Skip to main content

The good news is that the Government of Canada set aside in the budget $12-billion for roads, bridges, public transit and other stimulus spending infrastructure initiatives.

The bad news is that only 12 per cent of the infrastructure stimulus package is out the door.

The worse news is that the lion's share of that was directed for partisan purposes.

Story continues below advertisement

Liberal Infrastructure critic Gerard Kennedy's database demonstrates an astonishing predisposition among the Conservatives to lard pork into their own ridings, while those held by the opposition go hungry.

The point isn't that opposition ridings got no projects. They did.

The point is that the preponderance of projects went to Conservative MPs.

The worst example is in British Columbia, where ridings held by the government received 13 times more than those held by the opposition.

What makes this stunning is not the partisanship of public spending. Governments since the days of the Château Clique have used taxpayer dollars to reward friends and supporters.

But prior scandals of this sort were typically involving secondary initiatives with middling importance to both the economy and the political outcomes of the government.

What makes this story stand out is that a government that has bet its very survival in the economic success of the stimulus package would be this dumb.

Story continues below advertisement

Unemployment and economic distress occurs across the nation. Tending to the challenge just in those seats held by Conservative MPs leaves most of Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, along with assorted places elsewhere, potentially dragging down the recovery in the rest of the country.

Creating an economic drag in the East hurts the West.

Low demand for Alberta oil or Saskatchewan wheat would be as damaging in Calgary or Saskatoon as Toronto or Montreal.

Slow revenue returns from central Canada still compromise the funding of social programs in the West.

A new pool at the civil centre is great, but if the economy is still underperforming the CPC will feel pain at the polls, notwithstanding the pools.

Tying up the stimulus in red tape was the Conservatives fault. Had they flowed the money through municipalities directly, as the opposition pointed out, the dollars would already be creating jobs. But the government chose to retain control spending so they could direct projects where they liked.

Story continues below advertisement

The results speak for themselves: 12 per cent spent and over-weighted toward places represented by the front bench.

But that isn't the end of it.

"Cash for Cons" went from bad policy to scandal today, with the admission from the past CPC candidate in Markham that his community would feel an infrastructure shortage until they voted him in.

Already, columnists are comparing it to the sponsorship scandal, which is unfortunate and reflects the short collective memory.

The appropriate analogy from recent scandals is the "billion dollar boondoggle." That was about the political direction of money into particular ridings, the inept dispersion of public funds, and a misguided attempt by the government to stimulate the economy that turned into a political albatross.

So, if that was the "billion dollar boondoggle" this must be the "twelve billion dollar boondoggle."

(As an aside, I would pay about that sum just to hear Preston Manning say "boondoggle" one more time…)

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at