Hey look: the crystal ball in the PM’s head


From the print edition, my column for this week indulges what’s becoming an annual habit: I read transcripts of Stephen Harper’s year-end interviews to try to figure out what’s in his head. He thinks 2012 will be a banner year; so much so that he began his interview with CTV’s Lisa LaFlamme by volunteering his belief that previous majority prime ministers didn’t get a lot done. So I begin by surveying what those guys actually did; Harper plans to do more, which will serve as an excellent benchmark for what he does in 2012.

On that front, we have a sort of breaking news. Yesterday Harper was interviewed by the excellent Calgary radio host Dave Rutherford. On the economy heading into 2012, it’s worth printing the PM’s answer in full. It complements the interviews I was reading when I wrote my column, and it should serve notice that the PM intends to deliver an important budget this spring. I’ll highlight the parts that seem significant:

We will be moving forward this spring, Dave, with an aggressive series of economic measures to create jobs and growth, not just now; to make changes in a wide range of policies of the federal government, to really try and position this country to create jobs and growth over the longer term. I am seriously concerned when I look at, you know, obviously our principal trading partner, the United States, but you know, our traditional trading partners as well in Europe, and I see fairly dim prospects for robust growth going forward. I think this country has… you know, we’ve got a better financial situation, we’ve got a better banking situation, we’ve got a better political situation. I think we have to use that to make the economic changes necessary to position this country for growth over the next generation. I think that’s the responsibility of the government, and we will be moving forward this spring with some fairly aggressive action on a wide range of areas.



Hey look: the crystal ball in the PM’s head

  1. Will the whole country be appointed to the Senate?

    • No, some will get on the nuclear or offshore oil regulatory boards.

    • That’s one way to make it Equal.

  2. I believe his government will be “aggressive” but remain unconvinced there will be “action.”

  3. Now if he actually does something, it’s on Wells’ head!

  4. Is the Caterpillar worker lockout and offer of a 50% wage cut with reduced benefits at a major London Ontario employer which has been a the recipient of Harper Government largesse personally delivered by the PM himself,  an issue that could catch the PM’s attention?

    Could defending workers like this even though unionized ever be part of his plan? After all when he heard about this slap in the face to his government he must have hit the roof. It’s a personal insult.Also if the story that Caterpillar wants to move the plant south to take advantage of Obama’s “buy American” policy is true that’s another slap in the face to Harper who was double crossed on that issue. 

    I often wonder if there are any Reform style old fashioned populists left in the Conservative party who would see these London workers as the trodden down little guy being pushed around by the big international corporation. I know, the answer is NO. These guys aren’t prairie farmers but members of a big bad union. 

    I suspect the big moves you suggest Paul, will mainly relate to what they see as an easy target, supply management. 

    But it would be interesting if Harper actually developed a foreign ownership, plant closures, worker protection strategy for industrial Canada (Ontario).  Even a bit of a shot across the bow of big boy Caterpillar is too much to ask for? I notice Ed Holder won’t say a word for fear he might say the wrong thing and get himself in trouble. I guess he knows the policy will be hands off let them shut it down and move on out. We can always create some jobs by raising chickens, cows and wheat.

  5. We’ve heard this ‘about to do major things’ in one form or another from Harper for years….it just never happened. And now it can’t.

    Partly because he himself then went off on tangents….. attacking a country, attacking individuals, attacking institutions, and picking unwinnable fights.  Wasting time, while trying to look busy.

    The other reason is that all the major things…economy/trade/environment…are no longer decided in this country. They are decided in the global community. Harper no longer has a choice in these matters.

    The internal things he could have done something about….education, health etc…he’s given away to the provinces.

    So while he’s been busy gathering power in the PMO…the power has vanished into thin air.

    It’s a Pyrrhic victory.

    • Not quite true. They still control the student loan system and the funding transfer system.
      So he could decide that provinces don’t get funding transfers for education unless they deregulate tuition, and revamp the student loan system so that it pays the full cost of each course tuition, and each chunk of funding turns into a non-repayable grant upon successful completion of the course.  Now that I think about it, doing such might even save them money in the short term as they’d no longer be paying living expenses to students.

