Media commentators were in a rage last week, denouncing the Liberalgovernment for signing a “devilish deal” (Don Martin, National Post) thatwill “prostrate its principles” (John Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail). But for afull rant against the government’s evil-doings, one had to turn to CBC-TV’sRex Murphy: “The current spectacle is dissolving respect for Parliament andpolitics, and going some way toward dissolving respect for the country.”

Yikes. One might have thought Paul Martin had just released his own pornvideo or made a pact with a group of neo-Nazis.

In reality, the rage was over the deal the Prime Minister struck with JackLayton, the democratically elected NDP leader. And the wickedness these twomen were plotting was to spend more federal money on the environment, publictransit, affordable housing, post-secondary education and foreign aid.

In all the denunciations, it was scarcely mentioned that these items arevitally important to many Canadians — and that the Liberals had campaignedon them last year.

By contrast, tax cuts for big corporations, cancelled in the Liberal-NDPdeal, were never mentioned in the Liberal campaign. But then, that’s how theLiberals have traditionally operated, promising popular social spending onthe stump and then, after the election, quietly making the real budgetdecisions in close consultation with business lobbyists.

This time, the NDP was able to force the Liberals to actually deliver onsome of their election promises. Sounds almost democratic.

For succumbing to this NDP pressure, a Globe editorial called Martin “weakand panicky.” Yet he’s never described as “weak and panicky” when hesuccumbs to pressure from the business elite — such as in 2000 when, asfinance minister, he announced $100 billion in tax cuts.

Last week, business commentators accused Martin of abandoning fiscaldiscipline.

They know this is a ridiculous charge. The corporate taxes weren’t scheduledto come into effect until 2008, so the money saved by cancelling them won’tpay for the immediate social-spending increases. But Ottawa has been awashin surpluses since 1998 and will easily have enough to cover the $4.6billion cost of the Liberal-NDP deal without going anywhere near a deficit.

The $4.6 billion would have otherwise gone toward further debt reduction.

But Canada already has the lowest debt burden of any G7 country.

Michael McCracken, president of the economic forecasting firm Informetrica,says the increased social spending will create more jobs than putting themoney toward debt reduction — or corporate tax cuts.

He notes that tax cuts are usually just a windfall for corporations andoften end up invested abroad.

Layton has done the country a big favour.

He’s forced the Liberals to redirect almost $5 billion of our money — whichwould otherwise end up as a windfall in corporate coffers or sunk intoneedless debt reduction — into job-creating, people-helping social programs.Canadians might decide they like this sort of thing.

No wonder business commentators sound panicky.

Linda McQuaig

Journalist and best-selling author Linda McQuaig has developed a reputation for challenging the establishment. As a reporter for The Globe and Mail, she won a National Newspaper Award in 1989...