Maxime Bernier unplugged - Macleans.ca
 

Maxime Bernier unplugged

ANDREW COYNE: The Conservative member’s recent “remarkable” speech surely must rule out any return to cabinet


 

That was a remarkable speech Maxime Bernier delivered the other day in Calgary. That is, it was an entirely unremarkable speech, the kind you would hear every other day in any normal democracy: a fairly pedestrian restatement of conservative principles by a leading conservative politician.

But in the Conservative Party of Canada, in its present moribund state, it counts as Luther’s 95 Theses. It must surely rule out any return to cabinet, if it does not lead to his outright expulsion from caucus, since it contradicts every line of current Conservative — well, I was going to say “policy,” but that’s not quite right, is it? Policy, after all, tends to proceed from some sort of underlying ideas or philosophy, and as we know today’s Conservatives have worked very hard to expunge those from their thoughts. Say “positioning,” then.

But back to Bernier. Consider, in particular, this passage:

One way to change the terms of the debate would be to announce that the government is not going to grow any more.

I know that we are going through some very difficult economic circumstances and that this is not a realistic proposal for the coming budget. But let’s try a thought experiment.

Last year, the federal government’s total expenses were about 250 billion dollars. You can do a lot of things with 250 billion dollars! From a historical perspective, it’s a gigantic amount of resources.

What if we decided that this is more than enough? That expenses are not going to grow anymore?

And I’m not saying zero growth adjusted for inflation and population or GDP increase. Just zero growth.

The overall budget is frozen at 250 billion. From now on, any government decision has to be taken within this budgetary constraint.

Every new government program, or increase in an existing program, has to be balanced by a decrease somewhere else.

We no longer have debates about how much more generous the government can be with this or that group, as if the money belonged to the government instead of taxpayers. The silent majority’s interests are always being protected.

The focus of the debate is shifting to a determination of priorities: what are the most important tasks for government to achieve with the money we have? Is this government function really important and should we have more of it? Then what should we do less or stop doing and leave in the hands of the free market, voluntary organisations and individual citizens?

That would be quite a change, don’t you think? A commitment to Zero Budget Growth could become a powerful symbol of fiscal conservatism, just like the “No Deficit” consensus was, to some extent, until the advent of the global economic crisis. But the consequences would be much deeper.

It would mean that every year, the relative size of government would be smaller. It would force politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists and everybody else to stop thinking that your salaries are just there to grab for their own benefit. And because of the budgetary constraints, Canadians would have a lot more confidence that we’re not wasting their money.

We have to convince people that we’re not simply aiming to be better managers of a bigger government; we are aiming to be better managers of a smaller government.

Smaller government?? What party does this guy belong to? Surely not the gang that increased spending by nearly 40% in four years? I can hear the opposition parties already: Does the PM believe in Zero Budget Growth? When will he repudiate these remarks?

UPDATE: And what’s this? Pierre Poilievre calling it a “brilliant speech”? So: the last four years, then. They’ve just been a bad dream?


 

Maxime Bernier unplugged

  1. Can we please get these people who hate the concept of government away from running it?

    • Why? The best president of my lifetime's motto was "Government is not a solution to the problem, government is the problem.

      • And what problem is that?

      • Or, alternately…"The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it." —P.J. O'Rourke

        • That quote is great! He's got alot of them…………….

          "At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child – miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosphy of sniveling brats." — P.J. O'Rourke

          Kind of like most posters here!!

      • I guess you were mighty surprised when that just turned out to be a catchy slogan to get elected and he went on to increase the size of government to historical largesse, along with the massive tax increases he had the courage to flip flop on and bring in so the budget deficit created by his earlier tax cuts wouldn't bankrupt the country.

        I have yet to fully understand why Reagan is the gold standard for conservatives. I accept that he was a good president because of a number of things, like flip flopping on taxes because the country needed the dough, but what evidence is there that he merits this conservative icon status. His reality belies the sainthood.

        • Much of the Reagan Revolution was about going after regulation. It wasn't all about taxes and spending although I'm pretty sure Reagan did cut non-defence spending and the bloated spending was largely on high-tech weaponry for the Cold War.

          • I would say that a part of Reagan's campaign was against regulation and I don't know enough to say how much better or worse it was 8 years later. But it was primarily about (1) taxes (2) spending (3) "morals" (i.e. his campaign against pornography, sex, drugs, and (4) military supremacy.

