How the deficit gambit stunned Conservatives into silence -

How the deficit gambit stunned Conservatives into silence

Conservatives took for granted that they had won the intellectual debate about deficits. So when the Liberal party made its surprising tack left during the campaign, Conservatives simply didn’t have the words.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop at Global Systems Emissions Inc., in Whitby, Ont., on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Nathan Denette/CP)

(Nathan Denette/CP)

Earlier this‎ month Canadians went to the polls to select a government and a Prime Minister. It was the first federal election in more than twenty years contested on fiscal policy and conservatives lost. The result ought to prompt a moment of introspection and rediscovery.

The post-election analysis thus far has tended to characterize the election as a referendum on Prime Minister Harper. That is to be partly expected. Mr. Harper governed Canada for nearly a decade and, despite a significant record of accomplishment, was always seen as an imposter by the country’s left-wing commentariat. Justin Trudeau ran a “time for a change” campaign that resonated with Canadian voters and delivered a majority government.

Yet the public clamour for newness needed to be weighed against Prime Minister Harper’s record of accomplishment and the backward-looking ideas proposed by the winning Liberal Party and their dauphin leader. And herein lies the lesson for conservatives as they develop a forward-looking agenda.

Prime Minister Harper’s record is one of competent, effective, and conservative governance. He limited the scope and ambition of the national government consistent with his view of federalism and the role of the state relative to the individual and civil society. ‎ He reoriented federal support programs to give families more choice over their child care decisions and personal savings, resisted calls for “national strategies” and centralized bureaucracy to address every perceived social and economic problem. He cut taxes – including sales taxes and corporate taxes – and brought federal revenues as a share of GDP to their lowest level in fifty years. And he controlled public spending‎. Federal spending grew, on average, by 0.2 percent per year since 2011. The budget is balanced. And Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is significantly lower than all other G7 countries. Polls near the end of the campaign indicated broad support for his economic and fiscal record.

When one adds Prime Minister Harper’s principled foreign policy and ambitious free trade agenda, a picture of conservative leadership comes squarely into focus. He admitted his imperfections during the campaign, but, like Isiaah Berlin’s hedgehog, Mr. Harper understood the big issues well, and consistently got them right.

But it was more than just Mr. Harper’s governing record on trial in this campaign. The election was also about a conservative policy consensus to which he had contributed – some may say forged – for over a quarter century.

The Reform Party was established in 1987, and Mr. Harper was the founding policy chief. That party led the charge for fiscal probity at the federal level and elected a significant contingent of Parliamentarians, including Harper, in 1993. Canada’s federal government had run budgetary deficits for more than a quarter century to that point. But fiscal profligacy was not the exclusive domain of the federal government. Several provinces followed a similar course of high taxes and large, protracted deficits. Then the country hit a wall. The federal debt-to-GDP ratio hit nearly 70 percent. Federal debt charges as a share of revenue exceeded 30 percent. The Mexican peso crisis of early 1995 brought things to a head culminating in the Wall Street Journal editorial warning that Canada was becoming “an honourary member of the Third World.”

Out of this crisis came reform. Mr. Harper, as an opposition member of Parliament, was a leading voice for fiscal consolidation. But it would be wrong to characterize this moment as a partisan one. Mainstream politicians across the political spectrum understood the urgency and adopted serious programmes of fiscal reform. There was a pervasive consensus that swept across the country. As one think-tank scholar has put it: “The entire political class decided to stop treating this as a matter of political contention and started treating it as a matter of national interest.”

This consensus helped to put the country’s public finances on a solid footing. Total government spending fell from 53 percent of GDP in 1992 to 39 percent in 2007. The federal debt-to-GDP ratio shrank from 68 percent in 1996 to 28 percent in 2009. And the federal tax burden began to fall as successive governments reduced taxes. The result was period of sustained economic growth, job creation, and wage increases.

The political outcome was a durable consensus in favour of balanced budgets. The federal government ran eleven consecutive fiscal surpluses until the 2008-09 recession. Provincial governments, by and large, did the same.

Fast forward to the 2015 federal campaign. The winning Liberal Party – the party that had delivered a balanced budget at the federal level the last time it held office – broke from this political orthodoxy. The Liberals rejected the balanced budget that Mr. Harper had delivered and campaigned on an explicit promise to return to deficit during a period of economic growth. Mr. Trudeau called deficits “a way of measuring the kind of growth and the kind of success that a government is actually able to create.”

