‘The Liberals walked away from an opportunity to throw Harper out’


Former NDP MP Tony Martin looks back on his time in Ottawa.

I thought we had a real chance at a progressive government in the fall and winter of 2008-2009 – the coalition. For me, the lowlight was not being able to achieve that. I thought we had a chance to achieve a progressive government that would have allowed us to do a whole bunch of things, including working on the reduction of poverty. The government we have has no interest in doing anything about poverty. The lowlight was we didn’t achieve it and that the Liberals walked away from an opportunity to throw Harper out.


‘The Liberals walked away from an opportunity to throw Harper out’

  1. Martin was an inconsequential MP who did nothing for Sault Ste. Marie other than parrot his mindless focus and one trick pony on eliminating poverty, as if that will ever happen. In fact, as long as socialists like Martin are around they reduce the incentive for people to get a job.

    •  Have you been forced to look for a job lately? I’m a student looking
      for work and I so far haven’t been able to find a job to save my life.
      As it stands if I find work to pay for my education I’ll be pushing
      somebody out who needs it for food and rent. The NDP and Liberals work
      to help people like that. The Conservatives have zero interest in
      helping the average person. I don’t know how well Mr. Martin served his constituents but the people you call socialist are trying to make the world a better place. You can at least give them some credit for that.

      • Conservatives are happiest when unemployment is low and the GDP is going up, you could give them credit for that too. NDP try to solve it through focusing on government programs, Conservatives more by creating/upholding an overall system that sets the conditions for a good economy. It’s less visible but it’s more effective in the end run I think.

        • Kindly explain to me how keeping minimum wages low and cutting programs to pay for corporate tax cuts makes like better for the average working person.  Creating zillions of $10 an hour McJobs does nothing for anybody’s quality of life, regardless of how great the economy looks on paper. 

          • Minimum Wage 

            ” For many years it has been a matter of conventional wisdom among economists that the minimum wage causes fewer jobs to exist than would be the case without it. This is simply a matter of price theory, taught in every economics textbook, requiring no elaborate analysis to justify. Were this not the case, there would be no logical reason why the minimum wage could not be set at $10, $100, or $1 million per hour.      Historically, defenders of the minimum wage have not disputed the disemployment effects of the minimum wage, but argued that on balance the working poor were better off. In other words, the higher incomes of those with jobs offset the lower incomes of those without jobs, as a result of the minimum wage.”


            Corporate Taxes –

            “In fact, the strongest arguments against corporate tax come from the left. They were most eloquently expressed by Robert Reich, the economist who was considered on the far left of Bill Clinton’s cabinet during his tenure as labour secretary. Corporate tax, he noted, is fundamentally regressive: It shifts wealth to the rich. And not just because General Electric avoids it and corner shops don’t. Since corporations do not physically exist, corporate tax is ultimately paid by individuals – and, as many studies have shown, those individuals tend to be the company’s workers more often than its shareholders or executives.

            There is another strong argument against corporate tax: It gives businesses far too much power in politics, law and society. As “taxpayers,” corporations are given citizen-like rights in court and legislatures; as financiers of the state, they are given far too much lobbying power and influence over legislation – almost obligatory given their large taxpaying role.” Doug Saunders, Globe/Mail, April 2011

          • You might want to more critically evaluate your link. In particular, the lynchpin study they use by Janet Currie and Bruce Fallick to attempt to refute the Kroeger studies showing that minimum wage increases cause no overall change in employment, uses data from 1979 and 1980 to show that people affected by the minimum wage changes were more likely to be unemployed a year later.

            Interesting that a study done in 1993 picks those two particular years. I wonder why that could be? I mean, just because those years happen to be right as the oil crisis hits it’s peak and displaces thousands of workers doesn’t mean they were cherry picked by people looking to give a particular spin on the data, now does it?

          • Perhaps you misunderstood my question.  I didn’t ask for theories.  I asked for real life information about how working for less money and having poorer social programs makes life better for the average person.  Because regardless of Reich things (working for Clinton hardly makes you left), I don’t see much evidence of it when I tried to get government services these days.

