The Commons: Tony Clement does his Maxime Bernier impression

Aaron Wherry makes sense of QP’s numbers

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. With the benefit of a few days hindsight, Thomas Mulcair stood to review the week just passed.

One day last week, the NDP leader recalled, the Finance Minister had said a balanced budget would be delayed. But a few days later, Mr. Mulcair noted, the Prime Minister had said the budget would be balanced by 2015.

“So who is right?” he begged, holding out his hands and turning his palms upward.

This business of projecting the government’s future budgetary balance became officially silly somewhere between October 14, 2008 and October 17, 2008. And in that regard, Mr. Mulcair’s question is moot. Who is right? Conceivably, eventually, the Conservatives will be. It simply stands to reason that if you keep making predictions, you will eventually get at least one of them right.

Alas, promising that “the budget will be balanced at some point probably” does not project the sort of certainty we demand in our political leaders. And so here stood Tony Clement to convey the latest version of the official reassurances.

“Our objective is to balance the budget in 2015, and we are on track to do so, to balance the budget over the medium term,” he offered.

“Oh yeah!” mocked a voice from the opposition side.

“We have a clear plan to balance the budget,” Mr. Clement continued. “We are eliminating waste.”

Mr. Clement might’ve stopped there, but he’d apparently just been briefed by the same young man who last week was instructing Maxime Bernier on what to say.

“At the same time, while our plan is clear, is working and we see 820,000 net new jobs,” Mr. Clement declared, “the NDP continues with its risky plans, not only for the $21 billion carbon tax but also the $6 billion in HST taxes.”

If you were not sufficiently entertained by the carbon tax farce, there is now a penny tax monster under your bed apparently.

Mr. Mulcair responded with numbers (the first of them somewhat debatable). “Mr. Speaker, a $50 billion trade deficit, and 350,000 more unemployed today than when the recession hit in 2008. That is the truth,” Mr. Mulcair shot back, jabbing his finger and looking directly at Mr. Clement.

The NDP leader repeated the indictment, chopping his right hand into his left hand for emphasis.

“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance are openly contradicting one another. The Minister of Finance admits that his plan to balance the budget is two years behind schedule … Yet the Prime Minister insists that the Minister of Finance’s numbers are wrong and that everything is going according to plan,” he ventured. “How can the Minister of Finance expect Canadians to believe his budget numbers when his own Prime Minister rejects them?”

Tony Clement returned to his feet to wave his hands and pump his fist. “Mr. Speaker, here is what Canadians care about when it comes to numbers: 820,000 net new jobs since the depths of the recession, and 90% of them, full-time jobs. That is how our plan is working,” he declared. “However, the NDP persists in its risky plans. Not content with a $21 billion carbon tax plan, now we find them, last week, talking about $6 billion annually in GST hikes.”

On this point, Mr. Clement was right. Ms. Chow was talking about an infrastructure tax last week. Granted, she was talking for the purposes of explaining that she wasn’t advocating for such a thing. But she was talking about it.

The NDP leader shot back with an indirect comparison to Mr. Bernier. “Mr. Speaker, he has been getting his talking points from the Beauce,” he mocked, referring to Mr. Bernier’s riding.

Mr. Clement seemed to feign besmirchment.

“The European economy is now officially back in recession. The U.S. is facing a fiscal cliff that could land the American economy back in recession by the end of year,” Mr. Mulcair went on, now switching topics. “Canadian premiers are working to meet these serious threats head on. They are meeting this week in Halifax to do just that. However, once again, just as in 2008, Conservatives here in Ottawa are asleep at the wheel.”

Mr. Mulcair suggested the Conservatives might awaken and get themselves to Halifax.

Mr. Clement seemed not to hear the question. “Mr. Speaker, we continue to get the accolades from around the world on our treatment of the economy. Canadians agree with those international experts,” he suggested, perhaps overestimating the public’s interest in global financial analysis. “KPMG ranked Canada the most tax competitive economy amongst mature markets, and indeed the numbers speak for themselves. Canadian business investment increased by 9.4% in the last quarter. The numbers are in. Our plan is working. We cannot afford the risky plans of the NDP.”

Be those plans real or imaginary, apparently.

The Stats. Ethics, seven questions. Infrastructure, four questions. The economy, crime and foreign investment, three questions each. The budget, the public service, the F-35 and foreign affairs, two questions each. The Middle East, temporary foreign workers, government spending, pharmaceuticals, aboriginal affairs, employment insurance, natural resources, trade, science, Ukraine and bilingualism, one question each.

