What Harper has planned for Ottawa

The PM plans to continue shrinking government; health care transfers will help

What Harper has planned for Ottawa

Frank Gunn/CP

What if this election were about something big? What if it were a fundamental debate about the role of government in a modern society? Maybe it is and you just have to scratch a bit to find it.

With their backs to the wall, Michael Ignatieff’s stalled Liberals have finally begun broadcasting the sort of attack ads that always feature in the later stages of Liberal campaigns. “Stephen Harper is demanding more time in power,” this year’s ads say, over pictures of the Conservative leader in an unphotogenic moment of repose. “Can you trust him with your health care?”

Well, why wouldn’t you? In reply, the Liberal ad rehashes some scare quotes from 2000 and 2001, when Harper was beating the right-wing drums at the National Citizens’ Coalition. Then the breathless voice-over adds: “Last year, Harper’s finance minister called for massive cuts to increases in health spending. Now Harper has a risky plan to cut $11 billion from government spending. Where would Harper’s cuts leave your family’s health?”

Some of this is true. Harper has announced plans to cut $11 billion—well, $1 billion next year, doubling to $2 billion the year after, then $4 billion in each of the next two years, which adds up to $11 billion in total—from spending. It is also true Harper has offered few details about where he would cut. Well, that’s good enough for Michael Ignatieff. When they get this way, just before one of their occasional defeats, Liberals always imagine nothing can be cut except health spending. So they’re trying to turn this election into a referendum on “saving” health care.

This message gets close to Stephen Harper’s real plan—which is not secret because he has cheerfully advertised its every element—while still managing to miss the point.

Harper insists he has no plan to cut health spending. “You make it your highest priority,” he said in the English leaders’ debate. “That’s what we’ve done . . . We’ve been very clear. We’re not going to cut the rate of increase in transfers for health care, education and pensions. That is job number one.”

Now, of course leaders sometimes say one thing in a campaign and do something else afterward. Harper’s done that himself once or twice. But I am quite sure he does intend to keep letting health care transfers to the provinces grow. For two budgets in a row, 2010 and 2011, he made modest cuts elsewhere without cutting transfers to individuals and the provinces. The 2011 budget is on hold because of this election, but it’s still a good indicator of Harper’s plans.

A chart in that forgotten budget shows major transfers to individuals—Employment Insurance and benefits to children and the elderly—holding steady as a fraction of GDP for the next four years. Cash transfers to the provinces, which fund health care, will hold steady too­ (and even increase given the campaign promise to keep hiking them six per cent per year). But direct program expenses—services and programs Ottawa delivers itself, in its own areas of jurisdiction—are slated to decline.

Now here’s the thing. Direct federal program spending is already low by the standards most Canadians have known in their lives. Lakehead University economist Livio di Matteo has written that, until the 2009 budget with its temporary “stimulus” spending, federal spending as a share of GDP was lower than at any point since the early 1960s. It has been declining since Brian Mulroney left office in 1993.

Harper’s plan is to continue shrinking the federal government. It’s not a hidden agenda. He’s announced every part of it. Health care transfers will actually help. They’re just blank cheques to the provinces, good mostly for getting money out of Ottawa. The Liberals in government would make a lot of noise about enforcing the Canada Health Act, but mostly they’d just keep writing the cheques. Harper will write bigger cheques, worry even less about the Canada Health Act, and leave himself less money every year to run programs out of Ottawa.

On the other end of the ledger, he’ll keep squeezing his revenues. That process began with the GST cuts after the 2006 election. It will continue with two policies Harper announced in this campaign’s first week. Income splitting will allow a higher-earning taxpayer to transfer part of his salary to a spouse for tax purposes—and cost $2.5 billion a year in foregone revenue. Doubling contribution room to tax-free savings accounts (TFSA) will cost even more. Economist Kevin Milligan has estimated a “revenue cost” of $6.6 billion a year once the TSFA increase is fully phased in.

Add the cost of those growing health transfers and the foregone revenue from Harper’s new tax promises, and you get more than $10 billion a year in reduced fiscal capacity for the federal government. And if Ottawa is locked into a few multi-year spending increases—on military equipment and prisons—there’s progressively less room for everything else. Economist Frances Woolley has said that to reach Harper’s projected savings without cutting defence, public safety or the Canada Revenue Agency, he’d need to cut everything else by one-third.

“Everything else” here includes departments like Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Industry, Transports and Veterans Affairs.

The Liberals used to talk about the choices implied here, way back at the beginning of the campaign. They had some snappy lines about a government that prefers “jets, jails and corporate tax cuts” to programs for Canadian families. But in the home stretch, they have resorted to scare tactics, and Harper is winning the campaign’s big argument without real opposition.




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What Harper has planned for Ottawa

  1. Add the cost of those growing health transfers and the foregone revenue from Harper's new tax promises, and you get more than $10 billion a year in reduced fiscal capacity for the federal government.

    And what about the existing structural deficit that Kevin Page calculates to be in the order of $14 billion? If the rosy forecast for tax revenues doesn't materialize, Harper (and anyone else for that matter) has a lot more cutting to balance the books by 2014.

    Here's the WCI blog written by Lakehead University economist Livio di Matteo and commented on by Frances Wooley that Wells used for his column: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian

      • All that means is that the recovery is quicker than forecast. Whether over the full business cycle the books can be balanced remains to be seen.

  2. Reading Wells sometimes helps me remember why I like Harper. Thank you.

    • Interesting.

  3. Add in rising costs to maintain our current armed forces personnel, not to mention procurement for the air force and navy. Costs of the crime agenda, etc. This fiscal hole can't be solved by attrition and efficiency without negative impacts on quality of service. Failing to replace Coast Guard staff will affect response times, as an example. Then there is the matter of the structural deficit…

    I think this is what Michael Ignatieff is saying, just in much easier-to-digest terms. Something has to give here, be it health care or any number of services Canadians rely on. As with most in this election, it could use more wholesome debate. However, any combination of pols, the electorate, and media seem to be unwilling or unable to participate in such detailed discussions.

    • Can you explain what Ignatieff is saying and how it relates. For example the fiscal hole,or structural deficit. How is Ignatieff addressing these issues seriously. He seems pretty complicit to me.

      • Isn't this to what he's referring when he says the Conservative numbers don't add up and references the $11 billion hole? Granted, this messaging glosses over much of the detail, but the spirit is there.

        That said, I agree emphatically with Paul that the alternative to reducing Ottawa to a post office box for transfer cheques has yet to be properly explained to Canadians.

        • There's a structural deficit in addition to that.

          • Bingo. That we're having this discussion is a byproduct of Harper's Contempt finding.

            These figures ought to be known by the government and the public, given their central nature to our future. We're facing an existential cross-roads of a few very different options, all of which remain beyond a few paces foggy to the Canadian public. This is not responsible government. Canadian voters, let alone their representatives in Ottawa, can't be expected to make such fundamental decisions while remaining pitifully uninformed.

          • approximately 40% of the voting public is not "pitifully uninformed" concerning structural deficits and the harm this does to our country's future; they're called "conservative voters".

          • I'm sorry for the confusion, but I was unaware that conservative voters are inclined to be kept in a state of ignorance by the government.

          • you will doubtless be relieved to be informed, then, that conservative voters are neither so inclined nor so disposed. in fact that, together with a sense of responsibility to their children, is what makes them conservative voters.

            people who neither understand nor care about the consequences of such things as structural deficits, on the other hand, vote liberal. and, irony of ironies, bemoan the ignorance of the common voter as they do so.

          • Not relieved in the least. Annoyed that one would feel it necessary to endorse such subterfuge. What of the courage of one's convictions?

          • if one's convictions are based on responsible concern for the future and an informed recollection of recent liberal dishonesty/fiscal irresponsibility, one votes conservative with a clear conscience.

            alternatively if one is either entirely unaware of the concept that structural deficits are killing our nation's future, or entirely lacking in conscience altogether, one votes liberal. apres vous, le deluge, n'est pas?

          • Hmm.. who got rid of the deficits? The Liberals.
            Who put us into a structure deficit? The Conservatives.
            Who's ignorant about reality, you.

