Hey look: Harper's hidden-in-plain-sight agenda - Macleans.ca

Hey look: Harper’s hidden-in-plain-sight agenda


From the magazine, and posted here a little ahead of its newsstand début, my latest column. Not as long as my campaign articles often are, but I hope it says something significant. If you add up all of the Conservatives’ plans, you get a federal government that will play an ever-dwindling role in the life of the nation. I think this election is about Harper finally making his big fiscal-conservative play. A lot of voters will think this is excellent. A lot would disagree. But it’s a great big debate we could be having if we were not distracted by small potatoes, and it’s a big decision we will make whether we have the debate or not.

Blogging, as many readers have noted in the comments, has been sporadic and will pick up only a little between now and the election. Sorry in advance: I’m distracted by a big assignment.


Hey look: Harper’s hidden-in-plain-sight agenda

  1. You're such a tease, Paul. Does this assignment have a deadline that you could share?

  2. Thanks for this article, Paul.

    It's one of the reasons I so hate Harper's fearmongering about fantasy coalitions. It's a distraction from the real issues at hand.

    And there are real issues. There is a real debate to be had about which way the country should go. The Liberals aren't particularly good at articulating it, but they are trying. Harper is avoiding, distracting, throwing up lies, smoke and mirrors all at the same time.

    The debate is central to what Canada is and will become. What is the role of government and what is the role of the federal government. On the one hand, we have hints of a possibility of a much reduced role of the federal government. Note that does not mean smaller or less spending, just bigger in different ways (prisons, military hardware, military campaigns, etc. vs programs) and spending in different areas (Conservative spending priorities tend to be fewer but way way bigger vs more spending items but smaller amounts).

    But it is also about a far reduced role of the federal government in areas that most Canadians have gotten used to and expect them to be: education, health, etc.

    We are already the most decentralized nation on earth. As big and bloated as our federal government may be, it is far less so than any other western nation or any G8.

    So this is a good, necessary debate to be had. Ignatieff is talking about this, pretty much in every speech. Harper? Tax cuts sometime in the future maybe, phantom coalitions, how big is crowds are or not, etc.

    • Big government Ted Betts.

      There's a surprise. (no.)

      Cats away!

  3. "If you add up all of the Conservatives' plans, you get a federal government that will play an ever-dwindling role in the life of the nation."


    "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
    Grover Norquist

    • Emily,
      Did all of the Liberal leadership candidates pay off all their debts? Is this why they are for the coalition?

      • ???? WTF does this have to do with anything?

        That's a personal debt, and nothing to do with your mythical coalition.

        • Just checking!

  4. 'it's a great big debate we could be having if we were not distracted by small potatoes'

    Well, most of us were counting on the media, especially columnists, to involve the country in this 'great big debate'

    Because the average person can't do anything to start one.

    But what we get from the media, especially columnists….is small potatoes.

    • Media? How about you and the opposition parties, who told us this fourth $300 million election in seven years was absolutely necessary? Then the election starts, and all we get is nonsense, right?

      • How about you go have a cold shower. You're overheating.

      • Just a thought; if there was no election, then the Auditor's report on the G8 spending would have been released and the damage to the Cons 'integrity' and 'transparency' would have been blown out of the water. Harper wanted this election just as much, if not more than the opposition. And as soon as the election was launched, Harper jumped on this 'coalition' boogeyman, blowing smoke to divert attention from where he doesn't want the media to focus. And the media followed along.

  5. I wonder how many Ontario Tories having read this article are going: "dammit Harper, we want you to spend our money, not Dalton McGuinty!"

  6. As an economic conservative, I find this article to be mostly nonsense on stilts. All the cuts are at the margins, won't make much of difference.

    Proof is in pudding – Con government, the one supposedly reducing government, has increased Fed spending by more than 40% since they took power. Cons could reduce spending by 50% and we would still be spending more than we did in 2000 and no one was complaining about how small government was back than.

    We don't have a revenue problem, government steals enough of our money to keep people in clover, we have a spending problem and Harper/Cons have done nothing but add to issues we face by guaranteeing Fed spending in health and welfare.

    "We've been very clear. We're not going to cut the rate of increase in transfers for health care, education and pensions. That is job number one.”

    • Population and GDP have grown since 2000. You could look it up.

      • Not by 50% they haven't.

        Fed budget will never be under control until we tame bureacrat salaries. Major government expense is people's salaries -somewhere around 80% of spending goes to pay wages – and until government stops paying public employees over the odds we are constantly going to have budgetary problems.

        When Harper, or one of his successors, starts to go after the unions than I will know Cons are serious about reducing spending or size of government. Until then, it is all window dressing.

    • Transfers are just money in/money out, though. Taken with Harpers repeated musings about assymetrical federalism, you still end up with a federal government that is reduced to the role of provincial tax collector.

      • "Transfers are just money in/money out, though."

        In theory, maybe, but not in practice.

        How many thousands of people do we employ at Fed level to collect money and then transfer back to prov, how many people do we employ at Fed level to create policies Feds want provs to follow in health and welfare when it is not Fed jurisdiction.

        Lots of Fed spending is window dressing, to make it seem like it is more than head waiter. Billions of $$$ are wasted annually because Fed pols want to appear to be doing more than they actually are or meant to be.

        • You and Paul both have valid points: Paul is correct that the Cons are implementing policies that directly cut revenue. You are correct that they have not shown any indication of being serious in cutting program and PS spending.
          So there's two possible outcomes: either Paul will be proven right or the deficit will continue to balloon massively in the coming years. If the latter, someone will have the motivation and public support to slay that beast as Chretien did, but Harper will have blown the opportunity to be the one. Wouldn't it be a great irony if it was Trudeau?

  7. And yet again I wonder why I bother subscibing to the print edition that won't arrive until next Wednesday.

    • Totally agree…When I curl up to read my magazine I find that the articles I want to read have already been read online.

      But…online…you don't get staples! At least that is what Feschuk will tell you.

      My subscription is up for renewal and what better time than during an election. I'll decide on how fair I think the coverage is.

  8. "Coyne has long argued that the proper metric is per capita spending (inflation adjusted)."

    You can't measure it but I was also thinking of Cons decision to interfere in sale of Potash Corp. Cons decided that a few seats in Sask were more important than allowing people to do what they wish with their private property.

    That's Big Government mentality if I have ever seen it. État, c'est moi!