Maclean's Interview: Stephen Harper -

Maclean’s Interview: Stephen Harper

The PM on embracing deficits and that dramatic week in Ottawa


Stephen Harper

Q: Over the last couple of months, through the formation of the coalition and proroguing of Parliament, what was the experience like for you? What did you learn from all of that?

A: Well, you know, in a sense it hasn’t changed the government’s plans. The plan was to pursue a budget as early as we could, early in January, and that’s what we’re going to do. I can say it’s been an interesting time—obviously there’s been a change in the opposition leadership as a consequence and so, you know, my great hope is it will lead us to some greater knowledge of what it is the opposition’s actually seeking in terms of public policy. We obviously have significant economic challenges in the country, we’re consulting widely on what should be in the budget, and what may be interesting out of all this is if we actually get some idea from the opposition what their economic priorities are.

Q: What are your priorities going into the new year? The campaign platform wasn’t really the same as the Throne Speech which wasn’t really the same as the economic update, and then the economic update was abandoned a couple of days after it was read, and now we’ll probably see something new in the budget.

A: Well, most of the measures in the economic update will be brought forward into the budget, other than a couple where we indicated some modifications, but the budget will once again be different because the reality is that throughout the fall we’ve been facing increasingly changed economic circumstances. We’ve been doing something unprecedented, which is not just consulting private sector forecasters on the economy but consulting them every two to three weeks, and every two to three weeks we have had materially different interpretations of the economic circumstances than we did the time before. So we continue to revise and update our plans to deal with those circumstances. I still think the underlying reality is that Canada enters this recession in a pretty strong position compared to most Western industrialized countries. We’re entering the recession later; all the indications are it will not be as deep here and we should be able to come out of it sooner. If you look around the world at what other countries are now doing, they’re things that Canada did over a year, year and a half ago, particularly some of the big tax reductions they’re talking about in the United States, and the sales tax cuts that Prime Minister Brown has bought in in Britain.

Q: So why do we need all this stimulus spending, and $30-billion deficits, if we’ll be able to ride this out in six months?

A: Well, the reality is that the situation is, notwithstanding all of that, still worse than forecasters were indicating three, four months ago, and we’ve got to make sure we don’t have a deep and prolonged drop in economic activity. So in our judgment, that is going to require fiscal stimulus. Obviously large-scale spending and deficits—even short-term deficits—are not something I particularly relish.

Q: Then why do them?

A: They are what is necessary for the economy now.

Q: You’re a better economist than I am, so I’m sure you’ve seen the studies on stimulus spending, and in almost every case when we have a recession and spend to stimulate the economy, the economy’s usually in recovery by the time the spending actually takes place. Governments just can’t be nimble enough to time the markets.

A: Those are very real risks. What I’ve indicated to the premiers, and what we’ve been indicating in our cross-country budget consultations, is we’ll be looking at short-term spending that will have very quick impacts, short-term budgetary measures that will have quick impacts. At the same time, we will continue to ensure we take measures to make sure that we control longer-term spending and that we’re able to come out of a deficit as quickly as we come out of a recession.

Q: I asked you about what you learned through the month of the coalition and all that excitement. Aside from what the opposition’s up to and what the opposition wants, what about the way you guys handled things? Are you happy with everything you did?

A: Well, you know, my own judgment is that what we really saw there was a continuation of a pattern we saw prior to the election—part of what led me to call the election—and during the election was the increasing opposition-for-the-sake-of-opposition approach of the other parties, and their increasing willingness to work together to do that. I think that reached a crescendo, and now I think they’ll obviously have to make some decisions: you know, are they serious in providing the government with their input on the economy? If they are, obviously we will take those things into account. If not, they’ll make their own judgments about how to go. I mean, our focus will be on what we think is best for the economy.

Q: But you don’t think you made a mistake or you mishandled your relations with the opposition?

A: Well, I think it’s always the right of the government to pursue what it believes is in the public interest. There were some measures—particularly the political subsidy measure—the opposition parties disagree with, but the government listened, and the government has decided to go [with] a freeze instead of an elimination. But make no mistake, the government believes that the elimination of these subsidies has to be done eventually, that that’s in the public interest.

Q: So it’s good policy but the timing is a political mistake?

A: Well, I guess that’s a conclusion you have to reach because we withdrew it. That said, it’s still the right policy, widely supported by Canadians.

Q: Are you going to come back to it then?

A: It will be part of our platform in the next election campaign. In the meantime we’ll put a freeze on these subsidies. I mean, I think it’s ridiculous that, at a time of economic recession, political parties are getting subsidies from the Canadian taxpayer that bear no relation to their own attempts to even raise money—that’s ridiculous. And we’re obviously disappointed there’s no willingness in the opposition to deal with that problem and to indicate, you know, that we’re prepared to lead by example from the top. We’re disappointed with that—the Conservative party would have taken the largest reduction of any party as a consequence of that policy—but that’s their decision. But I could go back: they’ve said that that’s not the reason they’ve done what they’ve done, and in fairness they did the coalition well after we indicated we weren’t pursuing that particular policy. So I do think, as I said before, that some of the opposition leaders are on the record saying this is in fact a plan that they had all along. We’ll see now, having seen public reaction, whether they choose, in effect, to recognize the results of the election, to accept that the government is the government, and to give the government their ideas about how to run the economy, or whether in fact they try to bring the government down. Those are the two choices before them.

Q: We have Stephen Harper now embracing targeted bailouts and large deficits. Is conservativism dead at the federal level in Canada?

A: No, we’re just dealing with the times and the realities we have. You asked about bailouts in terms of the auto sector. What we’ve done there is the only thing we can do under the circumstances. When a car is manufactured in this country, in North America, it crosses the border several times in assembly. It’s integrated in all aspects from the beginning of production to the marketing stage; it’s a completely integrated industry. The United States is engaging—is going to engage—in a government-directed restructuring. Either we participate in that in some way, or the industry will be entirely restructured out of Canada and we will lose 500,000 jobs in six months.

Q: Are you going to do any other industries besides the auto industry?

A: Obviously the government’s preferred approach, as you know, is not to provide direct assistance to industry unless it’s necessary for competitive reasons. Our preferred way of going is to invest in public infrastructure, to keep taxes low, business taxes low, [to keep a] competitive environment.

