Stephen Harper’s confession

Paul Wells on why Harper’s warning was really an admission— the Tories behaved like trust fund babies

by Paul Wells

Harper's confession

Fred Chartrand/CP

The priorities and planning committee of cabinet—Stephen Harper in the chair, Marjory LeBreton vice-chair, with members including ministers Jim Flaherty, Peter MacKay, Tony Clement, Jason Kenney, John Baird and Diane Finley—met at the Willson House conference centre at Meech Lake on Jan. 20 and 21.

Several other ministers were brought in to join what was, for this cabinet, an unusually detailed and freewheeling conversation. Agenda topics included energy, trade, and the report on subsidies for industrial innovation that Open Text chairman Tom Jenkins handed to the government last October. All of those items made it into the Prime Minister’s speech at Davos five days after the committee retreat ended.

Harper’s vague mention of changes to public pensions will get most of the attention. But I was struck by a few paragraphs higher up in the speech. The part where he lectures his peers—or, more gently, shares lessons learned—on the virtues of a virtuous government.

“As I look around the world, as I look particularly at developed countries, I ask whether the creation of economic growth, and therefore jobs, really is the No. 1 policy priority everywhere,” he said, after assuring the crowd that growth and job creation are “our No. 1 priority as a government.”

“Or is it the case that in the developed world, too many of us have, in fact, become complacent about our prosperity? Taking our wealth as a given. Assuming it is somehow the natural order of things. Leaving us instead to focus primarily on our services and entitlements.”

This passage should be read as thinly veiled autobiography and confession. This week a former senior public servant told me that when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they inherited structural surpluses, booming oil prices and shrinking public debt, and they acted the way trust-fund kids do. “These were like kids in a candy store who had all this allowance. ‘Wow, we can do all this stuff?’ ”

But don’t take my nameless source’s name for it. Take Jim Flaherty’s. His first budget speech, in 2006, carried the title “Focusing on Priorities.” And what did he describe as priorities? In order: “Providing immediate and substantial tax relief,” he said. “Encouraging the skilled trades.” “Families and communities.” “Investing in infrastructure.” “Security.” “Accountability.” “Expenditure management.” “Restoring fiscal balance for our Canadian federation.” And right down there at the bottom, “prosperity.” So you can’t say it wasn’t the No. 1 priority. It’s right there in ninth place.

In Flaherty’s 2007 budget speech, the word “growth” appeared once.

But sometimes the world changes and the trust fund goes bust. For Harper, that happened in the first week of December 2008, when he had to fight like a street gang to keep the job he thought he’d just been re-elected to. So much changed after that. He won in 2011 by running on the economy after years of running away from it. And now here he was in Davos to tell everyone about “the good, growth-oriented policies. The right, often tough choices.”

Which are?

Blanket news coverage is quickly making the list familiar. Curbing the cost of pensions because an aging population makes those programs expensive. Seeking better return for investment on industrial innovation. Exporting energy resources to Asia. Making “our economic and labour force needs the central goal of our immigration efforts in the future.”

It was all so uncannily familiar.

On Sept. 20, 2005, then-prime minister Paul Martin corralled hundreds of senior bureaucrats at the Canadian Museum of Civilization across the river from Ottawa. He needed to explain why his government, battered by inherited scandal and a hard-earned reputation for indecision, deserved to survive.

There were “new forces” at work in the world, Martin said. “One is the changing demographics of the Canadian population; the other, the stunning rise of China and India.” How to respond? “Canada needs more immigrants, plain and simple, and we need them to succeed.” So he would “be more active in recruiting immigrants” who met needs “identified in consultation with provinces [and] business.”

Canada must develop “other options” besides the American market. “With a rising Asia,” the possibilities were obvious. What could Canada sell the Chinese, anyway? “Canada’s energy and mineral endowment is one of our greatest comparative advantages.”

Selling oil is one way to increase prosperity, but there must be others. Innovation perhaps? “We need robust private sector investment,” Martin said, foreshadowing the Jenkins report—which wasn’t rocket science—by six years. “This is the primary vehicle by which technological innovation enters the economy.”

The whole point of selecting immigrants for the job market, selling oil to Communists, and getting Canadian industry to finally pick up its game is, of course, to help pay for social programs. Which ones? Martin, like Harper, was reluctant to go into detail before an election. But he did allow as how there would be “strain enough to cope with the costs of an aging society.” Today’s Old-Age Security debate was hiding under that fig leaf.

Harper won the battle that followed, and spent two years reallocating the services and entitlements of the Canadian federal state. But he has come to realize that whatever future Canadian voters get, they will thank or blame him for it. A stubborn cliché in politics holds that a majority government has only a year to do anything controversial, before it must worry about re-election. But Harper gets elected on controversy. He views the current window differently: he must behave responsibly now, before anyone notices.




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Stephen Harper’s confession

  1. The Conservatives took the surplus and gave it back to Canadians in tax breaks and a lower GST.None of it went into LIBERAL BROWN ENVELOPES.

