Alex Massie

Message from Ottawa

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Andrew Coyne defends Stephen Harper from his critics. Or at least, from some of them:

While this laissez-faire, do-nothing government contents itself with spending more than any government in the history of Canada — 25% more, after inflation and population growth, than at the start of the decade — and pumping tens of billions of dollars into the banking system, what Canadians demand is “stimulus.” And stimulus, we all know, in a sophisticated, 21st century economy, can be delivered in only one way: by hiring large numbers of unionized men to dig holes in the ground (see “infrastructure.”) Loosening monetary policy doesn’t count. Tax cuts don’t count. It only counts as “stimulus” if the government spends it.

Or rather, it only counts as stimulus if a Liberal government spends it. The Tories have already promised to deliver billions more in “stimulus” in the next budget. But that’s, like, 58 days from now. We can’t possibly wait until then. We cannot wait to see how the economic situation evolves, or what effect the extraordinary series of measures countries around the world have taken to date will have. We cannot wait to see what the Americans will do. By then the polls might have shifted. By then the crisis might have passed. The government must fall now — so that it can fall again in a month’s time.

Obviously this be Canada and, again, Canada ain't Britain. But there are some similarities here: like their Canadian brethren, tthe Tories need to defend themselves against charges that they'd "do nothing". If only this were so, since doing nothing may often be preferable to doing something that won't or even might not work. And "wait and see" at least has a pleasing modesty about it too. No, better by far to be seen to be doing something right now regardless of any real assessment of this cobbled-together plan's chances of success.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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