Q: But it’s too early to say it will stop at the auto industry?

A: We have to be pragmatic. We have to handle each problem according to the reality we’re in. In the auto sector I think everybody who’s looked at this seriously knows we’ve done the only thing we can do here.

Q: Do you think it’s fair to say that the big-spending liberals of Canada and North America are taking advantage of the political situation to drive through more of their ideological agenda?

A: Well, look, this is a risk. First of all there’s nothing—I should be clear—there’s nothing unconservative about running deficits during a recession. There’s actually pretty strong economic theory that would indicate that you don’t start raising taxes and reducing government economic activity during a downturn, but what we’ve got to be sure of as we enter a deficit [is] that those spending measures are short-term and that we’re in a position where, as the economy recovers, we move back into surplus. And obviously the risk the government faces is that this becomes an excuse for permanent long-term spending that is, in fact, not stimulative, it’s just simply big government that becomes a burden on the economy. That is a significant risk, which is why I think it’s important to have a Conservative government managing this kind of program.

Q: You did a lot for Quebec as prime minister—expanding its role in foreign affairs, recognition of its nationhood by Parliament, and [providing] billions to answer the perceived fiscal imbalance between Quebec and the rest of Confederation. And then during the election the province effectively turned on you over a minor issue of arts funding. What’s your plan in Quebec now?

A: Well, first of all I’m not sure it was that simple. We did hold our vote in Quebec and held our seat gain from 2006 which was considered a historic breakthrough. Obviously we would have liked to do better. But look, the government will continue to do what it believes is in the best interests of the country. Where there are things we can do to accommodate Quebec nationalism within a united Canada we’ll do them, and that is consistent with the Conservative party’s historic philosophy of federalism. When it comes to things we think are not in the interests of the country—spending that’s inefficient or, quite frankly, doing things like offering a governmental role to separatists—obviously this party will not do that.

Q: Will the government amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent unwarranted interferences in free expression by human rights commissions?

A: The government has no plans to do so. We’re certainly aware of the issue. My understanding—we’ve been monitoring this closely—I think you’ll actually see there’s been some modification of behaviour on the part of the Canadian human rights commissions. The most egregious cases right now are mostly at the provincial level. And it is a very tricky issue of public policy because obviously, as we’ve seen, some of these powers can be abused. But they do exist for valid reasons, which is obviously to prevent public airwaves from being used to disseminate hate against vulnerable members of our society. That’s a valid objective. It’s probably the case that we haven’t got the balance right, but I’m not sure the government today has any answer on what an appropriate balance would be.

Q Tories are doing well in the polls right now—you’re as high as you’ve ever been—but I don’t think there’s been a leader of a federal party in Canada who improved his standing in Parliament with an election during or right after a recession, and I also don’t think there has ever been a leader who won a majority on the fourth try after not achieving one in the previous three tries. What are the odds of a Stephen Harper majority, especially in this economic environment?

A: Look, I’ve said another election is not my focus right now. Obviously if the opposition defeats us on the budget, my view is that we should be having another election.

Q: But you want a majority, no?

A: If we have an election that will be my objective, but my objective is not to have an election. I’ve been through three national elections in four years. Since I returned to politics a little over six years ago—I guess it’s getting close to seven—I’ve been in three national elections, two leadership races, one party referendum, and a by-election to win my seat. All I’ve done is run for office continuously. I would, even during a recession, relish the occasion to actually sit back and attempt to govern for a while! But look, the fact of the matter is this, that before the 2004 election all of the pundits were predicting a crushing Liberal majority and, of course, they won a minority. In the fall of 2005, all the pundits were saying the Conservative party had no hope of winning the election. We won the election. We won a strengthened minority [in October 2008]. Granted, it’s still a minority but we won a strengthened mandate in the beginning of a recession, which is unheard of in Canadian history. I can tell you from conversations I have with foreign leaders that the results of the election stunned them, and largely, by the way, elated them because they all feel more optimistic about their own possibilities. Granted, most of them have much worse economies than we do. So look, I’ve obviously had a lot more political success in my life than I thought I would have. I’m honoured to have the job, whatever mandate the Canadian people give me, that’s the mandate I’ll work with, but the reality is that I don’t want to have an election right now. Obviously, if we had an election today somebody will have a majority because it will be either Canada’s Conservative government or the coalition.

Q: So you think the coalition’s going tostick together?

A: Well, I’m saying if we had an election, if they were to defeat us—and you know my view—if they defeat us the only constitutional political and moral option is to ask the people to choose who should govern and then there will be two choices, and somebody will win a majority if those are the choices. But my preference is not, for all kinds of reasons, not to have that election.

Q: So you think they’d actually run as a coalition?

A: I don’t think they have any choice: if they defeat us as a coalition they have to run as a coalition, and I think those will be the real choices before the electorate. The electorate will know that if you’re not electing the Conservative government you’re going to be electing a coalition that will include the NDP and the separatists. But, as I say, my strong preference is to govern, and I think to go through several more months of election, of a new government being formed, all the things that that takes, all the delays, would serve no useful purpose to the economy right now. I think it’s just better for us to govern, and I think it’s better for the opposition, rather than just opposing us and rather than getting together to oppose us on everything, to actually tell us realistically what kind of things they think we should be doing for the economy.


Maclean’s Interview: Stephen Harper

  1. The plan was to pursue a budget as early as we could, early in January

    Lie. Not called on it. Next.

    • Please—the world economy is in tough times—no time for advice from NDP about budgets—go lie down for awhile and when things get better maybe there will be some government grant or something you can get in on.

      • Why don’t you send that one in to the PMO? It’s better than SH’s obfuscations.

      • NDP=Balanced budgets, no economy and bankrupt citizens.
        Tories fix liberal deficits, Mulroney saved Canada from bankruptcy by Trudeau, Harper paid down the debt created by Trudeau, Chretien and Martin stolen 54 billion from EI, Canadian workers money and now they scream to the Tories to fix EI.
        Your grasp of history is sad.

        • “Tories fix Liberal deficits” “Harper paid down the debt created by Trudeau”.

          Yikes. You appear to be completely deluded and blinded by your petty partisanship.

          Seriously. You actually believe this? Even in the face of the reams of objective evidence that says exactly the opposite? Who here has an incredibly bad grasp of history?