          • Oh, come on Thwim. If the Harper minority government had not implemented the stimulus package as demanded by the opposition, we would not have had such a large deficit. '

            Yes, the CPC is to blame for this but so are all of the other parties. The other parties cannot say, as has become the overriding principle these days, that a minority government should implement the opposition's demands, and then when implemented, the opposition takes a distance from the demands.

            Let's stay real.

          • here's reality. opposition parties had no alternative but its continue agreement with whatever the Conservatives offered because no one was in a state for another election. CPC was ready and prepared for re-election, hence the constant attack-ads for the past 5 yrs.

            Harper denied recession. Opposition forced large stimulus. But if Haper hadn't decided to reduce GST by..1%? We wouldn't even be in a deficit. Spent all the surplus if you don't remember.

          • The lying Conservatives put us into a deficit before the recession and before they started spending on stimulus, for which they wasted millions of tax dollarsz on signs that were made by a US company, thus failing to produce sign-making jobs in Canada.

          • Learn the difference betwee "structural" deficit and "temporary" deficit before you think to comment on it.

          • together with a sense of responsibility to their children

            A sense of responsibility which, in my view, disregards the environment. That's a big part of my kids future too.

      • Iggy will promise everything to buy your vote.
        What is his hidden agenda? A coalition he said he would not do

        • Whats wrong with a coalition Gov? That is how the parliamentary system works. Do you suggest that we change our system to accommodate the reform/Alliance/conservatives?

    • I remember reading an interesting defence report from a few years back which proposed merging the coast guard into the Canadian Forces, essentially making the Coast Guard an SAR and fisheries patrol branch of the Navy (a set-up which exists in several Western countries, including Norway). Current CG civilian staff would be replaced by military staff over a certain number of years, and efficiencies could be found by not duplicating high-level command structures. I imagine this could save a fair bit of funds, but I don't remember the report specifying exactly how much…

      • That seems like a promising proposition on its face, but the fiscal sustainability issues of the forces are worrisome enough without adding another command. Specialization, rather than diversification, seems to be the order of the day for the CF. If that means focusing the bulk of our limited military spending on marine search and rescue, that's could be workable. But then that would mean a totally different jet than the F-35…

        • Well, I see it more as harmonizing the patchwork system which already exists, with the Coast Guard doing some SAR work with their patrol ships and aircraft, and the Navy and Air Force also doing SAR work (with Buffalo & Arcturus aircraft, Cormorant helicopters, etc – which are all under the control of the Air Force). This is co-ordinated through the Joint Rescue Centres, but to me it just makes more sense to bring SAR, Fisheries Patrol, and maritime constabulary duties under DND control. They're doing half the work anyway….

          And I'm not exactly sure how the F-35 fits into this, other than the military is planning to replace both its combat aircraft and its SAR aircraft in the next couple of decades.

        • Are you telling us you know what jet would be best for us?
          Sort of like the costs involved with the cancellation of the helicopter deal, and those great used subs the Grits bought for us.

  4. Oh Paul you are going to get a whip a** by the usual suspects : )

    Excellent read, I think you are becoming one of the most consequential political journalist in this country, congratulations!!

    • he has long been probably the most clever journalists in the country. You were unable to understand that when he said things you did not interpret as being nice about Harper.

      • that was rude

        • it was justified.

          • Well, Claudia has been up front about the fact she likes Harper. But I have never found her to be the closed minded partisan sort that we find from all points on the spectrum. And she is participating in this forum in a respectful, constructive manner in her second langauge. Not sure she deserved the shot.

          • To some extent, but there's a high degree of simple Harper good under any circumstances, Iggy bad under any circumstances – and irrrespective of actual policy or content. A comment that she wouldn't be able to see the quality of Wells journalism until he said positive things about Harper is right on the money, I suspect. I happen to think Wells is one of Canada's top journalists anyway.

          • I agree about Wells, and you may well be right that Claudia may have a tendency to prefer good news about Harper than bad, but I find there is a broad gulf between hyper-partisan blindness and genuine support of a party or leader. Claudia, to my mind, falls in the latter category and has never, in my experience, been anything but cheerful about admittign as much and giving her best effort to defend why she feels the way she does. I kind of think your experience in ferocious partisan battles has perhaps desensitized you to the difference and that not all those who do not share your views deserve to be treated harshly as they would treat you harshly in kind.

            The Macleans blog roll and posting community is one of the more sane examples in a sea of hyper partisan flame wars. It has its share of villains, to be sure, but also has a greater than normal share of thoughtful readers willing to exchange civilly their sincere opinions and to listen to what others have to say. Even if their bias may predispose them to holding on to their previous beliefs, I htink the ones who make an effort to be civil and to listen to others deserve some slack. My experience is that Claudia deserves that slack.

          • And I, in my turn, have found it to be a great deal of unjustified cheerleading with an undercurrent of the "ha ha look what we can get away with!" vibe that I admit distresses me more than it should. Diff'rent strokes, I suppose.

          • On reflection, it might just be that I find her avatar fetching. I'm a sucker for a pretty face.

          • Thank you very much Be_rad is my favourite picture of me, my son took it when he was 11 years old in Washington DC 2 years ago (my two younger kids lived there with their dad for a year, hardest year of my life 1) to let them go, it was a great experience! 2 )I went there every ten days and took a toll on my health, jet lag) But I got to go to the President Obama's swearing day and met Antonin Scalia on my son's school trip which of coursed I volunteered for.

            And thank you for the defense, I appreciate it, courtesy and respect are great attributes to have.

          • That was very well said.

          • I'll second third that!

          • Hear hear, Be_rad !!

          • Justified?

            Since when offending people and being a bully is justifiable, there is no excuse for your highly offensive behavior.
            Unlikle you I put my face and my name here and anyone is free to go and check my comment thread, I have NOT once insulted anyone for what they believe or think.

            I asked you before when you called Harper and me pedophiles, very respectfully to stop replying to my comments, your reply was "YAWN" and still doing it and insulting me every time, so I ask you again to please have the courtesy to respect my wishes and ignore my opinion since anyways according to you doesn't even matter.

            I wasn't going to reply to you, I don't tend to read nonsense but I won't allow you to bully me any longer. The comment thread where I asked very politely to stop, perhaps you need to be reminded.
            http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/04/03/respecting-and

          • I did not call you or Harper pedophile. I suggested your support of him was so limitless that if he were to be revealed as a pedophile, you would still staunchly support him. Which is probably not true – but I strongly suspect he could kick a few babies and you would assume they deserved it.

            B ut you are well of that, aren't you?

        • of course it was rude, that's how he rolls. He's a member of the progressive tolerant left.

          • Yeah, isn't that one of SDAs quips, "scratch a lefty find a mysogynist."

      • Rude and not needed.

  5. I really do hope people start paying attention to your insight, Paul. There are an awful lot of voters who think their sacred cow is not the one on the chopping block, and no one is trying to identify the ones that are.

    Really, with the exception of a few smaller departments, most of them have long been divorced from a recognizable constituency that would defend them. I mean really, who's going to march on Parliament Hill if the government cuts funding to DFAIT? Who is going to write endless op-ed columns when Transport Canada is slashed? Certain voters are going to notice when a program they access is cut, but unless they can identify other similar voters they'll be hard pressed to effectively respond.

    Now that said, perhaps many of those departments *need* to have their funding slashed. I would argue that it's not necessarily a bad time for a federal government reset in many of those departments. But then I can't see how in the world Baird, Galipeau, and Poilievre (amongst other Ottawa CPC candidates) are going to get elected if that information comes out before the election.

    • On the other hand, if there were easy cuts Martin and Chretien would have made them, rather than take the heat they did.

      • Chretien and Martin chose the provinces to take most of the hit. Federally, DND suffered most of the rest.

        Then, the budget was balanced at around $112B in spending, worth about $140B in today's dollars. This year's budget will spend $278B, or twice as much, just a dozen or so years later. There has been plenty of creep in gov't scope and featherbedding in the interval that deserves scrutiny.

        • Is there a correlation, in fact a mathematical model to made that would indicate which governments have overspent to the point of structural deficit?

          I'm not running the numbers myself but I'm guessing the Mulroney blow-out and subsequent electoral debacle probably takes the cake?

  6. I'm glad to hear this. Finally, real conservative policies to reduce state interference in our lives and theft from our pockets.