      Of course, it’s rather more likely that he’ll just cancel elections to provide a “stable legislative environment” for business, and because “Canadians are tired of the constant bickering in politics and few see Parliament being at all useful”, and instead make Canada into a corporation with each citizen having one share and an invitation to the AGM.

      • He can also fire MPs, eliminate committees, cut off funding, prorogue parliament, etc.
        But such powers are trivial and local.

        • Controlling provincial transfers is trivial and local? Well, if that’s the kind of criteria you’re using then of course you’re right, but no government is god, I’m afraid.

          • Rejigging a few bucks internally does nothing to save our national economy from the force of a world crisis.

  6. Well, I for one look forward to finding out what policies my government plans to implement over the next 3-4 years.  I kinda would have preferred having some inkling of that plan BEFORE the election was held, but I guess maybe I just set the bar too high.

    • We’ll find out at the same time as the Conservative caucus, after they leave office.

    • Meh, you didn’t vote for them anyway so your thoughts on what they do are apparently irrelevant.

  7. What does he mean by ‘dim prospects for growth going forward’ when referring to our traditional trading partners? Is he meaning to say those countries won’t experience economic growth of their own, or that Canada won’t experience growth if it continues to tie itself to traditional trading partners.

    If one assumes that, as Prime Minister of Canada, he’s speaking to Canada’s growth potential in its current trading context, and that this is rationally connected to his subsequent statement about ‘[positioning] this country for growth over the next generation’, then what are we really talking about?

    What economic changes position us to do less business with traditional trading partners and make us more attractive to new ones?

    • New trade agreements with new countries.

      • Creating new countries would be aggressive.

        But seriously, the key barriers to trade with countries like China and India are import controls – Tariffs they consider discriminatory, prohibitions on things like meat that doesn’t meat rigorous quality controls, and import quotas on all manner of consumer goods.

        So by ‘fairly aggressive’ ‘…economic changes to position this country for growth’ he may be hinting at the lowering of import controls in order to appeal to these ‘new’ trade partners. This would likely irk our NAFTA partners, and has the potential to lower consumer standards and open Canadian industries to major competition. 

        • The key barriers to trade with any country are import and export controls….so, we remove em.

          Same as we did with the US and Mexico….and a dozen small trade agreements since.

          No, it doesn’t mean lowering consumer standards, but yes it means competition.

        • Creating new countries would be aggressive.  


  8. 12 comments so far, all of them partisan tripe.

    I see that 2012 will be exactly like 2011 in at least one respect.

    • So write a non-partisan comment, instead of just complaining about others.

    • Yes, CPC supporters still whine when people don’t toady to the gov’t.

      • I’m not a CPC supporter.  I’m a hater of blatant partisan tripe, and comment threads consisting mostly or entirely of same.  There’s a difference.

        • Nah…..you are a Harper fan-boy pretending to be non-partisan….and failing.

          • Amazingly too, a Harper fan-boy who doesn’t even vote Conservative.

            I’ll leave Emily to explain who that works.

          • Since you defend and boost Harper on here every chance you get, I very much doubt you vote for anyone else.

          • So that was somebody else on here

            — supporting Insite
            — not supporting the omnibus crime bill
            — not supporting the government’s decision to nuke the long-form census

            etc. etc.

            Emily, you are pathetic.  There’s no other way to put it.

    • I insist that my comments were non-partisan tripe!

      • Nahh, I don`t think so.
        I have seen your comments and just like your twit friend Emily, they are all partisan tripe.

        • Cons, of course, are never partisan…..as we all know.

  9. I guess that can pretty well be summarized like Steve’s other speeches, ” … you know… obviously … you know ….”

    • Yes, using those words makes him evil.  They should be banned from the language, and anyone who uses them should be ridiculed and flogged.

      • Obviously, you know.

  10. macleans sucks.  stupid propaganda sh+t magazine.  get off my email provider morons

  11. I noticed that since conserves took over and announced cuts that they are now offering commisions to WCB employees for knocking ppl off their claims and making them resort to AISH or welfare,much cheaper and keeps them swept under the rug.

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