Archive for September, 2015

September 29, 2015

Trusting Stephen Harper with the economy

Somehow this myth has developed about the Conservative Party of Canada(CPC) being a good manager of the economy.

Now I’m not an economist but I can read. And I can remember things, occasionally.

This is what I remember…

In 2008 Harper denied there was a recession or an economic crisis. Then when it finally dawned on him that we were in trouble he didn’t have any clue about what to do except ‘stay the course’. It was only because he was in a minority position that he was forced to adopt measures pressed on him by the NDP and Liberals…fiscal stimulus and a willingness to accept a budget deficit.

The latter was not too hard for Harper since, having inherited a nice surplus from the Liberals under Paul Martin, he has not managed to balance a budget until this year … maybe. That was even before the meltdown.

Then, after adopting the opposition’s economic policies he proceeded to rebrand them as his own Economic Action Plan.

In the first couple of years Canada did indeed do better than most OECD countries. Many have attributed this to the tough regulatory regime  governing the banking system in Canada that was put in place by the Liberals…the type of regulations Stephen Harper would oppose.

In the past several years, in spite of Harper’s lies to the contrary, Canada has lagged behind the OECD mean for job growth and  general economic growth.

What has Harper done to reverse the slide in the economy? He has defined an economic strategy based on pandering to his base. Even conservative economists have said that income splitting and raising the Tax Free Savings Account limits will do nothing for economic growth and disproportionately favours the well to do. For a ‘conservative’ he has made the tax system much more complicated by targeted his supporters with tax cuts in piecemeal measures from hockey equipment to child tax credits. Most economists of all ideologies have decried his do-nothing approach to the economy…or rather his crass reduction of the tax base for political benefit.

And what is Harper saying today? Well, first he denies that we are in recession in spite of his own legislation defining a recession as ‘two successive quarters of negative economic growth’, which indeed what has just occurred.

What is Harpers plan for the future? He is saying we need to ‘stay the course’. That would, of course, be the course of denying there is a problem and refusing to do anything about it. He continues to repeat the mantra that Canada is doing better than the rest of the developed world in spite of much evidence to the contrary.

So why do so many Canadians feel Harper is a trusted manager of the economy? I don’t know. But if you know any of these people, please, ask them why they think so. I would really like to know where this comes from.

Now don’t get me started on the ethical issues of a Harper government. Talk about a sense of entitlement.

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September 6, 2015

Election 2015–thoughts

I’m not politcal pundit or a political theorist. But i do have strong thoughts on this election.

First and foremost we must rid ourselves of the political rot that has accompanied the term of Steven Harper. His disgraceful policies and approach to the democratization of Canada has been amply documented elsewhere. It is not just his right wing policies (from Bill C51 to his destruction of the Canadian economy) but his intense work to further limit democracy in this country (from the silencing of scientists, prorogation of Parliament to the destruction of the Parliamentary committee system).

The large majority of Canadians know and understand these issues. Even in 2011 most Canadians opposed Steven Harper but he was able to garner a majority of seats with only 38% support. The anti-Harper sentiment is even stronger this time around.

But,as a complete indictment of the Canadian education system, most citizens have little understanding of government. As a result, even if Harper garners just a plurality of seats he may be able to continue governing by exploiting NDP-Liberal friction, prorogation of Parliament and other tricks that the opposition, at least in the past, has been willing to let his use. Canadians may or may not support an NDP-Liberal coalition as somehow illegitimate if it attempts to ‘bring down’ a government with a plurality of seats.

There isn’t much we can do about that except to make it clear to candidates who come to our doors that no matter the seat count, if there is a minority government we want the NDP and Liberals to work together to prevent Harper from becoming Prime Minister again.

I certainly hope voters in ridings where the Conservatives have seat consider voting strategically to prevent their re-election. In a riding where one of the NDP or the Liberal candidate is out of the race for all intents and switching their vote would prevent a Conservation from getting elected, I hope voters back whichever candidate might have a better chance of defeating the Conservative.

So just how hard is this to do? How hard do you have to plug your nose to vote Liberal (in my case)?

Well just a few months ago I felt that Trudeau had moved to the right and was unsupportable. But since the campaign has started the Liberals have moved more to the left.
Now, they aren’t flaming socialists but then either are the NDP.

And there is always the concern that they are just tacking left to get votes and wouldn’t govern from that position. But at some point one simply has to look at the policy placed before us and vote on that. And, further, a minority government, which is the most likely outcome, may help keep both the NDP and Liberals honest.

To me the most defining difference between the NDP and Liberals was the promise of a universal day care program form the NDP. I don’t like the Conservative’s approach of handing out money to people to buy their own services. This is the typical conservative approach to society: give people choices and let the market place decide.

