It's Harper's world now - Macleans.ca
 

It’s Harper’s world now

After the G20, the PM’s reputation on the international stage is at least temporarily enhanced


 

Photograph by Christopher Wahl

The buildup to the G20 summit in Toronto promised a clash of titans. In one corner, the Europeans, backed by host Canada, fighting for a pledge to shrink government deficits and debts to meet hard targets. In the other, the United States, along with some key developing countries, battling for continued stimulus spending to shore up the unsteady global economic recovery.

But the heavyweight bout failed to materialize at the summit table, though street protesters outside did their utmost to provide quite another sort of conflict. “It’s a mistake,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron as the G20 closed, “to think this summit has been about a different approach between the Americans and Europeans.”

Skeptics could be forgiven for wondering if Cameron was merely trying to paper over divisions. Projecting an image of solidarity to financial markets, after all, was a summit imperative. But Canadian officials who were deeply immersed in preparation for the Toronto confab tell a story of months of intricate behind-the-scenes work to make sure it went off without rancour.

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper, one big challenge was defensive—preventing a bank tax­—and another offensive—promoting deficit reduction. In the end, Harper’s advisers could boast, without straying outside the bounds of acceptable political exaggeration, that he’d shaped the summit’s outcomes on both issues.

His long route to claiming those bragging rights took some unpredictable turns. Along with the usual high-level meetings in Washington, a dogsled ride on Baffin Island by a future Japanese prime minister comes into the story. While the 2008 financial meltdown and 2009 recession set the process in motion, nobody foresaw the Greek debt crisis that finally drove it home. A British election changed the dynamic among the key leaders. As for Canada’s efforts, the summit itself was a punctuation mark on a nine-month stretch when federal officials tried out new strategies for economic diplomacy in a world of increasingly flexible and varied political alliances.

The work started after last September’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, where U.S. President Barack Obama declared that the group, which brings together advanced countries with emerging powers like China, Brazil and Indonesia, would supplant the old G8 as the world’s top economic forum.

Forged in the heat of economic crisis, the G20 leaders acted with impressive unity last year to pump up stimulus spending, reform financial systems and swear off protectionist trade measures. But could that solidarity be converted into sustained action as the G20 planned for its next summit in Toronto? Could the G20 drive economic policy as the crisis abated?

Along with some other leaders, Harper hoped to shift from short-term stimulus spending to medium-term structural reform, especially action to rein in deficits. But almost before work on that front could get rolling, another divisive issue emerged. The longstanding club of G7 finance ministers—from the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada—remains a powerful force. When they met in St. Andrews, Scotland, last November, then British prime minister Gordon Brown joined them to propose a global tax on banks. Like the U.S., the British government had to massively intervene to shore up its banks during the financial crisis, and Brown wanted a levy to pay for any future bailouts. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty objected immediately. “We are not in the business of raising taxes,” he said, “we are in the business of lowering taxes in Canada.”
So began a scramble by Canada to fend off a global tax on banks.

Flaherty’s department began building their case that such a levy was a bad idea on technical grounds. After all, banks in countries as diverse as Canada, India and Australia had held up fine. Smart regulation had shielded Toronto’s banking hub, despite its close links to New York, ground zero for financial failure. As a senior Canadian official put it, “Canada was an inconvenient truth for Brown.” Still, the British PM was joined by potent allies, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy. The U.S. was also broadly sympathetic to the bank tax idea, although Washington didn’t insist on it being imposed by all countries.

Within the confines of the old G8, that lineup of big powers might well have been unstoppable. Canada would have been able to appeal only to Russia, Italy and Japan. But in the new G20 constellation, the list of potential allies was much longer. Harper, who had earlier in his political career looked narrowly interested in relations with Washington and London, now found himself reaching far beyond the traditional anglosphere. Flaherty travelled, for example, to India to lock down anti-bank-tax support. Canadian officials cultivated the same sentiment in G20 countries from Brazil to Saudi Arabia.
The big test of this novel bid to build a coalition among advanced and emerging economies came when G20 finance ministers met in Washington for a key meeting in April. The troika of Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy had drawn even closer by then. Canadian officials had made headway, but they worried about “the extraordinary diplomatic resources” of Britain, Germany and France. But after the Europeans made their pitch, Flaherty bluntly voiced Canada’s opposition. He was quickly backed up by finance ministers from Australia to Mexico, South Africa to Turkey. “All things are swinging Canada’s way,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who jokingly linked Ottawa’s bank-tax campaign to the Canadian hockey gold-medal win at the Vancouver Olympics.