          When you start outright lying and saying the exact opposite of the truth, you know you are taking your partisanship to childish extremes. You are a little too like your little PM.

        • Durward; Shake your head! Bulroney spent use deeper into debt after he took power, to the point his party was down to historic lows after he jumped ship and Kim Campbell to over. He read thehand writing on the wall and bailed out. In fact it was Paul Martin who set the rules and paid down the debt, which continued until Harpy took over.

          If you’re going to make a statement, make sure you know what you’re talking about.

      • In the smaller provinces of Sask and Manitoba, perhaps. The NDP nearly crippled Ontario (I ask has any other government anywhere else in a G-7 nation nearly tripled their debt in a little over 4.5 years?!!).

        The NDP’s record with the economy and finances of B.C. is not exactly stuff you want showcased in the front window either.

        Durward below is half-right in saying that Mulroney definitely played a big part in curtailing the vicious deficit/debt spiral that we were in. Mulroney inherited Canada’s biggest ever peacetime deficit (8.2% of GDP, equivalent to a $127 billion deficit today), and an operating deficit (i.e. a deficit even before debt servicing charges). Trudeau (with miscalculations about revenue robustness in the late 70’s) left us in a truly terrible mess, easily the worst fiscal shape we’ve ever been in. We were spending $1 in program spending for every 97 cents in revenue! To get to a balanced budget, Mulroney would’ve had to immediately cut one-third of all program spending! Mulroney fixed that first deficit that had to be addressed, the operating deficit. Over his nine years in power, he was in surplus on that score. He brought the deficit-to-GDP down to 4% (in other words, half that of what he inherited), but those plans were thrown off by the ’91 recession, when it again spiked up over 5%. But he did manage to bring in (with great political cost to himself and his party) the two policies which were largely the reason why it was even possible to get to a balanced budget in the 90’s: Free Trade, and the GST.

    • No need to be called on it. Why? Because it wasn’t a lie. Canada’s largest trading partner (who is in severe financial difficulties) and neighbour, with an economy ten times the size of Canada, had just elected a completely new administration and a new president, anyone who wouldn’t wait and see what they do before acting would be foolish. Particularly when one of the main items is the auto sector which is seamlessly linked between us!

      • The lie is “The plan was to pursue a budget as early as we could, early in January”

        Waiting until after Obama is confirmed and presents his ideas isn’t
        1. As early as we could, or
        2. Early in January — unless you have a completely different meaning for the word “early”

        • Obama has laid out some of his plans, earlier than I thought. I though that Obama would wait until he is inaugurated. The Harper administration has been in touch with them and therefore they could have come forward with a budget before the end of the month but the Gang of Three put the kibosh on that, so it’ll be the end of the month.

    • The looney left is only good at one thing complaining. Thank God they are not in Government and this includes the Liberals.

      the Bloc wants to suck the Canadian treasury dry in favour of Quebec.

      Canada has a leader who is qualified to lead the country.

      • “Canada has a leader who is qualified to lead the country.”

        I hear you, can’t wait for Iggy to take the helm.

        • Another out of touch academic who’s spent his entire adult life in the safe confines of a tenured environment, lecturing people.

          Those who can…do.

          Those who can’t…….teach.

          Those who teach…..become leaders of the Liberal party.

          • Those who teach…..become leaders of the Liberal party.

            Hey, you got one!

            Those who pander to rubes become leaders of the Reforma-Conserva-Harper party.

          • So, Kody, what exactly has your little hero actually “done” in his life?

            Built a company? no.
            Created wealth? no.
            Been internationally reknowned for original and critical thinking and analysis? no – actually Harper had never been outside of Canada or US until he became leader of his party. Yikes.
            Been a paid lobbyist and a political backroom boy? Absolutely.

            Always makes me laugh out loud when little dudes like yourself, Harper and most of his causus spout on about the private sector and free markets and “actually doing something” when the reality is that they ave spent their lives largely on the public teat and have not actually operated in the private sector creating wealth.

          • Last time i heard that was in grade 9…

      • The looney left is better than the new mean nasty lying right of Stephen Harper. Time for new leadership before he completely wrecks the Conservative party.

    • Budgets are usually in February which makes a January budget an early one. NEXT

    • A successful interview stephen harper has all the right answers for all the right questions. This is a challenging time to lead right now so it is best that it is him and his party. Laying the foundation for any country need a brilliant leader and the conservatives have one. Good job and a good read.

      • Absolutely. But with the three “coalition” jackals, it will be touch and go until an election, which the Ottawa-Toronto,Montreal triumvirate are exploiting with the contiual mantra BUT CANADIANS DONT WANT AN ELECTION- at least until the liberals get their house in order.

    • I can hear Stephane screaching “You’re a liar! You’re a liar!” Hilarious and completely wrong. i would suggest you get over your apparent perfection and join the real world. The only people lying are the lefties. They do it with style and with impunity. Give it up!

    • But first we had to wait for the US to tell us what to do.

  2. A good follow up question on page 4 would have been “what ‘egregious’ examples of abuses by provincial human rights tribunals do you take issue with” or “can you demonstrate a concrete example of a modification in behaviour of a human rights tribunal?”

    My guess is that he couldn’t give a coherent answer (or if he is, he wouldn’t be willing to say it aloud).

    • Mike, he’d probably mention the BCHRT’s

      “Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union Local 1611 obo Foreign Workers v. SELI Canada”

      …not a free speech issue, but the gov. was huffed enough about it that they (Kenney) actually issued a press release) saying so. Not that I personally think it was an egregious etc.

      In any case, this whole talk of abuse is throwing the smallest slab of red meat out to the true believers, who otherwise are getting squat.

      • That’s not the point. The question is whether Harper’s knows what he’s talking about.

        It’s not that hard to figure out, really.

      • Where is the evidence that Harper supports the conclusions of the articles returned?

        Reading comprehension, people.

        • So, now Mike T. and Ti-Guy decide to take issue with Harper for questions that were not answered because they were not asked. (“My guess is that he couldn’t give a coherent answer.” ) Wow — that’s a stretch. Maybe you two might want to stick with the actual substance of the interview if you want to have any credibility.

  3. Once again Harper is playing chess while Layton , Iggy, and their handlers like Kinsella are playing crazy eights.
    Did you really think this coalition thing would not be a factor in the next election ? It is really quite simple. If you vote for any party but the Conservative then you are giving a majority to the coalition ( Libs, NDP and Bloc ). Now how do you think folks will feel about that ?