          • I put more value on having more jobs over fewer better paying ones particularly because when there are fewer jobs the hardest hit people are the most disadvantaged. I don’t think there’s a height you can take the minimum wage to that would result in an acceptable long-term ‘living wage’ that wouldn’t also be a serious problem for people trying to get their first job or competing for low-level jobs especially in tough economies. What I take as two examples of that are present day France and the States. France’s restrictive labour laws (I see their min. wage itself is only a $ an hour more than Canada) create a situation where people who have jobs are safe but young people and immigrants are shut out. There are a lot of real life stories you could get from Muslims in France about having no work. In the States, for at least two of the Senators at the time it was first instituted the min. wage was expressly to prevent blacks from taking ‘their’ (white) jobs at lower wages. Before the minimum wage there black Americans had a higher employment rate than white Americans. Put up a minimum wage and you damage the first rung of the ladder. I actually recall a third example of I think an RV park owner talking about having a minimum wage applied to their seasonal jobs. They could no longer hire older retirees who worked for extra money or for something more to do and who’s value was in interacting with visitors and instead had to go with the young people who could get the grass mowed quickly.

            The other reason I’m less worried about having more lower paying jobs is that there a lot more mobility than people expect. I was very surprised a few years ago reading of a study that showed more people who started a decade in the lowest fifth of income were in the top fifth a decade later than had remained where they were. Don’t know if this is the same study but this is similar: 

            “Let’s begin with the people who were in the bottom fifth of income earners in 1975… In the University of Michigan sample, only 5 percent of those in the bottom quintile in 1975 were still there in 1991.
            Even more important, a majority of these people had made it to the top 60 percent of the income distribution—middle class or better—over that 16-year span. Almost 29 percent of them rose to the top quintile.” …(it’s maybe 1/5 of the way down the page and there’s another study cited as well)

            There are still the 5% who don’t get out though, and some people who would get exploited. (I heard of a guy who worked for nothing for months while his employers were “getting things together” and that even though there is a minimum) So I do think there should be a minimum wage enough to be able to get by on. To protect people from being cut out of having a job I would say create a ‘wage subsidy’ where part of the lowest wages are paid by a government subsidy rather than the employer. There is/was a similar program for natives in the territories I ran across once where something like $3 of the wage was paid by the program.

          • oh dear… I see our comments get thinner and thinner off to the right here :|

          • I blame the neo-libertarians.

          • Guaranteed income supplement as opposed to minimum wage I could certainly get behind. 

          •   Canucklehead, your position seems rather contradictory.  You say you support a minimum wage people can get by on.  Just out of curiosity, have you seriously tried living on $10 an hour lately?  I agree with you that income subsidies are also a good means of ensuring people have enough to live on, but that, my friend, is a social program.  And the problem with those deep corporate tax cuts I was decrying earlier, is that they leave us unable to properly fund the social programs we have, never mind create new ones.  There is simply no way to keep up the current level of corporate welfare and ensure that working people get their needs met.   

          • As far as corporate taxes go, to me they are taxes on job creation so if there were a need for more tax it would be something else that should be raised. (Or actual subsidies to corporations to be cut) Jack Mintz’s figures put the actual cost of a corporate tax cut at almost nothing because of increased investment in the country and the corporate taxes alone paid through that, and I noticed he actually chose the most conservative number on one of the steps in his guess. (the amount of increased investment per drop in the tax rate)
            I’ve been in a range of $12 to $15 the last several years and got by alright even though I tended to take off a few months after my seasonal job was out for the winter. It probably came to what you’d make at $10 an hour over most of a year.

          • Creating zillions of $10 an hour McJobs does not make the economy look good on paper.  However, it is preferable to eliminating zillions (or so) $10 an hour McJobs, which is exactly what a raised minimum wage would do.

             The average working person is earning more than minimum wage.  The average unworking person is earning nothing.  Keeping minimum wages low (or abolishing them) means that more unemployed people have the opportunity to metamorphose into working people.

            Corporate taxes are taxes on production.  Making production less remunerative will mean that less of it will be done.  For working people, less production means lower wages because of lower demand for labour, as well as increased prices due to shortened supply.

