Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative party suffered a crushing defeat in the Ontario provincial election of 2007 due primarily to a promise to extend taxpayer funding to privately owned and operated religious schools. Yet, for the October 6, 2011 election, the PCs have again put faith – a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence – at the foundation of their entire election platform, titled ChangeBook. Though down-played in the express wording of ChangeBook, faith-based budgeting, faith-based climate-fighting, and – though neither the Liberals nor the mainstream media have yet noticed it – even taxpayer funding for faith-based schools form the substantive core of Tim Hudak’s platform, which – especially given ChangeBook’s obvious reference to FaceBook – would more appropriately be titled FaithBook.

Faith-based Budgeting: Pennies from Heaven

Ontario is currently borrowing about $16.7B more every year to pay for its spending habit. Hudak’s ChangeBook promises additional health care spending of $6.1B; $1.2B in lost revenues resulting from exempting electricity bills from the HST; undisclosed lost revenues resulting from the introduction of spousal income splitting; undisclosed costs resulting from deliberately breaching Ontario’s contract with Samsung; undisclosed lost revenues resulting from reducing business taxes; an expenditure of $35B largely for transportation; the purchase of nuclear power units (the most recent quote for such units is $26B per unit); and more. How does it propose to pay for the PCs proposed orgy of increased spending?: “Outside of our priority public services of health and education that will grow, we will find savings of two cents on the dollar, every year on government spending.” However, two percent is lower than the annual rate of inflation, and represents only about $2B per year. In other words, Hudak’s ChangeBook implicitly promises that the budget will not be balanced with spending cuts.

Hudak’s ChangeBook nonetheless promises that “We will set priorities – and stick to them – to balance the budget no later than 2017-18″. Having essentially promised not to cut spending to balance the budget, the only other possibility is an increase in government tax revenues.

In that respect, it is important to note that Hudak’s ChangeBook has at least one glaring and shocking omission (one that, again, neither the Liberals nor the mainstream media have yet noticed): it nowhere promises that a Hudak government would not increase taxes, and it nowhere promises that new taxes would not be introduced. It does promise that “We will make it the law that the provincial government cannot raise taxes without a clear mandate”, but it does not say that a PC government would not seek such a mandate, and it does not say what would make a mandate “clear”.

More to the point, if we give Hudak the unwarranted credit that a PC government would not raise taxes or introduce new ones, we are left with the most disturbing conclusion of all: that Hudak and his PCs expect you simply to have faith that tax revenues will increase. Indeed, since releasing the ChangeBook, Hudak has repeatedly told the media that – despite promising little over $2B in annual spending cuts while promising much more than that in spending increases – he would be able to balance the budget by 2017-2018 because (he claims) the economy will grow and cause tax revenues to grow (by $21B over the course of the next four years alone). The claim is contrary to budget precedents.

Have a look at the Ontario budgets from 1996 through to 2011 (i.e., the ones available online…or see my summary of the revenue and expense data – from 1992 to present – at the end of this article). On average, for the period 1998 to present, revenues in a given year have indeed been an average of 39.4% higher than they were six years prior. If we charitably ignore the economic turmoil facing North America in the coming years (the collapse of the U.S. dollar, probable runaway inflation, a reduction of Ontario exports to the U.S.A., etc.), budget history informs us that revenues should be expected to be 39.4% higher in 2017-18 than they are right now: $108.453B** x 1.394 = $151.183B (**see 2011 Budget, Table 24).

However, look at the expense figures for the same period – 1998 to present – and you will find that expenses in a given year have, similarly, been an average of 39.5% higher than they were six years prior. If we charitably ignore the explosive growth in health care and home care costs that will accompany the aging of our baby-boomer generation, expenses should be expected to be 39.5% higher in 2017-18 than they are right now: $124.0682B*** x 1.395 = $173.0751 (***see 2011 Budget, Table 25)

See what I mean? Even if we make ridiculously rosy assumptions about the economy and about revenues and expenses over the next 6 years, Ontario’s budget history indicates that increases in revenues will be eaten up entirely by corresponding increases in expenditures, leaving a 2017-18 deficit of $173.0751B – $151.183B = $21.892B. That’s $5.592B more borrowing, each year, than Ontario is doing right now (i.e., $16.3B per year).