    • Once again Harper is playing chess while Layton , Iggy, and their handlers like Kinsella are playing crazy eights.

      Did you even read the interview?

      • Oh, I read the interview—-pull off those Lib-Blinders you have on and read the last paragraph again and this time pay attention. If you need further interpretation go read the latest from Paul Wells.

        • Hmmm . . . I suppose the anyone-but-the-Conservatives crowd would like it.

          Harper’s been playing checkers all along. He just looks like a master strategist because his opponents have been playing tiddlywinks.

          • As long as the coalition is a phantom-menace it will be used against Iggy – including in the NEXT election.
            If the coalition gov’t becomes a reality and is not a fiasco, it will be defused as a weapon, could even be a plus.

            Iggy’s best bet:
            * Join Layton in a press conf. to reiterate the viability of the coalition. (Keep Gilles away from the cameras.)
            * defeat Harper and ask for the GG to make him PM.
            * give good gov’t for at least 6 months

            hey we might even usher in an era of broadbased coalition gov’t in Canada.

            disclosure: duplicate posting from yesterdays’ Wherry

    • That doesn’t make any sense. If the Liberals win a majority, there won’t be a coalition. This argument seems to rely on the idea that Canadians are idiots who will believe that these parties have merged rather than cooperating in accordance with the circumstances presented to them.

    • I’m glad that somebody realizes that Canada’s most dangerous person is Kinsella. Read his book :”Web of Hate- the backjacket featuring a swastika; the contents comprise a bunch of extremists of the far right, who never had any power, but not a leftist mentioned from cover to cover.

      • Um, because it’s a book about Neo-Nazis.

  4. Interesting that he thinks he has a winning issue on removing the public election campaign financing, when the Globe and Mail just did a story on this a couple of days ago, where it was mentioned that in a 2006 Canadian Elections Study, it asked respondents whether political parties should get public funding. More than half of those surveyed had no opinion. But, of those who did, 71 per cent said the public financing was a “good thing”, and that in polls done back thru the years, Canadians support public financing.

    This will again be a message framing issue. The opposition parties are going to have to mention aggressively over and over again all those studies showing Canadians DID support this.. and that it was put in place so that there is fairness amongst parties to get their message out at election time.

    • Further to Scott’s point, Harper keeps saying that the public supports his measure, as justification. Harper was using a post-fiscal update poll, which he had NO knowledge of at the time he introduced. Harper, was however, or he should have been, aware of the Elections Canada Study, which showed no such public support. It’s such unmitigated bullshit, that reporters consistently allow the PM to spew this nonsense, to raltionalize a purely partisan ploy, without calling him on it.

    • Scott T: “The opposition parties are going to have to mention aggressively over and over again all those studies showing Canadians DID support this.” Not really!

      “and that it was put in place so that there is fairness amongst parties to get their message out at election time. Not really, again.

      I think that at election time one need only frame the question and let the voters make up their mind. (I doubt that they will care about surveys done years back.) Axworthy (I think Tom) did an opinion piece on this about a week ago. He put forward the question of whether or not it’s better to have governments provide funding to parties or corporations/unions. The embarrassing oversight was that he did not bother to mention the possibility of individual supporters funding the parties. What’s not fair (or what’s unequal) about anyone who supports a party kicking in ten bucks to fund it? That’s a level playing field in my books.

      • It is without question a level playing field IF individuals pitch in 10 bucks…the problem is, The Libs are too perfect to God forbid, ask for support. it would be quite frankly beneath them.

      • You’re assuming that the supporters of the party have 10 bucks spare. Elitist.

        • Perhaps every last member does not — however, I would guess that the those who do not have $10 are probably spread across the political spectrum — everyone does not have to donate — but a lot can, most can.

          • A party should be judged on the merits of its platform, not the depth of the pockets of its supporters. Even if it is only individual contributions, money should not be deciding elections. Political parties are not businesses. Their goal is not, or should not, be to make money. Do we really want our political parties to be focused on fundraising rather than on doing their jobs, which, unless I’m mistaken, is representing the people of Canada in parliament?

    • Interesting, but in a poll done a few weeks ago, when the issue was the livest, the overwhelming majority agreed it should go out.

      Maybe you should go back a few more years.

      • If I recall correctly, the Globe article did not even mention the recent poll. I think that tells you all you need to know about that Globe article.

  5. Stephen Harper “obvious” count: 15 in this interview!

    If you were as smart as Stephen Harper, everything would be obvious to you too…obviously.

  6. “There’s actually pretty strong economic theory that would indicate that you don’t start raising taxes and reducing government economic activity during a downturn.”

    That would be Keynesian neo-Liberal theory, I believe. Otherwise known as an aversion to political suicide.

  7. If Harper was constantly referring to private forecasts in the last three months, then why did the fiscal update show no relationship WHATSOEVER to every single public forecast released in the two weeks prior to the update? People may recall, that when Flaherty delivered the disingenious turd, every single economist in the country categorized his numbers as “rosy”, and his own budget officer completely disagreed. The question then becomes, why is that the budget officer has better access to reality, and if so, what does that say about this government’s competence?

    • Every single economist in the country? I know of at least one that didn’t and he’s also the PM.

      • Oh, sorry I meant respected economists.

      • The PM’s an economist? Uh, since when? An MA does not an economist make.

  8. Nor Pov

    You`re delusional—keep dreamin

  9. “well look”

    He’s hardly changed at all.

  10. But, as I say, my strong preference is to govern, and I think to go through several more months of election, of a new government being formed, all the things that that takes, all the delays, would serve no useful purpose to the economy right now.

    What useful purpose have the last four or five months of Harper-engineered election and delay served for the economy?

    • You`re right —it is tough to govern when you have a distrustful plotting opposition—maybe a Conservative majority is a better opposition.

      • Well.. I’m not sure that a conservative majority would be.. that might be a little tough on our parliamentary system, but a Conserative party would certainly be a better opposition.. at least, better than they are at government.