This assertion – backed up by a plan to add $150 billion in new spending to the federal budget over four years and at least three years of deficit spending – signaled a major break from the fiscal policy orthodoxy that dominated national politics in Canada since the mid-1990s. The Liberals were promising, nay campaigning on, a pledge to break the balanced budget consensus. As David Frum has written of the Liberal electoral proposition: “The government he [Mr. Trudeau] leads will repudiate the legacy not only of the incumbent Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, but the neoliberal Liberals of the 1990s.”

Liberals abandoned the consensus and sought to re-litigate a debate that been largely absent from mainstream federal politics for twenty years and conservatives, to be frank, were not ready for it. The conservative intellectual case for balanced budgets had atrophied. We lacked the political vocabulary to make the case for prudent government spending and a balanced budget to the Canadian public. Mr. Trudeau’s calls for “investment” seemed more compelling than our musings about “being in the black.” We were unable to persuasively argue for the concrete, real-life utility of not spending more than the government collects. A return to deficit spending, the anti-consensus, won the day.

Why? Canadians did not become fiscally irresponsible overnight. Nor did they suddenly abandon the prevailing consensus and assume a new ideological poise in favour of deficit spending and bigger government. The result has more to do with conservatives’s inability, or perhaps unreadiness, to communicate the case for balanced budgets and fiscal probity. We took for granted that we won this intellectual conflict. We assumed that Canadians instinctively understood the importance of fiscal plans that reconciled.

It is a powerful reminder that conservatives cannot take for granted the intellectual terrain gained in past battles.

And this is the lesson: While conservatives must put forward concrete, practical, forward-looking ideas to grow the economy and help families make ends meet, we must never lose sight of our rearguard and continue to make arguments in favour of sound public finances and balanced budgets. The conservative consensus was, it turns out, not as durable as we assumed.

Conservatives must continue to demonstrate how a balanced budget is an important means to the ends of lowering taxes and creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation. We must explain how a limited, less activist government promotes individual choice and creates the space for community and civil action. And we must argue that going backwards to failed ideas of the past would undermine the economic and fiscal gains that we have made. In short, it means following Samuel Johnson’s adage about how “men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”

Yet, despite losing this battle, Canadian conservatives are well positioned for the longer struggle. We have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic and have made tremendous progress in the battle of ideas. Mr. Harper will go down as a historic Prime Minister and the most important conservative in Canada’s modern political history. We must follow his example to put forward thoughtful, well-crafted ideas that speak to the goals and aspirations of families. But we must also never take for granted that past battles will not re-emerge as skirmishes that must be refought. We must always keep up rearguard actions to protect what we have won. Conservatives would be wise to heed this lesson.

Sean Speer and Ken Boessenkool have been senior policy advisors to Prime Minister Harper and were members of the Conservative national campaign team.


How the deficit gambit stunned Conservatives into silence

  1. “Mr. Harper will go down as a historic Prime Minister and the most important conservative in Canada’s modern political history”

    Are you people crazy??

    He’d make a great model for a darrtboard target……except no one wants to remember him.

    The only economics HarpCo understand is’ ‘hide-the cash-under-the mattress……and then only spend it at the gunshop

    Plus the words ‘deficit’, ‘debt’ and especially ‘taxes’….,are considered blasphemy

    No one else thinks like this……either average Canadians or economists

    Just cranky old misers out in some cabin in the bush

    • Thump! Come on…..Why don’t you tell everyone what’s really going on? What some American authors have been suggesting since 2006? What some Canadians have been experiencing?

      Thump, thump, thump. We don’t live in a democracy do we?

      • Okay…..ya got me.

        Martian robots have secretly been taking Canadians to the moon to be anally probed.

        You’re next on the list.

        Happy now?

        • Why don’t you ask Albertans? Some of them are complaining how their ‘heads’ feel heavier when they return from an overseas trip. Martians? Didn’t know that they knew how to sing Hallelujah!?? Go figure.

          • Mojo, there are a lot of conspiracy theories on here. If you want to talk about one, you’ll have to name it.

  2. The Harperite writers of this piece apparently cling to a delusion that the perhaps most anti-democratic, power abusing, autocratic gov’t in Canadian history’s (QUOTE:) “record is one of competent, effective, and conservative governance.” Yeah, right. The writers are evidently afflicted by H.A.D.S., Harper Apologist Derangement Syndrome.

    • I’ll just add MacLeans to my LONG list of “bought” media. They learned NOTHING about lying to the public during this campaign. Better cash the cheque Harper sent quick…..he’s signing off on November 4th. He’s not quitting….WE FIRED HIM!

      • Hit the nail on the head, dude.

      • As a National Magazine, Macleans publishes op-ed pieces from all sides. it is not a reporting publication but an opinion delivering one. And long may it continue to do so.