    • Ha, that’s hilarious. The Harper plan as described by Well’s is still “stealing” your money. In fact, it is a more direct re-distribution of wealth. The Federal government will maintain or even increase transfers to individuals through , EI, old age security, health insurance through the provinces, etc. etc. What will be downsized is federal programs that serve the country collectively.

      So, the federal government will tax you, and as a proportion of total revenues, give more money directly to the senior down the street (who is living longer than he used to), instead of funding food inspection, and enforcing fishing regulations, and all those other things.

      But the federal government is not going to stop taxing you.

      • Reduce was the word, not stop.

        I'll pay my share for protection of my rights, including property through justice and enforcement, and for defending our borders against threats to our existence … add to that certain shared infrastructure such as roadways. Theft occurs when my resources are allocated to others for so-called wealth redistribution, and to corporations that can't make it without taxpayer largess.

        I would be greatful for small steps and if, as Wells claims, Harper will reduce the size of the state I'm all for it.

        • Except we just had reports put out that showed that, with the exception of robbery, even more police on the streets don't slow down crime.

          Justice and enforcement do nothing to prevent crime. That happens through social programs that make it so that people have better choices for their energy.

          Incidentally, did you miss the part where it was pointed out that Transportation and Infrastructure would be among the areas needing to be cut by a third?

          • Plenty of studies show more police and longer sentences do have an effect, though not as great an effect as some would argue. The authors of Freakonomics did a meta-analysis on the reduction of crime in the US and found that both longer sentencing and more policing had an effect, but that the largest effect was legalization of abortion, preventing an entire generation of criminals from being born.

  7. I don't know what's better:

    A) The fact that Harper, five years into his governance, is truly delivering on his fiscally conservative promises, or

    B) The fact that the morally, intellectually, and (almost) financially bankrupt Liberals, who are desperately absorbed in their Kinsella-esque and Donolo-esque tactical fear-mongering, are completely oblivious to the whole thing.

    • A) Well, you're a bit premature there, no?

      B) Sad.

      • A) Yes, perhaps it's premature, but I'm an optimist at heart.

        B) I agree. It's sad, and it's also kind of pathetic. It's almost as if the Liberals were silly enough to think that the tactics that helped them win against a divided right were sufficient to defeat a united right. They learned this lesson in 2006 and again in 2008, and they almost learned it in 2004, but they still don't seem to get it.

        • I think the Liberals learned that those tactics can indeed work as intended, as they did in 2004.

          The late-stage hidden agenda and health care fearmongering was intense during the 2004 election. 10 days out, the Tories looked poised for a small majority. By the time it was over, the Liberals had a healthy minority, and 38 more seats on the Tories.

          • The Liberal fear tactics have worked in the past. In both 2004 & 2006 they stopped a Conservative majority. It appears they are aimed at stopping a majority again. Judging from the polls, the tactic may not have been necessary.

        • A) this requires a Conservative majority. If it happens, I am certain he will deliver. If it does not happen, I am certain he will not be able to deliver, it will be more of the same, and the only hope for those promises will be another leader down the line

          B) I agree with you and Hedges here, I really do find it perplexing to see the tactics employed by the Liberals at times, they really do just seem to be so oblivious. They are just so much out of touch with the average Canadian at times. I knew they were completely out of touch with the average citizen of Sask, Alberta and Manitoba, but now they appear to be out of touch with the rest of Canada as well, except for their bastions of inner city Mtl and Toronto. It seems as though Coderre and others were right a few years ago when they claimed the Liberal party is run completely by a group in Toronto. Not only that, this group (like many in Toronto) really has a hard time seeing things from the perspective of Canadians elsewhere. Their remaining base in the rest of the country is composed of the smaller group of people who have always been reflexively knee-jerk liberal, and that group has been shrinking every 4 years.

          I'll add my own prediction… I think we'll see A because I think the Conservatives will get the extra couple of percentage points they need due to voter turnout (ie they'll get a few more points than what most polls are showing). They do better in polls that use 'likely voters'.

          • A) Harper is getting a majority

            B) Liberals shouldn't feel so bad from ashes the phoenix is reborn (without Ignatieff of course!)

          • As I see it, the Liberals have two choices:

            1) Seriously consider merging with either the Greens or the NDP, and unite a vote that is currently being fragmented. Further hammering of the Liberal "brand" will have consequences they have been too blind to consider.

            2) Hope the government program cutting creates a pushback that swings the pendulum away from the Conservatives.

            While pendulums do swing, some swing faster than others. Mr Harper's style of government will create it's own problems and it's naive to think this new direction will go as planned and be embraced wholeheartedly. But unless the Liberals truly get their act together during the swing (the phoenix), they will continue to sink.

            If I were the NDP and had an eye on the future (Jack won't be the leader forever), I'd be sitting down with the Greens to see if there is common ground for a merger. If the "Green Democratic Party" were to match environmental policy with some compassionate, but fiscally responsible initiatives, they could pretty much shelve the Liberals for good. The environment will play a card in this; it's a Conservative weakness.

          • I hate to sound rude or repetitive but is not about the party, policy, etc. The reason they are doing so badly is Ignatieff, is not that he has been outside the country, or his reason to comeback or his previous jobs or anything like that, it is him his personality, he is never been electable and as long as he is the leader, the liberal party won't go anywhere and further more the LPC will lose big on election night, this projections that they have are going to go down. Now Jack has just made huge gains in Quebec and that's not small potatoes if Harper doesn't get a majority Layton will be the official opposition not Ignatieff.

          • Leaders are important, that's for sure. I don't think there is much entusiasm for Iggy because he does not really seem to be all that Liberal. I believe if Iggy took a test to determine what party he supports, or what ideology best fits him, I bet Iggy would be Red Tory.

            I have been thinking about who's next for Liberals and they don't have much choice. I think Rae will be next but he's going to bring his own problems with him. I know two NDP supporters quite well and they absolutely hate Rae and they are not alone. Libs probably lose many NDP/left wing votes if they elect Rae next.

            "Seriously consider merging with either the Greens or the NDP, and unite a vote that is currently being fragmented."

            Danby – Don't know what it is about left wing people but they don't like mergers and they don't like big, large parties that have to compromise on ideology. Left wing types like to splinter off into smaller and smaller groups.

            Merging sounds good but it won't last because there are loads of NDP supporters who fundamentally don't believe in efficacy of markets while other left wing types do.

          • I like Gerard Kennedy he is my new pick, been following him on twitter and he is a very refreshing surprise! Plus he has time to ripe to his full potential Tories will be in power for at least 4 to 8 years and he is young.

          • Re: Ignatieff as a Red Tory…

            I'd agree with your guess about Ignatieff's fundamental beliefs. But then the problem becomes where is the home for Red Tories today? Not the CPC, as too many CPC supporters seem to be only to glad to point out that they were no fans of Joe Clark, the 'classic' Red Tory, so those beliefs don't seem welcome in the CPC tent just yet.

            Maybe the Greens are actually closest to being Red Tories…

          • You are not being rude, but I am not convinced it is Michael Ignatieff alone. This is leader number two since the Conservatives were elected. And who is next in line? As Bergkamp points out, Bob Rae comes with his own problems.
            A complete rebuild with a young, new leader is a possibility, but this takes time. Could it coincide with a pendulum swing? Maybe. But who is that leader?

            There will be temptation to emulate the success of Stephen Harper through tightly controlled messages and strict caucus discipline. Will this lead to more wedge politics ? The US is currently on that road, with no end in sight. I find it to be counterproductive and divisive.

            As for the NDP being the official opposition, that would be considered a success for Jack Layton and I suspect he would relish his role. If Michael Ignatieff leads the opposition, the stench of failure may limit his effectiveness, and Canada needs an opposition which pushes government as hard as it possibly can.

          • No it is not MI alone, is terrible strategy too.

            I am going to suggest Gerard Kennedy, I have been following him on twitter and I am quite surprised by him and quite pleased too, you should take a look. Leblanc has his moments but he is Baird's Liberal twin, they have potential but not sure if they are PM material and I hope they do not insult us with JT, he brought sexy back to parliament but that is it! I am sorely disappointed with his performance and I won't fall for the he is a rookie line, uh-uh! (plus before I felt he was invincible in his riding not sure anymore!) It's a shame with Bob Rae but he is not electable either fine politician though it is a shame!

