Harper’s very political budget

At first glance, there are no major transformations, but below the surface this government is escalating a dozen of its favourite combats

by Paul Wells

Revolution, ladies and gents! Light the torches! In his December year-end interviews, Stephen Harper used the term “major transformations” a half-dozen times. He made fun of earlier majority prime ministers. They let the bureaucrats put them to sleep! For years! No chance of that happening to Harper. Major transformations, coming right up.

Fast forward to this afternoon. “We will eliminate the penny,” Jim Flaherty told the Commons. It was literally the first new policy measure he announced. “Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home.”

Now you know why Trudeau and Mulroney and Chrétien were such snoozers. It was the pennies. Weighing them down all day. Cluttering their dressers at night. Pennies wear a guy down. Harper, the Interac Prime Minister, will be fleet of foot, full of vim, and ready for —

— major transformations? No. I don’t have a searchable electronic text of Flaherty’s speech, but I do not see the word “transformation” anywhere in it. The rhetoric is altogether more reassuring. “The reforms we present today are substantial, responsible, and necessary,” he said, and “We will stay on course,” and “We will maintain our consistent, pragmatic, and responsible approach to the economy,” and “We will implement moderate restraint in government spending.”

A decade ago at the National Post, we’d have squeezed a month’s headlines out of the spin war between the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister over how to characterize this budget, because I am here to tell you there is one. “Some of the stuff that’s been out there about ‘major transformations’  may have been a bit off,” a government staffer who does not work at Langevin Block said to me.

Diverging motivation has led to diverging rhetoric. Flaherty needs to calm markets, so he speaks a language of continuity and reassurance. Harper needs to persuade movement conservatives a decade’s work was worth it, so he has become his own loudest cheerleader.

Which one of them is right on the substance of the thing? Both of them. There is no revolution in this budget. Most of the changes it announces have been coming for years and will take years to implement. Some of them are prudent and some less so, but together they add up to a few significant course adjustments. Advantage Flaherty.

Under the surface, however, this is an intensely political budget, perhaps the most interesting since Flaherty’s first in 2006.

Click here for all the latest news and insight on the 2012 federal budget

The surface calm will serve Harper’s most important strategic objective: avoid nasty surprises so voters can grow more comfortable with the Conservatives over time. Below the surface, this government escalates a dozen of its favourite combats.

This government being what it is, if you’re looking for a fight, check under “charities.” And indeed: “Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities,” the budget document says. “There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.”

You see what they’re doing there?

Recall Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s Jan. 9 open letter on the Northern Gateway pipeline project. He wrote that “environmental and other radical groups” use “funding from foreign special interest groups” to kill Canadian resource development. Stopping those groups, Oliver wrote, is “an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest.”

And now this measure. Who has raised concerns about political activities and foreign funding by charities? Ethical Oil and its affiliated Our Decision campaign, run by Conservatives with close ties to Harper’s government. Now, Ethical Oil isn’t a charity. Doesn’t claim to be. Tides Canada does. It takes money from outside Canada (environmentalism being a global movement and all) and spends it on political advocacy  to oppose oil sands and pipeline projects. This budget announces measures to make those activities harder.

This is not my theory. It was cheerfully explained to me by a government staffer in the budget lockup. The Kneecap Tides Canada Provision (my name, not Finance’s), incidentally, is tucked away at the end of Chapter 4, “Sustainable Social Programs and a Secure Retirement.”

Our antennae thus attuned, what else can we find? Most of it comes in the cuts. Their scale is not large. Even with the cuts factored in, program spending will be 6% higher in 2014-15 than today. But what gets cut?