    • The Harperites haven’t changed. They are so full of BS it is unfathomable!

  3. Hello all;

    Re: “Sean Speer and Ken Boessenkool have been senior policy advisors to Prime Minister Harper and were members of the Conservative national campaign team.”

    This time, it wasn’t JUST about the economy, stupid.

    Mr. Brian Leslie Engler

  4. Part of the problem is Conservative hypocrisy. They destroyed the balanced budget consensus when they put us into a structural deficit prior to the 2008-09 recession. They engineered $150 billion in deficit spending from the beginning of their mandate by cutting the GST by about $15 billion per year over the past 8 or 9 years. They governed for most of their time in power by running a deficit (how it pained them to hand out the pork and build the gazebos with shiny Economic Action Plan signs in front).

  5. Great picture of Harper.
    I bet Laureen can’t wait until he’s home more, vainly looking around for PMO staffers to vent at.

  6. I would suggest that these two “policy” advisors have no clue about real democracy and the fact their leader was going about the destruction of our charter and constitution in a systemic manner. The title of good economic managers was imposed on us by their own consistent brain washing of the public. Their record of selling off historic Canadian properties abroad and kicking real and needed infrastructure down the the road was starting to tell throughout the land. They were stretching their credibility one more time in this past election and got caught with their pants down.
    Yes, taxes are lower but that momentum was started by Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who put a more friendly face on it. In fact the reduction of GST is a slap in the face of real conservative economics. GST is a progressive tax that ensures the wealthy who spend more pay more and is revenue neutral to business. it is , in reality a real path to fiscal probity something the authors of this piece would not dare touch. In fact I would argue that a higher GST could be the best job creator as opposed to forced spending which the Liberals are about to undertake due to the conservatives strangling of our growth prospects. They did not create more jobs as the authors argue but did not even keep up with population growth. The wages per capita have not really grown except at the top end which skews the fact there are more minimum wage workers out there then ever before. In the past, federal governments provided the momentum for real job growth with spending that gave us more bang for our taxes.

  7. Oh God, where to start – this would all be much easier if you all lived in the same reality as the rest of Canadians, but these are the cards we’re dealt so here goes:
    1. Conservatives talk a good game with balanced budgets but rarely deliver…see your most recent boss for an example and every Republican President in my memory.
    2. The Liberal proposals for modest deficits to kickstart the economy are hardly more than Harper’s initial infrastructure programs that he was happy to take into deficit and the new programs may produce longer term effects than hiring a few people to put up signs extolling the program.
    3. People voted for Justin Trudeau for a lot of reasons besides the obvious economic ones – he promised legal weed, a fairer system of voting, getting rid of most of Harper’s useless nitpicky policies and he didn’t seem to actively hate us, unlike your leader.
    4. You just don’t get it – and quoting David Frum doesn’t help in this respect – people really, really didn’t like and trust Stephen Harper. A lot of them no longer like or trust your party, either – mostly because none of you had the balls to stand up to a bully in front of an entire classroom of Canadians. We seen what went on – we were all there.
    5. Thinking you can offer some people that you like, respect or maybe just see as easier to hoodwink -tax breaks that tell them they are valuable as mothers and fathers but not as single people, creating levels of citizenship, using one religion as a tool to scare Canadians – this contributed greatly to your loss and no GST cut in the future will resonate with any Canadian who was around for this election.
    6. You come across as mean – even when you think you have sunny faces – you still come across as mean and divisive. It’s as if you always expect the worst of Canadians and need to scare us into voting for you – maybe quit trying to change us and start adapting your policies to fit us instead of the other way round.

    • My only disagreement is #1 and #2 should be lower. This election wasn’t about the economy.

  8. Fiscal probity?
    Ha! What the authors fail to see with their blue tinged glasses…is that a gov’t that runs half a decade of deficits, adds $150 billion to our debt, bungles every military procurement has very little street cred on financial matters outside of the true believers.

  9. It quickly became apparent that this was written by Conservatives.
    They praised the balanced budget and ignored the fact it was done by trickery: selling assets, punting expenses into the future, stealing from EI and veterans. The balanced budget was not repeatable, you cannot sell assets twice.
    The authors completely ignored the fact that the Conservatives added $150 billion to the national debt. They praised the GST cut even though that favours most those at the top of the income scale. They praised the cuts to services that Canadians want and need.
    The Conservatives lost the election because they lost touch with Canadians. This article proves they are still out of touch.