            I am happy for Layton to tell you the truth, I would never vote for him because I don't agree with his policy or ideology at all but he would make a very worthy opposition kind of like what Harper was. He is an excellent leader, very good work ethics and somewhat a moral compass to this country.

          • Not sure about GK and the liberals, but I wholeheartedly agree with the bit about Layton. I think he is one of the reasons the libs have had such a hard time (one of the reasons). If I were given the choice between voting for Ignatieff or Layton, based on leadership ability, it is Layton hands down.

          • I do agree!

    • No rational human can look at politics in the last five years and say the party with moral problems is the liberals. unpossible.

      • perhaps, but it is equally true that no responsible human can look at politics in the last ten years and decide to vote for the liberals. unpossible.

        • Like them or not they are the better of the two.

      • No, it's very possible. Our attention span is longer than 5 years.

        • Yeah, the Albertan attention span is defined by the NEP after all, and it lasted for 6 years.. Six! Not Five!

          • Unfortunately for you, I was responding to Mike T.'s "No rational human can look at politics in the last five years and say the party with moral problems is the liberals. " Sorry to disillusion you. Again.

            Mock Albertans' visceral disgust with the NEP all you want, but it is a fact, and no, we are not going to let it go. Mark us as "aggrieved minority" and deal with it.

    • There is no evidence that Prime Minister Harper will be able to deliver on his fiscally conservative promises in a way that is remotely sustainable for the country. There is evidence that he will make fiscally irresonsible tax cuts while increasing spending.

      Also I can't believe a real conservative (I'm making an assumption) would be comfortable describing anyone as a fiscal conservative who ignores the largest buckets of spending and allows them to grow above the rate of inflation.

      • Fair points, YYZ. I also should have mentioned that I think Paul Wells is dead wrong about his "starvey-beasty" hunch here.

  8. And C) I trust the Liberals far more when it comes to reducing the size of federal government, as they would undoubtedly be more transparent, willing to compromise on where/what to cut as well as listen to experts, even what the world renowned StatsCan may provide for example.

  9. So a lot like the statistics canada thing. Take a functioning government and hit it with a crowbar – or like a kid throwing rocks at cars on a highway.

    • Let's hope that sentiment holds, because this country is in desperate need of an adult conversation on health care funding and delivery, and I can't see that happening under the tenure of a weak Liberal minority propped-up by the Jack and Gilles show…

      • Absolutely! We need an adult debate about the future of our healthcare system.

        I don't understand, why so many Canadians start off the healthcare debate by mentioning the US of A, and done is the debating! Time and again we see the same thing happening: bring up suggestions for improvement and the narrowmindedness brings up the American healthcare system.

        But there are many, many examples around the world of how healthcare could be improved. Many European countries, for instance, have made major changes to healthcare over the past decade, because they had to; throwing more money at the system was not the right and only solution, and the tax burden had become unsustainable.

        But I'm not sure an election campaign would be the right time. If party positions would have been outlined, clearly and openly well before the onset of an election, then yes, the election could have carried such healthcare debate.

        But in any case, most of the debate must be carried within the provinces. And such debates will start to take place. It can no longer be other wise.

        • I chalk up the bizarre dichotomy in people's minds about health care to the unfortunate obsession many Canadians have of defining their nationality in terms of how we're different from Americans (the fact that they are one out of 200 odd sovereign states doesn't seem to enter people's minds very often). I've noticed that it's becoming less of an issue with the younger generation, so there is hope…

          But you know already know that I'm on the same page as you vis-a-vis the health care debate. I think the provincial and federal leaders (after an election of course) need to co-operate to develop a public education plan that will lay out the facts:

          1. Health care is largely under provincial jurisdiction. Stop expecting the federal government to fix it by themselves.
          2. The current health care system will bankrupt the provincial governments at the rate spending is growing.
          3. Health care reform DOES NOT mean US-style health care. CASE CLOSED.
          5. Health care reform DOES NOT mean people with low incomes will not have access to gov't subsidized insurance.
          6. Health care reform DOES mean providing people with high quality health care for the best possible value, using a combination of public and private insurance and delivery, like many other Western countries (Netherlands, Australia, etc).

          • Yes, I can count – I promise! There should be a 4 in there, and no 6. To err is human…

          • :)

          • Maybe 4 is the "Hidden Agenda" OMG Batten down the hatches!

          • If you have an intelligent argument to make, I would love to hear it. If not, leave the grown-ups alone to discuss adult issues in peace.

        • again – well said. You are reading my mind. lol

      • The Conservatives refusal to do anything to engage in that conversation probably explains why they are more trusted than the Libs on health care.

    • Push poll

  10. Did you watch the Mansbridge interview?

  11. So more listeria outbreak type events, and less capacity to deal with them!

  12. Yes, Andrew (not PorC), I did watch the interview. Great distance between the media and the politician, as it should be, and as it should have been a long time ago. But at least the distance was there this time!

  13. Shouldn't this be frowned upon by the media, to be accepting gifts from the politicians they are covering? What do their employers think about this? Do their employers really believe, even if they are slated left and wish to be slanted left, that this is not bad optics?

    • Actually, I was surprised to have found it on the Tweet run.

      I was surprised for two reasons:

      1. Fife seemed to tweet about it quite casually, as if it never occurred to him that it should not be 'reported' about so casually, which could mean that:

      2. such friendly exchanges between reporters and politicians is quite common and could therefore be reported on casually.

      I was surprised by it, that's for sure.

      During this election, I find the actions of some of the media members strange. It's almost as if our Canadian democracy is less important to some media members, and it seems that their professional standards are less important also, when compared to how they would like to see the election outcome. I have never seen this behaviour by our Canadian media as I have seen this time. I can't understand why that is.

      • I agree with you that the behaviour of the media in this particular campaign has been unusual. There's been a lot more dishonesty and a lot more bias than ever before, and I agree that it's because they all want to help achieve a particular outcome.

        I think one reason for this change may be a change in what "professional standards" actually means. The media today, many of them, they really do believe that their job is not to report, but to provide analysis on what they're reporting. Many truly believe that their true value lies in the latter, not the former. Of course, to them there is only good in the analysis they bring, while they fail to grasp the obvious fact that no matter what analysis they bring, since it is infused with opinionating, that many will disagree with their analysis. They fail to see that many see no value in the analysis they provide. It's the opposite of the Fox mantra "we report, you decide".

        You may be wondering what that has to do with the current topic. Well, I think that perhaps they've all become accustomed to their belief that their job has just has just as much (or more) to do with opinionating as it does with reporting. Because of this, they've come to belief their job is to educate the public. And when I say educate, because they opinionate just as much as they report, what "educate" really means is that they think they need to show the public that what they believe is correct. I think this is clouding today's media professional standards.

        So, instead of attempting to present the facts with objectivity, what they try to do is present their beliefs using a selective analysis of the facts.

        • Interesting overview of your thoughts on this. I think you are right. And when thinking about that, by putting things in a wider understanding, then the current mode of 'educatinal/opinionated" reporting does not only occur during elections, but such reporting may have creeped in well before the election coverage started.

          Paul Wells starts the above as follows: "What if this election were about something big? What if it were a fundamental debate…"

          A lot of what Wells covers within the piece above, deals with the notion of smaller government, etc. Less government involvement for the individual. Well's puts it differently, but it comes down to the same thing.

          Perhaps the debate is all about how people want to be led versus how people want to be thinking independently. For the first set of people, the reader does indeed want the opinion making instead of the pure reporting, because they are looking for such lead, whereas the independent minds are looking for a clear distinction between reporting and opinion making. The divide is between the two kinds of people.

          But I have one other thought on why the media would be so overly protective of Ignatieff in this election. It seems to me, that on that very first day a lot of media members were prepared to help Ignatieff to come out in a positive way. I had the feeling that some members of the media weren't gonna take the risk of having Ignatieff drop as had happened to Campbell in 1993. Now some of those media members, the ones who were willing to hold up the Ignatieff support in a somewhat artificial way, are now secure enough in believing that Ignatieff will not fall that low, and therefore Ignatieff can now be handled a bit more equally (compared to Harper that is). Over the past few days I have noticed that some Ignatieff protectors in the media, have now come out to report a bit more objectively on the campaign trail. A bit late for my liking, but at least they are now trying to be more objective when going into the home stretch.

