The View from Dromore – Rule # 1: Tell them what they want to hear

Following is a letter received from Ontario which, I suspect, tells us more about our own stimulus packages than we’d like to know.


An opinion on all this “jobs created / jobs saved” nonsense.

We have the same “stimulus” spending issues here in Canada, although we handle it a little differently. Up here, the Feds contribute 1/3rd, the Province 1/3rd and the local municipality 1/3rd. Even though these are 33¢ dollars from the perspective of our local municipality, we still have “skin” in the game – it’s not “free” money, just relatively cheap.

Last summer I wrote several stimulus grant applications (batted about .800) including one for the paving of a parking lot on behalf of my Township.

I won’t bore you with the details of our local Township politics, other than to say that there is a serious east / west split politically. The east has an urban centre which is relatively easy to qualify for stimulus funding and received considerable monies (I wrote some of the grant apps for those projects as well). The west is rural (although politically powerful), but has little (nothing?) that qualified. I was charged with “dreaming something up” for the west so that it didn’t look like the east was getting it all from a political perspective. I hit upon “recreation” as a defined use under stimulus funding guidelines and there is a parking lot beside a kid’s soccer field that needed paving. Was it a high priority (or even wise) use of stimulus funds? – I leave that conjecture to your readers.

When it came to the “jobs created” section of the application, I wildly guessed that 10 people might be involved in paving the parking lot. First, I had no idea how many people (nor did I ask – it seemed like a “reasonable” number) and second, I had no idea whether any or all of these people might have already been employed by the paving contactor or if their jobs were in some jeopardy if this two day project did not occur (nor did I ask).

Having spent about 20 years in municipal politics and administration, I am keenly aware of how to slant grant applications towards success – Rule # 1: Tell them what they want to hear.

We got the stimulus money for the parking lot and, no doubt, our Prime Minister (analogous to your President), our Provincial Premier (analogous to your State Governor) and their bureaucratic minions have included my “10 jobs” in their tallies and are delighted about how well their stimulus spending is working.

I realize that this makes me some kind of “K Street whore”, but we now have a paved parking lot. In my own “whore” defence, it gets a lot more use than Murtha’s airport in PA. I see he’s putting in a backup runway in case the barely used primary runways fail. Good thinking Jack! Is that pork I smell?

Ours was a tiny tiny project in the overall scheme of things, but I write to warn you (although I doubt you or your TOC readers need to be warned) to be very sceptical of any “jobs created / jobs saved” numbers coming from your Administration. It’s largely smoke and mirrors.

I know. I’m part of the smoke up here and I doubt it’s much different down there.

Don Seim