  10. I have been a serial entrepreneur all of my life and I strategically voted(unsuccessfully) NDP for the first time in 40+ years as a voter. I also volunteered helping the Liberals and NDP ridings to ensure the demise of Mr. Harper.

    My two comments about Mr. Harper’s Conservatives are as follows:

    As soon as they Conservatives cut the GST by two points I knew that their economic leadership would be a disaster. This cost the government of Canada their entire flexibility. These tens of billions of dollars could have been used to cut the deficit or to bolster the economy.

    The focus on the oilsands and energy helped to boost the dollar which at one point reached $1.10 US. This completely and permanently tanked the eastern Canadian manufacturing sector.

  11. Mssrs Boessenkool and Speer are deluding themselves. The ballot question this election was about Stephen Harper and his style of autocratic government. Nothing confirms this more than the pathetic ads the Tories ran during the last week of the campaign when Harper announced the election was not about him. Of course it was!

    The Harper years will be remembered as truly the lost decade, a government without vision for Canada. He will go down as the worst prime minister in the past 100 years.

  12. I thought this article was going to be about how the conservatives were caught dumbfounded by the liberal campaign to run deficits. It was really an article praising conservatism and Harpers leadership. The authors seem to be dumbfounded that they lost, not why they lost. My takeaway is that the conservatives are an arrogant bunch who have placed their economic ideology right up there next to godliness such that anyone with a different approach is somehow demented. As this piece turned out to be a bit of an analysis of why they lost, it is interesting to note that not one word was written about the social conservatism they espoused throughout their mandates which, in my opinion, contibuted greatly to their demise. Had they been more of a “progressive” conservative party, without all the hate for traditional Canadian values, the may have been able to pull off another victory. I don’t think they have learned that lesson yet, but we’ll see how it evolves during their upcoming leadership change.

  13. This is a very revealing piece. A full two weeks after the repudiation of the Harper Conservative government, members of his inner circle are still hermetically sealed inside their reality distorting bubble. I’m amazed these two were willing to pen this and put their names on it. Listen up, Skippy 1 and Skippy 2, it wasn’t Harper who put Canada’s finances back in order, it was Paul Martin. Harper was critical of Martin not deregulating Canada’s banks, and that’s what saved us in 2008/2009. It was Stephen Harper who financed a GST cut with borrowed money and ran six or seven deficits in a row, only to fabricate a surplus for the election year by fire-saling assets. Do you guys even get just how hypocritical Harper looked mocking Trudeau for his modest deficit pledge, after having added 150 billion to our debt himself? Conservative zealots trot out the term Harper Derangement Syndrome to describe opponents of his tenure. It seems to me the term is more descriptive of you lot inside the bubble.

    • This piece is an unbelievable display of Conservative (Reform) staffers who are delusional to the point of absurdity – and I mean Rob Ford-style Bozo absurdity.

      It is really hard to believe that in this day and age two supposedly intelligent, high level political staffers could be so misinformed, so tin-eared that they completely misread and misunderstand the utter disdain and fear felt by Canadians as a whole when they attacked and divided segments of our society; when they hid unrelated legislation in budget omnibus bills, when they acted irresponsibly and actually hurt our economy by reducing the GST; when they muzzled their own MPs and Cabinet Ministers (OUR representatives); and when they attacked our constitution and our Courts, especially the Chief Justice.

      That they are not aware of nor in fact concerned about our democracy and that they mistakenly think that the Harper government came out of this with a net plus to our economy is simply outrageous. Thank God for Paul Martin who kept the Huns at the gate,

      My advice to these two gentleman, go back to Alberta (or wherever it is from which you came) and find another pursuit because I can guarantee you that Canadians are done with you and your ilk, if not forever, then for the rest of your foreseeable political career.

    • This piece is an unbelievable display of Conservative (Reform) staffers who are delusional to the point of absurdity – and I mean Rob Ford-style Bozo absurdity.

      It is really hard to believe that in this day and age two supposedly intelligent, high level political staffers could be so misinformed, so tin-eared that they completely misread and misunderstand the utter disdain and fear felt by Canadians as a whole when they attacked and divided segments of our society; when they hid unrelated legislation in budget omnibus bills, when they acted irresponsibly and actually hurt our economy by reducing the GST; when they muzzled their own MPs and Cabinet Ministers (OUR representatives); and when they attacked our constitution and our Courts, especially the Chief Justice.

      That they are not aware of nor in fact concerned about our democracy and that they mistakenly think that the Harper government came out of this with a net plus to our economy is simply outrageous. Thank God for Paul Martin who kept the Huns at the gate,

      My advice to these two gentleman, go back to Alberta (or wherever it is from which you came) and find another pursuit because I can guarantee you that Canadians are done with you and your ilk, if not forever, then for the rest of your foreseeable political career.