            And most certainly, when he is held up as the gold standard by conservatives, it is not because of his campaign against regulation, but because he is wrongly perceived as a tax fighter and spending cutter (as well as taking on the Soviets, which is at least earned).

          • He's an interesting figure since it's not like liberals don't aid and abet conservatives in pushing the Reagan mythology. However, his first budgets were most definitely full of tax cuts and spending cuts and his early appointments were put in to clear away regulation (his first EPA director holds a special place in most environmentalists hearts). He mellowed out in his later years but he also lost his Senate majority (the Republicans never controlled the House during his two terms). That tends to make the President more conciliatory but at the end of his two terms he broadened and flattened the tax base. The fact he had to raise middle class tax rates to offset the deficit doesn't change the fact that on tax reform, Reagan did pretty well.

          • I guess we'll have to see him differently. The reason I end up liking him, for a lot (let's leave the crazy social conservative stuff and the communists under every bed stuff out of it), is that I see him not as mellowing but as maturing. Here you have an ideologue who comes in guns ablazing, cuts taxes, does all sorts of crazy economic maneuvers including the S&L crap, and then pulls up reigns, sort of says (or is forced by Congress to say – I honestly do love their checks and balances compared to our "democratic" mess) 'whoah, what the heck is happening because of my policies?!?!' and is a confident enough, mature enough true leader to reverse himself on some major fundamental principles for the good of the nation when he realized what a disastrous hole he had dug.

            Conservative ideologs ignore that and Bush Sr got burned by it when he tried to do the sensible thing and balance the budget. Bush Jr. learned the wrong lesson (as did Harper) and it becomes mantra 'tax cuts at all costs' or, to quote Cheney, "Reagan showed that no one cares about deficits".

          • Yes deregulating the banks. How did that work out?

          • Yes, the credit crisis was all Reagan's fault even though he had been out of power for 2 decades. Nothing anyone did in that time had any effect at all. None whatsoever.

          • Savings and loans was all Reagan, my friend. The enormous debt wasn't all him but it mostly was.

          • That was Clinton and the Repeal of Glass-Steagal.

            Look it up.

          • The credit crisis was Clinton??????????

            You've been watching too much voodoo-hannity.

          • Don't forget the planes falling out of the skies, that was his good work too …

      • When that president grew government spending through military spending and cuts to frills such as education, government really is the problem… or perhaps menace is a more apt word.

      • You need to get a better lifetime…

    • Really? Just how much more other people's stuff do you think we are all entitled to confiscate?

      • What a false dichotomy…

        Rejecting the idea that smaller government is ALWAYS better does not lead to the idea that larger government is ALWAYS better. Smaller government works in some situations, not in others. I don't think many would agree with privatizing the military or police services. Some government is beneficial, even if too much government is not.

        Every proposal involving increasing, decreasing or changing the government's role in society should be judged on its own merits, free from any unsubstantiated dogma about bigger or smaller government, because neither is right 100% of the time, nor are those the only options.

        • "…nor are those the only options." They should be. I don't agree with the mushy middle. The government should either leave something in the hands of the free market or take it over completely.

          Just look at the effect government management has on post-secondary education. Right now its involvement is in the mushy middle (subsidizing tuition, guaranteeing loans, etc, while not running it completely). What do we see happening? Prices (for BOTH the taxpayers and the users) go UP. The only benefactors are the privileged elite with tenure and the overpaid administrators (a small minority). If the government wasn't involved at all, prices would simply be set by demand and what people can afford, which would be to everyone's advantage (well, except the privileged elite mentioned above).

          Look at the bank bailouts. The government could have either chosen the left-wing solution and taken over the banks (and eliminated the fat-cat bankers' bonuses), or it could have chosen the right-wing solution and let them fail in the free market (so the fat-cats would have ended up on the streets where they belong). Instead, they chose the mushy middle the fat-cats are keeping their jobs, their bonuses, and everyone else is paying for it.

          Left or Right! NO MORE MUSHY MIDDLE!

    • Who would you rather have in government – those that see the solution to every problem is to confiscate more of our money?

      Right. Let's get the fat lady to run the cafeteria again, and we'll all have fat kids in no time.

      • I'd rather have a person in government with sensible goals and expectations.
        Smaller government, in and of itself, is not a sensible goal. Which of these would you rather cut: Prisons, Justice, Education, Military, Policing, Health, Corporate liscencing, Border control, Postal service, Airport Security, Transportation Infrastructure, Regional Development, what?