Observable historical fact demonstrates that without a deliberate and large cut to the few major expenses in Ontario’s budget – health, education and/or welfare – economic growth will not allow Hudak or anyone else to balance the budget by 2017-18. To believe otherwise requires the faith of a Heaven’s Gate cultist (may they all rest in peace). Mr. Hudak and his PC team, apparently, believe the voter has that very ill-fated kind of faith, and he wants to found the government’s budget, and Ontario’s economic future, on said faith. No thanks, Reverend Applewhite.

Oh, the Irony: ChangeBook’s Faith-based Fight Against Climate Change

Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are on the record as being even more radically committed to fighting climate change than the Ontario Liberals (judging by their words…which is all anyone can judge by, given the absence, among all parties, of demonstrably effective climate-fighting deeds). However, Hudak has managed to keep his own mouth shut about climate change since 2007. Remaining silent has allowed him to mislead those who are opposed to using taxpayer dollars to fight climate change: it has given many such people false hope that Hudak is on their side.

Perhaps sensing that duplicity on the issue of climate change would allow the Liberals to accuse the PCs of having a secret “denier” agenda, the writers of Hudak’s ChangeBook clearly decided that it would be best for Hudak to actually take an unequivocal stand on the climate change issue. Here, from ChangeBook, is Hudak’s key 2011 election promise relating to the world’s most threatening fiscal black-hole, fighting climate change:

We will do our share in the climate change battle. Climate change is by definition a global challenge. Our efforts will be meaningful and practical. We will close Ontario’s coal plants by 2014. We will take steps to make government buildings more energy efficient. And we will work with other provincial governments, the federal government, and our international partners to ensure Ontario is doing its part to combat climate change. (emphasis added)

For those cynical (or deliriously hopeful) enough to believe that, by “our share”, Hudak means “zero”, Hudak has issued some bad news. Hudak’s commitment to using taxpayer dollars – and energy policy – to fight climate change was made even more clear last Tuesday, when Ontario’s Environment Commissioner, Gord Miller, issued his annual report. Miller said that Ontario has little chance to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2014, and he proposed that Ontario impose road tolls and carbon pricing to meet those targets. Tim Hudak’s response? According to the Toronto Sun (May 31, 2011):

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said he “absolutely” believes in the science behind climate change concerns and the environmental danger it poses.

“The question is what do you do about it,” Hudak said. His party isn’t proposing any road tolls and would oppose a carbon tax but is open to working with the federal government on continent-wide cap and trade plan.

There you have it: not only an unequivocal reiteration that Hudak buys into the idea that human activity will cause catastrophic climate change, but also a promise to implement cap-and-trade.

In essence, cap-and-trade involves – arguably, is intended to cause – wealth redistribution. Under a cap and trade scheme, those who create little or nothing – hence, who create little or no CO2 – are nonetheless given an equal share of licenses to produce CO2…which are, essentially, licenses to produce things of value, because the production of things of value generally involves the release of CO2. Once a company has produced a certain maximum amount of CO2 (i.e., a certain maximum amount of wealth), it has to give some of that wealth to those who have produced little or nothing for it, or else it must stop producing wealth. In short, carbon trading is a system designed to force wealth-producing winners into making a lose-lose decision: either pay underproductive losers a share of the wealth that the winners produce, or stop being wealth-producing winners. Cap and trade is welfare for the moochers and looters of industry, made politically viable only by the popularity and propagation of the belief that human-released CO2 – human wealth creation – will cause catastrophic climate change, and that human beings must therefore prevent the climate from changing.