      • Love it! If these two bozos had anything to do with the election spin, they can take solace in the fact they helped dump their despised leader.

  14. Let’s start with this sentence.

    “He limited the scope and ambition of the national government consistent with his view of federalism and the role of the state relative to the individual and civil society.”

    Then how do explain C51 and C24? How about the issues of with SCC? How do you explain the PMO? Is the PMO part of federalism when the power of parliament resides there? How is the his view of federalism explained with the results that Conservatives received in Atlantic Canada? It seems to me that the fear of the Conservative’s brand of federalism resulted in the complete capitulation by voters to the Liberal party ‎as seen from the NDP perspective.

  15. This article is beneath Macleans completely. Ridiculously selected/manipulated ‘statistics’ that aren’t even internally consistent within the article blew it even before you get to the disclaimer at the bottom about who these guys are.


  16. The longer I’m not prime minister the faster my miniscule legacy will disappear like smoke, and the 10 lost years will be a faded painful memory.

  17. Are you kidding me? Apparently Macleans learned NOTHING about LYING to the public. I’ll cross you off my list of “credible” media sources. Better cash that cheque from Harper quick….he’s signing OFF on November 4th. He’s not quitting…..WE FIRED HIM!

  18. Simplest version of why the Conservatives lost so many seats? “Simply because 70% of Canadians were fed up with being used and abused and they stood up and said WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.”

  19. Harper was fired because he is an untreated Paranoid Schizophrenic.

    Auditory hallucinations – hearing voices that are not there (they don’t exist). Visual hallucinations are possible, but rare.

    Delusions – beliefs that are not real; false personal beliefs that are not subject to reason or contradictory evidence. The patient may firmly believe something, even though there is incontrovertible evidence that it is false. En example may be a belief that a neighbor is plotting to kill or poison the patient.

    Anxiety – a patient with paranoid schizophrenia will usually suffer from periods of high anxiety.

    Anger – this emotional state may range from mild irritation, which most healthy individuals sometimes have, to fury and rage. Anger may raise heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

    Detachment – the patient may sometimes be physically or emotionally; reserved and remote (aloofness)

    Aggression and violence – aggression may reach levels in which violent outbursts occur.

    Condescension – sometimes the patient may seem patronizing; perhaps they may feel they know stuff other people don’t and subsequently assume such a manner.

    Suicidal thoughts and behavior – these may be noticeable by people around the individual, with statements such as “I wish I were dead”, I am going to kill myself”, or “I wish I had never been born”.
    Throw in a sprinkling of the standard greed and thirst for power along with the Paranoia Schizophrenia and the beliefs of the Evangelical faith as the basis for running an country…and what do you have? Stephen Harper and his followers all drinking the blue koolaid.

  20. In Canada we have the right to religious freedom and to worship who we please, even if we believe that the moon is made of blue cheese or that there is no God and we’re just an alien experiment. HOWEVER, when you mix that religion with politics and start making policies based on your religious beliefs, then it becomes MY business.
    The Christian Alliance Church, Evangelical Christians, believe that the earth is only 6,500 years old and all scientists are liars.
    They believe that without Israel there can be no Armageddon and therefore no Rapture. Therefore Israel must be protected at any cost.
    They do no support abortion or homosexuality and believes that those who aren’t born-again are “lost.”
    WHO is the most PROMINENT member of the Christian Alliance Church in Calgary, Alberta? Canada’s Prime Minster, Stephen Harper.
    Does this help you to understand where a lot of the policies that have been made in Canada stem from?

    • Sylvia, you seem hypocritical on the notion of religious freedom. Beyond that, one can find little factual evidence that the government imposed any religious view on the country. Having volunteered for a CPC candidate, I can attest that the other volunteers were of every possible religious background and for that matter speaking both official languages (either as mother tongue or as a second tongue). If all these volunteers felt comfortable working for a CPC candidate where is the perception of religious intolerance in the CPC? I am afraid that it is squarely in the area of HDS behaviour. Anecdote, I had a Liberal campaigner pass by my house and part of their spiel was this business of “Harper believes that the earth is 6000-yr old”; I mean really, this is disgusting. The Harper haters got their way and should let up on the hyperbole at this point.

  21. Standard BS from the Conservatives….blame the Liberals. You people make me sick.


    If this guys idea of competent is record debt and diminishing economy with jobs disappearing fast, then this was the most competent government ever.

    The reality is all the money they spent over the years were wasted mostly because it was wasted and spent on partisan things.

