Deficits, lies, and audio tape

CBC Cape Breton’s Information Morning host Steve Sutherland did a deft job Tuesday Morning holding Finance Minister Graham Steele’s feet to the fire on the NDP’s no-deficit, no-tax-hikes, no-program-cuts campaign pledge.

Steele had a well-rehearsed answer, including a far-fetched analogy about a family doctor whose honest diagnosis gets overruled by four specialists, but Sutherland was politely persistent. He pressed Steele twice more to explain the glib falsehoods at the core of the NDP’s spring election platform.

“The fact is that we were acting on the best information we had at the time,” Steele said. “The fact is that now we are in government, we have access to more information, better information, and that’s the basis on which we have to move forward.”

dexter and steeleThis explanation doesn’t hold water. Everyone knew last spring that the province was facing a huge budget shortfall, but Dexter and Steele promised to cure it without running a deficit, without raising taxes, and without cutting programs. They didn’t need better information to know this was impossible; The promise was untenable on its face. To claim now that it was offered in good faith is an untruth as shamefaced as the original promise. It diminishes both men, and the offices they hold.

The sad part of this is that the road map offered by the advisory panel is a good one, but it is overshadowed by the cloud of deceit that now follows the men who must carry it out.

Colin May said earlier that political promises are for fools. On Twitter, Carman Pirie of Halifax reacted to news of political untruths with cynical resignation. “It’s what they know how to do,” he tweeted. “Like getting mad at a dog for barking.”

Attitudes like this are poisonous to the body politic. Twenty years ago, Contrarian would have delighted to catch a premier and a finance minister in an obvious lie. Today, it just feels disheartening—especially from these two, especially when it seems to come so effortlessly.