          • Yes, I think you're right. They've eventually come around to the fact that the public does not see things the same way as they do. At first they thought they need to present the positive side of Iggy because that will be the story of the election (ie they were confusing their own analysis with the facts at hand).

            Their previous analysis was that Iggy is a good guy and the correct choice and Canadians will see that too, and that will be the big story of the election (and they see no reason why accepting gifts from Iggy would impede their ability to educate the public that Iggy is a good guy and the correct choice).

            As the campaign has worn on, now they've come around to the fact the election story will not be about Iggy's ascendance. It's almost like they've been educated by the public, rather than the other way around. Of course, with die-hards like Taber, nothing that happens would change her style of reporting.

            The latest bandwagon they've jumped on is that the NDP have captured the hearts and minds of many Canadians, especially Quebecers, so their reporting is now slanted in that direction (while I think there is some truth to this, I also think it's tainting all of their reporting now). I think there is very little that could happen that would ever persuade them that the emerging story is Harper's massive triumph in the Nanos leadership index, or that there is any emerging story that has a positive Conservative slant to it, because of course their reporting is so intertwined with their own personal beliefs. I suspect that if Harper wins a majority, some will come to believe that the emerging story will be Harper's ability to fool so many Canadians, his ability to obfuscate, his ability to demonize his opponents. Their reporting is guided by their beliefs and their beliefs will not change much over time.

          • Thx for your thoughts on this, s_c_f. We must do this more often. :))

            It beats the one-liners line of thought.

            Canada has so much unleashed potential. But we need independently minded individuals in order to unleash the Canadian potential. I'm still hopefull that such can come about before long.

          • Yes, there's still enough thoughtful people around here, such as yourself, to have a sensible discussion (a few of them are liberals too), although it's not easy to do so on all of the blogs around here. Wells continues to attract the more thoughtful commenters.

          • you guys are going to hurt each other with your back patting. . . lol

          • When you receive the kind of vitriol and insults that I do (just because I say positive things about Harper and the Cons), you relish a little back-patting.

          • What I have learned on this campaign with twitter, is that truly there is only a hand full of journalists who are truly neutral, fair, with common sense and consequential and I do honestly feel Paul Wells is one of them. I have always liked him as a journalist and admire his work but what has struck me most is how insightful (perspicaz in spanish one of my favourite words!) he is and how much he is in tune with every single little detail.

            And I do agree with your comment above when it comes to most media.

          • This segment of the thread has been brought to you by Alcan consumer products, available in fine groceries and pharmacies everywhere.

            Alcan. Alumimum foil and more.

            Now, back to our regular programming.

          • Conservative supporters make clear and intelligent observations about the role of the media in Canadian politics.

            A Liberal supporter makes a reply using a tired old cliche, kind off like the Liberal Party.

          • Yes, a discussion about how all the media is in the tank for the left. Funny how the Tories managed to find a few rabid partisan media types to appoint to the Senate (although I guess Duffy got two seats–kinda like Southwest Airlines).

          • So another Lib-supporter replies with another tired old fat joke against Duffy.

          • He's just about the only person about whom I'd make such a joke. He is an awful human being.

          • I do not personally know the man so I cannot comment on your accusation.

            But, tell me, do you think he wants to destroy the country ?

          • I don't think he wants to destroy the country. Is that how low the bar is these days? I don't think I know of any Canadian who wants to destroy the country. If I'm right that you're trying to turn this into a Gilles Duceppe thing, I'll note that sovereignists/separatists are not evil, nor particularly bad people. They don't want to destroy the country. They want Quebec to be sovereign, but that doesn't mean they wish ill on the rest of Canada. To suggest otherwise is deceitful and despicable.

          • No, I wasn`t doing the Duceppe reference with the destroy thing, but rather making fun of the tendency of some Lib-supporters to demonize those who disagree with them politically.

          • Yes, strange he didn't pick up on your satire.

            As for the demonization thing, I think it's been common amongst liberals worldwide, and historically. It happened to Bush, to Thatcher, to Mulroney, etc… all of them demon-spawn, according to their opponents.

          • Should they go there with M. Moore on their side. Talk about conspicous consumption.

          • Bravo! I congratulate you on your complete and utter failure to continue this debate in a mature fashion. Why provide readers with a sensible argument, backed-up by evidence, when making derisive comments about your fellow posters is so much easier?

          • Its hardly a "debate" when every post above mine was in violent agreement on a clearly specious premise.

            Time and again the tired old argument about MSM bias is heard on this board, with the only supporting evidence being the cherry-picked assertions of their fellow-travellers.

            And it seems to be if anyone challenges that the stock response is 'give your head a shake'

            So, sometimes you just gotta stick a pin in the balloon.

          • "Sticking a pin in the balloon" would involve you making an intelligent argument which provides evidence to debunk your opponents' point-of-view. Instead, you just resorted to character attacks which only serves the purpose of revealing your lack of maturity.

          • Those views have been debunked many times over, and the reasonable conclusion based on facts and data is that the whole argument of MSM bias is specious, nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

            Wells himself has indicated his bemusement when partisans of either side only see the bias when he's writing something that doesn't look good on their preferred option.

            So, my allusion to the fact that the whole discussion is nothing more than conspiracy theories (tin foil, in the parlance of our times) is sufficient to get the point across.

            Apart from that, I am sorry that you don't appear to have a sense of humour.

          • Those views have been debunked many times over

            No. Not at all. That's what guys like you always say without providing evidence. It's like the way the Liberals manufactured a Harper quote out of thin air, and their argument was that they got it from someone else, who got it from some other media outlet, and so on. All of the involved media and the Liberal party were assuming that somebody somewhere had actually provided real evidence. The reality is, nobody ever did. In that instance, they had no interest in the truth, all they really wanted was to be able to propagate an idea of their own.

            That truth is, you never have, and neither has anyone else, providing any objective analysis of the issue. There have, in fact, been a few social-science studies on the matter, and I've even posted the links before to these studies, one of them in the US was at Berkeley I believe. Not that somebody like you has any interest in the facts. Typically the knee-jerk reaction for someone like you is to shoot down all the available evidence when it contradicts your opinion, while failing to provide any evidence of your own.

          • On the subject of potential media bias, I came across the following headline:

            "Conservatives remain on defensive as polls slip into their favour"
            http://www.canada.com/news/decision-canada/Conser

            Now maybe it's me, but it kinds of sounds like they're trying to make something that is good for the Conservatives (i.e. rising in the polls) somehow look bad by using words like "slip", despite the fact they are gaining ground, and "defensive", suggesting they have done something wrong.

            Hopefully the headline was just written by someone with a poor command of the English language, but it definitely seems to have a negative slant because of the diction used.

          • The headline does appear to contradict itself. To be "on the defensive" implies that you are dropping in the polls.

            And yes, I agree, the word "slip" seems a poor choice, to slip means to fall downwards, not move upwards. A slip also means an unfortunate incident or accident.

            I think you're right, it's not an egregious example, but it's a typical example. The authors are focusing on the latest Conservative issue. This is selection bias really – there are negative issues that they could highlight about the other parties, but they choose not to. I've taken a look at the Soudas issue and it appears to be absolutely nothing! The media are reaching for anything negative they can say about the Cons.

            And the fact that the Conservatives continue to do well would suggest that perhaps the media should be looking for positive things to say about the Cons and negative things to say about the other parties, not the other way around.

            Anyway, I'm not claiming it's all one-sided – the Toronto Sun for instance has been rather biased in favour of the Conservatives. But on the whole, this has been an election campaign in which the leader who has been getting the most favourable coverage (Ignatieff) has clearly been performing the worst in the polls, and this is by a wide margin! At this point, the Liberals are at risk of an electoral disaster, possibly finishing third. You would have to conclude his campaign has been a disaster, and in fact anyone who has followed closely would have noticed an unending string of gaffes by Ignatieff and the Libs, yet you would never know that from the stories that have been presented by most of the media the last few weeks.

  14. That's right, the CPC that supports our military.. until they're too old to serve, then we'll just push them out onto the ice-floes

    • twit.

      • Have a better explanation for what's going to happen when we're forced to reduce Veteran's Affairs by at least a third?