  • Recall that in 2006 Harper tried to appoint Encana chairman Gwyn Morgan as head of a public appointments review committee. The opposition blocked the appointment because Morgan’s pretty conservative. Harper, furious, said he would simply appoint nobody to the post until the Conservatives won a majority. Now they have it. So what are they doing? “Eliminating the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat,” which (as Greg Weston of the CBC has reported) has sat in offices for years to support a commissioner who was never appointed. Why is the government doing the opposite of what Harper said in 2006? “The Government has significantly strengthened the rigour and accessibility of the public appointments system over the past five years,” the budget says with an admirably straight face.
  • In 2006 Laureen Harper stayed at the residence of Canada’s then-ambassador to France, Claude Laverdure. She did not like what she saw. Way too fancy. Word spread throughout Canada’s diplomatic network: don’t show off when somebody from the government comes to visit. Hide the good china. Too late: The goverment will “sell some official residences abroad and move to smaller ones, generating capital revenue of $80 million.”
  • The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, run by Jim Flaherty’s former chief of staff, a Mulroney-era Progressive Conservative named David McLaughlin, will be shut down. NRTEE has in effect been a sort of Parliamentary Budget Officer of environment-related pains in the government’s ass, releasing report after report about the gap between the government’s promises on greenhouse-gas reduction and the reality. So it’s dead. “A mature and expanded community of environmental policy stakeholders has demonstrated the capacity to provide analysis and policy advice for the Government of Canada,” the budget document says, in my favourite sentence ever. Like who? Like Tides Canada. See above.
  • The NRTEE closure, at least, is announced and, kind of, explained. Not so for the First Nations Statistical Institute, which is essentially Statistics Canada (ding ding ding) for aboriginal populations. Or, rather, was. A chart in Annex 1 shows the FNSI will have its budget cut by $5 million in 2013-14. I asked a Treasury Board guy how much its current budget is. He looked in the Estimates. “$5 million,” he said. Buh-bye.
  • Katimavik is cancelled, basically to soften Justin Trudeau up before Patrick Brazeau cuts into him on Saturday night.
  • If you’ve never heard of the Advanced Leadership Program at the Canada School of Public Service before, that’s because you haven’t been watching Sun TV. Brian Lilley went off on them for a couple of weeks earlier this year, because they “train bureaucrats to become better bureaucrats.” It’s a program for director-general and assistant-deputy-minister level bureaucrats who are on track to become deputy ministers and maybe, one day, Clerk of the Privy Council. They travel to other countries and compare notes with foreign colleagues. Gravy train! Gone. Annual savings, $6.6 million.
  • Shutting down Assisted Human Reproduction Canada is a direct result of a 2010 Supreme Court decision and will be largely uncontroversial, but one suspects some social-conservative groups will be glad just because of the name of the thing.

This is the Harper government playing offence on a bunch of fronts. It is playing defence too.

At the end of 2010 the Ignatieff Liberals started talking about a government that was spending more on “jets, jails and corporate tax cuts” than on Canadian families. This discourse, which was being advanced with unusual discipline and patience by Ignatieff, Scott Brison and Ralph Goodale, rattled the Conservatives because for the first time the Liberals were making a credible case that the government’s head was in clouds far removed from the preoccupations of working families. But by spring of 2011, the Liberals were back complaining about contempt-of-Parliament, the sort of thing that interests people who have never voted Conservative. The results of that change of Liberal strategy will be familiar to everyone.

But the New Democrats are more diligent on economic critiques than the Liberals have been, and the attack, once formulated, could return.

So this budget contains no new large tax cuts for corporations or anyone else. It contains one fascinating new adjective, committing the government to acquiring an “affordable” replacement for the CF-18 fighter fleet. And it points out that the Government has not built a single new prison since 2006 and has no intention of building any new prisons.”

This story has concentrated on the fine print because Colleagues Geddes and McMahon are bringing you the top-line numbers, and because with this government you really do need to read the fine print. But a word about those top-line numbers:

Departed Colleague Coyne used to point out how total spending would balloon between one year’s projections and the next. Stealth inflation of spending, and so on. But that’s no longer happening.

The 2009 budget projected that direct program expenses — the money the feds spend on programs and not on transfers to people or to provinces and territories — would total $121.8 billion in 2013-2014. Today’s budget projects only $113.7 in direct program expenses for 2013-14. Total program expenses — direct plus transfers — for 2013-2014 were projected at $254 billion in 2009. Today’s budget puts the number at $249 billion.

