23 April 2012

No truer words #nlpoli #cdnpoli

“When you wage an ideological war,” wrote Lana Payne this past weekend, “lies are necessary weapons.”

Payne, for those who don’t know, is president of the province’s labour federation and a major player for the provincial and national New Democratic Party.  She has a column in the weekly Telegram, for which she once worked.  That’s where she wrote those words, at the start of a column about the federal Conservatives.

Payne has a special hate on for Stephen Harper and his Connies. Sometimes it seems that hardly a moment goes by before Payne is tweeting, writing or telling a reporter about the awful f*ckers, those federal Tories.  No words are too strong for Payne to use in condemning Harper and his cronies.  There are no crimes, it seems, that she could not imagine them doing.  There is no evil too black for them to plot, deep in their caves,as they stroke their beards and lick the blood of some freshly killed innocent from their lips.

Payne hates Tories the same way any ideologue hates competition. Doesn’t matter if the ideology is religious or political. The reaction is the same, one for the other.  Payne’s column follows the form:  the Tories are waging an ideological war. She is merely exposing them.  They Lie, the blasphemers.  Only the “I” can tell you the Truth. Her opening sentence is a tracer round fired to light up the enemy.

Only a true ideologue, though, could start a column about the crucial role of lies in ideological war and not – apparently – realize the veracity in all tracer rounds  Tracers, you see, point both ways.

The same weekend that Payne fired at Harper about fighter jets and cooked books, Payne appeared in her usual role as pundit on CBC’s On Point with David Cochrane to talk about next week’s provincial budget.

Asked about the provincial government’s limited restraint coming in the next budget, Payne blessed it as sound since the government’s problem was “short-term”. Things are growing. Things are good.

She dismissed Telegram editor Russell Wangersky’s challenge that the problem wasn’t so transient.  We have paid down on debt, according to Payne. The debt-to-GDP ratio is among the best anywhere.

The provincial government has done no such thing of course.  The public debt remains at record levels. It only appears smaller by some calculations if you include a raft of cash the government has laying about.  The money is ear-marked, of course, for Muskrat Falls.

So paid down the debt?  No.  That would be false.

And as for the debt-to-GDP ratio?  Well,  that would depend on your definition of debt.  The provincial auditor general uses net debt.  As we’ve noted, that figure can be misleading since it includes cash that is actually already ear-marked to be spent.  The result is a misleading, low number for debt compared to a value of the economy, which, by the way, shifts based on a couple of highly volatile prices.  

Really with that indicator you are dealing with the same problem as the first one.  So far Payne is zero for two biggies on the veracity front.

Payne also doesn’t talk about the vulnerability of the economy, built on the precarious base of public sector spending that comes from volatile and unreliable oil and mineral prices.  Think of that as a lack of veracity by omission.

Zero for three.

These omissions must be a necessary weapon in the ideological war, as Payne told us. The ideology in this case is Payne’s concern to represent the major unions in her federation. They represent people who get their paycheques from the public purse. More public sector good.  Less public sector bad, always, according to that ideology.

Now ideology, like religion, can be a good thing. It can help people give shape and meaning to life. It can help them do good.  It can be a comfort.

The problems start when ideology becomes a barrier to other ideas or to thought and reason.  That’s when you get tunnel vision.

And nothing good for anyone ever came from tunnel vision.