    Now the economy is suffering and it will be years for Canada to dig itself out of this hole.

  23. Good grief. I’m afraid we will have to put up with this sort of blatant propaganda and attempts to rewrite history indefinitely.

  24. Don’t govern angry.

  25. Gawd, I yearn for the return of good ol’ Sun TV, where cranks like these guys found a forum for half-baked screeds like this and the great majority of intelligent Canadians could mock or simply ignore them.

  26. What the conservatives did was assume that we all hate paying taxes and being in deficit. We don’t. The deficit for infrastructure move was brilliant – many of us have mortgages after all but we build or buy shelter, we don’t spend millions on building gazebos ; we all use hospitals, schools, roads, etc but we don’t believe the tooth fairy pays for them.
    Harper underestimated the sense of community responsibility that underpins our national values, no matter what position an individual takes on the political spectrum. We do care about our neighbours and we are our “brother’s keeper”

    • I disagree. We could still invest in infrastructure without deficit spending. And I would prefer my taxes be spent on schools, roads and hospitals than interest on debt.

      What angered me the most was the trumpeting of their economic record after an impressive string of deficits. If a boxer loses 8 fights in a row and wins the 9th, is he allowed to claim he’s the greatest?

  27. A bs analysis if there ever was one

  28. “Despite a significant record of accomplishment…” Now that is a stretch. The general accomplishments listed off are generally because of 1) An astute monetary policy regime; 2) Paul Martin’s fiscal policy; 3) Paul Martin’s banking regulation; 4) Jim Flaherty’s moderation. The rest of his legacy includes incomplete trade deals; a heartless approach to immigration; boutique tax credits; and…well that’s it. We also had a near decade of bad policy on stats, veterans, science and innovation, the environment, and indigenous rights. We had questionable foreign policy, a war on all institutions that were supposed to hold the PMO to account, and defence. Add to that the racist rhetoric of the election and I am sure that few will remember his tenure fondly.

  29. Know Your Enemy: Ken Boessenkool

    Senior Policy Advisor to Opposition Leader Stephen Harper, Conservative Party of Canada 2002 – 2004
    Senior Policy Advisor to Provincial Treasurer Stockwell Day, Government of Alberta, 1998 – 2000
    Fiscal and Economic Policy in the Office of Preston Manning, Conservative Party of Canada, 1994 – 1996
    One of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA)’s registered lobbyists is Ken Boessenkool, a confidant of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

    “B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s new chief of staff is a man who claims that he “came out of the womb right wing” and has publicly supported of some of the more controversial moves made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ken Boessenkool, 42, has held down a long list of jobs including being a Harper advisor, Tory election strategist and lobbyist for companies such as Enbridge Inc., Taser International, and several pharmaceutical firms. In 2001, Boessenkool signed the notorious firewall letter that raged against the policies of Jean Chretien’s Liberal government. An open letter to then Alberta premier Ralph Klein urged him to pull the province out of the Canada Pension Plan, collect its own revenue from personal income tax and not to renew the RCMP contract and resume provincial responsibility for health-care. ”

    “Boessenkool most recently worked at lobbying company GCI Canada in Ottawa. He was a policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute, taught Canadian public finance in the economics department at the University of Calgary and has published dozens of academic articles. ”

    I think the above background tidbits explain the fantasy tone of this puff piece.
    McLeans, isn’t it just a bit unethical not to give some background to this attempt at rewriting of history?

  30. So, I understand now. Trudeau was elected because of the backwardness of the voting public. The conservatives, serene in their belief that the voters were 100% on board with their “sensible” ideas, and of course rather busy with campaigning and such, simply forgot to remind us! Darn! Why, they must be kicking themselves! I know I would be!

    The contempt shown in this article would be unbelievable had it not been demonstrated by Mr Harper time and again. Contempt for the judiciary, for the Charter, for those who are poor because of our failed economic system, contempt for anything outside the narrow ideology of “balance the budget”.

    Does being leader of this nation really entail nothing more than the skills of a junior accountant? Or does it entail vision, an idea that we can reach our potential and have the kind of society we want, a society where we can care for each other and those in need, invest in our future with education and the arts, pay workers a decent living wage, provide housing so that no one need be homeless, ensure that women have economic equality through equal pay and affordable daycare?

    Canadians aren’t a bunch of silly geese who “forgot” about the balanced budget. We’re caring and we’re smart. Smart enough to know that, when budgets, corporations and ideology trump people, we’re lost.