The government is holding the line, and in fact trimming it ever so slightly. Its long-term plan has always been to constrain the ability of any future government to create big new programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction like health, education or social services. I use a few names for this strategy, including “flat-tire federalism.” The 2008-09 economic uproar blew Harper off track. But he’s back.

 




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Harper’s very political budget

  1. What 0 comment’s?! Where is the outrage?

    • It takes time to parse all the information.

    • Outrage? Compared to their daily rhetoric, this document is the most unsurprising thing I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to muster additional outrage when one is presented with something less offensive than usual. LOL

      They’ve done precisely what we all knew they would do; what they’ve been telegraphing since last May.

      There’s not one thing in this budget that is surprising, other than the fact that they did less than I would of thought given their majority and the fact that they have years to before the next election.

      Even in terms of the environmental reviews, there’s no indication of how they would even go about limiting the time it takes. Most of what takes so long is that the firms in question take forever to submit the requested paperwork and plan estimates. So what are they going to do? Kill a project because the firm isn’t going fast enough? Of course not. Other than that, they can hardly stop people from suing or speed up the court process in anyway. Frankly the only measure that seems to work in their favour is the elemination of duplicative processes.

      The biggest news in this budget isn’t what it does, but what it fails to do. There’s a complete lack of innovation here, which is bloody ironic really, given their attempt to overhaul the SR&ED and IRAP programs to produce more innovation. LOL

  2. The only way he can accomplish his goal is if future government buy the argument that all taxes are bad. 

    • So you’re saying that if Canadians elect anybody other than a CPC government, they’ll start taxing and spending again? I couldn’t agree more!

      • All governments raise money and spend it.   The borrow and spend Conservatives only differentiate themselves by  deferring those taxes to the future.

        • That’s why they’re working towards a balanced budget? On a much faster pace than what was anticipated? Gimme a break.

          • We’ll all give the borrow and spend Conservatives a pat on the back when the dig themselves out of the hole they dug quicker than they told us they would.

          • You fail to mention that they created the deficit in the first place. 

          • I didn’t fail to mention that at all, because it’s completely off topic. Just like you didn’t fail to mention that the Liberals and NDP wanted even bigger stimulus and bigger deficit.

          •  ”the Liberals and NDP wanted even bigger stimulus and bigger deficit.”

            Stop lying.  It’s quite unbecoming of a bank branch manager.  As you said yourself the opposition parties favour taxing and spending, over borrowing and spending.

          • Raise the retirement age while cutting corporate tax cuts to record low levels. Another knife in the belly of the middle class.

            I’d say retirees need the money more than billionaire oil barons.

          • Right, because only billionaire oil barons pay corporate income tax. No pension plans are invested in corporations, no individuals buy stocks in those companies, no mutual funds, no insurance companies.

            Just evil billionaire oil barons who don’t reinvest any of their money, they simply store it in a large building, and swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck.

      • As if Harper has stopped spending.  He’s just targetting things he hates- like food inspectors it would seem. 

        • Yes, Conservatives hate food inspectors.

  3. I agree….strictly political.

    It does nothing for the economy of the country.

  4. Well, thank you Laureen Harper for bringing small town cheap to our international missions. 

    • I’m sure future appointees like Michael Sona won’t complain whatsoever about the decor

    •  Who cast their votes for her?

  5. A boring Conservative government. I’m actually kind of surprised. I can’t just decide if I’m pleasantly surprised or disappointed. Are they just the quiet competent types, or epic mediocrities? 

  6. I think this budget makes it apparent that Harper is following Bush and Cameron strategy of not doing much of anything that will irritate socialists. I am curious to know if Flaherty announced a plan for growth and production to pay for his government’s huge spending spree.

    Cons not being explicit in budget about how they intend to reduce government spending to get us out of deficit keeps journos, and Canadians, calm. Apparently, Con image is more important than conservative economics, style over substance. Compassionate conservatism can kiss my arse.