From then on the air was leaking fast from the bank-tax proposal. In early May, Brown lost the British election and Cameron became prime minister in a coalition government. Cameron’s Tories favoured a bank tax, too, but didn’t insist that it must be adopted by the whole G20 for Britain to proceed. With the tax’s original champion out of the picture, the danger, from Canada’s perspective, looked defused well before the summit itself.

But by then a more urgent issue was dominating Europe’s attention. In early May, European leaders agreed to provide nearly $1 trillion in a rescue package meant to ease mounting market fears about the huge debts of such countries as Greece, Portugal and Spain. The “sovereign debt” crisis, which had started with Greece stumbling toward default, was suddenly dominating the pre-summit buzz.

That fear injected fresh oomph into the deficit-control theme Harper wanted to push to the forefront. In the aftermath of the Greek scare, fiscal probity became a dominant G20 theme. “Greece brought into stark relief that this was not a theoretical issue,” said a senior Canadian official. “It’s a question of, ‘Do you want to have the political choice imposed on you by markets, or are we going to take the choice to consolidate in advance?’ ” The Europeans, having just stared down the Greek crisis, didn’t need convincing; Merkel and Brown were the new austerity hawks. Picking up on the new mood, Harper sent the G20 leaders a letter on June 18 suggesting they agree to halve their annual deficits by 2013 and stabilize or start shrinking their accumulated debts by 2016.

But his letter was quickly contrasted with a missive issued about the same time by Obama. “Our highest priority in Toronto,” the U.S. President wrote, “must be to safeguard and strengthen the recovery.” That apparent emphasis on maintaining stimulus seemed to contrast with the Canadian and European accent on cleaning up balance sheets. Yet Canadian officials claim they actually “breathed a sigh of relief” over Obama’s letter. Although his short-term stimulus message garnered all the attention, they point out that he also cited his administration’s “medium-term” plan to cut the U.S. deficit in half by 2013 and stabilize its debt level by 2016.

It’s no coincidence that Obama’s targets dovetailed precisely with Harper’s proposal. For weeks, Canadian officials had been testing international waters to arrive at agreeable numbers. Other factors had to fall into place, though, for the whole package to fly. Japan posed a particular problem. Its deficits and debt are so high that Harper’s targets are out of reach for any Japanese government. But Naoto Kan, who took over in early June as Japan’s fifth prime minister inside four years, liked the direction, if not the numbers. As Japan’s finance minister back in February, he had met with his G7 peers for meetings hosted by Flaherty in Iqaluit. Kan took a dogsled ride there, and reportedly also took to heart his counterparts’ worried talk about Greece’s emerging debt woes. Flaherty urged Kan and the rest to set “clear, consistent and credible” plans to improve their fiscal situations. By the time he arrived in Toronto, Kan had accepted special wording that allows Japan longer to reach the G20 targets, but with the same underlying goals.

With the fiscal aims widely agreed to in advance, and the bank tax more or less repudiated, the work in Toronto was largely around finessing the message. “That was the very legitimate U.S. concern,” said a Canadian official who was inside the meetings. To signal to markets that governments wouldn’t be sucking the life out of their economies all at once, the G20 communiqué declared that “strengthening the recovery is key” and committed governments to “follow through on delivering existing stimulus plans.” Then came the new deficit and debt commitments. Obama tried to silence all the talk of a split between free-spending America and retrenching Europe by calling Cameron’s recent emergency budget, with its tax hikes and spending cuts, “necessary courageous action.”

As for Harper, his reputation on the international stage is at least temporarily enhanced. Sinking the bank tax required his government to foster a new-style global coalition. Selling the deficit targets called for some old-style manoeuvering between Washington and European capitals. If he can repeat either trick, or both, Harper might just be able to make that boost in his status stick, as a deft player of summit politics.


 

It’s Harper’s world now

  1. In terms of policy, (not location) the summit was a good political result for Harper. Clearly there was an enormous bureaucratic effort behind the achievements, and the Conservatives deserve good grades for managing it. (I find it hard to believe I just typed that).

    I think Harper still may suffer some from being seen personally as a junior player on the international scene, although to be fair to him this is just through snippets that leak out through the cursed LIEBRAL PRESS. Finally, on a positive note, he apparently made all the photo-ops on time which hopefully means he has that ibs thing under control.