Tony Clement and Pierre Poilievre, five responses each. Ted Menzies and Christian Paradis, four responses each. Diane Ablonczy and Candice Bergen, three responses each. Rona Ambrose, Rick Dykstra, Denis Lebel and Diane Finley, two responses each. Peter MacKay, Tim Uppal, Leona Aglukkaq, John Duncan, Joe Oliver, Ed Fast and Gail Shea, one response each.




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The Commons: Tony Clement does his Maxime Bernier impression

  1. “Not content with a $21 billion carbon tax plan, now we find them, last week, talking about $6 billion annually in GST hikes.”

    Clearly the Cons are desperate cooking up talking points that are utter fabrications. You’d think they’d have some actual policy the NDP is putting forward that they could be critical of (given their claim the NDP is “dangerous” to the economy they should have lots…)

    One has to wonder what lie these con men will try to foist on the Canadian public next. (Arrogance is the downfall of the con man. He gets away with telling lies at first and then believes he can fool all the people all the time…)

  2. Apparently, the Tories have concluded that Canadians just don’t pay close attention and that if they repeat lies often enough enough of the electorate will swallow them whole to make a difference come election time.

    It appears to be working, too: a poll last week showed a significant drop in NDP support. Only 1% went to the Tories (the rest to the Libs) but the Cons know that all they have to do is continue to split the vote between the other two parties in order to hold on to power.

    They have decided against character assassination of the leader (that’s reserved for Libs) and are instead painting a false policy picture for the NDP – going for the “scary socialist” approach.

    • “…but the Cons know that all they have to do is continue to split the vote.”
      between the other two parties in order to hold on to power.”

      Yabbut, if the current splits were to hold through an election, the much-maligned coalition could turn the Cons out, this time without relying on “the separatists” to form a progressive majority.

      • That’s fine if we are one riding of Canada. But that’s not how our electoral system works. The votes will be split riding by riding–leaving Conservative MPs to go to Ottawa. Without enough other MPs to form a coalition.

        • IMO, the site linked here is a fairly credible synopsis of current polling patterns. According to the splits projected here, if the election had been held in October, the Cons would get a mere 128 seats, the NDP 115, and the Libs would be the kingmakers with 92:

          http://www.threehundredeight.com/

          Hence, a progressive coalition would be a reasonable scenario.

          • Hadn’t seen that, and I hope you are right.

          • These polls are not too reliable. EKOS was predicting a NDP/Liberal government last election.

            The real problem is that we have a lazy election system that doles out unwarranted power to parties and politicians voters don’t want.

            The easiest fix is Instant Runoff Voting. This simply requires that MPs earn their seats with a majority of the vote ensuring they actually represent their constituents. This system does away with vote-splitting and the need for a Liberal/NDP merger.

            Since it doesn’t change our existing system, it can be legislated without a referendum. If a coalition forms in 2015, this would be the best way to stop fanatics from getting unearned absolute power once and for all.

    • The NDP support drop was due to the rise of the Liberals largely because of the interest in Trudeau as leader. The Cons are still down about 6% since last election at 34%.

      So they aren’t winning any support with their absurd propaganda. My bet is that their hollow lies are self-defeating. It will only fuel the desire for “change” in the 2015 election.

  3. A new low for Canadian poliics. We’re used to politicians making sh*t up about other pols and their policies, but now apparently they’re acutally quoting the crap, pulling it out of existing statements and rewriting and editing, WITHOUT any reference to what the actual existing, checkable record says the opposition [or anyone else] said. Context has become meaningless or irrelevant. When do we get to call this what it is – propaganda? I mean if you’re going to simply invent bogeymen before there are bogeymen you might a well shut the opposition side of the House down – send em home, let the tories make the sh*t up for both sides at once; no reasonable person believes a word that comes out of the govt’s mouths anymore in any case.

    True democracy has been sick in this country for some time now. Who would have believed that in 6 or 7 short years Harper and company would have it on its death bed?

  4. “Yet the Prime Minister insists that the Minister of Finance’s numbers are wrong and that everything is going according to plan,”

    These things are not mutually exclusive

    • It would appear mutually exclusive that one is doing the math and the other is relying on wishful thinking. That would make the above two statements false.

      • Or, that the finance ministers numbers are wrong is is the plan. It would be a surprise the PM is being truthful, though.

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