    Tom Mills ~ New Left Project:
    Policy Exchange is sometimes referred to as being David Cameron’s ‘favourite think-tank’ …. It was founded in 2002 and has been very much part of the re-branding of the Conservative Party …. Iain Duncan Smith was seen as appealing to the Tory base – Little Englanders if you like.  But the Policy Exchange faction (a number of whom were members of David Cameron’s so called ‘Notting Hill Set’) wanted to move away from the anti-Europe, anti-immigration ideas which dominated the Conservative Party under New Labour and to try and re-brand the Party as progressive. 

    They pretty much followed Tony Blair’s rhetoric and political ideas and were also very impressed with George Bush and the conservative revival in the United States – particularly Bush’s idea of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’.‘Compassionate Conservatism’ was summarised by Bush’s speechwriter as the idea that ‘the government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself.’

  7. Well, Canadian conservatives are admirably consistent in their hatred for Katimavik. Very sad. Wonderful program. Good for participants, good for communities.

    I guess they’d happily burn down the House of Commons if Trudeau had been involved in building it.

    • How much does Katimavik cost?

      Oh yeah, this is personal. This is a public FU from Harper to Trudeau.
       
      “First I’ll wipe out your Dad’s party, then I’ll wipe out his pet projects too.” 

       I’m sure Harper would like nothing more than to wage a public flame war with Justin and get him sputtering and frothing really hard – then bank the resulting footage for future attack ads should Justin get uppity and pursue his Liberal “destiny.” After all, young Justin has already given away that he has a bad temper.

      Simple and effective. Who cares if a bunch of young adults get burned out of a life enriching, possibly even “environmental awakening” type of experience – they can get good, high paying jobs in the oil sands. Right?

       I deplore Harper’s politics, but you have to admit, the man is very, very thorough.

      • PPS 

        To Liberals: merge with the NDP while you can 

        OR

         pray someone forms an ultra right wing, big C conservative party and starts dividing the “right”

         

        • OR

          Form a credible alternative to both the NDP and Tories, with a common sense platform that engages Canadians, and pursuing compelling policies that matter to Canad…

          Ah heck. Never mind. Just take the easy way out and merge.

          • Actually, they did that last time around. But.. as they say, advertising is king.

          • I believe Liberal problems go beyond advertising, but that’s just my opinion.

            Perhaps they just need to cancel the soul-searching, speed up the leadership process, and simply hire a better ad agency.

          • I believe we need a viable Opposition NOW and if Mulcair stumbles, then we’re back to waiting for a Conservative scandal implosion. The problem is that they will use all their might to minimize and deflect any and every scandal and let’s face it, it’s worked so far.
             The longer the Opposition remains divided, the longer Harper has to slow turn the mighty ship and become the natural governing party – and allowing them to do that unopposed is pretty scary to me. We need at least 2 strong parties to achieve any sort of balanced government and as long as the left remain divided, the conservatives grow stronger and stronger.
            Harper is by far the smartest politician in Canada, which doesn’t make him bulletproof, but sure puts him miles ahead of a divided left handicapped by voter apathy and new leadership susceptible to negative attack ad branding.

        • The right has splintered in B.C. – they’re back to the conservative purity war. I see Larry Miller has said the budget cuts didn’t go deep enough, maybe it’s  start.  ,

      • Harper could replace it with kaTARmavik, outdoor experiences at the worlds largest settling pond.

      • I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent

        • You use a shopworn cliche as your response, but I ask you:  You don’t think it was deliberate? If not, you clearly have not been paying attention.

          • I agree that it is a shopworn cliche, but I had to phrase it in a way that you could understand.
             In an effort to balance the budget, why should the government support the past socialistic practices of PET?
            I left Canada when I finally realized that even Mulroney had to pander to the left to retain the government. At least, with Mr Harper, I see a glimmer of hope.

          •  Let me guess, you moved to Burma where they don’t have to work as hard to hide their corruption.  So much wasted effort to keep peasants happy, no?

          • “but I had to phrase it in a way you would understand”

             You lob a big insult and then justify it with this line.

