239

The rise of the Conservative nanny state

INKLESS WELLS


 

121508_harper

When I wrote my most recent cranky, cranky column for the print magazine — whose thesis is that Stephen Harper so thoroughly despises Parliament and all the… the… people in it that he cannot stand to make the place function — a few commenters replied, in effect, that this was excellent news. A Conservative’s goal should be minimal government, they said. One way to achieve minimal government is, simply, to jam a stick between the spokes.

“Can’t one ‘care about the economy’ even if one doesn’t ‘believe… any government can do anything to affect its course’?” wrote David Mader (whose own blog is a thoughtful home for this sort of sentiment) in our comment board. “Indeed, isn’t the core premise of free-market conservatism that because government can’t really affect the economy’s course, those who really care about it should simply leave it alone?”

Sure. Great. Fine. Whatever. Have at it, brother. Except here’s the funny thing. The problem with Stephen Harper’s recent approach — I’m thinking roughly since smilin’ Guy Giorno came in with a mandate to make the operation “more political” — is that it is so shatteringly inept as to fail consistently to produce any coherent result, including the result the party’s own best advocates might desire. Which is why Colleague Coyne is in such a snit this morning. Having painted himself, all full of swagger and bravado, into a corner, the prime minister is now going to walk out on a carpet of tax dollars. Bail out the auto industry? That was last week’s concession. Now it’s forests and mines. And that cutting-edge sector of the future, boats, under the stewardship of every small-government conservative’s favourite freshly-minted Atlantic Gateway minister. In this context, it is poignant that some of Harper’s defenders still seem to believe the fight is about public funding for political parties. That one didn’t last 48 hours, and that time it was John Baird, who at least likes to play a small-government conservative on TV, who got sent out to swallow the government’s policy whole.

This, then, is the difference between the Mark I Harper, circa 2002 to 2008, and the shiny new malfunctioning Harper T-1000: the old guy used to calmly choose his concessions to statism (supply management? You bet! A bridge for every riding in Quebec? Sure!), whereas the new one blunders into one crisis after another and then uses the Money Gun to fight his way out. Deficits are “essential,” he said in Peru. Not so much to save the Canadian economy, it turns out, as to save his own political shanks.

If the fall update had contained fewer irritants, trivial in dollar amount but lovingly designed to infuriate the opposition parties and their client groups, it could have built the case for principled, effective dissent from the Keynesian orthodoxy driving most Western governments’ response to the crisis. Harper could then perhaps have looked like Angela Merkel, whose reassuring blandness is not merely a fleeting campaign-ad affectation and who, in a polity designed to produce ever-precarious parliamentary coalitions, has managed to set a markedly different course from the rest of panic-spending Europe. Instead Harper went in like Moe from the Three Stooges. And as a direct result, everything he is so proud of defending — the cuts to party funding, the dissent from deficit spending, the sink-or-swim approach to economic management — is falling away.

On his own blog a while ago, David Mader asked how come Liberals are celebrated for being jerks (Jean Chrétien) whereas this Conservative prime minister is pilloried for it. Here’s one answer. While indulging his inner jerk, Chrétien achieved what Liberals wanted. To pay the price for his inner jerk, Harper is about to deliver what Liberals want.


 

The rise of the Conservative nanny state

  1. In these troubled times, Canadians need a leader who can act for the greater good of the nation, like Winston Churchill during World War 2. While other G20 countries have implemented economic stimulation plans, Mr. Harper’s package does nothing to address the issues, and everything to shut down the opposition (funding cuts to political parties), silence public servants ( suspension of the right to strike) and alienate women (abolition of the right to appeal pay equity issues).

    Since the Conservatives have taken power, the Canadian political culture has steadily deteriorated and ethics have reached new lows: the mudslinging, the secrecy, the bullying and intimidating, the massive centralization of power go against every value Canadians hold dear and are an embarrassment to the nation.

    We are now firmly entrenched in gutter politics as evidenced by : vicious campaign ads, the secret 200 page manual on how to disrupt/manipulate/stall parliamentary committees, the gagging of senior bureaucrats and foreign diplomats, the silencing of Members of Cabinet, the cutting of normal information access routes for journalists, the termination of the information registry etc… As the Globe and Mail Lawrence Martin stated in his October 7, 08 article : Giving the Tories a free pass on sleaze and low ethics: “This government’s uniqueness is in the breath and degree to which it has ethically debased the system in such a short time.”

    Over and over, Mr. Harper has shown that he cannot rise above partisan concerns, nor act for greater good of the country. The unabashed opportunism of declaring elections against his own fixed-date law, and releasing his platform at the last minute indicate a disregard for due process and a chronic lack of vision. .

    The current inadequate financial stimulation package and the proposed funding cuts to political parties are the last straw. It not only shows poor economic stewardship, but a complete disregard for the country’s well being. It lost him the confidence of the House. Since the formation of the coalition, his actions have lost him the confidence of the nation. Instead of providing hope, he creates distress. Instead of pulling us together, he fuels division. Instead of taking the high road, he takes us into the gutter.

    For the past 8 years, we watched George Bush batter and almost destroy the American spirit. With Barack Obama’s election, it has been reborn. The only difference is leadership quality. While inspiration and inclusion prevail south of the border, power and partisanship reign in Canada.