When there are insufficient places available the marketplace doesn’t work. And, as in medicare and other social service delivery, there are economies of scale from a government sponsored plan.

The Liberals’ approach is similar to the CPC, only they change the mechanism a bit so that those in need are more likely to get more money. This is a more progressive approach than the CPC but still a choice option.

So, to me, the NDP policy speaks of a welcome and renewed interest in the role of government in social policy. And it has worked well in Quebec.

Score one for the NDP over the liberals.

But, wait a minute. The NDP say they will cost out all their programs but I see some problems here.

First, the universal day care is to be brought in over many years…beyond this current mandate. That is problematic if they are not re-elected.

Second, the program depends on the provinces paying 50% of the cost. Some provinces have already announced they cannot afford to enter the planned program.

And, with the NDP’s new (and bizarre) infatuation with balancing budgets there may not be the money to proceed with universal day care…at least for a long time. In the meantime, the NDP has committed to keeping the CPC’s current child care benefit, a very bad idea.

Don’t forget it was the NDP under Jack Layton who ruined the best chance at universal day care when Layton handed over government to Harper rather than back Paul Martin. He used bullshit arguments to support the CPC and ensure that Harper would become Prime Minister for the next 10 years.

So can we even trust the NDP to pursue universal day care or will it be found to be ‘unaffordable’ or won’t garner provincial buy-in while we continue to get the CPC’s hand outs?

Hopefully with a minority government we would at least get the ‘improved’ Liberal hand outs.

So let’s take that point away from the NDP since it’s looking like an empty promise right now.

As for the Senate, I think it is completely disingenuous for the NDP to claim they will abolish it when they do not have the power to do so and that too is politically impossible to achieve. What NDP nonsense policy.

The other major item for me is the economy. The Conservatives have so totally mismanaged the economy that I have no worries that either the NDP or Liberals could possibly do any worse. In fact historically conservative governments almost always worsen debt whenever they come to power by their relentless pursuit of lowering taxes in order to ‘shrink government’. In fact, under conservative governments bureaucracy invariably grows while capacity to pay decreases.

I don’t see many people in the NDP who would be capable of being finance minister in a new NDP government. I find it very interesting that they are touting Andrew Thomson, former Saskatchewan NDP Minister of Finance, as the prospective Minister if they win.

But they have placed him in a traditionally Liberal riding (that went Conservative last time) where the NDP got 20% of the vote in 2011 and the Liberals are currently running neck and neck with the Conservative at about 40% each. While defeating the current and inept Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, would be a lovely coup for the NDP, right now it looks rather like all they are likely to achieve is to ensure that the vote is split and Joe Oliver wins!

If Thomson is such a star candidate why did the NDP not find a winnable seat for him to run in in Toronto? Surely he would be a better candidate in University-Rosedale (instead of the charming but inexperiences Jennifer Hollett) or against Adam Vaughan instead of the tired and shop-worn Olivia Chow.

But the big picture on the economy is the infrastructure plan which the Liberals have the courage to admit will continue budget deficits in order to achieve. It seems like virtually every economist is saying that now is the time to allow some debt in order to finance public works projects. Only the CPC and the NDP oppose this.

I chuckle every time Harper speaks about the importance of balancing the budget since he inherited a surplus from the Liberals and was already in deficit even before the 2008 recession. He has never yet managed to balance a budget so what does he know about budgeting?

I know the NDP are trying to ease the minds of voters who may be scared about a ‘free spending’ NDP. But it turns out that Trudeau and the Liberals are offering more vision on this matter.

Of course there are many other issues in this election. But for me these two issues, day care and budgets/deficit, are what this election is all about.

Until the last Ontario provincial election I have always voted NDP. In that election the Liberals tacked to the left of the NDP. After I convinced myself that the local candidate was not repugnant, I voted Liberal as I saw that as a progressive statement.

This time around I am at this point voting NDP because I understand the ideological point behind universal day care as oppose to paying ‘consumers’ to purchase services.

But the NDPs continual harping about deficits and balanced budgets are making me re-consider.

Let me know what you think?

I want to add another comment and that is about candidates. I know politics has been moving for a little while now toward ‘professional’ candidates. People like Joe Cressy, Pierre Pollievre and Steven Haper…who have never really ‘worked’ anywhere outside of a sheltered environment. For Steven Harper that meant hyper partisanship in the National Citizens Coalition and work in Member’s offices before he ran.

For NDP candidates it can mean work in the Stephen Lewis Foundation or the Ed Broadbent Institute. While I am sure there is much to learn from these environments, I like my candidates to have had to work for a living for a while. To have some real life experience.

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