  31. What in the world are these guys talking about? Harper tabled ten budgets. The first two were deficit budgets balanced only by the huge surplus that he inherited. The next seven were deficits, and this years was balanced by selling off everything but the kitchen sink. In addition, Harper chalked up $150 billion in new national debt. How in the world can this be interpreted to be prudent fiscal management? Delusions and illusions – that is what Conservatives deal in. Imaginary job creation programs, an economic action plan consisting of a multi million dollar advertising program and precious little else. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but as Harper found out this election, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Not even a nice try. Thank goodness he is gone.

  32. Really! You allow these post-employees of Harper to tell us how great his economic policies were! He’s at least partially to blame for the economic consequences of the fall in oil prices by betting the economy on oil to begin with. This is lousy and disingenuous journalism. You remind me of the National Post! BTW who owns Maclean’s… ? Just saying! We as a nation deserve better. This is embarrassing.

  33. Funny how Conservatives find deficits a problem only when other parties undertake to use that tool to stimulate the economy.

    It seemed a pretty good idea for Harper and his Conservative accomplices to run deficits for six consecutive years adding more than $150 billion to our debt including having the largest one-year deficit in Canadian history.

    I wouldn’t find their rhetoric on this matter so hypocritical if they didn’t spend more than $100 million on ads promoting their “Economic Action Plan.”

    Of course they were dumbfounded when the Liberals proposed a modest deficit to spend on infrastructure (as opposed to self-promoting advertising) because that was what they were supposed to be doing for those six years they, themselves, ran deficits.

  34. “Significant record of accomplishment”, “the country’s left-wing commentariat”, “Harper understood the big issues well, and consistently got them right”, – this Harper love-note, complete with the glib ad-line that “Harper’s not perfect”, exemplifies why the Conservatives lost: they didn’t understand what we didn’t like about them. This was a government that exemplified an anti intellectual, ideology over evidence government that looked for wedge issues to divide and conquer. This wasn’t an intellectual debate about deficits – it was a referendum on Harper. We voted no.

  35. Quite the advertorial, Macleans. Too bad you forgot to label it as such.

  36. We love that you believe this, because you’re gonna lose a lot more elections thinking these tired old thoughts. Chicago is done. Princeton has begun.

  37. A campaign based on lies and fear to cover up a record lies, fraud, cheating & contempt of Canadians, Canadian institutions and Canada’s Parliament deserved to crash and burn. Seventy percent of the country is relieved that the nightmare of the last ten long years is finally over.

    To the MacLean’s editorial board: who allowed this fiction to be published?

    To Boessenkol & Speers : thank goodness we don’t have to listen anymore. When you & you ilk try and attain power again, we will be ready for you.

  38. Man, you guys just don’t get it. Canadians across the country rejected your vaunted leader including his style, his beliefs/your beliefs, and his Reform policies. You are as rejected as Harper. The only Conservatives who will be acceptable are Progressive Conservatives, not Reformers. Wake up. Smell the coffee. Look for a new line of work.

  39. After reading the self-serving congratulations from these PMO policy wonks, it’s hard to know where to begin. I’m tempted to take a run at the laughable assertion that Harperman had a “principled” foreign policy. The only principle that seemed consistent to me over the past 10 years was whether or not there was some domestic ethnic group, and a few electoral ridings, that they could win over.

    But let’s have a go at the really big whopper – that lower taxes prove that Harper was a sound economic manager. Half-truths are always more palatable than the messy, complex and sometimes difficult real world that we happen to live in.

    No question that taxes were lowered. No question as well, that voters were NEVER told that there is a trade-off, that there are looming costs ahead – like a health-care system that is not coping with greatly increasing demands for home care and long-term care, and within five years will hit a wall.

    For the middle-class, our public health care and public education systems are incredibly important, and while health and education services are delivered by the provinces, the federal government is the one and only government that has the fiscal room to increase its share of the costs. It’s either that or the more well off will leave and go to private education and private health care. That is Harperman’s silent legacy for all Canadians. The ultimate end of lower taxes and zero deficits in public finances is a much poorer and more unequal Canadian society.

    What about Harperman’s management of the broader economy? That is simply a tremendous disappointment. For much of the last 15 years, the Canadian economy was riding high thanks to high world prices for commodities. That party ended in mid-2014 and the collapse of oil and other commodity prices means that Canada is a much poorer country now. We can’t blame that on Harperman, but his government said absolutely nothing about what they planned to do to deal with this new situation except try to ride it out.

    What Harperman also did nothing about is that the Canadian economy has been limping along since the 2008-2009 financial crisis with less than acceptable economic growth. The Bank of Canada estimates that slack in the economy now amounts to about 1.5 per cent of our $2 trillion annual GDP. That means, wait for it, we could run a federal deficit of $30 billion just to take up this slack.