          • The average non-working person is not earning nothing.  The average non working person is receiving social assistance, which – while miserable – at least ensures that their family has dental care, a drug plan, and bus passes (or at least it does in BC).  You, apparently, think that these people should be starved off this plan and forced to work 16 hour days at two crummy jobs for the same privilege.  How fantastic for business!!  Tons of cheap labourers so desperate for work that they’ll put up with anything.  You may support that, Justin, by my Canada does not force people into slave-like conditions no matter how young, inexperience or foreign they are.  If a company can’t abide by that, let them leave.  It’s no loss to us.  I’ll be impressed with a government that can create jobs by bringing in companies that pay a living wage and are respectful of workers.  Any idiot can create a McJob.   

          • Any idiot cannot create a “McJob”.  Creating jobs, Mc or otherwise, requires capital, a business plan, and entrepreneurial acumen.  Obviously businesses do not exist for the purpose of creating jobs, but for making profits.  Jobs are a result of profit-seeking.  Where profits do not exist, neither do jobs.

            Innumerable businesses fail all the time despite having “low” costs of labour.  Everyday another idiot discovers that jobs are not as easy to create as he thought.

            I, too, will be impressed with a government that can create jobs by brining in companies.  Usually, governments do not create jobs by brining in companies, but by pushing them out.  By monopolising industries and banishing private actors, governments are able to create a small number of highly-paid public-sector jobs, this, as Bastiat would have said, is what is seen.  What is unseen is the larger number of private sector jobs that had to be either destroyed or reduced in pay in order to finance a privileged minority receiving more than it earns.  

            It most certainly is a loss to us when government policy forces an otherwise profitable business to pack its belongings and leave.  Not only do those companies employ Canadians, they also produce the goods that Canadians want to buy with their wages.

            Any idiot cannot create a job. What he can do is ignore reality and the laws of supply and demand, causing him to make silly statements and to support destructive policies.

          • Profit-seeking does not lead to meaningful job-creation.  It leads a company to hire the least number of people at the lowest possible wage it can get away with to get the job done…and to provide as little service as it can get away with. When you remove the profit motive from job creation – as in the public sector – you employ more people at higher wages with better service with no higher costs…because you’re not pissing away Canadian dollars lining the pockets of foreign corporate shareholders.  Moreover, you can obtain supplies cheaper through economies of scale. The profits from crown corporations go straight into funding programs like health care and education. Having a large civil service and a 26.3% corporate tax rate sure hasn’t hurt the standard of living in countries like Sweden.  They still have lots of companies employing their citizens, and they can afford to support the unemployed (6.4% at the height of the recession) with generous social programs that get them back on their feet.   

          • [Profit-seeking] leads a company to hire the least number of people at the lowest possible wage it can get away with to get the job done…

            This is called efficiency.  It is the same principle you apply when you decide to eat your soup with a spoon rather than with a fork; or when you decide to hold your spoon with your hand rather than with your foot; or when you decide to cook your soup on the stove rather than under the sun with a magnifying glass.

            What you are espousing is what I like to call the Work Equals Wealth Fallacy–that it should be an economic objective to maximise the number of labour hours required to produce anything.  The problem with this idea is that it views work, and not consumption, as the goal of economic activity.

            We in the developed world are rich, not because we have more work to do, but because we get a higher return on the work we do because of lavour-saving efficiencies due to the use of capital equipment.  It is the glory of Capitalism that even a miserable McJobber needs work less than a single week to afford a seemingly magical, hand-held computer that telephones, takes pictures, plays movies, and surfs the web.

            But what a wonderful world it would be if the key to our well-beings was simply to erect as many barriers to efficiency as possible, ensuring that every consumable goody would enrich us with innumerable, pain-staking hours of labour in exchange for its manufacture.  We then could pass laws requiring all work to be done with one hand and while blindfolded, making our punch-cards runneth over with huge multiples of labour hours just to execute the simplest of tasks!  

            Alas, we’d be work rich and product poor.