        No? Then perhaps you should stop projecting.

        • I think guest makes an accurate observation.

          • I imagine you would, but we all already know that you're clueless.

            Still, how about you.. got any other ideas for what it means when we have to cut veteran affairs by a third?

          • I really don`t know all that much about DVA other than the fact that many folks associated with the Forces tend to be Conservative supporters.
            I suspect this is true because they know that a Conservative Gov`t will do what is necessary to make sure troops have the resources to do their job.
            They remember the " Decade of Darkness " under a Liberal gov`t when they had old uniforms, accident-prone helicopters, and only promises for new fighter jets.

          • "I really don't know all that much…"

          • Sure, the troops may have the resources necessary. I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about Veterans. And while I understand it's difficult for you to have a complete thought about a single subject, perhaps you could try.

      • He's a sad, broken little man. I've witnessed his deterioration on these threads. Believe it or not, Thwim was once capable of reasonably clever-sounding posts. Lately his anger has been eating him from the inside out, and it shows. I suspect he's a civil servant. They've been getting increasingly antsy these days, and for good reason. The gravy train might be screeching to a halt soon. Only a civil servant could possibly think that a staff reduction in the civil service is a bad thing. Having spent many (largely forgetable) years as a Fed Head myself before running away screaming (it was either that or die of boredom), I can assure you that a 33% reduction in federal staff would be noticed by no one outside the Ottawa Greenbelt. If VA is anywhere close to as over-staffed as other departments, a 1/3 reduction in staff can only improve the services they deliver.

        • Except, instead of cutting, it looks like they have opted to top up salaries for bureaucrats and political staffers alike. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/federal-

          "The pay raises we're talking about are pay raises across the board," Harper said. "They're not for political staffers. These are government employee pay raises and our political staffers are simply tied to those."

          "Harper was asked about the bonuses ministerial staffers have been given in the past, which, in one case, drove up an employee's annual salary by $35,000 to $190,000."

          —-
          This government greeted the harsh economic realities of the recession with the biggest cabinet ever. Belt-tightening of the kind you (and I) would want to see is not in the cards, going by the past practices of any Harper government.

        • And you're a pathetic pile of arse-wipe. Now that we've got the personal insults over with, perhaps you can address what I was saying before putting words in my mouth.

          I never said a reduction in the civil service would be a bad thing. I said that cutting money to veteran's affairs will leave those veterans very much out in the cold as their reward for serving this country, and I asked the question of how else we could reduce a third of the expenses. To assume that VA is over-staffed is to completely ignore every story about Canadian veterans in the past 20 years.

          Of course, I shouldn't be surprised that you're ignoring Canadian vets. Nothing matters except yourself, correct?

        • Good lord I hope that if these types ever gain power they don't implement their absurd ideas

    • I really don't think that will be the outcome. I don't think you do either, you are just trying to get a rise out of people.

      • So… again I put forward my question.

        What do YOU think a reduction of the funds to Veteran Affairs by a third will be?

        Come on, I'm waiting for any CPC supporter to give a reasonable answer. So far the best I've seen is an assumption that they're overstaffed by that much despite direct evidence to the contrary in the form of any story about our veterans that's been published.

  15. Generally speaking, after five years of running things, if there's a cut that was going to promote efficiency or not create foreseeable problems, you'd be trumpeting it rather than hiding it.

    • They're trumpeting $11 billion in cuts.

      • Where are these cuts exactly?

        I mean, it wasn't terribly long ago that even Flaherty was saying, "We haven't booked any gains because we haven't had the reviews yet so don't know how much we could book."

        You, however, apparantly have better numbers than our Minister of Finance. Not that that surprises me terribly, because I've looked at his budgets, and it would be a hard thing to have worse numbers.

  16. Hmm. I think you've been staring at the political tea leaves too long and found meaning where there is only empty rhetoric.

    There is no way the conservatives can keep the big ticket items steady (health care, education) or increasing (military, prisons) while lowing taxes and the deficit. It just doesn't add up. What are they going to do? Have veterans pay the feds instead of collecting pensions? Have the NAC be a multi-billion dollar revenue generator? Abolish civil service pensions?

    What I don't know is if they are trying to fool themselves or us.

    • It just doesn't add up.
      __________________

      Michael?

  17. Or putting Harper's criminal advisor into a cushy job at CSEE.

    • And then stealing their shoes, impregnating them, and locking them in the kitchen. Tired cliches don't age well.

    • What do you mean by 'lying'?

      From what I see, there are lots of places to cut from the federal budget. . . . .

  18. If anyone was to actually understand politics, like maybe get a political science degree like I did, you'd know that Harper is the worse thing to happen to Canada since confederation. But none of the right wingers will look at any other credible sources of information, they only read what backs up their own thinking. If they ever really knew the truth, the whole conservative movement would collapse like it did under the real Tofries in Canada. When lyin Brian almost destroyed our country. Who would of ever thought the Canadian people would end up as short sighted as the Republicans in the states. Harper is simply a Bush jr. wannabe!

    • To summarize: you believe voters are stupid. Nice. I really regret not getting that valuable poli sci degree so that I too can disparage a large chunk of Canada’s electorate. Silly me for getting useless science and engineering degrees.

      • Given Mr. Harper's characterization of how our Parliament works.. he believes most voters are stupid too.

    • I see they've stopped teaching how to spell "centrist" at our political science degree-granting institutions.

      • Really, Paul? You're stooping to the spelling argument?

        • Which part of his argument deserved more serious discussion? The "worse (sic) thing to happen to Canada since confederation" bit, or the "Canadian people as short sighted as the Republicans" part?

          • Paul, I am starting to like you more and more, and to be blunt, I never thought that would happen.

            I really believe that you don't like Harper, but you are doing what a reporter should be doing – reporting. You have been talking about how Harper has made incremental changes for quite a while now, which is big news, regardless of what side of the political fence someone is on. He has a minority, so he couldn't do everything he wanted to, but he has done some things. I don't seem to read about this from other media sources (might be because I have a subscription, and I am busy – lol).

            So, I figure that I won't always agree with you, but I will respect that you are trying to be objective, and do your job. Kudos.

            As far as the spelling – that is a tip off that he didn't go to school (maybe), but truly, he had no arguments that were valid and supported by facts.

            I also wanted to mention something about the cuts that you have been asking the CPC about. Has it occurred to you that they don't want to mention it before the election is over? If they get a majority, they can implement them – if they don't, they can blame the opposition. . .
            How much could be saved by looking at gov't employee pensions. . .

          • Did I say any of it did? I was just sad that you've dropped to the level of Grammar Nazi.

    • no.

      • Who are you and what have you done with our Mike T ?

        Actually, I made a joke the other day that Ignatieff is beginning to channel some of our bloggers in his actions and sure enough in a news conference yesterday in NB his answer to a question was NO, NO, NO !

    • I'm not sure it takes a specailized degree…

    • Perhaps what Canada needs is for you to get a masters degree

    • I think I took some classes with you. Actually, I'm pretty sure you were the prof.

    • If anyone was to actually understand politics, like maybe get a political science degree like I did…

      I literally laughed out loud when I read that. Yes, LOLed. (Don't think I've typed LOL in a decade or more.) A political science degree makes you uniquely qualified to judge on these issues does it? I've sat through (endured) a few Poly-Sci classes in my day. I found them a fair bit more interesting than the voodoo I was taught in my major (Economics – yes I am a masochist) but learned absolutely NOTHING that could not be learned from reading a few books. In another ten years, if you're lucky, you'll realize your real education started after you left university. If you're unlucky, you'll spend the rest of your life swimming laps in the same pool of ignorance you currently inhabit. Unfortunately there's not much that can be done to achieve the more favourable outcome, that depending largely on the gifts you were born with. Or not.

    • excellent point I couldnt have said it any better. Average and lower income Canadians voting Reform/ Conservatives be careful what you wish for. You just may get it.

  19. Since most of the natural forces on a government cause it to grow in scope and size it would not be such a bad thing to periodically install governments that believe in smaller government.

    Does it really have to be someone who believes in smaller, less efficient government?

  20. Cutting back in its own jurisdiction, while it continues to expand outside of it.

    That leaves every Canadian half-satisfied, for pretty much all the wrong reasons. To the limited government types, at least they're cutting somewhere. To the big-government types, even though it takes Paul Wells to point out the truth to them, the health care black hole gets fed more and more.