             You have your position and that is fine, but backing it up with bullshit puppy yap instead of reasoned argument is …. well….. bullshit.

             I’m saying that the money was not the motivator in this position. You can’t play big fiscal Conservative when Tony Clement’s appalling riding beautification spending is done with taxpayer cash deliberately misdirected from the coffers of “border security”.

      • I imagine he’s working from a list that’s he’s been making all his adult life.

  8. I’m curious how this new process “requiring charities to provide more information on their political activities” will be applied.  Will it be a partisan tool, or will it effect religious organizations equally as much as the environmentalists.

    •  Personally,  can wait to start busting all the churches supporting the Cons.

    • Will it be a partisan tool?

      It will be fire and brimstone for those they want to “get” and toothless dismissal for those they want to “keep”

      See: Paradis, Christian, Clement, Tony, MacKay, Peter, Oda, Bev, “accountability” etc.

  9. I’m extremely glad that Harper, Flaherty, the Finance Dept., Carney and the Bank of Canada understand macro-economics, unlike most everyone else in the country (on the left, centre, or so-called right).

    In particular, Rae, Mulcair, Dalton McGuinty, Coyne and most of the mainstream media, are clueless dolts economically speaking.

    Canada is one of the few countries in the world with actual adults in charge, macro-economically speaking.  US and European leaders are fools. Japan has had two decades of little to no economic growth.  Australia’s progressives are about to blow their country up within McGuinty-like ideological blinders.

    Harper is far from perfect, but damn, Canada was extremely fortunate to have Harper and Carney at the helm when this global economic crisis hit.  They are doing the macro-economics better than anyone else on the planet.

    •  The word ‘macroeconomics’ doesn’t mean what you think it does.

      • Actually, it is you who apparently doesn’t.  I used “macroeconomics” because that is precisely what Carney and Harper have been getting right.

        •  Got top marks in it in fact….and have used it all my life.

          And in case you haven’t noticed, Carney often disagrees with Harper.

          • Because there is a natural tension between the monetary authority and the fiscal authority, which is why in successful modern economies, the monetary authority is separated from the fiscal authority.

            But Carney and Harper have both been non-ideological in applying middle-of-the-road mainstream monetary and fiscal macroeconomic policy during this global economic crisis.  Unlike the hysterical voices on the opposition benches and in the mainstream media. 

            (The particular contrast for Carney and Harper is the colossal mess that King and Cameron are making in the UK.)   I feel sorry the utter buffoons that Bernanke has to deal with in the White House and Congress in both parties.  And well, the Australians look like they have screwed up…

          •  Like I said….it doesn’t mean what you think it does.

            In fact….leave economics alone. Stick to wheat.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            So tell us what it means. You seem to have a strong opinion about this, and claim to be educated in the field…

            …so instead of the childish insults, tell us *why* what @42243d14388cc867c77bc9dc7859c34c:disqus says is wrong. None of your posts give any indication that you have a *clue* what you’re talking about, it would be nice to be proven wrong.

          • Didn`t Harper, once upon a time, originally campaign on the neocon idea that governments shouldn`t be involved with macroeconimc activities?

          •  Harper once campaigned on a lot of things that have been conveniently forgotten.

    • You trying to start a drinking game where the trigger word is “macroeconomic” ?

      Because that’s about the only way your post could make any sense.

    • “I’m extremely glad that Harper, Flaherty, the Finance Dept., Carney and the Bank of Canada understand macro-economics … ”

      Wall St Journal ~ Why Americans Hate Economics:
      How did modern economics fly off the rails? The answer is that the “invisible hand” of the free enterprise system, first explained in 1776 by Adam Smith, got tossed aside for the new “macroeconomics,” a witchcraft that began to flourish in the 1930s during the rise of Keynes. Macroeconomics simply took basic laws of economics we know to be true for the firm or family—i.e., that demand curves are downward sloping; that when you tax something, you get less of it; that debts have to be repaid—and turned them on their head as national policy.