    • Are you serious? I can never tell now when people are being sarcastic. I hope you are joking, because can you honestly say that none of this is the Harper governments fault and defend all his decisions ( GST, corp tax breaks etc)?
      If so, that begs the question, is Harper so inneffective as PM that after almost a decade in power neither he nor his governments policies have any affect on the economy?  

      And just to clarify, are you saying that it is the GST cut and tax breaks that caused the deficit but you are fine with that? 

      • A decade in power?  The Opps had a majority from 2006 until May 2011, nothing passed without the Opposition ok.
        Pretending the Opposition were bystanders, not responsible is false.

        • I do believe the prorogations stopped opposition from non-confidence votes against the government.  We also had an illegal, government-imposed election in there that was never meant to happen.  So it isn’t that “nothing passed without the opposition ok” — it’s that nothing passed.

          • It was not illegal and you are being too cute by half. In fact a court ruling said the government had the right to call the election. Democracy Watch went to court over this and they lost.

            The stimulus package would not have passed without the opposition supporting it. In fact the ill fated coalition was proposing a deficit in the order of $30 billion. It would have been higher I am sure.

            There are economists who believe that the GST cut softened the recession in Canada. Others believed differently but Harper made the decision for better or worse. Corporate tax cuts were the policy of the Chretien regime and Harper merely continued the practice believing it would make Canada more competitive and attract new investement.

          • Well if you don’t like “illegal” how about “morally bankrupt”? They passed a law that was in reality a smokescreen with no substance that they knew they could ignore with impunity – and they did.

    • And paid down the national debt $30 Billion, transfered billions against the ‘fiscal imbalance’ and ended the ‘Decade of Darkness’ for our military.
      And the cupboard was bare after Chretien/Martin raided the EI fund of $54 Billion (2001-2005) so there was no slush fund to dip into to to cover the high costs of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
      And we did ok.

      • Wilson stop being a paid Harper Troll. The Harper government spends 88 million dollars a day, just type in “Canada’s Federal Debt Clock.”  That is not okay.

        • Any attempt to reduce the size of government is being fought tooth and nail by the opposition parties. So you can argue all you want about the amount of money being spent but there is no appetite on the part of the opposition to support any kind of expense reduction. So until they stop yammering you can criticize but nobody is listening.

          •  Not true, and you know it.
             

          • Oh but it is. Both Libs and NDP Socialists in their philosophy of economics have an objective to tax and spend. At least the Libs have understood that you have to have economic prosperity to do that. Also both get hives if they have to spend on the forces or reduce imposts on  business to encourage the economy. The NDP think that a command economy can be successful,  not having a clue how wealth is created.  The problem is that the schools of economics that they draw their philosophy from are usually manned by snotty-nosed intellectuals spouting welfare economics who have seldom worked at a real job or risked a dollar of their own money. The NDP track record in the provinces has been dismal economically.

            Wealth is created by entrepreneurs who gather capital labour and resources and take a chance on an enterprise – for self-interest, of course.  The economy benefits from their efforts through taxes at all levels, royalties and the multiplier effect.  

            Obviously, everybody makes mistakes from time to time but at least the Cons understand the basic principles. 

            As usual, Inkless tries to appear as an insider, or at least an outsider with an inside track. But mostly he pulls wings of flies. He only has an inside track when the Liberals are in power.

          • What part is not true. Everyday I see the NDP and the Libs out there arguing that we should not cut the public service. Are you in a dreamworld?

          • Holl
            So F35s and prison expansion for theoretical crimes are not an expansion of the public service? The tax cuts haven’t increased the public debt at a time when companies are being supported by public largesse? Some departments have funding, buildings and people but don’t actually have a job; coupled this with an expansion in the PMO press office and this is not paid for by the public either?
            Consistency is clearly not a Harper supporter trait.

          • Harper increased the size of government. Try explaining how the opposition forced him to do that.

          • When you implement a $50 billion spending program there needs to be more help to meet the timelines. They did need more people to approve EI applications in a timely fashion during the recession to ensure that claimants got their money in a timely fashion. Get the point.

            As I said to you in a previous post I believe. I hope I see you cheerleading the government when in the next budget we have Liberal programs dropping like flies and the public service being cut. Oh the humanity of it all.

      • You are darn good at cooking up numbers.

        What else is going to be gutted because of the GST and $100 billion corporate tax cuts?

    • Excuse me? The only envelopes with cash in them that I know of were given to a Conservative  ex PM. I’m not even going to go into the current gazebo debacle.
      Please begin to think before you need therapy.

      •  Nice to know that the Liberals have already forgotten about Adscam

        • How can they, when the Conservative Party, CPC staffers, and CPC astroturfers remind anyone and everyone that it happened, and is to blame for everything wrong with Canada today. Recession? Adscam. War in Afghanastan? Adscam. Got a cold? Adscam. $50M slush fund to re-elect Milhouse Clement? Adscam. Who shot JR? It was Adscam.