    • I believe the glass is 25% full. Somewhat better than the 15% full it was under the Liberals, or the 10% full it was under the PCs, but 3/4 empty nonetheless. Sometimes I wish I was born a progressive. Then I realize that despite virtually unlimited growth in government since the end of WWII, almost NONE of them are happy. They are easily the angriest, most distraught bunch of malcontents on the political spectrum.

      • almost NONE of them are happy. They are easily the angriest, most distraught bunch of malcontents on the political spectrum.

        Good point, I think you're right. They don't seem capable of losing (they hate democracy), they hitch themselves to every issue in order to paint it as a disaster, and no amount of money you could hand over to them is ever enough.

  21. Here’s an idea that occurred to me last night….Considering the choices we have…Kick all these bums out….

    William & Kate are going to be here for their Honeymoon, Offer them a Job…As King & Queen of Canada.

    LOL :)

    • No Incumbents! Is still a workable strategy, I think.

    • They will be the King & Queen of Canada one day, assuming the current line of succession holds. But, I have a feeling that wasn't the main point of your argument.

    • Anyone as hot as Kate Middleton deserves to be an unchallenged sovereign.

  22. 'Squeezing revenues'??? Oh, you mean 'cutting taxes' then eh? Yeah, that's a horrible idea cause we don't pay enough already. You pinkos are hilarious…

    • damn those "tax&spend" pinkos.

      Umm, how does government finance work anyway?

    • Paul Wells is a "pinko"? His post is actually quite logical. Harper -despite an alarming propensity to spend money he doesn't have – seems to be setting up the federal government for at least a decade of negative growth, if only by making a bunch of equally costly expenditures outside its traditional growth areas.

  23. For me, the biggest problem with Harper is not his policies (as repugnant as many of them seem to me). The biggest problems are (a) he seemingly hasn't accurately provided the cost of his planned initiatives, or doesn't deign to tell us the cost if he has, and (b) he isn't up front with us about what changes he plans to make if he obtains his coveted majority.

    I get the impression that Harper doesn't actually like Canadians much – or, more accurately, that he doesn't think much of us. (In his view, we are, or were, a "second-tier socialistic country".) I sometimes think that Harper's MO is to say or do whatever it takes to obtain power, then unilaterally decide what is best for us when he does get it. If this is truly his plan, then at best this is misguided paternalism; at worst, it is utter contempt for the democratic process and for the people that Harper wants to lead.

    • Well, he certainly thinks less of us who live in Atlantic Canada, those of us who live in a culture of defeat.

      It's a good thing his father left NB and got out of here after his grandfather committed suicide in Moncton.

  24. Wells is right. I was irritated by the disingenuous "jets, jails…" line given that neither I nor the Liberals are a fan of the apparent alternative position of letting CF-18s fall out of the sky and letting prisoners out early because of over-crowding. But I hadn't thought of it in Meech/Charlottetown terms – this is a debate about whether the federal spending power ought to be restricted to areas of constitutional federal jurisdiction. Curious what Ignatieff wrote about Meech/Charlottetown while he was in the UK.

    • you know niether of things are going to happen, right?

      • What two things? 1. Meech and 2. Charlottetown? Right, they won't happen because it's 2011.

        Or Ignatieff writing about each? I'd be shocked if he hasn't, at least in passing, e.g., in Blood and Belonging (haven't read it yet – has been on the list for a while). But I know he won't write about those things in this campaign, yes.

        Or 1. a debate explicitly about the federal spending power and 2. whether the consitution ought to be amended to reign it in? I also know those two things won't happen.

        I assume you're not missing the forest for the trees in my post and actually referring to the planes and jails joke, because, as noted at the start of the post, Wells is right and the election choice is about something more fundamental than whether economies of scale or competitive tender is the more prudent way to spend government funds.

  25. The Liberals did even better: Two CBC media personalities have been appointed GG. And they were both appointed by the Liberals.

  26. You say: "Or even the $10s of millions spent on media buys to provide lifelines to their employers."

    Let's see: when a political party pays a broadcasting station for running ads, would that be out of the ordinary? Would the act of buying ads not be purely a business transaction?

    What do you not understand? The essence of business transactions, or the giving of gifts?

  27. Wells may be right, but there is one question that his analysis fails to address. If Harper Government program funding is to be eliminated as this article suggests, how will Harper be able to win elections by financing projects in Harper Party ridings? The $50 million "investment" in Huntsville comes to mind. The Harper Party cannot continue in government without plenty of cash to spread around, just like ALL conservative governments in Canadian history. They ALL gave signs or promoises that fiscal prudence was their objective and then went on to run huge deficits and accumulate huge debt.

    • U Sunshine Coasters …. are so left wing …. Ur …. all smokin too much dope out there …. get back to reality ….. we need a flourishing economy and Harper is the man to do it and to be PM, Not Iggy or Jacko Wacko!!!!!

  28. TWO-TIER SYSTEM!!

    Just do it! Alleviate pressure on the government by allowing individuals to explore other options if they have the means to!

    • Limited number of doctors.

      Please explain how a two-tier system handles this.. and don't say it encourages more doctors, because there's already plenty of students who want to be doctors now but are prevented by the college of physicians.

    • The Supreme Court will do just that when it overturns the CHA. Almost happened five years ago. Does anyone honestly think that we've seen the last Charter challenge to the CHA by someone demanding for the right to pay for their own healthcare services?

  29. Back against the wall? I'm not sure I understand that.Something is very odd about the polls. Aside from never getting a call on my landline, so many people have cells! And these panels that Nanos uses, you can "apply" to be on them online – surely that means a certain type of person is attracted by being on a political panel, not exactly a normal thing for most people.

    And I know Facebook is not legit polling, but it has mattered in other elections around the world and what is happening there is completely different from published leadership/party polls. Stephen Harper was the most popular page BEFORE the election. But somewhere after that, Michael Ignatieff pulled into the lead, leaving Jack Layton in third about 13,000 behind Ignatieff. NOW, in just the last week, Stephen Harper's Facebook support has just stagnated. Layton was 7 or 8000 behind him weeks ago; today, he is just 3000 behind Harper and still moving. Harper's numbers on the page just dont' move anymore. As for Ignatieff, he has shot way past Harper, now over 10,000 people more popular than Harper, and 13,000 more than Layton. And both Layton and Ignatieff steadily add fans.

    Ok, I know there is nothing scientific about facebook. But all the margins of errors on Nanos polls and everyone else, particularly regional, can be up to +/- 10% . Especially the daily fluctuations that get the headlines, everyone is vastly within the margin of error from day to day.

    Facebook has to be an indicator of some kind, and its numbers for each leader is COMPLETELY different than anything I've seen reported.

    So does anyone care to comment or provide me with insight into this?

    • Let's check in on May 3.

      • Agreed. The whole problem with social media and other online platforms (like these Macleans comment boards) is that they suffer from an acute problem of self-selection. Political junkies have a huge conceptual problem in not being able to comprehend the fact that they're not normal people. Most normal people do not visit political blogs every day, and for that matter, most normal people don't follow politics closely. So a facebook page for a politician or a political party is going to be visited by and large by that minority of the population that's actually engaged in the political process. Thus to base any conclusions about the population at large's political leanings by reference to political content on social media sites is a seriously flawed proposition.

        • just like a Nanos rolling panel is going to be filled with self-selected political junkies – so what was your point again?

    • My 12 year old daughter did a wear a green shirt day on FB and got 2200 people (she has a private acct monitored by her dad and myself) anybody clicks the like key if a friend sends you a link, honestly, I would not give it much thought!

  30. until the 2009 budget with its temporary “stimulus” spending, federal spending as a share of GDP was lower than at any point since the early 1960s. It has been declining since Brian Mulroney left office in 1993.

    Harper’s plan is to continue shrinking the federal government.

    Am I the only one tired of drivel and partisan BS. Lowest since the 60′s GDP, whew, imagine if this government hadn’t upped spending so much they ran us into deficit before the recession.

    As for the plan to continue shrinking government. The word “CONTINUE” is an utter non-sense, to continue something it must have started, no start no continue.

