13 January 2006

Unfit to govern: Costing confusion on Connie Plan leaves media bewildered

Check Bob Fife's debrief on the Conservative newser and media briefing over at CTV.ca.

As Fife put it, the confusion was such today that: "[w]hen you can't explain that it adds up immediately, it raises questions about their [the Conservatives] whole ability to be able to govern."

The Conservatives will outspend the New Democrats in a combination of tax cuts and spending that adds up to $75 billion dollars. After much too and fro - and apparently some confuddled explanations - the figure was revised to $60 billion. In between the number hit $67 billion and then the Conservatives apparently announced more spending.

This comes from something called "reallocation", which apparently means there will be some sort of "slow down" in spending for Human Resources Canada and Industry Canada. There is also an expectation of growth in the economy resulting from tax cuts.

Decipher that doublespeak about slowing things down in at least two departments and you can see the words "program cuts". Something has to go to make room for other things. The question will be what is set to be killed off.

There was some initial confusion over the numbers. Before the formal announcement of the platform, journalists were given a first look at the costing in a media lockup.

From CTV.ca:
CTV's Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife said it took puzzled Tory officials a long time to come to an agreement over the total net cost.

"It turns out that total promises for the Conservative party adds up to $75 billion. When there is reallocation we are told it is $60.7 billion," said Fife.

He added: "It took a combination of effort by everybody, the media and the Tory officials, to get to this $75 billion -- and then some subtraction and fooling around until we finally got to, what they say, is the accurate figure of $60.7 billion."
From the clip:
Fife: Well, they finally released their total platform document and they tried to give Tuesday costing figures but I have to say there was a lot of confusion, a lot of voodoo economics this morning as we tried to figure out where the Conservative platform was going in terms of cost.

For a long period of time they could not add up the figures.

Reporters as you know, we are not good at mathematics but one of my colleagues were saying that they were trying to do Liberal math compared to Conservative math and my friend Tom Clark says it is only math can you please add it up for us.

It turns out that their total promises for the Conservative Party adds up to $75 billion. When there is reallocation we are told it is $60.7 billion. But this took about an hour or so of discussions and adding up to get to this figure of about $67 billion. Total tax measures are about 44.9 billion. Other spending initiatives I don't want to go there because it was so confusing even Monte Solberg the conservative finance critic did not explain that ...

It is a slip-up. I mean, this is a very important part of the Conservative government's [sic] platform. They have done a very good job from day one, issue-driven, a policy a day, well thought out, generally well thought-out policies, populous policies, consumer-driven policies that seem to have struck a chord with Canadians.

When you put it together you want to be able to tell the Canadians look, this plan adds up. When you can't explain that it adds up immediately, it raises questions about their whole ability to be able to govern. And I mean, that is the questions that he was getting in the room today is we wanted to know, tell us how much it will cost. How does it add up when they weren't able to do that and then they started to give conflicting numbers, a lot of head-scratching which the journalists...

Ravi: What about Monte Solberg, was in in command of the facts there? He being the finance transit critic.

Fife: Monte Solberg is a good guy. I would not give him high grades for his performance today.