          Nobody has forgotten it. It’s just that we (those of us who generate our own thoughts instead of being told by the CPC/PMO comms teams) are a bit more concerned with what’s going on today than we are about a scandal that is over and done with, and has been for nearly a decade. You know, little things like cabinet ministers misappropriating taxpayer money to ensure their re-election, cabinet ministers inserting themselves into municipal elections to ensure their buddies win (Hi John!), cabinet ministers taking SAR helicopters out of service to avoid waking up early then lying about it, then lying about the lies, the constant and blatant lies by the PM, the ever increasing numbers of partisan communications hacks that have been added to all departments, cabinet ministers using overheated rhetoric at a diplomatically sensitive time (where a brutal and vicious war is at stake), the economy is slipping again… But yeah, you are right. Let’s forget what’s going on right now and instead keep beating the horse that died years ago. Because THAT’s really going to help.

      • Go to the gazebo debacle if you want. None of support spending $50 million in a riding. However, the money did get spent in the riding and I am sure the people of Muskoka are happy with what they received. So now lets move on.

        Are you suggesting that the testimony at the Gomery commission was false and that money was not left on the table in a brown envelope in a restaurant? Are you suggesting the certain ad companies in Quebec did not get the palms greased and money went back to the party? You need to rethink you comments.

        At least Mulroney admitted he took the cash. For what purpose we will never know. However, $300,000 is pretty small compared to the amount the Liberals stole from Canadian taxpayers.

        So Excuse me!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Pretty small? What price do you put on ethics? Accountability?
          From the Auditor General:
          “He said government ignored normal protocols when approving infrastructure projects for the G8 summit in the riding of Tory minister Tony Clement — now Treasury Board president — bypassing public servants who generally determine what projects receive funding.
          “Rules were broken,” Wiersema told reporters following the committee meeting. “Lawyers could have an interesting debate as to whether any laws were broken.”
          The interim A-G said he’s “very concerned” that no government documents exist to explain how the Conservatives selected 32 municipal projects in Clement’s Parry Sound-Muskoka riding that were included in a $50-million G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund.
          “Supporting documentation is important for transparency and accountability,” he said.

          http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/06/%E2%80%98rules-were-broken%E2%80%99-over-g8g20-summit-spending-auditor-general/ 

           Don’t play your “lilly-white” cards so freely hollinm

          • Did I say it was small. I said none of us support what was done. I have no issue with what the AG said.
            Clement is getting the backlash he deserves.
            However, my point is the money was spent in the riding and the people of Muskoka are probably happy for the infrastructure spending.
            You can rave on as much as you want and you are certainly entitled to your opinion.
            Once again the anti Harper crowd is caught up in process, tactics and strategy.
            The money was spent. Fully stop. You can grind it up into small pieces but it will not change the realities.

          • Shorter hollinm
            It’s okay if a Conservative does it and if it ensured that a Conservative was elected, well that’s money well spent.

            When did fraud only become unacceptable if those you didn’t support commit it? When it’s your mates well it’s only cash meh.

          • I am not dismissing anything. I have acknowledged that I did not nor do I agree that this kind of money should have been spent in a single riding the way it was.

            However, I have also read the accounts in the media as how things transpired. Unfortunately I am pretty cynical about what appears in our media these days and things are not always what they seem.

            Unlike you I have to move on. You can throw words around like fraud but I would point out the RCMP has already looked at this at the request of the opposition and they said there is nothing there. So I would suggest you tone down the rhetoric.

        • So let’s  see if I got this right: it is great imporatance to this nation today that a bunch of con artists used the Liberal party to feather their nests a decade+ ago, but the fact that the current head of Treasury Board, the man holding the purse strings, has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can’t be trusted NOT to use that money as his personal pork barrel should be ignored and we should just move on.

          Wow.

          In my estimation, you’ve just gone from “worthy opponent” to “clown puppet of the CPC”.

    • So you’re good with the structural defecit it created? Really?

      For the sake of 2 cents on a cup of coffee? Really?

      For pete’s sake, the interest on the national debt created from this is more than people are saving on the GST.

      And honestly, the adscam well is dry bud. Bone dry.

      We ultimately lost a few million through that scandal, and even if you add in the cost of prosecution, even then it probably cost maybe $10 – $15 million. Sure that ticked me off, but really, what’s the comparison?

      The gazebo nonsense with Tony alone cost $50 million. Just because one finds a “legal” way to blow taxdollars doesn’t make it ethical.

      So frankly, after a decade since adscam and six years since Harper took power, it doesn’t impress me when all you have to say in favour of lousy policy is that their predecessors wasted LESS money.

      Sheesh.

    • H-mmm…what were the estimated payouts on AdScam? And how big was the slush fund doled out in Landslide Tony’s riding under the guise of G8 security?

  2. Nobody saw the housing market collapse coming nor recognized the greed of the Wall Street bankers who through complicated financial products which defied identifying risk virtually destroyed the world economies. So to go back and try to hold the PM accountable for things that were said in 06 is unfair. The world has changed and the game has changed.

    I suspect if the PM had a crystal ball he would have done things differently. However, you can only deal with what you know at the time.

    • Pffft. Nonsense.

      If Flaherty had simply left the contingencies in place, we wouldn’t have needed to borrow tens of billions to spend on “stimulus”.

