Weekly Commentary  

Canadians keep on giving

Canadians keep on giving, it's just the way we are. I'll let the anthropologists do all the historical reflection to try to explain what's in our social DNA. The simple fact is, when somebody's hurting big time, at home or abroad, Canadians always step-up, big time.

The Haiti disaster is just one more example of that. Per capita, no other country in the world is giving the way we are. We're even ahead of the Americans, who are also very generous internationally.

It's not just in dollars (as important as dollars are) that our efforts are noticed. You've probably been as impressed as I have by the numbers of Canadians who adopt kids from Haiti and the number of Canadians who go there to do relief work and who labour side by side with Haitians to help them build a better country.

For some, it would be easy to dismiss this shockingly poor and chronically troubled nation. After all, they've been a democracy longer than Canada has been and shook off their colonial ties to achieve independence more than half a century before we did, over 200 years ago. Canadians don't see that as an excuse to turn our backs on them, especially in their hour of need. There is much that needs to be done. Our government and our citizens are showing once again that we're willing to be there.

On another note, I'm getting lots of comments and 'congrats' from around the constituency regarding my new cabinet position and appointment. (I'm still the federal regional Minister responsible for BC and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway.)

To be honest, right after people shake my hand and say "Hey, way to go!” they then usually follow by saying something like," Sooo, uh, what exactly does the President of the Treasury Board do?" I'll use an analogy I saw in a column last week written by a liberal pundit (who was kinda complimentary actually).

First, the Treasury department is made up of approx 2100 people. They are situated not just in Ottawa, but from coast to coast. They report on and ultimately recommend for approval (or not) the spending and regulatory functions of the federal government.

On the issuance of money, as the analogy goes, the Minister of Finance, through the Budget, pumps the water into the system. The Treasury Board controls the taps. Maybe oversimplified, but that's the gist of it. By virtue of my position as President of the Treasury Board I am an 'ex officio' member of every Cabinet Committee.

Does that mean I can go to every Cabinet meeting and boss people around?
Uh, no. That approach would last about one day. As a matter of fact and practice I am one member of the Conservative Government Cabinet and Caucus. I have one voice and one vote.

Our MP's are involved right now and over the next month in more than 200 meetings and conferences across the country. They are hearing from the full array of businesses, non profits, social and community groups on matters related to the finances of the country.

Basically our challenge is this. Over a year ago we faced the worst worldwide recession since the Second World War. Almost all nations made a decision to temporarily go into debt to finance needed infrastructure and other programs to stimulate their economies.

Canada's approach has been evaluated internationally as successful. We have been deemed 'the country best positioned coming out of the global downturn.' However, just as with our household finances, we cannot keep on going into debt indefinitely. We don't want to see finite government resources going increasingly to paying debt interest at the banks. That would limit what we could spend on essential people programs.

So it's time to map out a journey to a balanced budget. We can't get there in one year. But we also can't let it drag on for too many.

I've always said that I get my best advice right here, from you, in the constituency. You've never been shy about tuning me in. In the months ahead I'll need your help. Thanks for continuing to do your part so that I can do mine.

We can do this.

So do I like this new job? Well, as one person said, 'There's no extra pay but what's not to like about being called Mr. President?"

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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