        "Government should be smaller!" is a moron's cry. Government should be smarter. That may make it bigger in some areas, smaller in others.

        • Postal, health and education would be a fine start. None of those are services that can't be delivered as well or better, privately.

          And WTF has 'Regional Development' ever accomplished?

          You didn't seriously think all of those items were sacrosanct, did you?

          • Ah, yes, the response of the truly ignorant.

            Go ahead. Cut postal service. See what happens to the conservative base when rural canada can't get mail anymore. You do realize private enterprise doesn't do things that aren't economical, right?

            Hey sure, cut health care, because that's a friggin' brilliant move. (Hint: Something that's contagious doesn't care if you're insured or not, it just needs your neighbour/co-worker to be uninsured, and then you're having to take time off work and see your rates rise.)

    • What an excellent idea. Let's also eliminate anyone in the military who's opposed to joining every war! Actually, let's just eliminate all but those who have any but the prevailing point of view from everything. Debate and discourse never helped anyone, anyway, right? It's not like the success of liberal democracy depends on it or anything.

      • Not every idea is worthy of debate. Some are just too stupid to waste time on.

  2. "We no longer have debates about how much more generous the government can be with this or that group, as if the money belonged to the government instead of taxpayers."

    Damn straight. Throw Harper and Flaherty out; put this guy in charge.

    • If the man can actually live up to (2), I would be willing to consider looking the other way on (1).

      • I really don't what to get in the way of true conservatives finding a leader that shares their love of small…. but really

        Wasn't the biker chick the highlight of his career so far?

        • Actually it's not the biker chick I object to – it's the classified documents being left for the biker chick to peruse. If he can avoid that, then he's welcome to a bevy of biker chicks.

        • I'd vote for opening up competition in wireless spectrum auctions as the highlight so far.

    • I knew nothing of Bernier until he was kicked out of cabinet and I did a few minutes of research to see who he was. Bernier very conservative/libertarian – he would be awesome leader/prime minister – but I don't know if he has talent for leadership or not. It does not appear Bernier is leader material but who knows what happens after Harper resigns.

      • It would seem to me that this kind of speech is a perfect manner inwhich to test the leadership waters… I wonder if Maxime knows something that we don't — besides that biker chicks really rock.

  3. Keeping the growth on par with his own career options seems do-able… although I doubt Harper would sacrifice his personal dresser/psychic for that goal.

  4. Which is why this man will never be allowed to have any responsibility under Harper again.

  5. "I can hear the opposition parties already: Does the PM believe in Zero Budget Growth? When will he repudiate these remarks?"

    …as soon as the next Question Period…oh wait. If the House was sitting I'd agree with your CPC PR disaster theorem but it seems as though the CPC can get away with even more without Parliament being open. Funny of the media to criticize the prorogation choice when they seem to be taking a break as well.

  6. Canada may not have a Sarah Paulin, but perhaps we have found our Ronald Reagan.

    • Let's hope not. Regan did nothing to curb government growth – he only redirected it.

  7. Well there we have it, folks. Followers not leaders.

    Spend just enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and in all policy matters do whatever the US does.

    'Small town thinking' in charge of the second largest country on the planet.

    • Actually, if inflation is high the pipes freeze anyway. That's the problem with setting a random cap for a budget.

  8. H2H, since you seem to be a deep thinker on theory, and a proponent of tar sands development, tell me, how would you go about developing this resource if you were advising the Alberta gov't? Say, move the clock back 10 yrs. You own the resource. The technologies to exploit it have been developed (surface mining and in situ). Kyoto looms large.

    You can sell off the prime oil sands leases as quickly as possible, and allow the market to determine the pace of development, you can control the number of leases sold (driving up the cost – supply/demand) and approve a finite number of projects so as to not overheat the economy, and kill off say the natural gas industry.

    How do YOU maximize the public good?

  9. When Paul Martin was making similar gov`t restraint proposals in the mid-nineties, he had the good fortune to have the Reform Party as one of the opposition parties. The Reformers may not have been vocal cheerleaders but Martin knew he could depend on them for support in his effort to reduce the deficit.

    It will be interesting to see if there is such a responsible opposition party when Flaherty issues the next few Budgets. If some of you are finding it difficult to find fiscal conservatives within the CPC, then good luck in finding one with a pulse in any of the three opposition parties.

    • Sorry, that is total b.s.

      For the nine years during which Martin was Finance Minister, and the Reform Party sat in Opposition, can you name a single budgetary measure for which the Reform Party voted?

