Mister Moore Says Something

April 7th, 2014

Your correspondent was at a luncheon on Monday, hosted by the University of Calgary’s School for Public Policy and featuring the best political dogmatist since Dalton McGuinty; Mister James Moore, Minister Industrious.

The Minister didn’t invite me personally of course, I don’t think he was awfully pleased that I was there and I’m not on his Christmas card list either.  No, it was one of the School’s senior Fellows who invited me.

Still, it was a lovely lunch.  At 11:30 they served chicken and rice and those dainty cooked carrots, cut lengthwise and herb sprinkled, all posh and proper.  The School hosts a rather good event, really.

Mister Moore took the stage at high noon and shot everywhere.  First came the obligatory compliments to the fine city and fine people at the fine school who did an outstandingly fine job of emailing him the invite.  Barak Obama got in trouble with this sort of flummery in 2012 by claiming that Denmark was punching above its weight in foreign affairs.  To his chagrin, the Danes noticed that Obama had made the same claim about a lot of countries, five of them actually.  He’d also been declaring a medley of countries to be America’s “strongest ally.”  By the end of that year, the Netherlands was America’s strongest ally, and so was Australia and Poland, Great Britain, Germany, South Korea was America’s strongest ally, and Israel and France, Italy and Japan….. You get the idea.  Mister Moore’s Obamamoment came when he declared Calgary to be forward looking, dynamic and a driver of Canada’s future.  How unlike any other place he might visit.

Lets not belabour it.  Canned compliments nothwithstanding, Mister Moore gives a good presentation.  He appears deliberate, decisive, and comes across as knowledgable in his mandate.  He can convincingly parrot the party line on trusting the taxpayer.  He can sound sincere on command.

Mister Moore’s big problem of course, is that he can’t sound credible by taking opposite sides on the same issues.  Yet that’s been his practice.

On international agreements for instance, Moore speaks of the benefits of free trade and proudly notes his backing of the Canada-European Trade Agreement.  Yet he also supports the violation of free trade agreements by protecting the helmets monopoly of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) in defiance of NAFTA.  The Minister claims that third party contributions to legislation aren’t really the law, yet his Department enforces them as law on federal lands.  Mister Moore speaks of “providing on-the-ground support to individual Canadian companies, support that has helped our firms gain a real foothold in international markets”.  Yet he also supports his Department’s efforts to bankrupt P.S. Knight Co. Ltd., a Canadian company who recently had to abort a major international expansion at a cost of millions due to the Minister’s peculiar notions of consistency.  Ironically, Mister Moore expresses frustration that “Canada often treats our foreign trading partners better than we treat ourselves.”  Yes, we’re experiencing this.

Then there is Moore’s commitment to Open Government.  Mister Moore even touts the Open Government Strategy in his latest programme; the Digital 150 Strategy.  As the maxim goes however, “if people don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong.”  That’s from Yes Minister, its from the character of Sir Arnold explaining Open Government in an episode entitled “Open Government.”  “It’s a contradiction in terms, you can be open or you can have government.”  That’s Sir Arnold again, he had quite a few of these.  “That’s the Law of Inverse Relevance,” he said, “the less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it.”  Mister Moore talks a lot about putting consumers first.  We’ll talk more about Moore on this point later.

Where’s the contradiction with Open Government?  Well, Moore doesn’t do open government.  Consider the exhaustive list of Industry Canada’s subsidy recipients briefly released to the public in 2006 by then Minister Maxime Bernier.  From this release, we know that Industry Canada doles out billions of dollars to favoured companies at the expense of everyone else.  We know that they “invested” nearly four billion dollars with various aerospace companies between 1982 - 2005.  We know that many “loans” to companies are agreed with these companies without Treasury Board approval, over a billion dollars worth between 1996-2006.  We know that only 5.4% of all such sums were ever repaid.  We know that the Minister’s Director of Regional Affairs has claimed that the repayment rate is actually 100%.  And we know that the Minister and his Metcalfe, et al, have deleted all of this data from the Department’s website, its just too embarrassing.  How’s that for open government?

Yes Minister programs are a prerequisite to understanding Industry Canada and its hapless Minister.  It seems that Mister Moore isn’t so much leading his Department as being lead by it.  Thus far, he’s most notable for his poorly considered contradictions and his decidedly un-Conservative penchant for spending vast sums of other people’s money.  If Mister Moore can’t get control of his Department on CSA matters -or any matters, for that matter- or if he can’t align his priorities less with liberals, the Minister Industrious may soon be made the idlest man in town.