      The entire point of a contingency is for those things you don’t see coming.

      And in their arrogance they blew it and tried to buy people with their own money.

      You may wish to gloss that over, but there it is.

      • “If Flaherty had simply left the contingencies in place, we wouldn’t have needed to borrow tens of billions to spend on “stimulus”.

        The whole point of the stimulus was to replace lost spending in the economy that resulted from the recession. Martin’s line item contingency in the budget had NOTHING to do with it. Also, the contigency fund you’re talking about was about a few billion dollars. The stimulus resulted in a deficit that was like 50 billion dollars. So, yes, even if that contigency fund was still in the budget we would have had to borrow tens of billions. So you’re wrong there as well.

        At moments like this I take comfort that you and the 13 people who liked your comment have zero influence on determining the federal finances. We could do better than the federal Conservatives but as you have clearly shown we could do very much worse.

        • Look, if the contingencies and the GST had still been in place, not only would we not have a structural deficit today, and not only would we have paid off more debt in preparation, but the $10 to $15 Billion a year we lost by getting rid of them would’ve meant a cushion that not only would have quickly allowed us to pay back any debt we accumulated as the economy recovered, but perhaps the pressure to spend so much would’ve been less in the first place.

          Given their actions, they had little ability to push back against the opposition!

          I may be a social liberal but I’m also a fiscal conservative. I do not like how much they threw at this problem, how they spent it, and I do not believe that their practices leading up to the downturn prepared us to weather it, but rather undermined our ability to do so.
           
          So say what you will, but in my opinion our massive debt is the result of a newbie government that didn’t have a clue what it was doing. They acted like people who’ve never read a goddamn history book on finance. Economies are cyclical, and not preparing for a downturn is just pure recklessness.

          • “They acted like people who’ve never read a goddamn history book on finance.”

            Actually, the only person who hasn’t done this here is you. The overwhelming opinion from economists at the time was that governments should spend money and spend money fast. That is exactly what the feds did. Did they use it as a political opportunity? Sure. But they did do EXACTLY what the consensus opinion from economists was at the time (spend money and spend it fast).

            “I may be a social liberal but I’m also a fiscal conservative.”

            No, you’re a hyper-partisan hack who’s incapable of seeing things rationally. What serious person could possibly argue that any decisions Harper made a or two before the downturn had any effect on our ability to whether it? Yes we were in good financial position before the downturn because of Liberal actions in the mid 90s and Harper pretty much kept course (debt to GDP was still trending down). How does that not prepare for the downturn? But go ahead and pretend that Harper’s 2% GST cut somehow made us unprepared for the recession, that we wouldn’t have needed stimulus spending and the budget would have magically balanced if you want.

      • The contengencies were $3 billion at best. The fact is the world economy collapsed with the advent of the housing crisis in the United States.

        The opposition demanded spending and big spending in order to supposedly help the country through the recession. So they got the spending they wanted and now we have a deficit which is declining without the draconian cuts that may be on their way.

        So you object to people getting their hard earned money back and the federal government generating year after year $13 billion surpluses which were being sent off to arms length foundations etc. etc.

        The Liberals did absolutely nothing for the country once they covered the deficit. Chretien had 3 majority mandates to fix immigration, aboriginal proverty, productivity gap, working poor. What did we get instead adscam where $150 million went out the door.

        Why is it arrogant to help the hard put taxpayer. You need to give your head a shake man.

        • And what makes you think I supported the massive “stimulus” nonsense? A label of “lefty” or whatever nonsense?

          Sheesh!

          As long as the government still has a massive debt that our tax dollars have to service the interest on, taxes need to be high enough to pay off that debt. Period.

          A real conservative understands that you make hay when the sun shines, ie when things are good you pay down debt as quickly as possible, so that when the INEVITABLE downturn comes, you’re in a good position to weather it.

          Facts are that they spent like drunken soldiers when times were good, blew a wad of cash when things turned sour and now want to pretend they can make real headway on the structural deficit they authored, while the world economy is still a mess.

          I mean honestly, who are these morons?

          • The morons are sitting in the opposition benches who have no alternative policies which would suggest that they have different ideas and could make things better. It is easy to criticize but much harder to actually do something. As long as that happens Canadians will opt for the guy who is already in charge.

            You cannot deny that the four opposition parties are on the left side of the political spectrum. They were screaming for stimulus and now like you are screaming about the deficit and the need to cover it. How the anti Harper crowd loves to recite their own set of facts but ignores the realities facing the government at the time.

            Well the “structural” deficit is going to be attacked and when we see cherished Liberal programs biting the dust I am sure you will be leading the charge congratulating the government for being a truly conservative government (sarcasm intended).

          • I certainly agree the opposition has a lot of blame in this given their majority vote push at the time. I am by no means letting them off the hook, but what power do they have now? ZERO.

            So let’s put the focus on the government that was and is rather than a bunch of has-beens and idealists shall we?

            Had the government been smarter from the outset and not undermined what we needed to pay the ongoing debt, and had they not spent like drunken soldiers to buy votes at the time, we wouldn’t be in this mess to nearly the degree we are.