There is no question that the climate changes. It always has, and it always will. To deny that is to deny the Ice Age. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that CO2 (a gas you exhale) released as a result of human productive activity will cause the climate to change in a way that will cause humans to suffer an unavoidable loss of life, liberty, property, or happiness. Likewise, there is no evidence that human beings have the means of stopping the climate from changing. Most certainly of all, there is no scientific evidence that humans will not be able to adapt to changes in climate that inevitably we will experience in the coming centuries and millennia. Those who think otherwise have apparently never been to Las Vegas…or to Hornepayne, for that matter (Oh, the cold! The snow!! The summertime blackflies and leeches of Nagagamisis!!! [bring deet, cigarettes and salt, brave Ontario traveller]).

Computer models of ones assumptions, based on an extremely limited understanding of the millions or billions of factors influencing climate, are not, themselves, evidence. Nor is it possible to know that such models have predictive validity, even if they can perfectly mimic past climactic changes. Scientists who actually use computer models – I used to program neural nets and build computer models when my goal was to have a career in artificial intelligence – should know this. The various predictions made by climate change alarmists are based not on data from the future (i.e., data that does not yet exist) but upon data about the past, entered into computer models founded implicitly or explicitly upon assumptions about how yesterday’s data predict tomorrow’s data.

Let me give you a concrete, easy to understand example concerning predictive validity. During my undergraduate years, I built a neural network that memorized all of the previous sets of winning numbers from the Lotto 6/49 draws. I could enter the winning numbers from any 10 consecutive draws, and the computer model would – 100% of the time – give me the set of numbers that happened on the following (i.e., the 11th) draw. However, the model had no predictive validity. If I entered the most recent 10 sets of winning numbers, the computer model could not predict tomorrow’s winning numbers. Similarly, one can use a computer model to account for climate changes of the past, using climate data from further in the past, but that ability does not necessarily imply that ones computer model has the ability to predict future climate data (i.e., data about climate changes that have not yet happened). It is only by waiting and continuing to take climactic measurements – perhaps for hundreds or thousands of years, because we are modeling climate, not weather – that we will be able to determine whether or not today’s computer models have predictive validity. Right now, believing our climate models have predictive validity is a matter not of science, but of…faith.

Hudak’s expressed “absolute” belief that man-made CO2 will cause us to suffer catastrophic loss is founded, ultimately, upon the public’s faith in the predictive validity of computer models. Such faith is not a rational basis for determining government policy. If Hudak is committed to fighting faith-based climate change – especially when he can have nothing except faith that the Ontario government can fight climate change by spending billions of taxpayer dollars, redistributing wealth, and discouraging every productive business in the world from setting up in Ontario – a Hudak PC government would necessarily continue to engage in the very faith-based folly that has given us 80 cent solar power contracts (which he has promised to honour), power conservation measures at a time of surplus energy (see the bulk of the Green Energy Act), and a soaring deficit.

Faith-based Schools: the PCs’ Secret Religious Public School Strategy

And now, the dilly you’ve been waiting for. The PCs famously lost the Ontario election of 2007 because they promised to give taxpayer dollars to privately-owned and operated religious schools. What many do not realize is that Tim Hudak was one of the main proponents of tax-funded religious schools. Prior to the election of 2007, Hudak wrote on his web site:

“Support for parents who choose to send their children to independent faith-based schools has been a long-standing cause for me” (Source -www.timhudakmpp.com/node/83…but don’t look for it, because Mr. Hudak is covering his tracks: he has removed the article from his website).

Hudak explained that the purpose of extending taxpayer funding to religious private schools was “to end discrimination against non-Catholic faith-based schools” (Welland Tribune, July 27, 2007)

Even after that plank caused the PCs to lose the 2007 election, Hudak expressed a commitment to extending taxpayer dollars to religious schools. On November 1, 2007, just weeks after the PCs went down to defeat in the provincial election, the CBC reported that:

Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak says his party shouldn’t give up on trying to financially help families who send their children to private religious schools.

