19 December 2008

Flaherty's partisan panel

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's newly-appointed Economic Advisory Council looks at first glance like, as Chairwoman Carole Taylor puts it, an attempt to "reach out." A second look reveals that it doesn't reach very far. True, Taylor is a distinguished Liberal and Power Corp. chairman Paul Desmarais Jr. has Liberal connections, but sectorally the Council hardly reaches past the business community. The only non-business members are Taylor and right-wing academic Jack Mintz from the University of Calgary. After that, it's all corporate chairmen, presidents and CEOs.

We would, of course, expect majority business representation on a panel set up by a Conservative party, but no labour representatives? Not even a labour economist? Only one academic economist? And, strangely, at a time of financial chaos, not even one banker. The absence of labour representation is particularly egregious. The Canadian Labour Congress, the largest democratic organization in the country, represents over three million workers. Its presence should be a given.

Considering the current economic crisis was precipitated by interests that place excessive faith in free markets, heavily weighting a panel with those interests would seem less than wise. Free market thinking got us into this mess; we need a much broader range of ideas to get us out of it. This council clearly doesn't provide that range.

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