          • I note that you didn’t actually respond to my example of Sweden and other such countries that manage to keep corporate taxes substantially higher than ours, have an enormous public service and generous social programs and still not only have a high standard of living but a booming economy.  
             But hey, let’s not let the facts stand in the way of a convenient theory. 
             I also never said that work equals wealth.  Wealth beyond that which is necessary to feed and care for the population and work toward the betterment of society is not a helpful goal.  In case you haven’t noticed, the consumer-based economy is destroying our planet. 
            If the planet is to survive, it’s about time we were product poor and work rich. …rich with work toward the betterment of the planet. 

          • But hey, let’s not let the facts stand in the way of a convenient theory.

            What, exactly, about my theory makes it “convenient”?

            I know nothing about Sweden–I’ve never lived there and never studied it.  For every Sweden (“and other such countries”) you can play, I can counter with a Greece, or a Spain, or any other of the little piggies who get no roast beef.  Or how about the I.O.U.S.A.?

            But let’s assume that Sweden’s economy is “booming”.  Evidently, you’d prefer it were busting.

            I thought we were having a debate about how to improve an economy.  But you don’t want our standard of living raised; you want our standard of living razed:

            Wealth beyond that which is necessary to feed and care for the population and work toward the betterment of society is not a helpful goal.

            At this point I must disrespectfully disagree.  I think it is extremely “helpful” for humanity to aspire to be more than a tribe of dirty savages stalking the wilderness for a sluggish raccoon to eat.  And what is one to do with such an empty-bin of a statement as, “work toward the betterment of society”?  The betterment of society according to whom?  I happen to think that society is incalculably bettered by computers, televisions, internets,  miniskirts, automobiles, air conditioning, literature, music, and host of other things that hardly are comfortable under the heading, “that which is necessary to feed and care for the population”.

          • Well Justin, on this I indeed must respectuflly disagree, and thank god, because I can’t stand seeing these message threads get any skinnier. While I confess that I love my iPhone and my laptop as much as anyone, and while I obviously enjoy letting off steam on the MacLeans message boards, I can’t honestly claim that the earth is a better place for all of this.  I’m not sure if you’ve spent much time in Hong Kong and smelt just how bad the air smells from all that manufacturing in Shenzhen or noted the heaps of makeshift electronic garbage dumps in a city that doesn’t have a wast disposal system that takes it conveniently out of site the way we do, but to me, they are evidence that the economy we have right now is completely unsustainable.  We are living in a world that, in the pursuit of gadgetry, will destroy the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we cultivate our food. A booming growing economy will one day be our death.

          • Where profits do not exist, neither do jobs.

            GM, Chrysler, any random American bank, the entirety of the bloated public sector…

            Sadly, Justin, for far too many Canadians & Americans with jobs, the above sentence is no longer true.

      •  If you believe that Layton or Harper can get you a job, you are doomed.

        A job is when the abilities you have produce something or some service that someone is willing to pay for. Paying you your wages has to be a net benefit for the one paying.

        So get yourself into that situation. Be smart and figure out something that won’t be subject to the ups and downs of the economy.

        Structure your life expenses so that you can live on the results.

        No politician will ever say something like this because it takes them out of the equation.

        • Sounds easy doesn’t it…..but that kind of thing can only be said by someone born on third base, who thinks he hit a homer. 

      • To save your life?  Have you tried the classifieds of the newspaper? 

  2. The Liberals didn’t, Ignatieff did. 

  3. I guess the idea of actually winning an election never occurred to him.

  4. Who cares?  It’s over!  The Liberals made themselves irrelevant!   Wipe your tears!  It’s done!  Liberals proved they were dogma driven ideologues who never understood the dangers to themselves in their imaginative constructed reality so why is the mass suicide of the Liberal Party of Canada a continuous theme for discussion at Macleans?  

    It is counter productive.

    • Oh puleeze, enough with the drama queen stuff. 

    • Dogma driven ideologues?


  5.  It is indeed a shame the coalition didn’t just do the deed and let everyone wail for a while.  At the end of the day, that would’ve been 10 times more democratic than the average day at the Harper office.  It’s pretty ironic that he spent all that time decrying the coalition of losers, only to appoint a bunch of losers to the senate.

