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Finally, time for a real agenda

Andrew Coyne spells out what’s on the Tory to-do list


 
Finally, time for a real  agenda

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

By now the wisdom is well and truly conventional: the Conservatives may have won a majority for the first time in 23 years; they may have control of both houses of Parliament; their enemies may be scattered before them, but God forbid they should actually do anything with the power they now possess.

For that would be “polarizing,” and thus in violation of the First Principle of Political Punditry: Thou Shalt Hug the Middle. And since the middle is, by long-established consensus, wherever we happen to be at the time, this leads very quickly to the Second Principle of Political Punditry: Thou Shalt Not Change Things Much, If At All.

Indeed, it has been so long since any government in Canada attempted anything so ambitious as an agenda that we have almost forgotten what that looks like. The years since the last Chrétien government was elected in 2000 have been something of a lost decade. Whatever sense of direction there might have been was dispelled first in the infighting between the Chrétien and Martin gangs, then in the sponsorship scandal, and at last dissipated utterly in the three minority Parliaments that followed. The notion of planning ahead, taking risks, spending political capital, all the ordinary business of majority governments, must now be relearned.

But in fact governments are not obliged to do nothing to survive, nor must they bow and scrape before the status quo to be fit for polite company. Yes, they are constrained not to stray too far from the middle, but every successful politician knows that the trick is not, as my friends in the free-advice trade never tire of repeating, to move to the middle, but to move the middle to you.

So the way is open for the Tories to dial up the ideology a couple of notches. No one signed on for a revolution, but a consistent, incrementalist nudge in the conservative direction need not prove unduly alarming. That was supposed to be the plan in 2006, you’ll recall, before the party started splashing about like a drowning rabbit.

Some items on the Conservative to-do list are already known, as spelled out in their oddly titled election platform, Here for Canada. They will return to pass the budget that died with the last Parliament, complete with an unspecified $4 billion in savings from the Strategic and Operating Review (This Time We Mean It edition). They’ll bundle up the unpassed crime bills into an omnibus bill and pass them all at one go. They’ll pay Quebec $2.2 billion, supposedly in “compensation” for harmonizing its provincial sales tax with the GST, mostly on the grounds that they did the same for other provinces.

They’ll scrap the long-gun registry, and sign on for 65 F-35 fighter jets, and build a lot more jails. And they’ll parcel out another round of micro-tax credits, for fitness classes and volunteer firefighters and so on. But, apart from a couple of big-ticket items that don’t kick in for three years—income-splitting for couples with children, and expanded tax-free savings accounts—there’s not a lot here that you could really call an agenda, in the sense of a coherent program designed to address important national challenges. That does not mean they don’t have one, however, or can’t make one up if they have to. Indeed, much of it can be found in older platforms, from 2004 and 2006 especially, before expediency started dictating everything. They offer clues to the government’s thinking, from a time when it still thought.

Governments can only do so much in a single term, of course, so let’s confine ourselves to three broad areas of focus: priorities, in govspeak. The first, naturally, is the economy. Short term, things are in relatively good order: outside of another recession, balancing the budget by 2014-15, as promised, is a cinch. It’s the longer-term productivity challenge that should be of concern to us now—the one that was left to languish during the lost decade—if we are to bear the costs of looking after all those baby boomers in their dotage.

What do the Tories have planned here? Well, they’re cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent, from 18 per cent last year. Good, but not good enough. Back in 2004, the Tories were promising to cut corporate and other subsidies: instead they’ve soared, by $10 billion in fiscal 2010 alone. They’re worth cutting in their own right, for the way they distort investment decisions. But they also cost billions of dollars that could be used to cut tax rates further.

The Tory platform also promised to conclude two important free trade deals: with the European Union, by 2012, and with India, by 2013. Not mentioned: the Doha round at the World Trade Organization. Why they don’t mention it: Canada is under heavy pressure to dismantle its system of agricultural quotas and tariffs, known as supply management, as the price of a deal. Do it—these cost Canadian consumers dearly. The WTO merely provides a pretext to do what we should be doing anyway. But do it soon: the reaction from the farm lobby, especially the Quebec dairy industry, will be fierce.

