Wednesday, February 3, 2010

McParland: Ignatieff heads down same path as Dion.

A sense a strong anti-Liberal bias in this article but nevertheless McParland has a point. So far Ignatieff has not had much to say about what his policies will be. At least his statements about child care are a beginning. Perhaps McParland reads too much into what Ignatieff says. Ignatieff may not make the issue into his main focus as Dion did with the Green Shift. What Ignatieff fails to do is to put any price tag on his policies and in a time of increasing deficits this will surely be important to voters. This is from the National Post.

Kelly McParland: Ignatieff heads down same path as Dion

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff pledged that he would spend the days before Parliament resumes announcing Liberal policies and making clear where the party stands on the issues of the day.

It's never too late to tell voters what you believe in, even if Mr. Ignatieff has waited a curiously long time since taking over the leadership a year ago. Even with his activities this week he's still being economical on detail: His latest proposals have been vague at best, perhaps because the party is planning a brainstorming session in Montreal next month and doesn't want to spoil the show.

Nonetheless, on Monday Mr. Ignatieff declared that a national childcare system would be the No. 1 social item on the agenda of a Liberal government, even if he doesn't know how he'll pay for it.

"We will find the money, because it seems to me an excellent investment," Ignatieff pledged. "I am not going to allow the deficit discussion to shut down discussion in this country about social justice."

It's difficult to argue against daycare, since few people feel that absence of care is desireable. The devil is in the detail, and of course we're not getting much of that from the Liberals. Mr. Ignatieff doesn't do much to alleviate that problem by offering statements he may feel are self-evident in their worth, but which hint at a worryingly shallow set of presumptions.

"It's also the best anti-poverty program. I want every single child in Canada to have the opportunity to get a square meal when they come to daycare; to get loving care and tender care," Mr. Ignatieff said. "A lot of children in our country, we don't like to admit it, start in very turbulent difficult environment at home. The great thing about these programs is they give kids an equal start."

Well. So what's that tell us? That to ensure every child in Canada has an opportunity at a loving and tender environment, we should get them away from their parents at the earliest opportunity and enrol them in a state-backed institution? Forgive me if I have trouble with that notion. There is no question that too many Canadian children suffer difficult home lives; but you don't solve that by imposing a sweeping national program that gets children away from their parents at the earliest opportunity, loving or othwerwise.

Perhaps Mr. Ignatieff isn't talking about all children. Perhaps he's just talking about underprivileged children, or those from troubled homes. It's impossible to tell from his limited signals. If so, just what criteria will be used to weed out the children from bad homes, but not good homes? Will it be based on income, or parental performance? How will you induce wealthy, unsatisfactory parents to send their children to government daycare?

Trying to solve problems like that -- to fine-tune a large, national program so it helps the people you want without turning into an expensive subsidy for many more who don't -- is the problem with the kind of big splashy schemes the Liberals embrace. Mr. Ignatieff appears to be headed down the same wrong-way street travelled by his predecessor, Stephane Dion. Rather than deal with the issues Canadians say are at the top of their agenda, Liberal leaders prefer to identify a national ill and pledge their unshakeable determination to eradicate it.

For Mr. Dion it was the environment. Nothing in Mr. Dion's universe was a greater priority than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and he devised an aggressive plan to deal with it. The Green Shift involved wholesale changes to tax laws and the rearrangement of national financial flows, with extensive potential disruption to the daily lives of ordinary Canadians. Mr. Dion was fine with that, because he figured voters shared his sense of the crisis we were facing.

Unfortunately for his party, he was wrong on that. Canadians cared more about the usual issues -- health, the economy, security. So Mr. Dion lost his job and was replaced by Mr. Ignatieff, who has decided that daycare, not gas emissions, is the crisis du jour, and must be "solved" at any cost.

Perhaps Mr. Ignatieff should pause to reflect. Most Canadian children come from caring homes run by loving parents. They don't need crisis intervention sponsored by the Liberal party. The Liberals have been down this path before, several times, having apparently convinced themselves Canadians are clamouring to have the burden of raising children off their hands. The failure of voters to take them up on the offer should have provided all the evidence necessary that most Canadians don't share their bias in favour of institutional care, nor do they need their priorities defined for them.

Mr. Ignatieff has insisted on his determination to listen to Canadians. So far he appears only to have picked up the same old Liberal preoccupation with intrusive government.

National Post

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