As business owners, farmers must routinely consider value for money if they wish to remain in business. Will a specific cost produce increased efficiencies, increased production or a savings? The income generated on a farm must pay the expenditures so all expenses have to be cost-effective. Nothing should be wasted.
Governments and their departments, on the other hand, do not have to be as thoughtful in regards to money. I remember the quote by our unbusiness-like PM Justin Trudeau: “The budget will balance itself.” Every businessman across Canada cringed at those words, knowing that the only place an un-managed business runs itself is downhill. Trudeau, meantime, continues spending money, both domestically and internationally, non-stop. His Canada will have a deficit with no foreseeable end.
For governments of all levels it is very simple. Need more money? Increase taxes and fees and, like magic, the money is there. Lower-tiered governments can rely on grants from upper tiers. This mentality trickles down to government employees who also fail to realize the true value of a dollar and the true source of their money, including their salaries, that comes from Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer in the private sector.
All government levels offer grants that are gobbled up as “free” money, paying for serious projects as well as the ridiculous.
Unfortunately, those receiving free money are not always concerned with getting good value from it. One government-funded survey involving several university students was finding out if thin and/or lame cattle brought less at a sale barn than fat, sound cows. Really? Was there not a “Duh!” moment when it was proposed? Ask a farmer or three and they will all tell you. A study was not required yet, the money came down, was used and the official verdict made. Yes, they bring less! For that Canadian taxpayers coughed up funds?
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation earlier this year presented a laundry list of dumb government spending in 2018. For instance, the government of Ontario in November gave Maple Leaf Foods $34.5 million in corporate welfare to help build a chicken plant while closing two other plants for a net loss of 300 jobs. The town of Vulcan, Alta., spent $4,000 on Star Trek uniforms for town council. The municipality of Clayton, Sask., spent $340,000 on a bridge that collapsed on the day it opened.
It gets uglier. The speaker of the house in the B.C. legislature spent taxpayer dollars on a $3,200 wood splitter and a $10,00 trailer to cut fallen wooden beams in the government legislature in the event of an earthquake. The speaker stored the wood splitter at his house. The city of Vancouver spent $50,000 inviting local residents to send emails to trees and paid artists to reply on the trees’ behalf. And who can forget that our prime minister spent $1.6 million on a taxpayer trip to India, in which only about three hours was official government business. That’s a cost of more than $500,000 an hour.
Our Township of South Glengarry is currently going through some similar twisted thinking. On April 1, 2019 a proposal was made that, as a tourist attraction, a 50-foot high Highlander should be erected in the village of Lancaster within sight of Hwy 401. No, not an April Fool’s joke, though many thought it was. Council was dead serious. The cost? $400,000, and that does not include land, maintenance, supervision, upkeep, or electricity. The proposal was accepted in large part because the money is coming from a federal program, the Canadian Experiences Fund, and not the township’s coffers. Surprisingly, all five council members, including the three newbies elected with high hopes of a more responsible municipal government, agreed. It’s easier to agree to spending $400,000 on a 50-ft. Scotsman standing behind our municipal offices when it’s someone else’s money. Hopefully, had the funding been requested from township tax dollars, they would have refused.
The same applies to all government grants, no matter if they are for insulation, appliances, new barns or robotic milkers. Your fellow Canadians have paid for it. A study on the disposal of deadstock or on wild turkey numbers? You paid for it. Was it worth it? The answer should be “Yes!”
The myriad of studies, programs, grants and other unnecessary expenses paid for by taxpayers really needs to be looked at with a serious accountability eye. Are they really necessary and will they achieve something? So many are simply useless, including a 50-ft. Scotsman in Lancaster.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.