      • Let`s look at it this way. The Reform Party was on record that the gov`t needed to reduce spending. Manning used to say " We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem ". Martin knew he would have allies in the 50 plus Reform MP`s from western Canada and from the 1 Ont. MP and the one million plus Ontarions who voted reform.

        Now, suppose there was never a Reform Party and those 50 plus MP`s and 2 million plus voters in 1993 were supporting a new Party–call them the Green Party. What do you think would be the chances Martin would have had the deficit-fighting budgets that he did in the nineties which put us in such good shape for the new century if he had 3 left-wing parties in opp ? Zero chance.

        I give Martin credit for having the courage and foresight to get our finances in order. You should give Manning credit for encouraging him.

        • I do, in fact, give Manning a lot of credit. He shaped the debate or help shape it at any rate. He had principles and stuck to them and, while that may have limited his ability to grow nationally, it gave him enormous influence.

          (I don't go so far as to give him the credit conservatives do though. Governments in the 1990s were fighting deficits all around the world and Manning didn't cause that!)

          Contrast that with Harper: biggest spending PM in our history before the recession, creates a deficit before the recession, criticizes the Liberals for making cuts that were too deep in the 1990s, hasn't tried to do any real budget cutting, has grown the size of government enormously even before the recession.

          Harper's problem is not the lack of a fiscally conservative fringe party on the right. Harper's problem is that there are no fiscal conservatives inside his own party.

          • I wonder if Common Man realizes what an eloquant case he is making for electing the Liberal party in the next election. As he points out, the Conservatives/Reformers are good at talking fiscal responsibility, but the Liberals are the only party to ever carry through.

          • I suppose I can see your point as far as having a Liberal gov`t would guarantee a fiscally responsible opp. in the CPC, but the damn trouble is it would be only a matter of time before the Libs would start using public funds like it was their own.

          • At least the Liberals would wait….Stephen Harper and the Conservatives started immediately.

        • As usual, CONbots are looking at the problem a**backwards (but that's how they see every problem)… Isn't it more critical that we have a government with the foresight and guts of a Chretien-Martin in power than whoever the opposition is? Harper has shown himself to be more from the Trudeau-Mulroney economic cloth.
          Of course, if all problems have to end with 'But the Liberals did it too!' I suppose commin man will have his cake and eat it too.

        • So what does your term "responsible opposition party" mean, and what would a "responsible opposition party" do? Vote with the government? Doesn't that (again) entirely contradict whatever the "responsible opposition party"
          called Reform did for nearly a decade?

          Sorry, but your agument makes no sense.

          • Don`t be sorry Mark. I should have been more clear. I presumed you would understand I was talking about a fiscally responsible opposition party. And no, a fiscally responsible opp.should never vote with the gov`t if they have issues with the spending in the budget.

            When the Reform Party saw that the Liberal gov`t did not go far enough in spending reductions in the nineties they voted against the budget and ran on those ideas in the next election. I think it would be a responsible thing for today`s liberal Party to do likewise.

          • Call me old fashioned, or call me a shrill partisan, but I happen to think the best way to get a Paul Martin government with Paul Martin policies including Paul Martin program review and Paul Martin fiscal discipline is to vote for the party led by…. Stephen Harper.

      • I remember them voting against budgets because the cuts weren't deep enough. That provided ample for the Liberals to bring in their cuts because the conservatives wanted even more cuts. I think that's the point he's trying to make.

  10. Everybody knows the best ideas come from arbitrary measures divorced from reality.

  11. Like many Canadians, I find it hard to be lectured about priorities from a guy who left a classified foreign affairs briefing book at some biker chick's place.

  12. Harper broke all spending records before the recession. He then went and spent his own spending record before the recession. He did it by, among other things, doubling the spending on polling, spending millions on making the Government of Canada website look like the Conservative website. He put us into a structural deficit before the recession.

    He takes full responsibility and credit for the stimulus spending as well, and goes out of his way to point out that he got no input from others in deciding to create the biggest deficit in our entire history.

    There is no Reform Party or Conservative left in Say Anything Steve. As the Canadian Taxpayer Federation points out, he's a Fiscal Conservative In Name Only.

    • Now that you have pronounced yourself and the Liberal Party as fiscal conservatives, maybe you can tell us what proposals the Liberals have made in the past 4 years to cut gov`t spending.

