corporate welfare

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Ever wonder how Canada's net federal debt reached $671 billion by 2013? Or how net provincial debt among the provinces ended up at $509 billion that same year? Wonder no more. It's partially due to massive subsidies to corporations, government businesses and even consumers that over three decades amounted to $684 billion.


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No normal person pays close attention to who is "in" or "out" as finance minister, and that's a good thing. It means the politician in question has avoided messing up the lives of ordinary Canadians. Still, their actions can and do matter, for better or worse.


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Alberta’s provincial government has provided plenty of political theatre as of late, with, as I write, three resignations from the government, including that of Alison Redford as premier. However, the Redford resignation may not be the end of her influence on Alberta’s future, and in particular, upon the Alberta Heritage Savings and Trust Fund.


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Back in late 2011 after the Occupy Wall Street protests, Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne gave a speech in Toronto to decry what he called "the most inane displays of greed." The reference was to behaviour he had observed while serving on various company boards over the years.


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The federal government recently poured $36.3 million into the Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund the first of many soon-to-come government-sponsored funds comprising Ottawa's $400 million Venture Capital Action Plan. The plan, conceived with the view that Canada's lacklustre venture capital industry requires a government solution, ignores Canadian evidence that shows government-sponsored venture capital is ineffective. More fundamentally though, it represents a further blurring of the lines between pro-market and pro-business government policy.


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In the land of government plenty that vast landscape populated with the tax dollars of Canadians there is no shortage of politicians willing to hand out and defend subsidies to business and no dearth of corporations willing to take the cash.


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In his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell argued that, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Orwell's quip came to mind again recently after reading Bombardier's defence of taxpayer subsidies to business, this in response to my recent study on the matter.


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Back in 1962 John F. Kennedy had been president of the United States for one year, four lads from Liverpool were about to hit it big in the music world, and a Saskatchewan lawyer, John Diefenbaker, was in his fifth year as Prime Minister of Canada.

In retrospect, 1962 was also notable for another reason: it was the start of a trail identifying corporate welfare recipients, many of whom have sought subsidies from the federal government ever since.