    • I find it just as hard to believe, Stewart, that you could write that.

  2. "If he can repeat either trick, or both, Harper might just be able to make that boost in his status stick, as a deft player of summit politics."

    I can't agree with that. I think that Harper's aggressive maneuvering on the bank tax issue with the EU is going to come back to haunt us in the CETA negotiations. That trade deal is by far more important to Canada's economic standing in the world than a short term gain at a summit.

    If anything, I think that Canada's rep around the world continues to take bad hits, following this summit. Harper's stubborn refusal to engage in meaningful policy debate on the environment along with his boneheaded maternal health campaign has further isolated us on the international scene.

    A win for Harper the man? Perhaps. A loss for Canada in the long run? Absolutely.

    The only good thing to come out of this summit is Harper's seemingly earnest effort to repair the damage he has caused to our relationship with the Chinese.

    That's it!

  3. Nationally, the long term image is the protests and the ridiculous crackdown. Internationally, this is the summit where the host was the subject of jibes by the French and British leaders.

    Strategically, I think Ignatieff should take the opportunity to call out the French and Brits, and publicly say that while Harper has his shortcomings, it is bad form to humiliate the host of a world event and they should apologize.

    • You don't honestly believe this, do you? You're smarter than this.

  4. Just admit it liberals… Harper's a great leader and his image amongst the world is actually getting better, as well as Canada's image.

    You won't recognize Canada when he's done, because it's going to be a nation the world looks upto rather than down upon as a doormat as it was once upon a time.

    • You're right, if we let Harper loose, we surely will not recognize Canada, as it will become another USA in terms of system of government. And that's not the Canada I want.

    • "You won't recognize Canada when he's done"
      That's what I'm afraid of.

    • Ryan, he did a great job and he knows what he is doing, I hope he keeps it coming!

    • For all the haters of Steven Harper he really has been a not bad not good type of leader and if he were to loose the next election I don't see how the oppostion would be doing anything different if they were in power on the world stage.

  5. For our billion plus dollars we got a non-binding agreement to reduce debt, which likely will be as successful as the Kyoto accord was in reducing greenhouse gases.

  6. The bank tax was a straw man all along. How could a country be forced to tax it's own banks?

    • You miss the point. The real problem with the bank tax is the systemic risk to the economy of the bailout fund that the bank tax was meant to fund. An IMF for bank taxes, effectively, would result in global moral hazard problems and reduce the incentives for countries to regulate their banking systems. Yes, Canada could avoid the bank tax, but as a country reliant on trade and investment with other countries we could not avoid the financial crisis such a policy would make increasingly likely.

      • Except that given past performance, can you honestly say there doesn't already exist a moral hazard problem? We've just shown that we're unwilling to let banks fail due to the concurrent problems this brings. What's changed since then, HtH?

        As such, the only question is who should pay for this problem? Should the public finance the bank managers, or should the bank managers finance the bank managers.

        I've had to think about this for a while, and I think I'm coming down in favor of the bank tax due to the reasoning above. Yes, it would be great if we weren't creating a moral hazard at all.. but we are regardless of bank tax or no. Given that, I prefer bank tax.

        • Contingent Capital, Thwim. Keeps the taxpayer out of the banks' messes, punishes the bank shareholders who, as owners, deserve the punishment, and gives the debtholders something in exchange for their otherwise worthless IOUs. Bank management would most certainly not want to hear they have to convert debt to shares, for that would be much worse than accepting free money from government to reward their stupidity.

  7. Internationally, this thing was likely a moderate success. Scanning the international media during the summit, I came to the conclusion that most countries with representation here were involved in the same "how is our guy doing" behaviour that we cherish as a part of our Canadian identity. As far as what was going on outside, most international media gave it a short note, as protests seem to be the cost of doing G20 business.

    Internally, all Canadians came away with were images of broken windows and a vague uneasiness with the police.

    • I would think the protests were viewed as extremely tame compared to what they see in the Eastern nations. There were no severe injuries or deaths, no significant damage to property (a few police cars, which isn't good, but hardly something not seen in the rest of the world)…

      • I was there and let me tell you, the media also choose to focus in a lot of BS and played along with the thugs.

  8. Well since the stock market sank right afterwards, and all leading economic indicators are falling….I'd say it's a fantasy world that Harper inhabits…one where he fights phantoms, and ignores reality.

    When Cameron got home he referred to it as a 'circus'….and he was precisely right.