Hudak, who represents Niagara West-Glanbrook, said the faith-based funding policy of leader John Tory was not the best approach.
[...]
Hudak said the policy wasn’t developed at the grassroots level or shown to Conservatives before it appeared in the platform. (emphasis added)

So, after the election of 2007, Hudak was distancing himself and the PCs not from taxpayer funding for faith-based schools per se, but from John Tory’s idea of extending taxpayer funding to privately-owned faith-based schools.

In 2009, on the day he tossed his hat into the PC leadership ring, conservative vlogger Stephen Taylor had the following discussion with Hudak:

Taylor: “Do you think Ontario went down a road, when it was moving toward – at least under the Conservatives – vouchers for private schools and faith based schools? Do you think that’s a path that Ontario should not go down again, at least under the next few years?”

Hudak: “Well, you know, I’ve always been a supporter of parental choice in education. I believe that parents make the best decisions for their children. And that’s why I supported, for example, the tax credit we had for independent schools. But, very clearly, in the 2007 election, voters rendered a clear verdict, that they didn’t support the party’s policy of faith-based school support. And, as leader of the Ontario PC Party, I won’t be opening that door again. It has been closed by the voters. I’ll look forward to working with our grass roots policy process – the members of our party who are involved, and the PC caucus colleagues – to look for ways to innovate and create competition and choice, but within our public school system. I think that’s where the debate should be focused.” (emphasis added)

So Hudak’s position, in fact, is that the door is closed to giving taxpayer funding to privately-owned faith-based schools, but that there is still a “debate” about creating “choice…within our public school system” because, according to Hudak, the Progressive Conservatives “shouldn’t give up on trying to financially help families who send their children to private religious schools”.

“Choice” – a word Hudak chose to use in the context of a discussion about faith-based schools – was a reference to the ability to choose to send your children to a faith-based school within the already taxpayer-funded public school system. At present, Ontario’s laws allow public school boards to set up “alternative” schools, such as Toronto’s Africentric elementary school (and the more recently proposed Africentric secondary school). Significantly, while Dalton McGuinty in 2008 was expressing his objections to the opening of a race-based “Africentric” school in Toronto (though unwilling to do anything to prevent its opening), Tim Hudak’s PCs remained deliberately and deafeningly silent about the issue. Had the PCs objected to the opening of a race-based Africentric alternative school within the public school system, they would have rendered themselves unable later to advocate a faith-based alternative school within the public school system.

In the language of “choice”, Hudak is telling those parents who currently pay private tuitions to private faith-based schools that a PC government will create faith-based alternative schools within the public system. A deliberately vague reference to that proposal made its way into the ChangeBook:

We will ensure the education system puts students first…Ontario’s education system is not one-size-fits-all. Schools in different parts of Ontario have different and unique needs. We will ensure the funding formula meets the needs of single school communities and effectively supports special education for families that rely on it. We will give principals more flexibility to meet the individual needs of their communities and students. (emphasis added)

It remains only to be seen whether the media will require Hudak and the PCs to declare whether or not they, if elected, would be willing to consider opening a faith-based alternative school within the public school system. If Hudak will not vow not to open a faith-based alternative school within the taxpayer-funded public school system, you can certainly be forgiven for having faith that Hudak will indeed open faith-based schools in our public system if he is handed the reins of power.

Conclusion:

Beliefs based upon faith – being beliefs that lack any evidentiary foundation – cannot be known to be true or to be false. Such beliefs fall into a third category: the arbitrary. Hudak’s ChangeBook makes the assumption that some or all of its most important arbitrary assumptions – about increases in revenues, about climate change, and even about the PCs willingness or unwillingness to open tax-funded religious schools – will be accepted by the public on faith.