      You could start with that $1.95 per vote subsidy. Did Liberals support the elimination of that or did you think—we like that subsidy so much that we willl try to keep it by overthrowing the gov`t with a dubious coalition.

      • Common Man, you've been around commenting long enough to know that you need to be much smoother and more subtle when baiting and switching or else it doesn't work and, worse, makes it seem like you are trying to avoid a certain truth.

        And as you well know by now, bringing up the per vote subsidy and coalition just shouts desperation.

        Do you think there is a shred of fiscal conservativism left in Harper? I'm curious.

        • Ted, I think that means that there will be no deficit-cutting talk at that little Thinkers Conf. you`re having in March. But I wouldn`t believe it even if Iggy were to talk about his deficit-reduction plan.

          I`d rather talk about hypotheticals in the past then phony promises for the future.So let`s suppose Dion, Layton, and Duceppe had been successful in their little effort in Dec.2008 and we were half-way through their agreed mandate. OK, now I know I`m scaring you, but can you imagine the shape of our finances if PM Dion were being pressured daily by Dippers, Bloc,Greens and Left Libs to spend and fund and stimulate and of course tax. Scary thought.

          As for Harper and fiscal conservative. You`ll see the beginnings in the March budget. The support of fiscal conservatives like yourself will be appreciated.

          • How you manage to put: "I'd rather talk about hypotheticals in the past then phony promises for the future" in the sames message as "As for Harper and fiscal conservative. You'll see the beginnings in the March budget." in the same message without even your brain vomiting on the glaring hypocrisy is beyond me.

          • Simple Thwim, a phony promise is one like the Liberal Red Book brought out every election.

            A budget is a financial document agreed to by the majority of Parliament which lays out the fiscal operations of the gov`t for the following year.

    • "if we were going to have a recession we'd have had it by now"
      Harper's fiscal mismanagement seemed guaranteed to lead us down that trail one way or another — would you like a 0-down, 40-year mortgage with that box of timbits, sir?

  13. Federal government spending as a percentage of GDP

    In fiscal year 1961-1962: 16.2%
    In fiscal year 2008-2009: 13.0%

    • Stephen – do Program expenses include transfers to provinces? I would be inclined to say yes, because the program expenses are $205 Billion, leaving the other $45 Billion as interest.

      I think also that by FREEZIN expenditures at $250B, what we are really doing is cutting spending very drastically, as entitlement programs (CPP, OAP, Public Sector pay etc) will all increase. And for those who state that our public sector makes too much, remember that we are not just talking about the admin assistants, we are talking about scientists, lawyers, police officers and the Army. None of whom are exactly overpaid. So as those entitlements creep up, we will be forced to cut programs one by one until all we are paying for is transfer spending and pensions.

    • Brilliant! Another comment-less stats, common logic prevails!

      Actually a more relevant stat is this one(since Harper is being compared to Martin, and the idea is not smaller government but eliminating deficit)

      Federal government spending as a percentage of GDP /Operating Surplus as a percentage of GDP

      1993–94: 16.0 / 0.2
      2000–01: 12.1 / 5.9
      2004–05: 13.7 / 2.8

      2006–07: 13.0 / 3.3
      2007–08: 13.0 / 2.8
      2008–09: 13.0 / 1.6

      The Liberals cut taxes when the Operating surplus peaked at 5.9 after cutting down spending from 16 to 12.1, Harper's Operating Surplus was lower than what the Liberals left him with and he went on with his GST cut without cutting down spending.

      • And yet revenues continued to rise. SO the the meta question is do you have a revenue issue or a spending issue. Based on those numbers one would be inclicned to say it isnt a revenue issue, despite the GST cut, but a spending issue.

        Of course the alternative is to say they kept spending flat as a percentage of GDP but let revenues fall as a percentage. Anyway, there is no magic number. However, it is time for a proper rethinking of just what are appropriate activities for the federal government to be engaged in. This is the discussion that needs to be had, not the angels on a pin discussions around 13% or 16% etc etc. The dangers of incremental thinking.

        • Actual revenue figures:
          2006–07235,966
          2007–08242,420
          2008–09233,092

          I forgot about the corporate tax cuts of 2008. Revenues went from 40 billion in 07-08 to 30 billion in 08-09 which led to its deficit. Is that an appropriate activity for the government to engage in?