    The real G20 is in Seoul in November…we'll see if they actually accomplish anything there…unlike here.

    • Don't be silly Emily. If there was going to be a recession we'd have had it by now.

      • LOL exactly.

        He's not seeing anything else coming down the pike either, so again he will be surprised.

        • Emily, you sound curiously like holly stick. Is that you in disguise?

          • I thought the same thing!

  9. I love how harper haters just can't do it …. come out say it left wing loonies be honest once in awhile put your partisan blinders to the side – Harper is in the catbird seat right now and there is no doubt about it. The PM did us proud and it has been quite a year. But then a lot of people underestimate harper and this is somehting he constantly uses to his advantage – were web forums any indicator he would have had the toe tags on 4 years ago. Look folks the PM drove the agenda, achieved all of his goals and more! – this is a fact now and one that can only be debated by those who are not being honest with themselves or others. Next stop – senate majority by november, the Law of the Sea treaty with a negotiated deal re: the passage and a seat on the Security Council. The next year he will be bringing the soldiers home and if that doesn't wrap up a nice legacy I don't know what does.

    • I love how Cons insist that anyone not constantly cheer-leading for Harper all 'hate' him, and are 'left wing loonies' to boot.

      He's a lousy PM….no matter what his party, and everyone in Canada, other than Con-bots, knows that.

      • Part of the problem with your posts is that it is abundantly obvious what you will say before you say it. You've already concluded that everything Harper will do/has done is pure evil. In the interests of your own credibility, can you tell us three good things Harper has done in office?

        • I have no interest in which party is 'winning;' Judging by the polls, none of them are.

          I am more concerned with the future of the country than the future of political parties. I don't like any of them….and neither does anyone else by the look of it.

          'Evil' is a nonsensical religious word, and I'm not required to prove 'credibility' to anyone.

          I can't think of anything good that Harper has done. Nor do I think that Ignatieff or Layton would be one bit better.

          Canada is currently being ill-served by it's 'leaders'.

          • I feel the same way, however I would personally employ the epithet 'evil', although not in a religious manner.

  10. I seem to remember a commenter making similar points here and here.

    Geddes has said it much better. This summit was a win for Canada in no small part due to Harper's display of global leadership, and that is a win for Harper. I would no longer be surprised if Harper wins a majority government in the next election.

      • Perhaps we should just repeat the entire discussion using nothing but pointers back to the original.
        Or perhaps we should just call it a day.

  11. I agree that this was a diplomatic victory for Harper, but I am not sure that deficit reduction is the best policy right now – at least for all G-20 countries. The US economy shed jobs last month and, despite its large FEDERAL deficit, governments at the state level have been paring back for months (canceling the impact of the stimulus). Worse, while interest rates are low, a tight credit market means that low interest rates don't quite add up to an easy money policy. Moreover, the fed's quantitative easing program ended in March.

    So the bottom line is that the US has not seen much of a recovery (especially in terms of unemployment). A shift to spending cuts at this point might even worsen the deficit by killing the recovery. Stephen Gordon had an interesting graph which showed the various G-8 economies relative to their pre-recession unemployment levels. The US was a clear outlier in that it suffered a massive increase in unemployment, and in that it has recovered few jobs.

    By the way, I think part of the problem was Obama's stimulus focus. A lot of money went into areas that do not have a high multiplier effect. Canada did much better through its emphasis on infrastructure.

    • It's 1937 all over again.

  12. Actions speak louder than words.

    Harper proclaims to the world that it is paramount to rein in the huge deficits, all while spending a ridiculously excessive amount of money on summits only to state the obvious…

    Not to mention the 5 billion dollar penal reform boondoggle, which will absolutely do nothing to decrease the crime rate, in fact it will probably make matters worse.

  13. Let's just say it's food for thought for those who can actually ‘think' for themselves…

    The following is nothing personal, mind you, just see it as a favor, a wake-up call that is probably in everyone's best interest.

    And for God's sake don't write it off as some leftist rant, read it objectively and ponder…

    Unfortunately the vast majority of supporters of the extreme right wing, particularly those who don't question the status quo in the least are oblivious zombies, sleepwalkers who haven't a clue where the world is heading.

    They all live in this fantasy bubble, created and spun by the Media, which incidentally is virtually controlled by Big Corpo.

  14. The image that comes to mind is that of bugs in a Persian rug, unmindful of the overall pattern, only able to see the details, the lint, pile and dirt… the trees and not the forest as they say, unable to fathom the big picture.