    • A much HIGHER purpose than if the coalition was attempting to establish itself as the governing entity in the middle of this mess. Just changing and setting up the new caucus and everything that that entails….would have resulted in a budget being presented probably sometime in March if not later. Give your head a shake. You don’t change governments, especially to a loony coalition overnight. Harper…and I know this will be hard for you to comprehend…was only trying to avoid a confusing and complicated transition at a time when he had to keep his hands firmly on the wheel. The election will come soon enough. I’m amazed how the other parties go on and on about how they would have this all done already are seriously deluded.

  11. I think Prime Minister Harper is doing a great job. We are still the most stable country of the G-7 and I like his ‘steady as she goes’ attitude. At least he doesn’t panic and scream the sky is falling, like the Liberals/NDP/Bloc do. I think it would be great for Canada to have a Harper majority right now.

    • You’re obviously a blind Conservative supporter.

      “Liberals/NDP/Bloc”, also known as the Conservative attack-list du jour.

      No member of any non-Conservative party has done anything to the effect of panic. You misunderstand the intelligence of other parties because you can’t understand how the Conservatives fool you into supporting them.

      Harper doesn’t give a stink about Canada. All he wants to do is make him and the true elite of the Conservative party bags full of money. Once these misers have finished raping our country, it will be the middle class fools they spent the whole time manipulating wondering what went wrong.

      Figure it out people, Conservatives only care about business. Government doesn’t exist for business, why is this so difficult for you to grasp?!

      • Alex — among other things, your views are WAY out of date. It is not the Conservatives who are the party of big business — it is Liberals — has been for years! That is why they have trouble raising money from ordinary folks. PC’s lost their business supporters when they imploded, and Reform included a lot of grassroots, ordinary middle class people. Conservatives have benefited from this and that grassroots support continues to be an important aspect of the party.

        Also — you clearly are not paying much attention when you say “No member of any non-Conservative party has done anything to the effect of panic.” Good grief — panic was exactly what Dion was doing during the election and Dion/Layton when they came up with the coalition idea and decided to use the “We can’t wait six weeks, we need immediate action on the economy!” mantra. There has been a great deal of panic communicated in many of the oppositions pronouncements — to be fair, I think it was really political posturing, but it looked a lot like panic.

  12. Does anyone else find it just a “wee” bit disingenous that we have Liberal supporters trying to attach Progressive Conservative wrong-doings under Brian Mulroney, to Stephen Harper?

    After all, how much Liberal Friendly press time did Chretian and Martin get when the New Conservative Party was formed. Remember the dire warning from Ralph Goodale? Remember that whack-job from Ontario spreading his arms and warning us about the “DARK FORCES” of the new Party and how they were NOT the same as the friendly PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES?

    Which is it?
    Is the New Conservative Party under Harper NOT AT ALL LIKE THE KIND HEARTED PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES of Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark….or are they JUST AS CORRUPT AS THE FORMER PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES of Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark. ?

    Make up your mind boys. You can’t have it both ways and still maintain credibility.

    As an aside…..when it comes to corruption, graft, and theft….Brian Mulroney was an amateur compared to what followed for the next 13 years.

    What a pathetic bunch.

    • So, you blame the Liberals for running the country with a surplus and looking after the needs of as many people as possible? Clever.
      I think it’s also very sharp of you to whine about Conservatives being the target of corruption attacks and then make the same to anyone else. Clever, except you do realize you contradicted yourself, right?

      Here’s a straightforward and simple statement of truth: Harper doesn’t care about Canadians. He only cares about money.
      Given that simple reality, *ANY* other party running today beats him on all counts.

      Forget years gone by, Harper is the worst thing for Canada if the world started yesterday. Whatever complicated and desperate gesturing you make towards Liberal corruption doesn’t even compete with the kind of greed a party backed by business interest is and has been capable of.
      So you can get all knotted up over the past, but anyone looking forward will be able to tell you Conservatives are bad for brand new reasons you can’t refute.

      This is where the typical con whines in true playbook-fashion: “wah wah, where are they, you haven’t said any, wah wah”. Well, look at the last few paragraphs I wrote for you. Take a look at the lazy do-nothing ministers of apathy we have. Look at Canada’s tarnished reputation recently with other countries on pollution. We look like assholes. Assholes run by a bunch of ornery generation jones babies trying to compensate for their insecurity.
      Put those clever research and debating skills to good use and update yourselves on current news items to see how Harper and his dependence on persuasion, negativity and misinformation are destroying our country from the inside out.
      I’d ask any Conservative supporter to think about it, but if you’re a Conservative supporter, thinking is already off the menu.

      Government is for people, not for greed.

      • Forget years gone by, Harper is the worst thing for Canada if the world started yesterday.

        Wow, life evolves pretty fast on this new one-day-old planet. Lucky for us the lightning-bolt hit the organic-compound swamp very early yesterday.

      • “Harper is the worst thing for Canada if the world started yesterday. Whatever complicated and desperate gesturing you make towards Liberal corruption doesn’t even compete with the kind of greed a party backed by business interest is and has been capable of”

        I was under the impression that the Conservatives got almost all of their funding from small donations from grassroots supporters vs the Liberals who over the course of the last 15 years relied almost soley on large corporate donations. Id like a litte more evidence or at least some explanation on the logic behind that conclusion becuase it doesnt seem to make sense to me.

        • Elections Canada posts the donations to every party on their website. It takes a great lot of homework to look these things up and some people have done it and posted the results. It is stunning how little the liberals get from the people who say they are Liberal. It is also stunning to see the results of searches done on Liberal MPs and their giving. Not much, some of them don’t give anything. I think it was 2000 the top gift to the LPC was 500,000.00 from a numbered bank account. As I say I have only seen results of others home work it could have been 2004 but it stands as a real red flag as to the integrity of the LPC

          • Did that $500000.00 originate from a secretive account out of Quebec maybe tied back to some advertising firm from Shawinigan ?

          • William – grow up! Before Chretien changed the system all parties received contributions from business and or unions. Was it all fraud?

      • Alex: “Harper doesn’t care about Canadians. He only cares about money.” This is a completely indefensible statement — patently untrue and downright dumb would be the only way to describe it. If you have specific complaints, put those on the table with facts to back them up, but there is no justification for such unmitigated slander.

        And: “So, you blame the Liberals for . . . looking after the needs of as many people as possible?” — a joke, right? Would the people being looked after so well by the Liberals include party hacks, media firms, and all those special interest lobby groups? (You know . . . Court Challenges, ACOA, LEAF, NAC, anti-free trade groups etc). — and David Dingwall? Oh — and I forgot about the Chinese — I think they were getting a million dollars each month from the Liberals, despite the fact that they had a larger and better funded military than our own.