          • Mea Culpa, i misread the column heading and was looking only at personal tax. Yes there was a big drop in 08-09….ulm I think we know why in terms of ec activity. Look at the big increase in 2007-08 activity….you still have rising revenues. The deficit is a combination of revenue drop and increased expenditures….the drop in corp tax revenue isnt an "activity" That refers to expenditures, as in what should a government being doing, and then your nex qustion is what s the right way to finacnce that actovoty (what taxes should we charge to pay for those activities) The balance between personal and corporate, income and sales etc is a legitimate policy debate and generally is a balance question. But overall, the revenue is only slightly under what it was in 2006-07 when we were running a surplus in excess of the revenue drop. It points to issues on the spending side of the equation.

      • Actually, my point was more to illustrate why this particular passage

        "Last year, the federal government's total expenses were about 250 billion dollars… From a historical perspective, it's a gigantic amount of resources."

        was just wrong. From a historical perspective the size of the federal government was (and will be, once the stimulus package runs out) near an all-time low.

        • Ah there we have the comment. Searching the Government Archives chewed up most of your coffee break didn't it! ;)

          Without that context I assumed you were answering to some of the commenters above saying Harper's spending is out of control.

          On that point you are right but I maintain that he can't claim to be more of a fiscal conservative than the Liberals were.

        • Except Bernier is saying government spending should be constant in nominal terms, not as a share of GDP. And Coyne suggests this is good conservative policy.

          • Zero based budgeting is often a good idea, which is kind of what he is getting at. Hard to do every year across the entire governement. But it is always worth asking the two questions, why do you need more money over the previous year, and does this activity even need to be done.

          • But that's how the federal budget already works – your program budget doesn't increase, and you can't start a new program, unless Cabinet approves it and it's included in the budget tabled by the Finance Minister. The only exceptions are increases that are mandated by another statute. His revolutionary thought experiment must be something more than keeping the status quo.

        • Well it isnt flat wrong, 250 billion is a gigantic amount of resources no matter what, but you are correct that percentage wise the absolute size is smaller.

          Neither figure tells you anything about whether government expenditures are too small, too large or just right.

          If we take any other type of organization the head office overhead and adminstration doesnt always increase at the same rate as the revenues of a company…..one would hope that as the economy grows there are some things that dont need to be expanded in number or cost. This also means sometimes that number grows faster, depending on what state the organization is in.

    • Your comment adds a lot of much-needed perspective.

  14. "Harper broke all spending records before the recession"

    There was no recession, panic boy, growth never went neg for two consecutive quarters and the economy grew last year, Harper ran a cumulative $19 billion surplus in his first three years, the highest ever surplus in Canadian history for the first three years of a government.

    He also broke all health spending and immigration records, but I don't see you praising him for that. Government spending on redesigning websites and polling makes up such a tiny fraction of the two hundred and fifty BILLION dollar budget that it seriously indicts your ability to comprehend basic mathematics.

    You've been gumming up the internet for some time now with your nonsense Ted; I must insist you excuse yourself from the conversation in the future when grownups are talking grownup stuff like economics. Now beat it.

    • LOL, "a cumulative $19 billion surplus in his first three years"… or in other words it took him just 3 years to eliminate a long line of surpluses he inherited that were reducing the annual tax burden of our debt.

    • Are you kidding me? Harper inherited a thirteen billion dollar surplus and in less than three years dwindled it to nothing. In fact we were running a deficit before the recession hit. And the latest reports show that our economy has shrunk.

      You might also take into consideration the fact that Jim Flaherty has made Canadian taxpayers the largest lender of sub-prime mortgages in the world. The Financial Post recently called Canada the Fanny Mae of the financial sector.

      Investment firms are already sending out warning letters.

      Flahery allowed AIG to bring high-risk mortages into the country and the banks made him buy them back. These guys are horrible money manages and they need to be given the boot.

  15. Every time you wanted to increase a government expense to keep pace with inflation, you'd need to cut something. Since salaries, income support programs, health transfers, defense procurement and maintenance on existing infrastructure all increase with inflation, that's a sizable number of cuts to make each year. At 2% inflation and pretending only half of government spending falls into this category, what are the $12.5 billion in cuts he proposes over the next five years? And that assumes no expenses grow with the population.

  16. I think the better question isnt so much how out of step or off message Bernier may or may not be with the government he is in, but whether he is reflective or an anomoly with the region and voters he represents.

    If he is reflective of them, then this is back to the original Conservative idea of getting Quebec to vote ideologically rather than based on nationalism. If that happens then the Cons get between about 15 and 25% of the Quebec vote. The upper end is all they need for a Conservative majority. The question is, is Bernier really relfective of the Beace and some othe regions?

