I Give “Props” to the Canadian Government For One Thing.

To give props is to say, “good job” – high five and all that.

I’m saying good on you to the Canadian government for responding to a citizen’s inquiry. My inquiry to be specific. I actually received a response–not a form letter. Hey, all you American citizens, write Secretary Clinton or someone else in the U.S. Cabinet and see if you get a response. I’m betting you won’t.

Not quite a year ago I wrote a blog post here, How Lewenza & The CAW Are Misleading Canadians which dealt with the question of how our federal government should respond to the Canadian Auto Workers plea for taxpayer dollars to bail out the Canadian auto industry. My article included an overly optimistic suggestion that the Harper government hold firm and not provide spendulus money to GM and Chrysler. As you recall, this was shortly after Harper buckled under pressure and requested that Parliament be suspended. The fact of the matter is that the Ministry of Finance proposed a budget toward the end of 2008 that included a reduction in government spending and no “stimulus” money–contrary to what the U.S. was doing. After the turn of the calendar and following the suspension of Parliament, Harper did cave in and deficit spending was authorized.

In any event, at the end of the March 2009 blog post, I posed a few hard questions to Mr. James Flaherty, Minister of Finance. I asked him these questions by email and encouraged the reader to do the same. I received a response.  I also asked Industry Minister,  Tony Clement these important and pertinent questions as well via a general inquiry email address.  I have  not received a reply from Mr. Clement but I do note that in the response I received from Minister Flaherty that a copy his response to me was sent to Mr. Clement.  I reason I give “props” to the Canadian government is that I got a response albiet 9 months after the fact!  But who cares about getting a timely response.  I feel lucky to have received a response at all.  Not really, but it is worth props.  Below is the paragraph containing the questions that I asked Flaherty and Clement back in March 2009.

    Regardless of whether the CAW and the auto companies actually reach agreements, the Federal Government must hold firm as well. The problem for us, the taxpayers is we do not know what the government’s due diligence is. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said that GM and Chrysler “would have to pass a “survivability test” including negotiating “competitive” compensation packages for workers with counterparts at U.S. unionized and non-union auto plants.” Notice that the survivability test includes a requirement that the compensation packages for autoworkers must be competitive. How will the government determine the competitiveness of these packages? Will it compare the compensation packages to the wages paid Korean workers by Hyundai and Kia? Will the government require that the compensation packages be competitive to what Toyota and Honda pay their workers? Our federal government should not simply give GM a wink and a nod while pretending that the agreement ratified last week by the CAW meets the survivability test as articulated by Flaherty. Industry Minister, Tony Clement recently said, “We will ensure that there is a viable long-term sustainability plan involving all stakeholders in place before we commit any taxpayer dollars.” The problem I have with both the statements made by Flaherty and Clement is that we are not provided any specifics as to how the government will decide that GM and Chrysler are worthy of your tax dollars. What is the test? How will the government decide that there is a plan that ensures long-term sustainability or that the companies have reached or exceeded some nebulous “survivability” test? No one seems to be sharing any of the specifics. Is it because the government does not want us to know exactly how it will decide. I’m concerned that the government might be leaving room to talk out of both sides of its mouth. What say you? I strongly encourage you all to contact Jim Flaherty, the Federal Finance Minister and the Industry Minister, Tony Clement to voice your opinions and concerns. You may email Flaherty at flaherty.j@parl.gc.ca however, it is not as easy to reach Tony Clement. The Industry Minister’s website provides you an address, phone numbers, and general inquiry email.

In summary, the questions I asked were:  1)  What is the survivability test?   2)  How will the government decide the competitiveness of the compensation packages?  3)  How will the government decide that GM and Chrysler’s plan(s) ensure long-term stability?  Who decides?  Give the public specifics before you take this subsidy approach.

I received a hand signed letter from Minister Flaherty a little more than a week ago.  The letter is dated December 29, 2009 and cc: to Tony Clement.  The letter is not quite three pages long.  I have read the letter twice now and am totally unable to locate an answer to the questions I ask Minister Flaherty.  The letter is available here in pdf format.  I invite anyone to read Flaherty’s letter and please advise me where I might be wrong in that there is an answer in the letter.

I plan to write a follow up email because what I did read in the letter raises new significant questions regarding a fresh set of concerns the letter creates.  There are a few disclosures made in Flaherty’s response that I did not know.  Maybe I missed this information in the news–maybe not.  My follow up letter will be posted in open format as a subsequent blog post after I have emailed it to Minister Flaherty.  Please provide me your thoughts and comments below, or  send me an email: roland@ballounpost.com

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