      As Donald Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of the invaluable blog Cafe Hayek, puts it: “Macroeconomics was nothing more than a dismissal of the rules of economics.” Over the years, this has led to some horrific blunders, such as the New Deal decision to pay farmers to burn crops and slaughter livestock to keep food prices high: To encourage food production, destroy it.

      The grand pursuit of economics is to overcome scarcity and increase the production of goods and services. Keynesians believe that the economic problem is abundance: too much production and goods on the shelf and too few consumers. Consumers lined up for blocks to buy things in empty stores in communist Russia, but that never sparked production. In macroeconomics today, there is a fatal disregard for the heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy. “All economic problems are about removing impediments to supply, not demand,” Arthur Laffer reminds us.

      • ‘heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy.’

        The entrepreneur is not the hero of the economy….that’s Ayn Rand backwards….nor does he innovate and create….he sells…that’s all.

        The inventor creates. And very few inventors ever get rich. Mostly they get ripped off.

        PS Macroeconomics is the big picture….the economy of a nation, or nowadays, the world

        And the Laffer curve was invented in the 14th century….by a Berber Muslim

        • Right. An inventor that takes their product to market would be an entrepreneur, the two are not mutually exclusive.

          Your thinking is also completely outdated. “Inventors” doesn’t mean what you think it means any more. The vast majority of new “inventions” will require massive amounts of resources, such is the nature of our high-tech world. There are no poor, ripped-off individual inventors creating the next microchip, jet engine, vaccine, solar panel, etc.

          PS Macroeconomics is indeed “the big picture”, but you are completely wrong regarding its applications. You can apply macroeconomic principles to any “economy” as a whole, including a city, municipality, region, province, country, etc… It is definitely not limited to the nation, and contrary to your obnoxious assertion, it rarely applies to the world as a complete whole as the entire global economy is far, far to complex for such an analysis.

          •  

            Well you’ve confused about a dozen things here without a
            point to make, as far as I can see.

            Yes, an ‘inventor’ can take a product to market….however the ‘inventor’ is
            often ripped off by the people who do take it to market.  Yes inventions
            often need a lot in the way of resources but that’s once the item reaches
            market level…..not at the idea and prototype stage. There are indeed ‘poor
            inventors’.

             

            I work in macroeconomics, and know exactly what
            it means…..and yes, it’s entirely possible to deal with it at the global level.

      • The problem in “communist” Russia wasn’t the Keynesian theory, it was the top-down control of production.  They developed their own artificial scarcity by the ruling class implementing direct control of the means of production. Something even Marx disparaged.

    • …or you could argue that Canada was lucky the global economic crisis hit when it did, as it prevented Harper & Co. from implementing their planned Americanization of our banking and financial rules – otherwise, instead of constantly bragging about the soundness of our system, we’d be in as big a mess as many of out G20 partners.

      • You could argue that or you could realize that no one really cares about debating these alternate realities where Harper did awful things with terrible consequences. Why, you ask? Because he never actually did them.

        • For the slow at comprehending, my point is that WhyshouldIsellyourwheat’s claim that we were “fortunate” to have Harper and Carney at the helm when the downturn started is nonsense. The things that saved us were in place before them and disliked by at least Harper, no matter how hard Harper later tried to take credit for them.

          As comparatively well-off as we are, we might be even better off if Harper hadn’t been the last person in Canada to realize we were in a severe downturn.

          You’re right; speculating on what might havr been is kind of pointless. But there is little evidence to support WhyshouldIsellyourwheat’s hero worship, and plenty of signs that the things Harper claims as CPC accomplishments are just dumb luck.

  10. What’s “new” to be outraged over? It’s a steady as she goes budget for the government that has disarmed mass resistance by openly musing their positions steadily in advance. 

  11. This was a very helpful and informative article. We must be on our toes with this lot.

  12. Apparently not a word in the budget about reducing the scale of the most bloated PMO in Canadian history.

    “Do as I say, not, etc…”

  13. Isn’t 30/70 or 20/80 revenue/spending the presumptive norm in budgets? What we have here is 0/100.

    That’s not policy. It’s ideology. You can’t plan for ideology.