            The fact remains that you haven’t responded to the obvious point: Why did the government hamstring itself at a time when it should’ve been accelerating the debt pay down while keeping in mind that economies are cyclical and that a downturn was inevitable?

            My basic point is that for a conservative government, they haven’t been very cautious or foreward thinking.

            So fine, now they’re trying to get the deficit under control, but at the worst possible time instead of when it made sense to sock away some dollars.

            Great. Let’s undermine the economy further when all our trading partners are a mess.

            Super. Just super.

            All this means to me is that we have four parties that don’t have a clue, rather than the two I thought at least had SOME economic sense.

    • Mr. Wells argument is in fact that in 2005 Paul Martin said all the things Mr. Harper said last month. So yes, the world has changed. Much like the recession, this government doesn’t see it until it’s staring them in the face. 

      Just imagine if we’d had a government working on these things for the last 5 years, instead of just starting now.

      • You should be talking to the opposition parties who had virtual control of the House of Commons for five years.

        • Harper has had full control of the China file – and look how he screwed that up.  Now he approaches the Chinese in a position of weakness – ‘please would buy our oil’…. 
           

          • How did he have control of the China file? People wanted him to criticize the Chinese on human rights.He did it very publicly and Harper saw what it got him. So he has changed his position given the growth in the Asian market and the collapse of the U.S. . Why is he in a position of weakness? If he can’t make a deal. Nothing has changed.

            More importantly if the Keystone Pipeline is not approved eventually then we will be eating a lot of bitumen as the economy collapses around us. I am sure that would please you very well eh Jan. Then you can blame Harper.

        • Forgetting about prorogation yet again
          Also forgetting about promises not to run a deficit, not to tax income trusts.. need I go on?
          Your back must be killing you what with all that water you’re carrying

          • My back is quite fine thank you very much.

            You can hang on, hang on and hang on. However you are living in the past. The Canadian people have spoken and he was elected with a majority government.

            I know its hard for supporters of the opposition parties to accept the fact the Conservatives have a majority government. They will also have one after the next election as well. If you think Canadians are going to hand the keys to the NDP you have another think coming.

            If you think the Liberals are going to win 100 seats in the next election well you are dreaming in technicolour.

            So rather than worrying about my back you should worry about your mental health as you keep living in the past. You really should move on.

    • Oh but he did have a crystal ball, or at least he said he did…”if a recession was going to happen it would have already happened”…or some such psuedo economic prognosticating nonesense as it turned out.  

      If he’d had a lick of sense he’d have said i don’t know for sure, or at least have kept his mouth shut.  

      • Lets face it. You simply don’t like Stephen Harper. There is nothing he could say or do that would make you happy. He could discover the cure for cancer but you would say what about MS.

        I think we could look at any political leader and take issue with some of the things they said and use it against them.

        Perhaps you should tell Rae to keep his hysterics to himself. He looks like a hysterical school girl these days with his lies and distortions.

        • “Lets face it. You simply don’t like Stephen Harper”

          Duh!

          I don’t know what you point is. I’ve never hidden my distain for Harper – but i have reasons which i mostly try to defend, not silly little opinions like your last shot.
          It’s pretty funny actually looking at your last sentence and your first i think i hear a pot calling a kettle out for being black.

    • You can rewrite this tif you like – but the facts remain the same. This is the highest spending government in the history of the country, he blew through the surplus and was in deficit before the recession hit, he has created the largest government in the history of the government and he cut taxes and the GST and reduced the safety net. He needs to be held accountable for what he has done – conservatives keep answering this with the ADsCam  and blaming the Liberals. Our economy is falling apart because the structure the Liberals had in place is being dismantled and we are adopting the Bush policies of deregulation, tax cuts for corporations and  the rich, the dismantling of the social safety net and we will see the same results as the US. Canadians need to pay attention.

      • Once again you are allowing your partisanship to overshadow the realities. Yes Harper did give tax breaks, returning overtaxation to the people. Yes he cut the GST by 2 points. While I did not support the cut I am sure it helped many lower income Canadians in some small way. In fact I have read some economists saying that the cut in the GST may have softened the blow of the recession.

        Yes spending has been large but you neglect to mention that Harper was faced with 4 left wing parties in the Commons and a minority government. Failing to provide stimulus to the economy which the  government initially didn’t want to do resulted in massive spending and an increase in the size of government.

        How is our economy falling apart? Are you suggesting that Harper go on another binge of spending? There is much happening that is impacting Canada and its economy. Most of that is coming from outside of the country. The United States is a disaster and the Euro zone is in shambles. You want to blame that on Harper to?

        What structures has he dismantled. Better give evidence instead of making grandiose statements. What segments of the economy or industries has he deregulated.

        Tax cuts for corporations is in much dispute. However, it is a continuation of the Chretien/Martin tax policy of reducing corporate taxes to make the country hospitable to investment.

        Dismantling the social safety net? Healthcare is on a collision course and something needs to be done. However, the feds cannot fund at 6% when the economy is growing at 2%. That’s a recipe for higher taxes, cuts in other programs or higher debt. The premiers have done nothing to gets their costs under control.

