Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thomas Mulcair vs Evidence -- a Very One-sided & Nasty Fight

Mulcair decries the damaged Canadian reputation that wasn't

Thomas Mulcair wants you to think Canada has a bad reputation. And he wants you to think Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to blame.

This is actually nothing new. It's a familiar tactic adopted by the opposition throughout the entirety of the Harper government era. And never once have any of its proponents been able to produce even a shred of evidence to support the claim. Not one.

"The Canada that [the Conservatives] are projecting onto the world stage is no longer recognizable to our many partners around the world who have always admired and worked with Canada, and it’s no longer recognizable to us," Mulcair declared. He attributes these comments to a European Union diplomat whom he recently met with.

This, of course, is a conversation that took place in private. No European Union diplomat has come out and gone on the record saying that Prime Minister Harper has hurt Canada's reputation. And apparently we're supposed to take Mulcair at his word. Because he's a politician, and no politician would ever lie or embellish anything.

Right? Right.

But, just as with Mulcair's "Dutch Disease" thesis, Mulcair is sorely at odds with the evidence on this one. Just what should Canadians believe? Mulcair's claims that Canada's reputation is suffering? Or scientific polling that demonstrates Canada's reputation is quite strong, and getting stronger?

The last time that such a poll was conducted, 57% of respondents around the world gave Canada a favourable rating. Even more tellingly for Mulcair's claims about Canada's reputation, only 12% gave Canada an unfavourable rating.

Once again, the evidence is stacking up against Mulcair. Which is far from shocking. But even if a few disgruntled EU diplomats were griping to Mulcair in private, it likely had far more to do with getting him on-side with the sovereign debt bailouts that the EU wants copious amounts of Canadian dollars for. Which is a colossally bad idea, as the risk attached to European sovereign debt skyrockets.

"We had these weird statements from Conservatives saying that [the crisis] was because of the sumptuous lifestyle in Europe. They turned it into a local, parochial, partisan, political fight, whereas this is literally something where we're all attached," Mulcair complained.

First off, there's nothing "weird" about those comments. Many of the European countries that are on the verge of collapse accumulated that debt somehow. And whether Mulcair wants to admit to it or not, everyone already knows how.

But it's true that Canada is attached. But some of us are more attached than others. Mulcair, for example, has to be keenly aware that the collapse of Europe is a stinging historical rebuke for his party's ideology. Europe has long been the NDP's model for Canada, and as goes that model, so will go the NDP. They aren't very good at going back to the drawing board when their ideas fail -- ergo the need to obfuscate the failures of their ideas.

Bailouts are something that every government should avoid. But sovereign debt bailouts are the absolute worst bailouts, and have always brought nothing but economic disaster. It happened in the 1930s with Germany, happened in the 1980s with various Latin American countries, and it's happening again now. There have been more than 250 defaults on sovereign debt since 1800. Many of them -- in particular Germany's -- were made far, far worse by the bailouts they had received in order to avoid such a default.

So certainly, yes. Canada is attached to the European economic crisis. Due to the nature of the global economy, pretty much everyone is. But Mulcair needs to ask himself a very serious question: if Europe is sucked down a whirlpool of debt, should Canada follow just to spare the NDP a little wounded pride?

Unfortunately, it's easy to forecast Mulcair's answer. He's proven exceedingly poor at coping with the bruises to his pride since he became Leader of the Opposition. Whether it was dealing with all the informed observers who demonstrated that his "Dutch Disease" theories were complete and utter bunkum, whether it's his claims about Canada's international reputation -- again, flying in the face of the available evidence -- or whether its the future of his party's model for Canada, he's shown he's just not very good at dealing with these things.

Thomas Mulcair and evidence don't get along very well. It's been a nasty and one-sided fight, with the evidence doing all the hitting. It's enough to make the prospect of Prime Minister Thomas Mulcair a deeply disturbing one.

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