Ezra Rule tops the list of gems uncovered in Flaherty’s 498-page fiscal tome
by Mark Bonokoski
When one has to spend more than six hours locked up in an old train station with hundreds of other journalists, poring over embargoed copies of the federal budget, one hopes to find the occasional shiny bauble amid the predictable sea of grey text.
Most often these gems find themselves hidden, like Easter eggs.
In the end, however, some need to be specifically pointed out before the doors are unlocked, the WiFi is booted up, the stories are filed, and the few journos who still drink head off to the bar.
The English version of the federal budget tabled Thursday by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was 498 pages in length. The French version was 564 pages.
None was scintillating prose, although it sounds better and obviously more wordy en francais.
As the minutes in lockup became hours, colleagues in this perennial budget game undoubtedly find their own baubles, and point them out as if someone were keeping count in case prizes were to be handed out.
Believers in conspiracy theories and the Harper government’s “hidden agenda,” which has first offenders being imprisoned for life because of tough-on-crime legislation, were undoubtedly taken aback when they got to
Page 277 and discovered a brief but unambiguous bauble regarding the left wing’s assertion that new prisons will soon be popping up like tulips in the spring.
“The government has not built a single new prison since 2006,” the statement reads. “And (it) has no intention of building any new prisons.”
Any questions? Didn’t think so.
Now, to continue with the jails-and-jets theme. For those who still believe the F-35 fighter jet is a done deal, the government said maybe, but maybe not.
Further information can be found by turning to Page 223 of the English version of the budget, and searching for the paragraph regarding ships.
It reads as follows: “The government will continue to replace key equipment, including purchasing new ships built in Canada through the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy” … (are you bored, yet?) … “as well as by acquiring an affordable replacement for Canada’s aging CF-18 fleet to better equip Canada’s men and women in uniform.”
Eureka. Another bauble. The F-35 if necessary, but not necessarily the F-35. Are we clear?
Naturally, everyone in lockup was on the hunt for anything to do with big-ticket, big-spin items like defence spending, public safety, health care, old-age pensions, and whether the CBC will continue to get stroked until Heritage Minister James Moore gets beatified as the patron saint of public broadcasting.
This was particularly humourous.
While all other departments had their annual spending cut by an across-the-board 7%, for example, the state broadcaster was allowed to escape with a modest budget cut of only 3.3%.
This, according to Liberal Leader Bob Rae, however, was the equivalent of singling out the CBC for “special punishment.”
But the best of them all was this: “Did you see the Ezra Rule?” asked a government spokesman, undoubtedly assigned to ensure this particular bauble did not go unnoticed by someone from Sun Media.
The Ezra Rule?
“Page 204,” said the spokesman. “At the bottom.”
Let’s take a peek, shall we?
“Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities,” reads the document.
“There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.”
Among those aforementioned “some charities,” of course, is the David Suzuki Foundation where “concerns have been raised” by Sun Media’s Ezra Levant, and others in the chain, about the “extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.”
In fact, remember how Ezra Levant went ballistic — as did Sun News — when the David Suzuki Foundation scared the bejeebers out of children during Christmas by telling them the North Pole was melting and Santa was going to drown, and then soliciting funds for bogus life preservers?
Hence, the Ezra Rule, and the government’s proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act to restrict the extent to which charities may fund the political activities of other qualified donees, as well as introduce new sanctions for charities that exceed the limits on political activities.
Not scintillating prose, but a nice bauble nonetheless.
— Bonokoski is QMI Agency’s national editorial writer
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