        As for the increase in qualifying for OAS you cannot deny we have a demographic problem. Frankly increasing the qualifying date like many other countries have done already some 10-15 years down the road is hardly earth shattering.

        Try and put matters in context.

        • Would you mind digging out that reference – the economists who thought the GST cut softened the recession? 

        •  I’ll blame Harper for making a promise of not running a deficit even though anyone with a brain knew that that would be impossible. I’ll blame Harper for promising not to tax income trusts and then doing just that. I’ll blame Harper for proroguing parliament twice in order to cover up his mismanagement of the affairs of state.
          The man has made error after error but you and your ilk  refuse to acknowledge reality.. bbbbut adscam; bbbut teh libruls is getting old fast.

          • You can try to forget adscam but it was one of the worse political scandals in Canadian history where a governnment plotted to steal taxpayer money and was found guilty of that crime. Canadians will not forget it and we will continue to remind you Liberal partisans for a long time to come.

            You can ignore the effects of the global downturn. You can ignore the demands of the opposition parties and you can ignore the realities of what is happening in the world around us and blame Harper. You can ignore the fact that Harper was in a minority parliament for five years and had little control over the political agenda.

            You can argue the pros and cons of prorogation. However, the fact remains prorogation is a legitimate tool used by Prime Ministers at least 104 times in the past. Trouble is you guys don’t like it because he was effective at using the tools available to him. By the way he did not prorogue. It was the GG. Harper only recommended.

            As for Income Trusts I recognize and acknowledge it was a flip flop. However, I did not believe he woke up one morning and decided to p.ss off seniors. I think he did it for the good of the country. Besides the Canadian people re-elected him so you need to let go. So you are quiick to remind me you should also let go.

            No government is perfect but the alternatives to Harper are damn right scary.

    • A prudent manager plans for a rainy day.  Especially one that claims to be an economist.

    • Actually, smart people saw 2008 coming

      • Prove it. Nobody knew that the housing bubble was going to happen and be as bad as it was. There was some trouble brewing in 04 and the U.S. government knew it but I am sure those who bought the mortgage backed securities which contained bad mortgages did not know. Those securitized mortgages were rated AAA by Moody’s.

        So unless you can prove to me that “smart” people knew then I will choose to ignore your comment.

        • Well, they certainly knew it long before Harper did (or was willing to admit he did). He was denying it long after nearly every economist in the country was saying we were heading rapidly into recession.

  3. Paul – a rambling account …But let’s stick to Confession (of self-congratulation) and taunting of peers – not about his near-term agenda

    NB I’d love to see a video shot of the size of the audience

    This Firewall Fella is so full of himself, it’s miraculous that he doesn’t burst.

    He was so delighted (in himself) … giving a/the “KeyNote Speech” – or that’s what we heard…

    Why in the world did the Economics-degree-holding-but-never-WAS-an-Economist chap who holds the slim majority in our One Parliament’s Lowest House pick an int’l forum to set off a trial balloon?

    Why did this guy, whose country’s books and banks and balance-sheet ARE ONLY deemed “good” when compared to the absolute horror of the UK, USA, EU, etc think his little 33 million people and a tar pond (that they’ve mismanaged for yrs) were in a position to chastise others?

    And why did this guy who DID NOT create the conditions for ‘semi-frugality’, but simply inherited from his predecessor maj/min First Ministers, think that HE was the one to spout off?

    Harper go home … start planning for when the Athabaska region wants sovereignty-association and has bumper stickers saying “Let those Southern Bastards freeze in the dark”

    Again,  I’d love to see a video shot of the size of the audience

  4. Political analysts try to decode Harper’s vague musings.  In fact, he was just shooting off his mouth, playing the bigshot – lecturing the Europeans and claiming his phony bragging rights.

  5. From your lips to God’s ears, Wells. 

    I really hope Harper has finally remembered that he’s meant to be REFORM/CONSERVATIVE and not a left wing kook who buys bankrupt car companies, significantly expands State and denies people right to sell their private property. 

    I am right wing kook who’s never voted for any major party – so I was not expecting much from Cons – but holy hannah have I ever been surprised by how dire Cons have been. I honestly don’t understand what Harper thinks he’s been doing for the past 6 years and why Con base seem to be so satisfied with their party’s ineptitude.

    • Tony, the little gem of a phrase after your moniker clears up any confusion about where you stand on the political spectrum: right wing tyrant with rascist sexist tendencies. 

      • I try my best.

  6. While perusing NatNewswatch this morning, I noticed Sun editorial about Moore. 

    Has The Sun increased pressure on Cons to start behaving like Cons? 

    Cons have no significant opposition for past six years and are self satisfied, slothful but now The Sun is attacking the Government from the right and their economic record doesn’t look too good and they sound foolish when they defend CBC against private company doing its job.  

    The Sun ~ Time To Tune Out Minister Moore:

    Moore has lost what little is left of his credibility.

    Here we have a cabinet minister accusing Kris Sims of “being in the business of going after the CBC,” and that she was chasing the CBC porn story so that Quebecor — her employer, and ours — could gain a larger share of the French-language TV audience in Quebec.