    It is a pity that so many people are either blind, ignorant, duped, or indifferent, while the 'friendly fascist' corporate elite, i.e. Harper & co., are downright evil and don't give a rat's behind about the well-being of humanity or the environment for that matter. For them it's all about money, power, greed & control, and they've got you thinking the way they want you to think while they continue to drive their campaign to plunder our resources, pollute our planet while reaping enormous profits on the backs of common mortals, who in contrast are getting poorer every day.

    And that, fellow humans, is the truth.

    • Or you are just so sold on your idiology, that you forget to think outside the box you put yourself in? Boy, aren't you just so guilty of your own ranting! Stop using the word "fascist", it is so overused and very telling. Mostly it is used by people who parroted it from their professors.

      • The word 'fascist' has many connotations. Today it is not only used in the political sense (Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, etc.) but in a metaphorical sense. Fascism has many characteristics (media control / propaganda, muzzling opposition, terror, etc.). That being said, you may want to stray 'beyond the rug' and expand your horizon. Bertram Gross, reputed American sociologist has written an insightful brick on the subject entitled "Friendly Fascism, the New Face of Power in America". Although published in 1980, it is still relevant today. It elaborates on the notion that fascism today is more subtle, so subtle in fact the commoner is unaware that these forces are at play. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/Friendl

  15. very good points!

  16. To signal to markets that governments wouldn't be sucking the life out of their economies all at once…

    …continues the dangerous and immoral fiction that governments have the responsibility to breathe life into an economy that needs its downturn. Geez, people, if we're never allowed to have a painful recession again, and we keep swiping wealth from the future to prevent such a recession, just how tight can you stretch that rubber band before it breaks completely?

    • I think the thinking (and I use that term loosely) is "Apres moi, le deluge".

    • Very valid point myl. Unfortunately, politicians want to be remembered when times are good so they tinker in whatever way they can, no matter what the future consequences, to make their 4-year term positive so they can be re-elected. In their limited vision, they could give a damn about how tough love now can make for more sustainable economies.

  17. This is absurd. Harper didn't decide on a stimulus….the G20 that met in DC did. Harp just went along with it. It showed up after the stimulus was required, and gave us new curling rinks and hockey arenas. We still have crumbling bridges, and the TransCanada still has potholes. Our military hasn't been overhauled. Most of the things that were announced have long since been cancelled.Then you try to claim flip-flops and apologies as great things! Prorogations….both of them…were terrible.The HST was done by the provinces, they just wrestled the money for it out of Harp.Immigration is still a dog's breakfast. Only the text got changed.Harper took years to go to India and China…and wasn't the first PM to visit.
    There never was any bank tax….this is the same old thing talked about for years….a UN tax, a Tobin Tax, a Robin Hood tax, a bank tax….chatter, not real.
    Yes, Harper has certainly advertised Canada. We are now mocked, rathr than respected, everywhere.
    Gosh yeah, we're becoming 'distinct'….by letting the US decide on who boards our planes to fly past them, and by appearing in every last photo with the Queen. Oh…the very tacky, parochial, embarrassing Olympics counts too.

    • In every post you seem to have something going with the PM, and have lost your objectivity in the process. At the point you are going, even sitting, standing , or just mere breathing the PM can do nothing to please you. You might as well run the next election, or are you already there?

      • As previously stated I don't like any of the parties or leaders…possibly because I am objective, and not partisan.

        They could all do something to please me….resign.

        • Resign, all of them? And then what, replace then with you?

        • You're not the only thinking along those lines Emily, though I dare say you and I are a stark minority on this site. Stand steadfast in the face of uninformed sensationalism! (and watch out for pitchforks…)

  18. So, Harper "wins" by getting non-binding agreements on two items (out of the dozen or so on the agenda). Gee. It's a shame Harper failed to add to his laurels by securing a commitment from the G20 leadership that they shall eat a healthy dose of greens with every meal (when and if they feel like it, of course).

    Hardly a single significant foreign news outlet has described Toronto's G20 summit as anything else but a stand-pat, do-nothing exercise in photo-op futility. Harper is as internationally obscure now as he was last month. On the bright side, the terminally unemployed Ari Fleischer can always be called upon to book the international media appearances that Harper could never earn on his own merits.

  19. That headline is a joke I hope or the whole world is in trouble.

  20. Narrrow-minded lefty liberals realize that Prime Minister Harper is the best Prime Minister Canada has had in decades, it just drives them crazy that he's a rational adult and not a leftist ideologue bent on economic destruction, like Obama.