The Tories might also renew the push for free trade at home. They’ve been signalling their intention for years here, even promising to invoke the Constitution’s “trade and commerce” power if remaining provincial barriers were not removed “by 2010.” Time to dust off that threat: a favourable decision from the Supreme Court on Ottawa’s right to set up a national securities regulator would prepare the way. And of course, there is a whole shelf full of recommendations ready to go from the report of the 2008 Competition Policy Review Panel, chaired by former Bell Canada chairman Red Wilson: reversing the onus on foreign investment decisions (from “net benefit” to “net harm”), opening up the telecoms and airlines to foreign ownership, and so on.

A second broad priority: reform of fiscal federalism. Transfers to the provinces for “health care” (in fact they can spend it on whatever they like) are scheduled to rise by six per cent per year. Originally, that was until 2014. In the heat of the election campaign, it was extended two more years. But everyone knows it’s unsustainable.

Provinces will need a maximum degree of freedom if they are to meet the challenges an aging population will impose (they’re spending nearly half their budgets on health care now, and the baby boomers have only just begun to retire). But they’ll also have to be accountable to their own voters—and taxpayers—for the choices they make. The way to recognize both of these imperatives is to convert the existing cash transfers to tax points, perhaps as part of a grand bargain with the provinces on the economic union.

A third priority: democratic reform. This may seem unlikely, given the Tories’ abysmal record to date. But a majority might soften Stephen Harper’s control-freak tendencies: moreover, a reform package might make an attractive late-term offering, as the next election approaches.

It’s well-known the Conservatives will bring in a bill to add 30 seats in the Commons for Ontario and the West, redressing the inequity in their representation (and, coincidentally I’m sure, improving the Tories’ electoral chances). Senate reform will also proceed, to the extent the Constitution allows it. And the Tories will abolish the per-vote subsidy for political parties, possibly as their first act. (Not everyone regards that as a reform.)

But look through their past platforms, and you find some other interesting nuggets. Banning partisan advertising by government departments (heavens, does that still go on?). Cleaning up party nomination and leadership races, including a system of voter registration. Ensuring that candidates are the choice of their local riding association, not party leaders. Making all votes in the House of Commons, outside of the budget and main estimates, free votes. And this, from 2004: “We will also look at new proposals for allowing greater direct democracy and changing the electoral system used to elect members of Parliament.” Perhaps a royal commission, reporting back in two years?

Well. The best-laid plans and all that: what governments might wish to tackle, and what gets thrown at them, are usually two different things. One obvious wild card in all this is the election of a Parti Québécois government in Quebec sometime in the next two years, with the constitutional brinksmanship that would follow. Recession, war, a major terrorist attack—all sorts of events could arise to make these suggestions irrelevant.

But a government that accomplished even half of these reforms could make a fair claim to have earned a second majority.


 

Finally, time for a real agenda

  1. So, if you’re fine with all that, remind us why you voted Liberal again?

    • So I guess you’re under the presumption of a major difference then, between a Conservative or Liberal government? That’s at odds with nearly thirty years of political history at this point.

      Besides, if I recall correctly, the thrust of Coyne’s argument was that any minor differences in actual governance are moot when compared to the dangers of awarding incompetency and extremely anti-democratic practices.

    • I didn’t read into Coyne’s article that he was fine with any of this. He’s just projecting what the CPC will likely do.  

      • I did. Note phrases like “the lost decade”. Also note that Coyne trumpets corporate tax breaks, while calling health care costs “unsustainable”. It’s part of the Right wing plan: bankrupt the treasury to build support for privatizing health care. Coyne is obviously fine with all of it.

        • As to health care why not both?Those above a certin salery could go private and we subsidize only when needed based on health insurance deductable and NO cosmetics,  while those at or below poverty go to layer#1 where all costs are cheerfully accounted for, and those whos taxs are non existant ie: criminals go to layer#2 bandades and well wishes and prayers.

           

      •  I’ll wager that AC is fine with pretty much the entire list of actions in the column.

        • Why not, he wrote it. You have some beef with it. Write another comment and state your case.

    • Coyne voted liberal because he doesn’t want to be labelled as a right-wing commentator and therefore ignored. He can continue to advocate conservative policies while not allowing his many readers to put him in a box. 

      • So! what’s wrong with Conservative policies? I like ’em so much thats how I voted and with enough supporters he now has a majority. Quit sucking lemons sourpuss.