    Once that happens, Moore told Sims, Sun News Network will be shut down: “You know that’s going to happen, right?” And then he ludicrously equated France-bought pornography on the publicly funded Radio-Canada to privately-owned Sun Media’s 40-year tradition of publishing pictures of bikini-clad SUNshine Girls.

    • That’s an interesting point about the Sun putting the pressure on from the right…pity they’re so incompetent in how they go about it. It’s a bit like having a troupe of clowns put the bite on you for not being serious enough.

  7. “Agenda topics included energy, trade, and the report on subsidies for industrial innovation that Open Text chairman Tom Jenkins handed to the government last October. All of those items made it into the Prime Minister’s speech at Davos five days after the committee retreat ended.”

    The notion that Harper introduced those ideas in Davos is false.  Everything Harper said in Davos was said also to Peter Mansbridge a week earlier, BEFORE this supposedly seminal cabinet meeting.  Harper also covered the same ground in his year-end interview with Lisa LaFlamme in December.

    So can we just dispose of the premise that these initiatives were suddenly announced in Davos to the surprise of everyone?  If Paul Wells and others had been paying attention, they would know otherwise.

    • You haven’t been reading me much for the last three months, have you.

  8. Ink stained wretch  . . .  because it is what you are capable of doing.

  9. Paul, it’s getting to the point that you are so negative about Harper, no matter what he does or doesn’t, that people are going to stop reading you altogether.

    • That’s so funny really. I’m a complete Harper sceptic come hater[ is that the PC phrase these days?] and i don’t see it as a refuting of Harper, merely a recognition that he may be serious about being PM…not that i agree with the prescription for prosperity anyway – Martins or Harpers
      Although…i have a suspicion that Martin would have sold it better and listened to critics better than Harper, who in my opinion couldn’t sell lumber in BC or fish in NL, without provoking someone to outrage..

  10. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr, are you saying we voted in the wrong neo-con and voted out the right neo-lib?

    Seriously, great piece, it’s why we read you, always a little different, often as not from a new angle and perspective; i particularly like the long view, it’s far more interesting and telling than the chaotic present tense.

    So, there’s a good case to be made for …:” Harper won the battle that followed, and spent two years reallocating the services and entitlements of the Canadian federal state.”
    Obviously there were real differences from the way Martin would have gone about this – Kelowna accord, not cuts to GST, a slower pace of paying down debt, but a fair number of similarities too – Martin was starting to reinvest in the military. And there is of course the ritual putting of the boots to the libs that a natural thug like Harper thought was worth taking some time over and real pleasure in.

    Are you  going to leave it us to imagine how thing might have gone differently if Martin had a little more luck in fending off Harper and if he had implemented his prosperity mandate, or are you going to keep dishing? There would be many variables to a what if, like would Harper have stayed on in opposition and what would his reaction have been to Martin’s ideas – would he have helped a bit or hindered all? How would Martin have handled the Kyoto mess? Would we now be much further down the road that Harper now thinks we should take, and be in better shape too? If the latter are you making an argument for changing govts beeing a waste of time if they are not going to pick up on the good stuff the vanquished leave behind, or is that simply to be expected, we’re all human and all we can hope for is that govt’s learn?That’s certaintly been our history.

    Interesting angle. I’m not sure what to think. The fact that Harper may be waking up and picking up Martin’s cudgels six years later but will be facing  a much tougher fight than Martin occurs. And there is the question of whether everything that has gone before has already made him damaged goods from which recovery will be very tough now in terms of trust; after all he helped put the Harper is a complete jerk sticker on his forehead –  or is it moot, Martin would have found another way to goof up without Chretien there to hold his hand. 
    This is actually interesting. Carry on sir!

  11. I’ll grant Harper this.. he’s a quick learner.  When he started, he was channeling Chretien, now he’s caught up to the last days of Martin, which at least puts him in the last decade.  At this rate, by the time the next election rolls around, he should only be a year or two behind.

    • Who will he be channeling then? Trudeau? Himself?

      • I’m betting Bush, personally.

  12. “As I look around the world, as I look particularly at developed countries, I ask whether the creation of economic growth, and therefore jobs, really is the No. 1 policy priority everywhere,” he said, after assuring the crowd that growth and job creation are “our No. 1 priority as a government.”
    “Or is it the case that in the developed world, too many of us have, in fact, become complacent about our prosperity? Taking our wealth as a given. Assuming it is somehow the natural order of things. Leaving us instead to focus primarily on our services and entitlements”

    Two questions about this: how much of it is a set back that it appears Harper has gotten as close to a an unruly caucus revolt over his Davos OAS remarks as he has since at least 08 when he was apparently told he had better fight the userper Dion or else? I mean it is no longer transformative change now, but merely a review…ouch! Score one for the Tory caucus, the opposition or more properly gran and grumps.