        Maybe you are really an intelligent person with good intentions, but you you undermine your arguments by having a one-sided view that is clearly not supported by facts — not that you have presented anyway.

        • If Harper cares more about people than business why has he given FAR more cuts to corporate taxes than to personal income taxes?

          • Corporate taxes, in the long term, are borne in very large part by workers. So lowering corporate taxes is good for Canadians.

      • “Look at Canada’s tarnished reputation recently with other countries on pollution. We look like assholes” I don’t really mind being called assholes by a bunch of assholes. Works for me!

    • Brian Mulroney was an amateut all right, but not at corruption,graft and theft. Well maybe that too. Who in their right mind would take little envelopes of cash from K.H. Schreiber?

      • Over here! Over here!

        • Indeed. The question, as put, probably does not adequately reflect the author’s quite valid point.

  13. Wow. Can that guy accept responsibility for ANYTHING? He’s like a robot. Everything is partisan — and he constantly changes history — recent history! — to suit the present.

    My favourite was: “We won a strengthened mandate in the beginning of a recession, which is unheard of in Canadian history.”

    He seems to have forgotten that he told people during the campaign that Canada was NOT going into recession and would NEVER run a deficit. Maybe that’s why people voted for him.

    I’m not sure if he’s mentally delusional or Machavelli reincarnated. Either way his arrogant, all-knowing attitude continues to rub this voter the wrong way!

  14. Lastly, I thought it was interesting too that he was actually doing an interview. Aside from one interview at New Year — I cannot recall a PM who has avoided the media the way Harper does. And when he does meet with the media – he never answers more than 2 or 3 questions. I think actually that it does him a disservice. He just doesn’t seem very happy or warm or compassionate. I know, I know… these are not essential qualities in a PM — but I think they can make the difference between a minority win and a majority win, I think.

    • Ever think the media avoids Him? He won’t let them play games in the halls of Parliament, He want’s order and ‘Good governance ” (like in the constitution). They want to hound Cabinet Ministers, get a sound clip and twist the meaning into some scandal. The parliamentary press corp needs to clean up their act and report the news instead of constantly commenting on their own biased opinions. Intelligent press is what you find here, not gottcha so called journalism.

      • Let’s’re idea of an “intelligent press”? That wouldn’t be a cowed and craven one , by any chance, would it?

  15. It’s truly remarkable that the nasty and mean spirited lefties for some reason think that anyone other than the down town core of Toronto and Vancouver wants anything to do with them and Mini-Marx.

    A vote for the Liberals, the NDP or the Bloc is a vote for a corrupt coalition, one that will not allow, as part of it’s founding agreements, any opposition in votes of confidence. This is not democratic, this is Socialism 101, just like “Vote for abortion or you’re out of the caucus” Dipper 101.

    Maybe with Iggy in as unelected head of the Liberals, they can somehow return to at least a passing imitation of a democratic party.

    The Bloc and NDP are hooped. Commie wanna-be’s that will do anything for power. Remember, it’s the socialist parties in history that have murdered their own people and continue to do so today .

    • Did you make that up all by yourself?

    • To quote Olaf:

      “I didn’t know things were that bad in Sweden”

    • The remarkable ignorance in this comment is breathtaking.

      To my knowledge, a “socialist” government has never “murdered their own people” nor do they “continue to do so today”.

      Yes, some COMMUNIST parties committed atrocities against their own people. I would say the carnage is about equal to all the misery wrought by authoritarian RIGHT-WING governments imposed on peoples the world over by American and other governments.

      Socialist or social-democratic parties (which would be the correct classification of the NDP) have been on the forefront of expanding human rights for well over a century.

  16. Hmmm…. you should watch the Trudeau / Ignatieff interviews elsewhere on the Macleans site:

    Trudeau — for his many, many warts — still talks like an interesting human being. Harper should take note. Trudeau doesn’t just talk about the issues through a partisan filter — he talks about life, people who influence him, books that inspire him, etc. Very interesting.

    I’d like to know more about Harper and what makes him tick. It might him more likeable and vote-worthy.

    • My guess for “books that inspire him”:

      Thorstein Veblen – Theory of the Leisure Class
      Friedrich Hayek – The Road to Serfdom
      Milton Friedman – (pretty well any title of his)
      Edmund Burke – Reflections on the Revolution in France
      Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince
      Nathan Rosenberg – How the West Grew Rich
      Charles Lindblom – The Intelligence of Democracy
      Barry Clark – Political Economy

      All very good reads, I might add. (except Rosenberg… my God is that one ever boring!)

      • Dr. Seuss – “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”

      • Maybe also add to the list:
        Liberal Fascism
        A Nation of Serfs (How Canada’s Political Culture Corrupts Canadian Values)
        Dreamland (about years of misguided foreign policy in Canada).
        Who Gets In (Political abuse of the immigration system)
        The Most Dangerous Branch (about things we should be questioning about our justice system)
        Also all good reads.

        • Liberal Fascism is the worst book ever written.

          LindaL, did you actually read it?

          • Yes! I thought much of the historical background was very fascinating.

          • I like the part where Goldberg single-handedly cripples 100 Liberal fascists with his bare hands and a can opener. Now that was enlightening!

        • What historical background?

          • Ok, John K., I was trying to make a serious attempt at shedding light on books that have probably informed his political and economic leanings. I would probably add some of J.L. Granatstein’s books on the Canadian Military (particularly on its decline of late) to that list above.

    • Chris r
      Yea Trudeau was great, rarely boring anyway. When SH first became PM L. Martin said: we’ve got a conservative Trudeau now. I just quit laughing as a new yrs resolution.
      ” I’d like to know more about Harper and what makes him tick. It might make him more likeable and vote worthy”
      No you wouldn’t and no it wont. Weren’t you watching the election? Harper will TELL you when he wants you to like him and in case you don’t quite get it, he’ll be wearing a fuzzy blue sweater. What’s a guy got to do to get a majority around here?
      As for Trudeau he didn’t give a rat’s ass if you liked him or not. One reason why, i think he lasted so long.