    • IIRC, he  voted Liberal because he was quite disappointed by the CPCs behaviours, such as the prorogations, the obstruction of Parliament’s request for information, lying to Parliament and misrepresenting our constitution – he believed that he could not reward the CPC for those types of actions by voting for them.  (Caveat:  I might have missed one or two items from the list and Imight have included an item that does not belong, but you get the drift.)

      As well, he believed that if the LPC got its hands on the levers of power that they would do much the same as the CPC would do, at least from a policy perspective, so there was little real risk in electing an LPC government.

  2. As good as all those reforms would be, they hearken back to a day before the Conservative Party abandoned principle for power. Politicians who have been rewarded with a majority for governing and running against their party’s own policies are highly unlikely to do anything but complete the sellout to preserve their office.

    “Deserve” another majority? Since when did merit have anything to do with the outcome of electoral gamesmanship?

  3. Coyne didn’t miss a thing that has been said for the past five years . This way he ,hopefully ,will be right. An expert by his own measurements. Someone said that Harper is more popular than Trudoue
    Al Capone was more popular than Elliot Nest. It shows the thinking ofr some if not all of you writers.

    • MY, my. I didn’t see Satan mentioned or Hitler either,  must be the tears. You wern’t an AC fan were you? Sorry for your loss.

  4.  He missed an important one… SELL the CBC.  If they get $1.5B for it and save $1B+/year, they are half way on their $11B cost reduction target.   Terry M provided the justification.  Take them out.  

    • That’s the kind of thing that will only lose them votes. 

      • Agree, I don`t see that happening.

      • More votes than they’d lose by the slanted reporting and broadcasts in the next election?  Give me a break.  They’d lose votes in Quebec because Radio Canada is much loved by the separatists and the downtown Toronto latte crowd would froth at the mouth but most of the RoC would rejoice.  Besides if they SELL it, it can still produce those programs that the few listeners/watchers they have still like (As it Happens, Quirks & Quarks, etc.).  

        • Yawn. And the rest of the media isn’t slanted by its insatiable need to attract advertising dollars from corporate advertisers?   Please, if we’re going to have media slanted by right wing corporate interests, let’s also have some media slanted by a mandate to promote diversity and tolerance and care for all Canadians. 

          • Diversity at the CBC????  What planet have you been living on?  They present a (radical) LEFT wing agenda.  That’s fine if TorStar or CTV want to do that.  They are private companies and can do what they want.  But spending taxpayer money to broadcast propoganda is beyond the pale.  

          • Didn’t love your parents either. Arn’t you getting too old to be a rebel?

    • The CBC is last news organization in the country that hasn’t been swallowed by Right wing conglomerates. Better to fund the CBC than to have all news being business editorials. We should not desire the abolition of true investigative journalism. We get enough Foxygen already, thanks.

      • So every tax payer in Canada should subsidize YOUR point of view?  Give me a break.  ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN all seem to do OK broadcasting leftist news… so why should every taxpayer fund the CBC?  Typical socialist attitude. 

    • Typical CPC grasp of economics.

      Thinks somehow that someone’s going to buy a station that has significant long-term contracts, a massive union presence, and needs a billion dollars a year of public money to keep running.

      Here’s a hint, Sherlock. Any investor who can raise 1.5B has better investments available to spend it on. 

      • Hey dipstick…  want to know what Bell paid for the 85% of CTV it didn’t already own in 2010? $1.3B.  The network was valued at $3.2B.   CTV is a small fraction of the CBC.    So $1.5B should be very easy to get – even with the obligations.  Put it on the market and lets see what it fetches.  Frankly, I’d sell it for a six pack of beer.  

        Stick to Thwimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

        • You really don’t understand the difference between an asset that makes money, and one that loses money do you?

          That you’d sell it for a six-pack of beer just goes to demonstrate that you have approximately zero financial acumen.

          But hey.. enjoy your beer.

      • Excellent argument.  For WINDING DOWN OPERATIONS and cutting our losses. 

        • Only if you’re looking at it like a private operation, and not as an operation that has some public value.. such as providing rural broadcasting, or sufficient mass to our radio and film-making industry so as to make it somewhat competitive.