    • Dalton McGuinty didn’t raise taxes either in his recent budget. (Technically, he suspended further cuts.)  Is he a raving neocon?

  14. Is this the end of Amnesty International?  Everything they do is political, and their funding structure is global.  Same for most human rights groups including those that campaign against genocide, antisemitism, war crimes, and child soldiers.  Just because they request actions from governments, does that not make them worthwhile charities?

    • AI is also morally bankrupt and corrupt, so I certainly hope this is their end.

  15. I love the subtle tag at the bottom “Resource Imperialism”. That pretty much sums up what this budget is about. Exporting our resources away to the Chinese, giving the few jobs created by this to imported Chinese workers, allowing mostly American oil companies to waltz away with the profits, and leaving Canadians with massive long term environmental disaster zones that can never be fully cleaned up. And anyone who opposes the above is an enemy of the state.

    P.S. The shutting down of the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy is enough by itself to boot this government from power. It was one of our most respected government agencies internationally. But now it’s been killed because it conflicted with Harper’s extremist anti-environmental ideology.

    • Yes, Harper is an extremist. That’s what all of today’s editorials on the budget are saying.

      •  In regards to the environment?  Yes he is, and yes they are.  Give proof otherwise, or would you just like us all to swallow your sad attempt at logic?

  16. It’s good to know that some journalists still do their job. More and more so-called “columnists” never let facts (or the lack thereof) get in the the way of an opinion.

    Thank-you, Paul Wells, for informing rather than indulging in punditry. 

  17. You are a moron Mr. Wells…you pontificate and write seemingly sophisticated words, but completely lack substance.  Unfortunately our Canadian media is riddled with idiots like you! 

  18. Jim Flaherty said on the 6 oclock newes that the 24 hr amount of duty free did not change only the 48hr amount but it did change from 50 to 200 dollars it is his job to know that, and to say the wrong thing on the news is just bad! ! Don

  19. A good description of the direction Harper hopes most media folks will continue to snooze through — that way the folks who disagree with Steve’s agenda will continue to snooze til the plan’s fully implemented.

  20. Yes, Harper is back, destroying old fashioned liberalism and implementing evil neo-liberalism. This man does not like Canadians nor what the country stands for. He is a negative person with negative ideas. People need to form a big cooperative coalition with more than 5-million members — more people than people voted for him last year.
    http://nickfillmore.blogspot.com/2012/03/last-of-three-part-series-what.html

  21. Why does Paul Wells work for Mclean’s and pretend to be a journalist? He should be the lead propagandist for the leftists. This is simply an unabashed biased review of the budget.
    By the way, charities are supposed to do charity work, not lobby governments. But then, if they are doing illegal things that you happen to agree with, then I expect that is OK. I am sure you were a supporter of the nihilist “Occupy ” debacle.

  22. God help the provinces they are the big losers here.

    • Yes, Conservatives hate the provinces.

  23. Google Ray Novak who used to sleep above Harper’s garage…for like years………..

  24. I really feel sorry for harper.  He just doesn’t quite cut it as a human being.  There he stands (for a long time if you watched it on TV), with his fixed and stilted smile and the sad thumb stuck up in the wind for the longest time.  Quick, Steve, another photo op!  Poor old droopy drawers Steve.

    • Long may he reign.

  25. For some reason this comment appeared twice….once in the wrong place, so I’m removing it.

  26. Interesting – not a single comment on the OAS changes. The infamous “hidden agenda” thingy received more attention than that.

  27. “Transformation” is saying “reform” without using the word, this is the Reform party after all.  That word scares people.  I mean, that’s why they bought out the PC party, to acquire the word Conservative which also gets the votes of those who would never vote Reform.  The number of times I still here people call them the PC party or Tory’s makes me giggle with sadness as the Reform party achieved their goal.

  28. Who needs data about pollution anyway? Let nature takes its course… just like in the good, old days (they were terrible, by the way). 

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