      • “As for Trudeau he didn’t give a rat’s ass if you liked him or not.” — I think this is also a point made about Harper. What people seem unable to forgive is that Harper is a serious minded person who also happens to be an introvert. Trudeau (I’ve heard) was also an introvert, but he was also a public performer. Harper is not. These are personal qualities (serious mindedness and introversion) that will affect public perceptions of him, but they are not things on which we should judge Harper’s performance as a Prime Minister. I make a point of picking up on off-beat portraits of Harper — e.g. a Chatelaine profile done several years ago, informal comments on blogs from people who have had personal contact with him. Harper is a VERY caring person (based on these reports) — he just does not lay it on with a trowel to gain points from the media. I think we are a very shallow people if we cannot see the worth of leaders who are not also media darlings.

        Yes, he did the sweater thing in the election (and someone said you could not have got him to do it several years ago because he does not like phony) — however, media being what it is, the PR people convinced him this kind of thing is important in a telegenic and media focused world . . . it is. Politicians get pilloried if they don’t perform well for the media (just ask poor Dion, just ask Jack Layton who used to spend time giving speeches to himself in front of a mirror!).

      • You are so frieking pathetic it’s painful. ” I’d like to know more about Harper and what makes him tick. It might make him more likeable and vote worthy” There’s a lot of great material out there about Harper’s
        history in politics that started in the late 80’s. I’m astounded at how little people do know about him. It’s tragic really. He’s an incredible individual who is seriously misunderstood and misrepresented. Do your homework people and try and read more than the Star and the Globe. Get a balanced education about this man that you so love to bash. Most of the negatives about Harper are a complete media and opposition fabrication.

        • I’ve studied the history of the Reform Party and that history is tied indelibly to Harper. To say he is an “incredible individual”, as you have, is a clear misnomer.

          In what way is he exceptional? In the fact he took until 32 to get his MA in Economics? In the fact that he worked in the mailroom at Imperial Oil in Calgary, eventually moving up to the IT department before making the leap into politics? In that the NCC dropped 50K on his first seat run in Calgary in order to “boost” him and that was returned later when he fled politics to head the NCC? In that he parachuted in at the very end of the merger process done almost completely by Deb Grey and then took credit for it?

          The guy is undoubtedly smart, but there is a pattern of discontent he has established since his youth that paints him as an non-stop whiner. He’s held party cards in the LPC, the PCs and Reform, leaving all of them in a huff when the leader of the day did something he disagreed with. That anti-social bent has clearly translated into how he deals on a partisan basis with the other parties now that he’s PM.

          He’s got strengths, but I simply fail to see why he is worshipped by the party faithful as much as he is.

  17. “if they defeat us as a coalition they have to run as a coalition,”

    More Stephen Harper persuasive nonsense. He’s just trying to set them up into a marketing trap so that if an election happens, he can bluff them into running as one.
    Stephen continues to try and redesign how Canadian politics work so he can make it as compatible as possible with his campaign machine.

    The interviewer in this article is weak and makes little efforts to cut through Stephen’s obsession with smothering all the other parties in Canada.

    • “that trap”

      Actually I believe it’s called being up front with voters. But it’s really irrelevant anyway, because the massive CPC warchest will almost certainly dedicate a fair bit of airtime,

      reminding Canadians about the deal, Iggy’s signature on it, and Iggy’s apparant willingness to make a deal with the political devil (the bloc) if it suits him politically.

      The next election will be a Harper majority. In fact, it won’t even be close.

      • LOL. Do the seat count … the road to a majority for Harper is through Quebec. Alienate Quebec by painting the BQ as the devil and you can kiss that majority goodbye for a decade.

  18. “All I’ve done is run for office continuously. I would, even during a recession, relish the occasion to actually sit back and attempt to govern for a while!”. I like it when Stephen Harper tries to be funny. The truth comes out! He can’t govern, he’s inept and it’s taken him far too long to learn how to do it. He’s a like a bad hire. I hope we’re not stuck with him for good.

    • You should run for office. You’re a political genius.

    • OMG do your homework insteadof listening to yourself shriek about his eneptness. There are plenty of sources to educate your small litlle mind about what this Leader has actually accomplished in 3 years. read it and weep because NO LIBERAL and certainly NO NDp leader could even come close.

  19. The most puffball interview I have ever read. There isn’t one answer to these questions that is to some degree a fabrication from whole cloth. If anyone wants to know what the plan is maybe a better source would be Tom Flannegan of the Calgary School.Atleast he is to the point, as much as I despise his politics. There are several examples of him giving interviews and saying things that shortly are Conservative policy. The fact that Harper insists he has no desire for an election, and Flannegan says its the way to go to bankrupt all opposition, says Conservative contrived election before summer. Likely the reason for such a corporatist driven/slanted interview as this one.

  20. Alex—the Liberals are the party of the banks and big business—-the Conservatives are the party of small business and the people. Until you understand that you will continue to demonstrate your lack of knowledge of Canadian politics.
    J M—you may not like what you read but that may say more about you then the interviewer or the subject.

    • How arrogant.

  21. Well Iggy is our next PM, there is no reason to vote for Harper now.

  22. I see the usual Leftist Mental Disorder crowd is out on a day pass from the loony bin again.

  23. What Keynesian bilge. As soon as he grabs power, the man who claimed that he quit the Libs because of the NEP, introduces a National Auto Plan. The Conservative Party of Canada’s answer to Bob Rae.

    Still though – he may know jack about economics and care less, but your PM is one smart and lucky guy. He and his pals are going to do extremely well in the next few years. $30B in pork to dole out, and an “opposition” who do nothing but scream for more of the same. It’s the HRDC boondoggle, times 30.

    So during the next decade or so of economic depression, keep remembering what a clever guy you elected when you’re stooging around trying to score a federally funded, meaningless, make-work job. Don’t forget that joining the local party association, volunteering on campaigns, and banding together with your friends to hire lobbyists with the right party credentials will be the ticket to success. Be smart like the PM. Be an opportunist.

    • What is the similarity between the ” national auto plan and the NEP ?

      • Taxpayer $$$$, and the ludicrous premise that politicians handling the money are wise, altruistic, and would never spend the money buying political favors and lining their own pockets (cough, Airbus, HRDC, AdScam…)

        Other than that, no similarity at all.