          • The rural broadcasting thing has been solved by geostationary birdies aways up there beaming down hundreds of channels at us.

            The “somewhat competitive industry” canard is immediately cooked: ongoing massive subsidy is proof that it is NOT competitive.

  5. I get most of this, but why would Harper give Quebec the $2.2B for tax harmonization?  Wouldn’t that make it appear that Layton actually has some power?

    Also, doesn’t the unusually large anti-abortion turnout on the hill yesterday with several interviewed participants saying something along the lines of, now that Harper has a majority we hope…, mean that his base now expects some action on that issue?

    • My reading on the pro-lifers on the hill was an annual event that wasn’t much different from any other year at this time. 

      Harper says he’s not going to bring the debate back to fore, but I’ll bet we’ll continue to see the likes of cuts to Kairos-type programming.  

      • He may not bring the debate back to the fore, but there are more CPC members in parliament now. Thus more chances for a private members bill to come forward about it.

        Although personally, I expect the changes are going to be buried in the omnibus crime bill that will simply make it worth a second homicide charge if the victim happens to be pregnant. 

  6. Wheat Board.  You forgot that. 

    • No; he covered it (though it was not specifically named):

      “Not mentioned: the Doha round at the World Trade Organization. Why they don’t mention it: Canada is under heavy pressure to dismantle its system of agricultural quotas and tariffs, known as supply management, as the price of a deal. Do it—these cost Canadian consumers dearly. The WTO merely provides a pretext to do what we should be doing anyway. But do it soon: the reaction from the farm lobby, especially the Quebec dairy industry, will be fierce.” 

      (My bolding)

      •  During the election campaign Harper when he was in Quebec, committed t stand by supply management. I assume he was referring to dairy.  I don’t know how he squares that with settling the EU trade agreement.

      • Wheat Board marketing is not the same as supply management.  

        • Ok; I have to confess I didn’t know much about the Wheat Board. So I went to their site. It’s a farmer-run marketing agancy, according to the site. Sounds like a large co-op. So what’s your issue with it? Too “socialist”?

          • Large co-op, eh?  Does a co-op throw you in jail if you try to sell your own grains yourself?

        • Sorry; that last bit should rightly have been directed at @Anonymous_like_the_Rest_of_Us:disqus 

          •  Howdy!

            Many in the W. Cdn. Conservative caucus are on record as wanting to
            eliminate the monopoly power of the CWB in western Canadian wheat and
            barley sales, including the Ag. Minister Gerry Riz.  As it stands now,
            western Canadian wheat and barley growers have no choice but to pool it
            through the CWB. 

            I also didn’t state an opinion about the CWB either way.  Please take
            care to avoid putting words in my mouth.  It’s unbecoming. 

            Since you asked for my personal opinion though, I am deeply conflicted
            about the Wheat Board.  I can’t really make a compelling argument to
            myself for or against.  And thus it remains.

  7. If  Harper sticks to the economy, and leaves out all the emotional hot-button issues like abortion and gays…and bizarre surprises like the census….he should do fine.

    And I agree that if he’s going to do away with supply management, it should be soon, so that the worst of the uproar will be over with by the time of the next election in 2015.

    •  Oh sure, get rid of supply management so we can have milk filled with hormones and other pestilences like the Americans have.

      • Supply management is literally about the supply of milk, not the quality. 

    •  Farmers are among his base. Supply management is safe as safe can be.

      • They WERE among his base. He has a majority now, and doesn’t need them. 

        •  Though, really, dairy supply management is overwhelmingly a Quebec issue. If he has written off Quebec, then I suppose dairy supply management might go.

          • You can’t remove supply management from Quebec, without doing it elsewhere….and it affects far more than one province.  Nor can you do it just for milk.

          •  Most of the milk quota is held by Quebec farmers, and that is where the bulk of the constituency is for the scheme. And sure, you can kill dairy quotas without doing anything about the other quota schemes–not that that would be a good idea.

          • You are apparently unaware of the dairy farms of Ont and the milk marketing board here. 

            No, politically it wouldn’t be a good idea…boom times for pitchforks and torches though.