  31. What percentage is 60 billion out of a population of about 300 million?

    • yer kiddin us RIGHT einstein ergo, JenAHlin?…ACCORDING 2 'OLD' MATH…pretty simple actually = 5%!…& those #'s as usual can NEVER b accurate…something like The Polls = +/- 3.5%…take yer pick on which way that % goes BUT, reality dictates to the + direction…hope this little 'ol math PROBLEM helps understand the no BS brilliance of explaining aforementioned 'reality cheque' notwithstanding Red, Blue, Orange, Green or any other colour purple of ye Rainbow of Black & White with NO Grey area of opuLENT {like that word ;)- if ya don't mind Above} Taxation # Crunchin'…wake up Boys n Girls of soon-2-b or NOT-2-b 2014 generation of Mickie Mouse Health 'Care' Disaster unfolding!…yadda yadda yadda…c NEW Ont Insurance premiums 101 4 any FOREshadowing explanation…again, not Rocket Science 4 said Einstein in question ;)-…a little aside, 4 those that appreciate irony n reality in 2011…when I was 10 (sounds like a Beetles Tune) my Doc told me Mommy that taking Flinstones Vits n Mins was a waste of time as long as 'lil Jonny got his 3 square meals from 4 Food Groups a day…I tink 'we' call em SuppleMINTS or sometink 2 ye affect nowadays, 30 or so yrs removed…Ahh, that same Doc DIED bout 10 or so yrs ago IF new math does me correct (rest His soul)…I'm still typing as U can preytell…my ADVICE, SUPPLEMENT & FAST!

  32. Wow, everyone seem to rely solely on the red star, No wonder you are sounding so very depressed.

    • You can tell which articles come from the Star just be reading the headlines in a news aggregator.

  33. Layton Mania !

    Jack won the debates for me, no other leader can touch Jack as an average Joe Canadian you can TRUST.

    I was considering voting Liberal(ABHarperRegime), but when Jack mentioned the Liberal leaders lack of attendance it really hit a nerve for me, as I've always thought to myself that I just cant picture Iggy sitting their in opposition if he looses the leadership?, I think he'll be long gone back to his American home.

    The hardest working MP in Parliament, bar none.

    • Apparently working harder is better than working smarter. No one accomplishes anything on the wrong side (ie. losers) side of the house.

  34. I could just vomit how Mansbridge let Harper decide the interview venue so he could surround himself by hockey and wear his pretty Canada vest – what is with the media catering to the stage set?

    • I would have been willing to cut Harper some slack if he could actually skate.

    • All three leaders had the same option, it shows you that Layton and Harper are more in tune with their strategy. Layton looks like a hard working fellow who never stops, Harper as the all canadian guy who loves this country and hockey and Ignatieff, it is business, no passion, no personal touch.

      • Ignatieff no passion? No personal touch? You've bought the line? Engaging, intelligent, warm, open and able to take on anyone. Harper hides his cold self behind barricades and spokespersons and simply refusing to take questions, never mind ask them. Yeah, what an all-canadian guy – the kind most Canadians don't trust and wouldn't allow past their front door.

        • Sorry, he might be the most passionate person in the world but his interview was the worst one of the three.
          He sounded flat, passionless, angry and whiny. Why did he and his campaign managers sent him to Mansbridge's turf beats me! He completely cornered him there (and it was the toughest of the three) with what he wanted to ask instead of him choosing his venue, like for example one of his rallys where he can show his strenghts he could have managed the narrative of this interview that way, for example if people were chanting his name or the rise up or tons of people there,etc. The LPC blew it. Layton and Harper were able to show their strenghts.

          This election Harper is going to win it over Strategy no issues or policy, unfortunately the LPC failed that way.

  35. I know a few Poli Sci guys that are now prison guards. Man, you'd be better off apprenticing and doing something constructive. No one is impressed by your soft social science academics.

  36. Can's disagree with that, did you know Ezra Levant actually has a Law degree?

    • U of C doesn't count!

  37. Funny, I remember a wrestling match with Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff. Commentator Gorilla Monsoon was all pro Hogan while Jesse the Body definitely supported Orndorff. In the end, both Hogan and Orndorff abused the rules in their quest to win. To Gorilla, Orndorf was the bad guy. To Jesse, Hogan was the fiend. Not sure, myself, who actually deserved to win. In the end, Orndorff was disqualified. However, both probably should have been disqualified.

    It all reminds me of our current election. All parties really have acted contemptibly. There's no use claiming one as having taken the moral high ground. That's just hypocrisy. It comes down to which choice will most likely benefit Canada overall in the long run. The answer is clearly the Conservatives at this time.

  38. "The PM plans to continue shrinking government…" bahahahaha, good one Macleans.

  39. What Wells decribes is exactly what needs to be done, get the bloody goverment out of our lives.

    • So you don't want to have roads or health care or schools for your children, or thousands of services performed by governments? Fool.

  40. I don't want to be an alarmist, but inadvertently, there was something very disturbing, told Canadians on the CTV News Network Saturday morning, that should be of great concern about the neutrality, impartiality and the role of some members of the media in this election campaign.
    In reporting about a Harper rally this morning, and the questioning of the Prime Minister, Robert Fife told Jackie Milczarek "We'll get him".
    This conjures up a picture of some sort of conspiracy by some members of the media, to undermine or carry out some subversive attack in the dying days of Harper's campaign, to influence the results of this election or worse – certainly not the role of a supposedly impartial media.
    I think it behooves Robert Fife and CTV, to make public who all constitites the "we", because otherwise, this is a suspicion and smear of other members of the media who are innocent , professional and not deserving of this accusation of unprofessional conduct.
    Are Canadians , Elections Canada , CRTC and Harper's protective detail entitled to an explanation of this threat? Has the media watch dog been alerted?
    At best Canadians should be warned of the objectivity and neutrality of some members of the media, in their coverage of this election campaign, and that some individual media types are not above distorting and misrepresenting their reports to Canadians.
    The report that include that threat of "we'll get him" aired shortly after 11:00 A.M. CST, and I see any reference to it has been removed since in Fife's reports – for a cover up, and what I would say are obvious reasons. Does CTV brass think that Robert Fife should remain as a reporter on the campaign trail or are their viewers entitled to a more ethical and reputable coverage? Here is the opportunity for CTV to demonstrate to Canadians who have expressed concerns about biased coverage, that they will not countenance any hint of it, on their network coverage of the election campaign and that their integrity is more important than a reporter's personal vendetta.
    I expect CTV will be issuing an apology to their Canadian viewers.

    • Stop spamming – nobody else thinks it is important, even if it did happen.

  41. @tourist13- "At the end of the day, the NDP are a socialist party and will push for a socialist agenda. No thanks."
    ___________

    At the end of the day, the Conservatives are a Fascists party and will push for a totalitarian agenda. No thanks!. LOL!.

  42. Stephen Harper reminds me of Gordon Campbell. During the campaign, smile, mouth platitudes but say as little as humanly possible about what you're going to do. Then, when you get elected, slash the hell out of programs. It's fundamentally dishonest and ideological but it works. People have short memories and the press is overwhelmingly owned by big corporations who could care less.

  43. Why would any Canadian in their left mind vote NDP?!…

    A party who has forced MEDICARE on every CDN?, only people who can pay out of their own pockets wile bleeding to death in a ditch should be able to get medical treatment or too bad!…

    A party whose founder Tommy Douglas was voted the GREATEST CANADIAN in the history of our country!, who does he think he is?!…

    A party who cares about the people?!?!, forget the people!, what about the oil companies, banks & big corporations?!, their only making millions in profits!, crap I'm out of bread & water again…

    A leader who thinks the credit card companies are charging us to much interest?!, who cares if Canadians are drowning themselves in dept!, keep the government out of the billionaires business!…

    I mean geeze baaa! The other parties & media etc keep telling me not to vote NDP baaa! they say the SKY WILL FALL! baaa! you'd be crazy baaa! to think for yourself! baaa! you know you can TRUST what baaa! the other parties tell you to FEAR baaa!.

    Baaa!…

  44. Yeah, but there are way more examples of uneducated stupid.

    • I don 't think so.

  45. Unless you're the owner of a large corporation, your taxes aren't being cut.

    If you're an employee, they're being raised.

    Enjoy.

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