        • So————–I think you`re saying that the NEP was a gov`t bailout of the oil companies——————ah, I don`t know what the Heck you`re saying.

    • Funny, I thought it was pragmatist, not opportunist, to be this smart and lucky. Geez, if only we all had the same hymn sheet…

  24. The hive is certainly buzzing today.

    Mention of Harper’s name in a post, gets the hornets all worked up.

  25. My favourite question of the interview: “Q: Do you think it’s fair to say that the big-spending liberals of Canada and North America are taking advantage of the political situation to drive through more of their ideological agenda?”

    Ah, if only all reporters asked you questions like that eh Steve?

    What horseshit.

  26. Harper is a clone of the old style Progressive Conservative Party leader, which figures as that is what the party has become. He has lied his way to power since he was in the Reform Party. He believes in nothing except what will win him seats in Ontario and Quebec, the same as the Liberals. The West wants out!

  27. Alex wrote:
    “Look at Canada’s tarnished reputation recently with other countries on pollution. We look like assholes. Assholes run by a bunch of ornery generation jones babies trying to compensate for their insecurity.”

    In your case….I would agree with your assessment. At least you understand your own limitations.

  28. Our dictator prime minister should be ashamed to be showing his face in public, let alone granting interviews.

    Since December 4, as far as I am concerned, Herr Harper’s government has been illegitimate, and Canada has no prime minister.

    Mr. Ignatieff should be demanding that the Governor General recall Parliament, so that this toxic government can be brought down and replaced by the Coalition.

  29. For those who haven’t lived through the Pearson, Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretian years, the Prime Minister’s attempts to mislead the Canadian public can be pretty convincing. I wonder if he really believe the things he says. We have gone from guaranteed surplus, to balanced budget, to minor defecit to who knows what. Lets not forget income trusts, trhe cancelling of those bad 40 year mortgages which were introduced by – guess who – the conservatives in their 2006 budget. I won’t go into transparency in government, cancellation of social programs and deliberate disruption of the work of parliament etc. etc.

    Flaherty, who is now talking about stimulating car loans (who wants to buy a car from a company about to go down the tubes) instead of needed infrasturcture, ruined the Ontario economy and is about to do the same for the whole country. These guys are winging it and are not up to the job. The one thing that is true of this century is that the Liberals knew how to run the country and did a damned good job at it. Wait ’til the smoke clears, although more years will have been lost because of Conservative ineptitude.

    This is not an economist speaking but a politician with an economics degree, something very different. Canadians have never has so many reasons to dump a politician who has shown such limited vision, partisanship and failure to lead the country to be the best that it can be. Even if Harper is willing to change the rules when it suits him, (aka “proroguing parliament when it is clear that you are going down” ), the reason why there is a coalitian is that our the majority of our elected parliamentarians are really fed up, as am I.

    This interview is the worst of Ottawa bafflegab, designed to confuse those who don’t know the system or don’t have the inclination to follow the history of administration in this country – the lowest common denominator who can be convinced by simple messages.

  30. Sorry Sue…..I’ll take the Politician with an Economics Degree……over Politicians who steal from the taxpayer any day.

    How anyone can support the Liberal Party, knowing that they have been stealing from taxpayers hand over fist is beyond comprehension. The only folks who should be supporting the LIberals are those who received the stolen loot…..and those who don’t pay taxes.

    Which are you?

    • Did you hear about the delays in military equipment that’s costing the government hundreds of millions of dollars?

      “Instead of imposing the $36-million penalty for late delivery called for in the contract, the government has agreed to pay Sikorsky, the U.S. manufacturer, an extra $117 million. Arbitration is continuing on the company’s claim for what has been reported to be up to $500 million in extra payments.”

      Penny-wise, pound foolish.

  31. “Arbitration is continuing on the company’s claim for what has been reported to be up to $500 million in extra payments.”

    Yes, but unlike Chretien’s 500 million charge for cancelling a previous helicopter order, the country will at least get new helicopters.

  32. Sorry I’m at the point where I don’t believe anything Mr Harper says. He has backed off on so many of his statements and promises. All we get from him are the words he thinks we want to hear, then he follows his own agenda.

  33. The art of interviewing is similar to that of polling. You ask a leading question, you get the answer you want and-or a lie. On at least two questions (human rights and big spending liberals, Mr. Whyte does not make journalism proud.

    • the interview wasn’t that bad when you consider what whyte represents, Maude Barlow i didn’t expect. the big spending libs must have been where a bored whyte handed his

      • [god i hate my computer] pad over to SH and said: ” hear you try.” Has Harper ever faced a hostile interview?

  34. Next election slogan: vote anything but Bloc, i.e. Coalition

    • Nice try, but it is going to be anything but Harper.
      He is the meanest spirited politcian in Canadian history. I did not like Stephane Dion, but his treatment of him was diplorable and showed him to be the nasty person he really is. Despite this free ride agaist dion, he could not muster a majority. It should have been a landslide victory for the Tories and would have been if Harper was not leader. The faster the leader is changed the better chance the Tories will have against Ignatieff.

  35. It’s hard to believe, but I think the interviewer here is actually more right-wing than Harper.

  36. Yet another Ti-Guy gem, these Libs sure like to step in it;

    “Look, we’re going to have to resign ourselves to the fact that a huge proportion of the Canadian population is barely sensate enough to even be allowed to vote at this point.”

    70 Liberals coronate Iggy and millions of voters are stupid?

    Allowed to vote?

    Typical Liberal arrogance.

  37. Another one from Ti-Guy, the poster boy for Leftist Mental Disorder;

    “I have to conclude that Canadians are just a lot stupider than I’ve been willing to believe. I honestly thought the online dingbats represented a marginal demographic but not anymore.”

  38. Harper will have a really, really hard time giving up power. I think that because he's never had a real career, has never been a CEO, never written a book, never been a professor or a lawyer — this is his first taste of respect, and it's gone right to his head. They'll have to pry his hands off the doorknob at 24 Susses, because whereas Ignatieff, Chretien, Rae, Trudeau — all of those people had established careers that they can go back to — he really doesn't have anything to go back to except maybe start up another Reform party.

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  39. This government is the most fiscally incompetent I've ever seen. They hold the rare distinction of being less capable of managing money than the Devine government in Saskatchewan was."

    Harper must have got his Economics degree on the Net. He should get his money back.

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