  8.  Coyne is in no position to be offering advice since he so wisely told us all he voted Liberal. Having said that no government is going to do anything bold when you have the pack of hounds that occupy the parliamentary press gallery. No matter what is said or not the PPG takes the opposite view because they consider themselves the real opposition party. So why would Harper create all that gas for himself. The ideas brought forward by Coyne are all issues that could be addressed but why would Harper why to create all that grief for himself and his government.

    • “Coyne is in no position to be offering advice since he so wisely told us all he voted Liberal.”

      So you measure the value of an opinion, not on facts, not on figures, not on the strength of the argument, but on one’s political preference in the last election?

      • No I am simply saying like those who choose not to vote have no right to criticize the results of an election.

        Coyne makes some good points and I acknowledged that but he does not believe in Harper nor his brand of Conservatism. That causes us who follow Coyne questioning his motivation and judgement. 

        • ” I am simply saying like those who choose not to vote have no right to criticize the results of an election.” Who are you referring to as the non-voter? Or are you saying Coyne can’t criticize because he picked the wrong side?

          If you go back to Coyne’s article where he chose to vote Liberal, it wasn’t over policy; it was over demonstrated bad behaviour on the part of the CPC. He didn’t think they should be rewarded for their bad behaviour because of the message it would send not just to the CPC but to all parties. (Which was also the main reason why I voted Liberal, coincidentally.)

          • And since when did Coyne get appointed a judge. He should not have said who he voted for. He is suppose to be a professional journalist expressing his opinion. Like anyone else who he votes for is his own personal business. Instead of looking at tactics, strategies etc. the focus should be who is best to lead the country. That’s what an election is all about. Did he think Ignatieff or Layton would make a better leader for the country? That’s the issue. It is not a game.  

          • When one writes an opinion piece, one is expected to give an opinion. Otherwise, what’s the point?

            As to who is best to lead the country: well, that’s a matter of opinion, not fact, unless you have access to alternate universes and time travel.

            An election is an attempt to divine which party may be the best to lead us forward. We don’t know what the future government will face; it all comes down to a collective hunch. Enough Canadians thought Harper and the CPC were the best choice and so they earned a majority of seats. Coyne & I were among those who thought the CPC too crooked, arrogant and disrespectful of our democratic system to reward in this way. But we lost, so now we move forward and hope for the best.

            So stop being such a sore winner!

          •  Dozens of media outfits endorsed a party in the last election–why are you singling out Coyne for criticism?

        •  You mean fact-hating conservatism?

        • Your first point: Coyne very likely voted.

          Your second point: There are many conservative-minded people who didn’t vote CPC because of their very mixed-bag of policy choices, and their often unethical actions.

          I admire Coyne for his thoughtful vote. It’s better than someone supporting a party no matter how many deviations they make from integrity or a party platform.

          • Fair enough. However, an election is about who is best to lead the country. That should be our primary concern. You guys are apparently upset about tactics, strategies etc. Is an election not to determine who is best to  look after the country’s interest? If one believes that Ignatieff or Layton was the best leader then by all means vote for either one. Do I agree with everything Harper and the party did. No! However on balance I believe he was the best on offer this election   . 

          • Ethical issues do not constitute “strategies and tactics”; they speak to core values. Hiring convicted criminals and giving them access to confidential files; party members up on charges for illegal electioneering; lying and promise-breaking; contempt for the very institution they are supposed to represent; the list goes on and on. The irony is, I support many of their purported policies; I can’t support them because I have a strong belief in the need for ethical leadership. Would the Liberals under Ignatieff have been any better? I guess we’ll never know…

  9. Cleaning up party nomination and leadership races, including a system of voter registration. Ensuring that candidates are the choice of their local riding association, not party leaders. Making all votes in the House of Commons, outside of the budget and main estimates, free votes.

    The chances of this are approximately equal to , and closely connected to, the chances of Harper being struck by a meteorite.  

    •  Up grade that to a planet killer and then we can agree. LOL

    •  I’ll take Harper struck by anything! Even if it doesn’t bring free votes to the Commons…

  10. As a Liberal, I’m going to say I won’t hold my breath that this particular leopard will change its spots – particularly in the area of democratic accountability.
     
    But I do want to ask @Andrew_coyne if you really think that a further cut to the corporate tax rate, which we know is already low, will really provide help to retiring boomers?
     