    • And that’s just the latest installment of losers, with more to come. 

  6. The NDP created the opportunity to usher Harper in.

    The Kelowna Accord, and the National Early Learning and Childcare initiative, both of which would have had unprecedented impacts on poverty in Canadian society, were among the many progressive programs jettisoned by Tony Martin’s partisanship and dogmatism.

    He and Jack Layton have given Canadians precisely the government they worked for.

    • Yup.  No question they deserve to be called on the carpet for that move.

  7. And Mr. Harper walked away from an opportunity to have all of the (many) Liberals involved in the Sponsorship/Adscam Scandal, charged for the theft of $ 350,000,000.00 million dollars, and he didn’t.     

    • 1. If you use the $ symbol, don’t also write out the word “dollars”. 

      2. Will Harper and company pay back the hundreds of millions they spent on partisan “Government” advertising and paid political mailings?

      • How do I disconnect from the Disqus site??

        • In Windows and other platforms, there is a corner of the window with a prominent “X” on it.  Try clicking on it. 

    • Why do Cons always grossly exaggerate the amount of money involved in the Sponsorship scandal?

      • Hard to say. Could be the value placed on ‘economics’ and the possessors-of-degrees thereof. Could be the ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ facts, I’ll-check-my-gut-thanks’ approach to problem/solution. Maybe it’s the ol’ ‘it doesn’t have to be true, just plausible’ approach to accountability.

        Then again, they could just be they’re really, really bad with numbers.

      • Is this more accurate?

        2004 February 10 — Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s report reveals up to $100 million of the $250 million sponsorship program was awarded to Liberal-friendly advertising firms and Crown corporations for little or no work.


        • Much, thanks.

          Far too many post the entire cost of the program, when only a portion of it was improperly spent. I’m sure some of them disliked the program and thought the entire expenditure was unjustified, but the government was within its right to create the program; therefore only the portion misdirected should be cited (as you have done).

          It’s a not insubstantial amount; it doesn’t need to be exaggerated in order to get the point across. 

        • From the same article you linked:

          “In the end the (2006 Final Report of the Gomery) Commission concluded that $2 million was awarded in contracts without a proper bidding process, $250,000 was added to one contract price for no additional work, and $1.5 million was awarded for work that was never done, of which $1 million had to be repaid.”

      • OH!!!

        2. Date: Wed. May. 25 2005 7:43 AM ET
        The total amount of money lost in the sponsorship scandal now appears to be
        $355 million — $100 million more than was originally thought.
        “If you didn’t like the sponsorship program to begin with, you’ve now got
        about a hundred million more reasons to not like it,” CTV’s Jed Kahane said
        The new figure of $355 million is from the forensic accounting firm, Kroll
        Lindquist Avey, which was hired by the Gomery commission to examine
        sponsorship spending between 1994 and 2004.)

        • Which is still the sponsorship fund, not the theft therefrom. 

      • Because there’s such great interest!


  8. Sure doesn’t look as though the opposition will pose a threat to Harper any time soon, does it. They’ll be fighting each other as much as they’ll be focused on Harper. Pass the popcorn.

  9. What about the time when we had an opportunity for a progressive government in 2006? There was the Kelowna Accord, a $5.5 B National Childcare Strategy, progress (albeit, slowly) on the Environment portfolio. What happened?

    Oh yeah, the NDP smelled blood and joined with the other parties to bring down Martin’s Liberal Party. And what did we get? More seats for the NDP (coupled, of course, with a Conservative minority).

    I’m not saying it was wrong to bring down the Liberal party at the time, but for an NDP member to stand up now and lament an opportunity to make peace circa 2008/09 is disingenuous at best. 

    •  Yes I agree.  The NDP are not very consistent. 

       Canadians were clearly split on the idea of a coalition, with many strongly opposed.  By contrast, would likely not have been much outcry if the NDP had supported Paul Martin’s childcare, Kelowna accord, etc. rather than bringing down the government. 

    • Agreed. Nice try in E/S, BTW. Keep at ‘er.

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