    • Bernier is true to his neoconservative views. He was plucked from the Montreal Institute, a libertarian think-tank. If you go on Youtube and google Patrick Brown, there is a video of him saying the same things as Bernier. He is the Cons MP for Barrie.

      In a sickenly condescending voice he tells us not to worry. Stephen Harper will never allow our economy to grow. He wants to remove our interfence in your life … and whole bunch more bunkum. These guys are just touting party policy when they think no one is paying attention.

      Remember that whole pesky government interference thing, involves scrapping public health care.

      • One small pedant point….neo conservative doesnt really have an economic arm ot it….it is about using American Power (military) agressively to bring "democratic" regimes to places they didnt exist before (at least thats the theory). So in a domestic Canadian sphere there are no such things as neo conservatives…..

        There is neo classical economics which is more in line with lower taxes and smaller government. But that doesnt carry the same epithet potential.

        Iggy was a neo conservative, Obama has adopted some elements of neo conservatism but time will tell if he is (I think not). I dont even know if Cheney was a neo conservative, you can argue he was an imperialist, in that I dont know how much he cares about democracy abroad as opposed to using US power to smite those he sees as threats (that probably means everyone not named Cheney)

    • I have to admit I am not an expert on the Quebec City region but there does seem to be a certain brand of conservatism in the area. Former shockjock and now independent MP Andre Arthur who votes with the Conservatives is also reflective of the same views as Bernier. Bernier and Andre Arthur are probably the only federalist politicians from Quebec that are liabilities for their parties in more left leaning areas(ala Ontario) of English Canada due to their conservative economic policies. This is saying something as two thirds of being a good federalist politician in Quebec in the eyes of other Canadians is just getting elected in your riding. Also based on election results Bernier won a higher percentage of the vote in his riding than any other Conservative outside of Alberta/Sask.

  17. Can you imagine if he tried to float this concept in his own riding? The CPC long ago ceased being trustworthy. They have no intention of honouring any thing in that, or any other, speech. They play that portion of the public that might be genuine fiscal conservatives for suckers.

    • Bernier is wildly popular in his home riding. It's likely that he's not only given similar speeches in Quebec but that they've been extremely well received. Some of the fiercest defenders of small government in Canada hail from la belle province.

      • well said janet ! indeed – people who write bernier off are bound to be disappointed as any MP with a solid supporting base can do impressive things which is why Stevie boy uses him time and time again and I have no doubt years from now he will surprise a lot of the ususal crowd on these forums.

      • Small goernment no matter the level, or just a smaller FEDERAL Government. And is his popularity (undenied) personal or ideological. In other words would another Max bernier arise from the same region with the same ideas even if his last name was not so storied?

        I honestly dont know. I suspect this is the case. Which is all part of Harper's and others view that a Conservative majority can be forged….in Quebec that pesky cultural/national question keeps getting in the way.

  18. Pierre Poilievre = Adam Daifallah? I'm not joining Facebook to figure it out.

    • I'm trying hard to not think about what could possibly follow such an image.

      • I found the reference to being a fan of Mike Duffy more disturbing.

  19. This Bernier intelectual belongs at Yuk Yuks. At least then we could pelt him with rotten fruit without the fear of the CSIS gestapo being unleashed by the hard on crime but lets kill 13 anti-crime bills prime minister. Sad sacks shelling out stupid neocon drivel. I for the life of me do no know why I waste my time commenting on these social neanderthals. Election Now, before we all succumb to the somnambulant horsepoop.

  20. Toporious Tony · 2 hours ago

    There was no recession, panic boy, growth never went neg for two consecutive quarters and the economy grew last year, Harper ran a cumulative $19 billion surplus in his first three years, the highest ever surplus in Canadian history for the first three years of a government.
    +++++++
    That was Martin's surplus he as spending!!

    • Funny, I thought it was the taxpayers surplus.

  21. They spent like drunken sailors for 4 years just so that they can now do what they really wanted to do in the first place – shrink the federal government. There is no secret in this agenda. Read "Big-spender Harper true to his neoconservative roots" by Eugene Lang and
    Philip DeMont: http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/731911

    • So what would you have not spent money on?

  22. Don't forget, SH likely wrote this speach for Bernier. Its his way of testing the waters to see how we feel about all the program cuts that are coming our way.

