FUREY

Canada must avoid Greek entitlement

By Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network

New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Niki Ashton speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Niki Ashton speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 18, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

It's a sad day in Canadian politics when a possible future cabinet minister applauds the latest news in the current Greek tragedy.

Niki Ashton, the MP for Manitoba, and a prominent voice in the NDP caucus tweeted "NO to austerity! YES to democracy!" in celebration of Greek voters' rejecting the latest bailout terms offered by the European troika on Sunday.

Ashton also retweeted more severe and more popular comments made by author and far-left celeb Naomi Klein: "Nobody should be forced to sign their own death warrant. So many Greeks voting no to blackmail and terror. Powerful day."

It's a powerful day indeed when we can kid ourselves that going above and beyond the call of duty to offer a loan to a neighbour in need is blackmail and even terror.

Greece ran deficits for years. Then, when it came time to join the European Union, they fudged the books to make their financial situation appear rosier.

Then they failed to clean up their books before the recession, so the latter hit them harder than it otherwise would have.

Their debt-to-GDP ratio jumped every year until it got to the point where their ability to repay debts was considered so shaky that traditional lenders wouldn't help them. Greece was downgraded to junkbond status.

That's when the IMF and others jumped in. Simply put, that's other nations' taxpayers' money. It's redistribution. So you can understand why the lenders wanted Greece to agree to clean up their act. They didn't want them coming back for more.

But they did. The first bailout was in 2010, then there was another finalized in 2012. During this time private credit holders agreed to take a 53.5% loss on what Greece owed them. Thus anyone calling out for debt forgiveness needs to understand that it already happened.

The funny thing is the situation actually improved for Greece towards the end of 2014. The economy was looking rosier. But voters got impatient with the slow pace of improvements and did something really naive.

They voted for a party, Syriza, that's an acronym for "coalition of the radical left". And by radical, they meant radical. In North America, someone on the centre-left gets called a Marxist as a hyperbolic slur. But over there, many of them really are Marxists.

Syriza campaigned on ignoring previous bailout terms - this next part is key - that they'd already agreed to. This naturally made their lenders nervous and caused the crisis that resulted in Sunday's referendum.

It's unclear what the Ashtons and Kleins of the world want. Endless free money? Loans, no questions asked?

Greece behaved badly and is paying the consequences. After you've proven you're fiscally reckless, you can't expect to get multi-billion-dollar loans from your neighbours without them placing a few conditions on you.

It's no surprise that in Greece the young, students and public sector workers were most likely to indulge in this magical thinking.

Greek pollster Public Issue broke voting intention down by demographic and found 85% of 18- to 24-year-old voters wanted to reject the package.

Canadians got a glimpse of this in the 2012 Quebec protests when students took to the streets angry over modest increases to tuition frees, while Quebec benefited from equalization transfers. It's the height of entitlement culture.

We don't need more antics like this. We certainly don't need our own Canadian political figures calling for them.

 


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