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Cuts: This time it's personal by Susan Delacourt

Jan 30, 2012

Source: Toronto Star

Starting today, when Parliament resumes, and right up to the budget, we're going to be hearing a lot about cuts. The government's sales job on the cuts is worth watching -- to see what it thinks about the way we think.

The last time we had a restraint budget, in 1995, the Liberal government used fear to get us sold on the need for cuts. There was talk of hell and  high water, of Canada being an economic basket case,  of potential IMF intervention, and of course, the children. The poor children, the next generation, were going to be saddled with our debt. (I kept having visions of Dickens' workhouses.)

Now, 17 years later, I'm intrigued by how fear has been largely replaced by anger. When we cast around looking for where the cuts are coming, we look at where the government and its allies have been  trying to whip  up scorn and  rage: the CBC, the public service, generous pensions, unions, provinces, (certain) foreigners, and pretty much anyone who is seen to be standing in the way of Conservative dreams of prosperity.

It's interesting -- this is something that probably couldn't work in the private sector. (And probably shouldn't.) When downsizing cuts are made  in this realm, our bosses have to go to some lengths to prove that the job losses weren't the result of a grudge or personal antipathy. Funny how when it comes to government, or at least this government, we simply assume that those being cut are going to get cut down first in the eyes of the public.

I'm wondering if it is possible for this government to make any cuts without first demonizing the target of them. Do we have to be angry in 2012 (as opposed to scared in 1995) to contemplate budget cuts?   Without anger,  though, I guess we'd back to fear -- and all those poor, debt-ridden children.

© Toronto Star