    I think the policy change the government should be pushing in this area is actually one that was proposed by the Conservatives in 2006 – the deferal of capital gains. This is a tax policy with a more conservative bent that is likely to not only help foster investment but also provide real assistance to boomers who are reaching retirement age – which often involves a change in investment strategies and sale of capital assets. The proposal in a nutshell is that the capital gain would be defered if apporpriately reinvested within a certain time frame (i.e. 6 months.)
     
    CD Howe has even proposed how it should be done: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/backgrounder_94.pdf

  11. I expect Harper to substantially trim down the federal gov’t apparatus and eliminate much of the federal support for all the fake NGOs of little to no value.  By reducing the cost of the federal gov’t, he will be able to reduce federal taxes .. plain and simple.

    If provinces want to reinstate the canceled federal programs and services, they will be free to raise their provincial taxes on the “one” taxpayer.

    A good case in point is the failed CBC which consists of the main network and the news network.  The costly CBC NN could be easily terminated since it has shown itself to be a Liberal propaganda organ. We have enough news networks and the CBC should only be supported for it’s arts, cultural and entertainment services across Canada.  That would substantially reduce the current $1.1 Billion subsidy to say $650 Million …. a 39% reduction representing the Conservative popular vote.

    • I’m confused, Fred.  Liberals are constantly berated for never taking an ideological stand, and are derided as straddling the “mushy middle”.  Yet the CBC is accused of being Liberal, which I take it to mean that their stories don’t take ideological sides and straddle the ‘mushy middle’.  But where else would the stories of an unbiased newscaster lie?

      • Awesome response. 

      •  Pretty devastating. Many conservatives make arguments that are logically equivalent to false.

      • This is tortured logic, but you wouldn’t expect a Leftard to get it.   News is meant to be FACTUAL… not biased one way or the other.  You don’t get to spend all your time attacking one party and playing up the Liberals and call that balanced reporting.  If you want to see balanced reporting, go to Chantal Hebert… she’ll pick on the Tories one day and then do the Bloc, Liberals, NDP or Greens after that.     

        • If your beef was with the Toronto Star I’d completely agree, but don’t think the Liberals felt so loved by the CBC during the sponsorship scandal.

          The one thing that the CPC needs to learn is that the party in power is always the one under the microscope, and will therefore end up with a much higher share of negative coverage because they’re the ones actually getting coverage. 

          CPC supporters really need to get over their persecution complex.  And I say this as a conservative-leaning voter.

        • Ya, I see Chantel Hebert all the time… on The National…on the CBC!  

  12. Going down that giant ‘to-do’ list, I see an awful lot of disappointed Conservatives in the future.  Cut the corporate tax rate below 15%? Sell the CBC?  Give up Supply Management? Cut all NGO funding?  Come on now.

    I’m pretty sure Harper does actually want to get re-elected in four years.  Even if I agree with most of those changes, it would only reinforce the opinion of those who figured Harper was going to slash and burn when he took over, and make Ontario that much harder to win in 2015. 

    • There’s no reference in the piece to selling the CBC or cutting all NGO funding. 

      • Sorry Andrew, I should have specified that I was including comments from this thread (and elsewhere) as well, which is just a sampling of the pressure the government is going to be under from those who have been waiting for this day since 1993.  

        I didn’t intend to misrepresent your article.

      • On the subject of “no fun”, surely you were tempted to work a reference to “lamentation of the women” in your opening paragraph?

  13. While a lot of the things listed and suggested certainly follow Andrew’s conservative leanings, the one that really bothers me as bad policy is the whole direct democracy thing. As I have tweeted to Andrew recently, so-called direct democracy does two bad things. First, it allows politicians to abdicate their responsibilities. We elect parliamentarians to run the government, good or bad. In many cases governments have to make difficult choices. We can’t let governments off the hook by allowing them to simply turn those difficult decisions into referendums. Second, it has the potential to let populism dictate bad government policy My best example of this is the cap on property taxes in California. Since Prop 13 passed in 1978 California municipalities have been financially hamstrung, unable to generate adequate funding to pay for infrastructure. Or look at the HST referendum in BC. There is a very good chance that this tax change will be overturned in a referendum. The ensuing fiscal chaos will be enormous. While I am against the HST in principle, I also understand to undo it now will cost the provincial government a fortune. Do we really want governments turning over tax policy to populist sentiments?

