollars in actuality. Didn't matter, the canard is still trotted-out to this day.

Whether the stimulus scandal will impact voting intention is another matter entirely, but Baird's spin notwithstanding, the public view here is set.

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CanadianSense said...

So what your saying is my selective use of facts is better than yours?

Instead of evaluating the total, both camps will cherry pick each to death.

Sounds like fun.

Jeff taking bets who is going to win that contest?

ottlib said...

Paul Martin had nothing to do with Adscam. That was the conclusion of Justice Gomery and other independent sources looking into that issue.

That did not turn around the widely held belief that Mr. Martin was somehow involved. I would even venture a guess that Mr. Sense still believes that to be the truth.

As Jeff said we will not really get the whole story about the stimulus program until someone like the AG looks into it.

However, the perceived partisan abuse of that program, brought about by the Liberal focus on it and the backing of some media, will be very difficult for the Conservatives to reverse.

An axiom in politics, everybody pays attention to the accusations and nobody cares about the subsequent denials.

CanadianSense said...


I did not blame Dion, I did not blame Adscam for the loss of power.

It was many things for many people.

Many liberals want to believe it was some tactical error, a poor campaign, bad leader, nasty TV Ads etc.

I don't think it is fair to lay or concentrate the shift one a few mistakes or a "news" event.

Jeff Jedras nailed it in an honest scathing attack.

We are now twenty months past his post.

Are those observations still applicable?

If we agree, than this post by observers like myself will have correctly bookmarked and filed it under "Eureka" moment.

The right of centre had their moment years ago and united and prevented the Liberals from staying in power.

The Liberals are have failed to retake the centre from the SH Conservative-Liberals.

MI is left to divide the left amongst 3 parties and 1 regional Quebec party.

Ottolib I have no illusion the Liberal may one day have a compelling narrative regarding the current government.

Todate nothing has stuck. I have heard "this" will stick for years regarding the latest scandal.

I have lost count how many scandals the CPC have not affected their progress toward the elusive majority.

I never drank the kool-aid the CPC could break out past their beach head with 10 seats in QC --still don't.

When I see Charest publicly "endorsing" a federal party than all bets are off.