With ChangeBook, Hudak is not attempting to convince his audience of anything. The complete lack of any attempt, in the ChangeBook, to provide any evidence of Hudak’s assumptions, or of the feasibility of his planks, demonstrates that he is playing a different game altogether. He is trying to win support not by dealing in truths and falsehoods, but by playing upon the already-existing faith that his audience puts in such arbitrary beliefs as the ability of governments to change the climate. The ChangeBook’s strategy in this regard is founded upon a belief that it is more advantageous to deal in the arbitrary than to attempt to sell the voter truths and lies. In the famous words of professor Harry G. Frankfurt:

“In fact, people tend to be more tolerant of bullshit than of lies, perhaps because we are less inclined to take the former as a personal affront. We may seek to distance ourselves from bullshit, but we are more likely to turn away from it with an impatient or irritated shrug than with the sense of violation or outrage that lies often inspire.
[...]
What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.
[...]
The fact about himself, that the bullshitter hides, on the other hand, is that the truth-values of his statements are of no central interest to him; what we are not to understand is that his intention is neither to report the truth nor to conceal it. This does not mean that his speech is anarchically impulsive, but that the motive guiding and controlling it is unconcerned with how the things about which he speaks truly are.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensible that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.” – (emphasis added, 2005, “On Bullshit”, Princeton University Press

The planks in Tim Hudak’s ChangeBook are founded on faith – upon arbitrary beliefs for which there is no evidence – because faith-based beliefs fall outside of the realm of the true and the false; outside of the reach of scrutiny and accountability for those inclined to take Hudak on faith (perhaps due to an intense – and warranted – disappointment with Dalton McGuinty). Hudak clearly is not all that concerned with whether or not the assumptions and proposals made in the ChangeBook would improve the province. His goal is not to achieve any particular change in the budget or in governance. “What he’s up to” is simple: he wants the power of premiership, period. Hudak’s ChangeBook – his de facto FaithBook – is, in short, the calculating handiwork of a bullshitter taking advantage of his intended flock’s willingness to take even fundamentally flawed assumptions on faith. It remains only to be seen whether their faith is strong enough to lead them to the Kool-Aid pitcher on October 6th.

Paul McKeever is the leader of Freedom Party of Ontario.

Appendix: Revenues and Expenses: 1992 through 2010

Revenues
*increase over 6 years prior

1992-93          1993-94           1994-95            1995-96            1996-97
41,807             43,674             46,039               49,473              49,450

1997-98            1998-99            1999-00            2000-01            2001-02
52,110               55,786              62,900              66,044               66,249
                        *(33.4%)          *(44.0%)          *(43.5%)          *(33.9%)

2002-03            2003-04            2004-05            2005-06            2006-07
68,891              68,400               77,841              84,225               90,397
*(39.3%)          *(31.3%)          *(39.5%)          *(33.9%)          *(36.9%)

2007-08           2008-09            2009-10                       
103,579            96,933              95,793
*(56.7%)          *(40.7%)         *(40.0%)           

Mean 39.4% increase in revenues over 6 years prior (approx. 6.6% per year)

==================================================

Expenses
*increase over 6 years prior

1992-93            1993-94            1994-95            1995-96            1996-97
45,350              44,293               44,653               46,163              56,355

1997-98            1998-99            1999-00            2000-01            2001-02
56,484               57,788              61,909              61,940               63,442
                        *(27.4%)           *(39.8%)         *(38.7%)            *(42.1%)

2002-03            2003-04            2004-05            2005-06            2006-07
68,774               73,883              79,396              83,927               88,128
*(22.0%)           *(30.1%)         *(37.3%)         *(35.6%)           *(42.3%)

2007-08            2008-09            2009-10           
96,522              103,342            115,055
*(52.1%)          *(50.3%)         *(55.7%)

Mean 39.5% increase in revenues over 6 years prior (approximately 6.6% per year)

© 2011 Freedom Party of Ontario Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha