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Big city? Big government

As the Conservative Party is learning, buying votes by lavishly doling out grants is not as easy as it used to be

Terrence Watson - January 28, 2008

After being completely shut out of Toronto in the 2006 election, Stephen Harper's Conservative government funneled over $185 million to the city between April 2006 and March 2007, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). The grants went to everything from a soccer stadium, to a five-story "podium building" for the Toronto Film Festival, to further "revitalization" of the city's waterfront.

The grants were revealed in the CTF's list of the top 100 handouts given by the Conservative government during its first budget year. While Toronto received a huge sum of money from the federal government according to the CTF, cities in western Canada like Calgary and Edmonton didn't even make the list.

Memo to Toronto Mayor David Miller and the people of Toronto: stop spending tax money from the rest of Canada on another failed attempt to breathe life into Toronto's decrepit waterfront area. Buy your own soccer stadium. Federal funds should be used on projects that are of genuine benefit to all Canadians. When Toronto had a shot at hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics or the 2015 World's Fair, a case could have been made for using federal funds to boost the city's chances, as either of these events would have been of value to Canadians across the country.

But you blew it, Toronto. You and former mayor Mel "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all those natives dancing around me" Lastman. You lost the Olympics (to Beijing, of all places), and now there's no excuse to go searching for federal handouts that will provide no benefit to the rest of Canada.

And to prime minister Stephen Harper: stop trying to buy the votes of Torontonians. It won't work, and might just diminish some of your support in the west. Stop giving grants and use the money to provide Canadians with additional tax relief.

The CTF's list also highlights Canada's continuing tradition of corporate welfare. The two biggest grants, totaling $350 million, went to aerospace company Pratt and Whitney Canada, which is based in Quebec. According to the CTF, Pratt and Whitney has received about $1.5 billion in federal grants and assistance since 1982. Very little of this money has been repaid.

The Conservative Party of Canada's 2005 Policy Declaration states that the Party "favours reducing subsidies to for-profit businesses. We believe it will be possible to not only reduce, but eventually to eliminate subsidies to for-profit businesses." In 2003, a majority Liberal government sent about $142 million to Pratt and Whitney (check the CTF's list here.) In 2006, the Conservatives more than doubled that. Are they trying to buy votes in Quebec, too?

The failure of Stephen Harper's Conservative government to reign in corporate welfare and other wasteful spending is worse than business-as-usual in Canada--it is outright hypocrisy.

More articles by Terrence Watson