    What’s more, since the economy is growing every year, running a $30 billion deficit every year would stabilize the debt to GDP ratio at its current 30 per cent level. And since the federal government’s borrowing costs are at the lowest level imaginable, now is the time to start borrowing, running deficits and spending on much-needed infrastructure.

    Instead, Harperman’s legacy has been a blind adherence to the zero deficit mantra, perpetuating the myth that a country’s finances are the same as a normal household’s. This “consensus” is an intellectually-bankrupt creed that even the NDP in the recent federal election apparently found too difficult to challenge. And Canada has been suffering because of it.

    Time for a change, and time to remember the damage that the short-sighted, ideologically-driven Haperman government brought on our great country.

  40. This article is so out of touch with reality, Macleans should be embarassed to publish it. Cancel your subscription now.

  41. Harper was a dictator, plain & simple. If he didn’t like something, he would try to change the law, Harper hated Unions & felt that everyone is responsible for saving on their own. It is difficult to save much money on your own when all you can get is minimum wage jobs with no benefits and unfortunately, that is what Canada has become. Everyone thinks that if you get a good education, that you can make big bucks, which is not true. A friend of mine has 3 BA’s & cannot get a job in public relations because she doesn’t have contacts to help her.

  42. Hard to admit that the Liberal deficit thing was small potatoes in the overall picture, but that’s the inconvenient truth. Get over it, you guys – the loathing of your party’s leader had been festering in 70% of the population for years, and the jig was up.

  43. Wow, 9 screens of HDS types foaming at the mouth!
    I’ll make the modest critique that Bossenkool & Co. could narrow their focus to deficit spending on infrastructure. I found it interesting that the Libs did so well in the 905 with the Mississauga-Brampton sweep, where the GTA’s lack of investment in rapid transit since the 1970s is most keenly felt, and where voters were more receptive to taking a chance on deficits and higher taxes given how bad commuting is getting. Getting ahead of the infrastructure needs in the GTA from 2006, rather than taking an essentially reactive stance matching funding once Ontario and dithering Toronto politicians had come up with something, missed the opportunity for a positive and forward looking face on the Conservative party in the region that won and lost them the 2011 and 2015 elections.

    • HDS= Harper Derangement Syndrome:

      A condition afflicting supporters of Stephan Harper who find criticisms of him unacceptable and never valid.

  44. I voted for the Liberals and it was indirectly because of their deficit promise. They were the only party that treated me like an adult. The NDP were promising the moon – and balancing the budget. The Conservatives were too busy throwing mud on the other candidates. The Liberals ran a dignified campaign.

    I’m a big fan of balanced budgets, but a bigger fan of being treated with respect.

    The kicker is, I could see myself voting Conservative. Just not Harper’s brand of it. If they pick a fiscally conservative, socially liberal leader – I could easily be swayed. But picking an arrogant, micro-managing, secretive leader will keep me red or orange.

  45. I so wish Macleans comment section had an upvote feature, so I could upvote all the thoughtful rebuttals to the nonsense claptrap of this column. They STILL just don’t get it & I doubt they ever will.

  46. @Macleans: You shouldn’t be posting this piece as journalism. It’s clearly an opinion piece, with a shaky grip on facts. It’s written for Conservatives, by Conservatives. I don’t really have a problem with you publishing it, but don’t pass it off as something objective.

  47. I am inspired by all the people who posted a comment here. Something Speer and Boessenkool aren’t telling us is Harper offered a very narrow type of support to a specific group of people. On October 19th, we elected a Prime Minister who will offer a broad type of support to all Canadians.
    “The conservatives are our neighbors, not our enemies”
    Something reformer will never learn!

  48. I’m surprised at your plaudits for Harper’s fiscal record. With 6 deficits under his watch and a forced out surplus based on the ‘well-timed’ [election] sale of GM shares; the Harper record is pitiable. Conservatives manage to sell themselves as fiscally responsible but their record fails them.
    They also chased free trade deals with a passion as Canada started its descent into 7 successive trade deficits in 2008.
    Your concept of fiscal responsibility is probably made in USA.

  49. Balancing the federal budget as an economic policy objective is utter b.s. The federal government issues the Canadian dollar and faces no financial constraints. It can purchase anything for sale in Canadian dollars and can never run out of money. The only objective that matters is whether all of the nation’s resources are fully employed. If private spending is insufficient to employ everyone who wants to work, then the federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure full employment without regard for the size of the deficit. Functional finance trumps sound but foolish finance.