    I think? i theard some pretty caustic reaction from one or two European economic sceptics [ a Greek economist, go figure!] over Harper linking economic stagnation to state entitlements. One guy said something like: that’s ludicrous…if that were the case Ireland would be fine now and Germany a basket case. Unfortunately i haven’t been able to find that discussion anywhere over on our side of the pond.   

  13. I dont think it’s accurate to describe China as Communist. More like a State Capitalism.

  14. The article implies that Harper and his gang inadverntently went on a spending spree and then were surprised to suddenly see the money run out. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The Harper regime is engaged in what Republican Grover Norquist calls “starving the beast.” By putting Canada in a structural defict with the GST reduction and by reducing corporate taxes, the HarperCons can then point at the resulting deficit and claim that a crisis exists, a crisis that can only be resulved by cuts to government. Harper sees no legitimate role for government other than to run a military, build prison, and a few other minimal functions. If he can’t succeed in making all the cuts he wants, he can, at the very least, saddle future governments with such a large debt that they have no choice but to cut back.

    Anyone who has really taken the time to study Harper and read whatever he’s said in the past on this topic might be surprised. I suspect, unfortunately, that this group includes the small number of swing voters who helped give him his 39.6% majority. Harper ran on being a competent manager of the economy, something that no conservative is capable of doing because of ideological baggage; he didn’t run, or at least didn’t emphasize, that he wants to fundamentally change the size and scope for government. Hence all the photo ops with sweater vests and kittens.

    Harper is nothing more than an American Republican who had, for him and for us, the misfortune of being born in Canada. Anyone who wants to see the direction that Harper wants to take Canada need only study the Republicans south of the border–and then, if you care about Canada, weep.

  15. This is Quebecor fighting for it’s own interests, not standing up for conservative principles.

  16. Yes, coverage must be flattering or risk being shunned. 

  17. Mr. Wells has written an interesting article. Deadlines must be hell. He should be blogging. Great stuff!

  18. Harper is the most hateful man in the country.  He will crush anyone who try to stand in his way and is the biggest liar in existence.

    He brags about creating jobs at the same time he is getting rid of over 20,000 public servants.  How many companies are closing because he did not protect Canadian interests but tried to please the Americans.

    He is hurting the seniors instead of trying to change the pension plan of the Politicians who get a pension (paid by us) after six years.  No one on this earth is worth the money they get and specially not this government.

    I have lived in three countries where they had a dictator and if he isn”t one then neither was Hitler.

    •  You are completely ridiculous.

  19. Meh, I hope they raise it even higher. 
    The way I’ve saved I won’t be able to retire until I’m 80 and I’d like some company.

  20. anyone ever check out the bill that created the GST? it clearly states that all monies coming from GST muzt be used to pay the debt down. and only for that purpose…da little tief de shawinagin.he side tracked just  a little dere..cmon viola non.

  21. My Goodness, all we seem to get here is hatred in these comments. 

    We all know that governments, especially minority ones, are driven by the polls.  And do we not know that the opposition’s only adjenda is to defeat the sitting government, regardless of the issue at the time, or the benefit to the country.  Is it any wonder that almost every government that is in a minority ends up giving more and more away to the electorate.  And why is that, you guys?

    Is that not your real problem, Is it not nigh impossible to give everything away and still take responsibility for balancing any budget, just look at Greece et al.  And do you really think we are any better?  Listen to yourselves!!!  Do you not hear this anew during every runup to an election, buying votes?

    As far as this editorial is concerned, all it is trying to do is stir the rancour, not propose any resolution to any problem.  And, this after a government has been selected for a substantial term.  Is there any interest here in trying to get something done or just in trying to make even a majority impossible to function?

    The opposition to the conservatives certainly appears in the majority here so is that the real agenda, create rancour?

  22. The Cons also led Canadians down the garden path on income trusts, then wiped out the retirement
    savings and dividend income for 2.5 million elderly Canadians. Instead of Canadians investing anymore, Chinese and middle east countries are buying out our homegrown companies but Flathead is raking in from these foreign countries for sure. Raiding the EI fund, nukeing income trusts, fat pensions and still this country comes out on top and if you want to credit anybody, thank yourselves.

  23. What happened to the column by Wells on CETA (some cities and provinces don’t want it)? The on-line access directed readers to an article on obesity. ????

  24. “This week a former senior public servant told me that when the
    Conservatives came to power in 2006, they inherited structural
    surpluses, booming oil prices and shrinking public debt,”

    This says it all. Our economist in chief has been shown for what he is, useless in the practice of government. Debt up, no surpluses. Way to go doyen of the Canadian, religious right.

  25. Why do we need Foreign Investment?  To create economic growth.

    Why do we need constant economic growth?   To create jobs.

    Why do we need to bring in Immigrants at a rate of approx 30-40 K/month, plus all the additional provincial temporary worker programs?   Apparently to fill the jobs our economic growth created.

  26. Free Trade, Global Economics, misnomers for Wealth Reallocation. Government has to stop selling raw materials to the world. Create Jobs in Canada instead of giving them away to Communist Countries. While I was growing up through the Cold War, to be a Dirty Commie, was like having Contagious Leprosy. I guess it’s ok now . The Communist Party Of North America has a nice ring to it…

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