  14. I think it’s amusing how some are calling for Harper to pull a fast one on voters by implementing radical change he didn’t campaign on (indeed, promised not to do). I guess good for Canada, and the Conservative Party, Harper is smarter than some of his partisans.

  15. Andrew, I appreciate reading your articles, and your writing is usually good, but one paragraph here is raft with somewhat confusing double-negatives.

    You said:
    “But in fact governments are not obliged to do nothing to survive, nor must they bow and scrape before the status quo to be fit for polite company. Yes, they are constrained not to stray too far from the middle, but every successful politician knows that the trick is not, as my friends in the free-advice trade never tire of repeating, to move to the middle, but to move the middle to you.”

    It could have been simplified to something like:
    The first sentence could have started with: “But in fact governments are obliged to do something to survive… they are constrained to the middle… .the trick is to move the middle to you.”
     

    • “Governments are obliged to do something to survive.”

      That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying while it would be “safe” of the Tories to do “nothing” and just sort of cruise along until the next election in 2015 (and by “nothing” he means “nothing too big or grand”), they could still do something grand and still get re-elected.

      In other words, they can do nothing and survive. OR… they can do SOMEthing and STILL survive.

      Hence “not obliged to do nothing to survive.” 

      •  It could have been phrased better to avoid the double negative.

        Avoiding double negatives is, in my opinion, a guideline and not a hard-and-fast rule of english. Double negatives can certainly hold a more subtle meaning than the positive.

  16. There’s a lot of discussion in the mainstream news media in Canada about the massive (total) debt the United States has, but so far I have not seen any discussion of the massive (total) debt we in Canada have, a massive (total) debt that is skyrocketing higher at a very alarming rate as we speak. The politicians and the mainstream news media absolutely refuse to discuss this issue. (Click on the link at the end of my post to find the links which back up all of the statistics I am using in this post.) The total Government (Federal, State, and Local), business, and household debt in the United States is 52.6 trillion$ The total Government (Federal, Provincial, and Municipal) business and household debt in Canada is 4.51 trillion$, and it went up an eye-popping 248 billion$ over the last 12 months.  To put things into perspective the (Canadian) Federal Government`s program spending in the year 2010 was 245 billion$ Since the United States`s population and gdp are approximately 10 times higher than Canada`s, there is not a lot of difference in the total debt numbers in the USA (52.6 trillion$) and the total debt numbers in Canada (4.51 trillion$), relatively speaking. The total Government (Federal, Provincial, and Municipal) business and household debt to nominal gdp in Canada is 278%  In the year 2010 the total Government (Federal, Provincial, and Municipal) business and household debt in Canada grew 2.46 times faster than its nominal gdp (economy) did.  Our economy is one big ponzi scheme, and a “day of reckoning” is just around the corner.   When it comes, it is not going to be very pretty.  http://www.bloggingtories.ca/forums/topic10119.html

    •  Total debt is not a very good measurement of sustainability of indebtedness. For every dollar owed, someone is owed. If A owes B one dollar, B owes C one dollar, and C owes A one dollar, there is three dollars in debt, but each individual has zero net debt. More interesting is net Canadian debt held by foreigners, and perhaps the distribution of indebtedness within Canada.

      The US’s problem is the massive current account deficit which makes their borrowing rather unsustainable. Canada does not share this problem.

  17. Sounds good to me, Andrew, but I would love to see at the top of the list the restoration of free speech that has been taken away by the “Human Rights” kangaroo courts under the hate speech label. Remember Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn and MacLean’s horrendous legal costs in defending themselves? Let’s get rid of Section 13, or better yet, of the HR Commissions altogether.

  18. Smaller government and reduction of theft from taxpayers’ pockets would be asking too much?
    Cancellation of the per vote subsidy to political parties would be a start followed by slash and (complete) burn of CBC would rekindle some hope.

    … oh yeh, and when referring to the current opposition, call them what they are … socialists (ie reds without the direct violence).

    • …and elimination of tax credits for donations to political parties, right?  Surely you’d support that?  Surely a conservative should?

  19. I would like to see him reduce the debt by a combination of long-term cutting of wasteful expenditure and additional tax collection from large corporations .
    I would like defined benefit pension plans phased out for all government employees ,  to be replaced by defined contribution plans , invested in part in secure government bonds.