    • I'm not Harper's biggest fan by any means, but the sentence structure and lack of…well…any substantive insight would suggest to me some staffer threw this together on a whim. Harper's writers are a little more eloquent than that.

      • A semi-retired Australian then?

  23. Bernier said: Last year, the federal government's total expenses were about 250 billion dollars. You can do a lot of things with 250 billion dollars!

    Yes. I see his plan now. Radically reduce the size of government and instead hire people to manage the 250$ billion. These people can then hire people under them to manage smaller portions which could be used to do important things like build roads in marginal constituencies and allocate money cities to build sewers and hospitals, etc. Then the people at the top, who would report to Parliament, would have to hire people to watch their employees and there would be the matter of salary scales and reporting authorities to supervise the work. A senior hiree (call him or her Secretary of the Board of the Treasury for want of a better term) would set new standards, programs would increase in size as the money saved from not having a public service would flow back into the coffers, requiring new hirees…hey, I think we've seen this before!

    Bernier should realize that the civil service IS the institution whose purpose is to administer the public purse. Luckily for us, politicians' bright ideas (tm applied for) are immediately suspect and, as Sir Humphrey Appleby pointed out: "Ministers should never know more than they need to know. Then they can't tell anyone."

  24. This is the first thing I've heard from a Canadian politician in a very long time that actually makes sense. It not only makes sense but is the ONLY long term plan that will save the country from ultimate failure. As a country we cannot continue to grow government, we have to give the economy back to the people. People create growth, government creates debt .

    • People create everything. Including government. I'll never quite understand folks who look at government as some sort of foreign body, as if it was placed on earth by aliens or something.

      It's US folks.. we made it. And if you think really hard, it might dawn that we made it for a reason.

  25. Respectfully, arguing for zero budget growth is not conservative at all. A budget roughly indexed to GDP or inflation would be the approximately conservative stance.

    Picking an arbitrary number as a rhetorical tool to help make huge political changes would make Burke roll over in his grave.

  26. The record shows the Conservatives were flirting with a deficit well before the recession hit. And, by ratcheting up expenses in good times, the Harper regime ensured the size of those deficits would be a lot larger when things went bad.
    […]
    By last January, the fiscal cupboard was nearly bare. Even before this year's economic rescue package, Ottawa was poised to overspend its budget by $15.7 billion, according to Finance Canada documents. So the federal government would have run a hefty deficit in the current 2009-10 fiscal year even without the stimulus spending.
    –Toronto Star, Oct. 12, 2009.

    • "Even before this year's economic rescue package, Ottawa was poised to overspend its budget by $15.7 billion"

      An enormous f*cking lie. Here is the real, audited number straight from the finance department:

      "With a budgetary deficit of $5.8 billion and a net requirement from non-budgetary transactions of $84.3 billion, there was a financial requirement of $90.1 billion in 2008–09, compared to a financial source of $14.5 billion in 2007–08 (Table 5)."

      http://fin.gc.ca/afr-rfa/2009/afr-rfa09_1-eng.asp

      So we've proved that the Star and our friend Chris here can't be trusted, what's next?

      • Right on Tom, we all know what’s next. V.

      • Before accounting for any new fiscal measures to be introduced in Budget 2009, this more
        sluggish economic outlook suggests a further deterioration in the budget balance relative
        to PBO's November EFA.

        o The updated economic outlook based on the PBO survey average results in a
        status quo budgetary deficit reaching $13 billion in 2009-10 …
        — "Pre-Budget Economic and Fiscal Briefing", Parliamentary Budget Office; January 21, 2009. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/PBO-DPB/documents/Pr

        Taking nearly $13 billion in surplus and turning it into a deficit by January 2009 with increases in spending topping 6% through a bloated PMO and Cabinet, among other things, is hardly the mark of fiscal prudence. The current structural deficit is the unholy union of wanton spending and an inefficient stimulus regime.

        The article I quoted originally, for reference: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/federalbudget/

  27. For whatever reason, Andrew Coyne dubs Bernier's economic comments "conservative". Nothing could be further from the truth: Bernier was expressing an Austro-libertarian perspective.

  28. Is this the same Bernier who exposed AFGH top secret documents to criminals (unknown for months), a member of the governing party who since has taken such a moral stance in protecting "national security" and expressing a deep desire to avoid embarrassment in allowing parliamentarians access to the same sort of documents? Are we supposed to trust him again?

  29. I really doubt that his speech could be put into action though.

  30. Hopefully they can do something about this soon enough.