  21. With the exception of the bloody HST I agree with you.

  22. The G20 delivered next to nothing in substantive terms and, in fact, the leaders, most of whom did not agree with Harper’s ignoring the bank tax for a rainy day (so that taxpayers won’t fork out the dough when further irresponsible actions of banks occur or more Goldman Sachs Derivatives Casinos are allowed to run wild) “cheapened” his ‘maternal health initiative which was more empty rhetoric.

    In fact, this absolutely outrageously overblown Photo-Op for the G-Napoleons and the G-Antoinettes cost the Canadian Taxpayers, who were stuck with stale cake! Not to mention the barricades, warzone Berlin Wall (as the German Press ridiculed the Toronto Summit!) and fake lake fiasco.

    $1.2 BILLION TAXPAYERS’ FUNDING for 19,000 riot police that allowed two police cars at the corner of King and Bay to burn unattended while hoodlooms were smashing storeowners’ property for over an hour! It cost the London Summit in 2009 only $28.5 million for 9,000 police and the Pittsburgh summit cost only $5 milion for 4,000 police. And yet the illustrious leaders were safe and sound with the much lesser expense!

    A Public Enquiry must be demanded and Sheila Fraser should be called in to ensure that we get full accounting for the Security and Planning that cost Canadian citizens this exorbitant Billion-Dollar Circus !

    All this mayhem and warzone tacticsw while 1100 innocent Torontonians were pushed and shoved into cages and young women had to urinate in styrofoam cups in the presence of male security guards and being shoved into vans by guys in plainsclothes and physically interfered with! Shameful. This was not and could not be the Toronto police, who in fact helped the crowds down University Ave. This was the foreign to Toronto Harper Riot force and it set out to tarnish Toronto’s reputation to the world. In fact, it was Ottawa that, reading the foreign press, has become ridiculed for its heavy handed, billion dollar fiasco! This was not our Toronto.

    Toronto for two days became Harper’s Billion-Dollar Gulag Archipelago of shame….

    Sheila Fraser, give us full accounting of where the money went. Surely we could have prevented the storeowners’ damages while our police vehicles were left to blazes for over an hour–with not a single security/riot phalanx in sight!!

    Public Enquiry!

    • This is the truth. Any right-wingers out there who do not admit to themselves the ugly truth of what has happened are doing Canada and themselves a huge disservice. Everyone else on the globe is looking at Canada now and wondering WTF is going on.

      Down with Harper and his Reform Party! He represents all that is evil in this world and he must be stopped.

  23. Well, I have no idea if Harper "won", anything and don't much care one way or the other. However I do know that just the sight of the headline to this article will make the knee jerk, pathological Harper haters head's explode, but not before hitting the comment blogs to bitterly denounce him as personally responsible for everything they think wrong with the world or with their own lives. Cheers

  24. It's easy to recommend austerity measures to Governments that have just spent every penny bailing out fraudster financial institutions.

  25. you are either for corporate binges and greed and tax breaks for them or you are against it.
    harper is for them . Lord Harper!

  26. 1. The stimulus. Imposed on Harper by the Opposition parties after denying the already-present economic downturn for months.
    2. The overhaul of Canada's defence forces. I defy you to find quotable, reliable evidence of a "gutting" of defence under the liberals (since it's blatantly untrue).
    3. The decision to tax income trusts. A flip-flop? Yes!
    4. The apologies. Apologies are all well and good; however completely unnecessary. In the case of the "head tax", this was a completely legal practice at the time and required no more than a mention, certainly not compensation. The only historical "apology" requiring compensation would be the victims of the Japanese internment camps who were told their property would be held when in fact it was sold from under them. All other compensation is an American-style "here take money and feel better now" solution.
    5. Prorogation in December 2008. Direct violation of the will of the majority of Canadians and stunt to ignore democracy.

    • 6. HST. The biggest lie ever put upon Canadians. When was the last time they implemented a "revenue-neutral" tax? How much have your bills gone up by?
      7. Immigration reform. Hrm, still takes 2 years to get landed immigrant status, even from somewhere as theoretically banal as the UK. So much better there.
      8. Harper's trade mission to India. meh.
      9. The crusade against the bank tax. Refuse to participate and move on.
      10. Effective advertising of Canada. As a place of slowly regressing social and fiscal policies.