  20.  Coyne says, The government should ignore the fact that it ran on a do-nothing agenda and instead shift to the right. SP

  21. Did you vote Liberal? But you’re a closet Conservative.
    Andrew, I see nothing in what Harper has done in the past that would make him a
    nice guy.
    Dress him up if you want he is still the Contemptible Stephan Harper.

    Consider
    1.  He praises himself for our strong
    banking system.  He was vehemently opposed when they weren’t allowed
    become Americanized .

    2. Conservative ‘you can’t spend your way out of a recession”
    rhetoric is a long held policy.  Threat
    of a coalition made him SPEND HIS WAY OUT OF A RECESSION.

    3, His campaign was predominately “attack ads”, a lot of
    that had nothing to do with policy (he didn’t come back for you).  How many millions where spent on this.

    4. I’m not an admirer of Helena Georgas, but his treatment
    of her is decussating. Really, who is next,? 
    Canadians are now get their political “message” from PR firms so some
    make decisions and form opinions in the same manner that children want Froot
    Loops to Fiber 1.  Think about it Andrew
    (strong, stable, national, majority, conservative government).  You don’t have to be a psychologist to
    understand what this is doing.  Even you
    know we didn’t need that.  If we were
    doing OK, why change?

    5. He has fired (or they quit) every official that has every
    opposed him. The conservative “industry govern themselves” approach.  (this meat was good yesterday, I see no
    reason not to sell it to-day.)

    6. Look at the prominent ones, Mackay, Flaherty, Clement,
    Baird, Kenny, Oda etc. all of whom are of suspicious character. Silenced by the
    election.

    7. They are still a party that is in “Contempt of Parliament”

     

    John Baird said on the last day of Parliament “the tyranny
    of the majority”.  Personally, I think we
    are about to find out what this really means.

    • Did JohnnyPeterson attend English classes, learn to read and assess the contents, learn to spell? Good grief! His missive contains much rubbish!

  22. While a majority government has an “agenda” advantage, I take issue with the past decade being a “lost” decade. Minority governments have been good for Canada in that they have forced all parties to find some way to make Parliament work. It has been a sobering experience for political parties to realize there are other viewpoints out there that need to be seriously considered, not just paid lip service. While those benefits are far less tangible than those of a majority agenda, they are still very real and should not be dismissed.

  23. I agree with the overall bent of this piece – but I still think you glaze over the math > encouraging more tax cuts and moderate spending cuts while giving a free pass to the government on existing estimates for prisons, fighter jets and an undisclosed 4 billion spending reduction.  I do not believe Conservatives will eliminate the deficit by the next election (though I hope I’m wrong). 

    On democratic reform a plea:  (1)  Please flight back against any senate reform that has ‘regional’ representation instead of rep by pop.  In a world of telecommunications and jet planes, regional representation is completely undemocratic.  (2)  Please encourage the government to truly, truly harmonize riding populations (understanding that with PEI and territories this won’t be possible).  15 more seats in Ontario does nothing for democratic reform if it just gives more power to rural voters but continues to disadvantage urban ones. 

  24. Cut federal corporate tax rates to 15%, because 18% can`t possibly compete with the 34% federal corporate tax rate in the US?

    Where`s my tax break?  Why does business need 8-15%, but individuals get 15-29%?

    • The shareholders of the corporation still pay taxes on the capital gains and the dividends.  Try this fun exercise: Corporate tax ZERO, but shareholders pay full tax rate (i.e. no more dividend tax credit) on the profits they realize.  The bleeding hearts who can’t count will still whine, but government still gets the income tax revenues from the corporate profits, and thousands of bright minds currently hired to play stupid accounting shell games are free to find something productive to do with their talents instead.

  25. This article just goes to show how completely devoid Harper is of any truly innovative solutions.  Same old tried-and-failed solutions they are now recovering from in the US.  We truly are the Americans’ retarded cousins… 

  26. As soon as the article said Harper would build more jails, they should have used the rest of this article to explain why? Oh yeah, he will build more jails, so what? Huh?

    I think the new criminal will be thos nasty protesters who aren’t going to take it anymore. What do you think?

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