    Canadians deserve better. We are proud of our upstanding country and what it stands for: fairness, inclusiveness, peace, tolerance. We will not let Mr.Harper turn Canada into a sham of democracy and a place of fear. It is time to fight back. We deserve a leader who loves his country and cares about his people. Someone…like us.

  2. Last time I looked, Harper’s leading a minority government. Indeed I seem to recall that the opposition was going to replace his government with a coalition precisely because he wasn’t providing enough of a stimulus for the economy with his economic statement. (I think you were out of town at the time Paul.)Now that he’s compromising with the opposition, he’s not being true to his principles.

    A little disingenuous this morning, no?

  3. Reading is fundamental, Jarrid! What I actually wrote is that Harper’s recent behaviour ensured he wouldn’t be able to win this debate. Harper lasted two years without provoking the opposition parties into threatening a coalition, even though they commanded substantially more MPs in the last parliament than in this one. Read it again! I’m sure you’ll get it soon enough.

  4. “And it’s a good reason for each of us to carefully examine our own conclusions for bias before we get angry and send a letter to the editor to complain about the media’s bias.”

    — Dan Gardner from The Ottawa Citizen Saturday, August 18, 2007

    I admit my own bias — not necessarily in favour of any party but solidly against Mr. Harper, whom I view as a narcissistic demagogue.

    Mr. Harper appears to misunderstand, or worse, ignore the connections between policy, actions and consequence to the degree that he endangers our well-being like a child playing with fire.

  5. Paul, the coalition is dead as a political option except as rhetoric for Iggy’s speeches, rhetoric that Iggy and all the other political actors know is rhetoric. We should all be clear on that.

    Speaking of coalitions, Merkel is leading one in Germany which puts her in a completely different position than Harper politically. It would be as if the Conservatives and the Liberals had a governing coalition. A completely different political situation. We ought not to compare apples and oranges.

    If the coalition is dead, and Iggy and Harper find common ground on how to adress the economy, at least in the short-term, then Harper’s political situation in Parliament is closer to Merkel’s in Germany. I suspect that is what will happen. It’s the best Harper can do as he doesn’t command a majority, and it’s the best Iggy can do, because the Libs need desparetly to climb off the limb they walked onto with this coaltion idea under Dion, and because they want a date with the electorate as much as I want a date with my dentist. Win-win politically for the Conservatives and the Liberals in the short term.

  6. Jarrid – RE: the coalition being dead

    Here’s a letter I wrote to senior members of the Liberal Party. I understand other Liberals are thinking along the same lines….

    ————-

    I’m a Quebec federalist and a long time Liberal. I’m writing to say that I’m gung-ho about the coalition option (if necessary).

    Some people within the party seem to be worried that a coalition would be the first step towards a possible merger with the NDP (as the old Reform and Progressive Conservatives merged). First of all there’s no reason that a coalition would necessarily lead down that path. I would say that depends entirely on how successful the coalition is and how easily it is for Liberals and NDPers to cooperate with each other. But, even if it did happen I don’t think it would necessarily be a bad thing. I’m not worried about a “reverse-takeover” by the NDP that would hijack the party too far to the left (which seems to be the fear of some LPC members). I think one big party on the centre-left would naturally gravitate towards the middle of the political spectrum. Otherwise it doesn’t get elected! I think we should also cooperate with Elizabeth May and the Greens. They seem just as interested as the other opposition parties in removing Harper from power.

    I’m also not worried about the seeming unpopularity of the idea. I think that would quickly change once a coalition govt was actually formed and Canadians saw the gap between the reality and Conservative fear campaigns. We would have to be careful however to send the right signals to Conservative supporters (especially in the West) who misunderstand parliamentary democracy and might feel disenfranchised by a coalition govt replacing the Harper govt.

    Finally I think a coalition is the best chance I’ve seen in my lifetime to rebuild our traditional support in Quebec. Harper has torched Conservative support in Quebec and I believe BQ support is soft. This is our chance. Winning Quebec is the key to getting back into power long-term. It might even be the key to getting Quebec constructively engaged again in the Canadian federation. That would be good for all of us. It’s not healthy to have our second largest province essentially sitting on the sidelines, doing its own thing.

  7. Here in Japan, the small-c conservative government spent 10 years from 1992 – 2002 introducing stimulus package after stimulus package larded with huge infrastructure projects. It did nothing to help lift the Japanese economy, which stagnated for a decade.

    All it did was to sink the government deeper in debt and create a legacy of beautiful bridges and highways going from nowhere to nowhere. Now the government is in a much weaker position to deal with the global downturn. The government here would have been wiser to follow fiscally prudent policies ten years ago.

    Harper needs to learn from the mistakes of other countries. He’d be better to listen to his own instincts and the approach of Mark 1 Harper circa 2002. Just because Jack Layton wants to spend like a wild man doesn’t make it right.

    Two Yen – formerly known as Two Cents

  8. Harper is all over the map like this precisely because he’s abandoned his beliefs and decided it was best to be Lib-lite rather than Con. Harper and crew can’t grow Fed spending like they have over the past few years and than argue they are behaving like Cons when it comes to cutting $28 million in subsidies to parties.

    Mike Harris was one of the most conservative leaders we’ve had in Canada in years but he won two majorities in a very Lib province and one of the ways he did it was tell people what he was going to do and than did it. Harper, and his merry band of clowns, don’t seem to have a clue from one day to the next.

    Merkel is fantastic, I wish we had a Frau Nein here taking care of business and slapping down idiots he claim they are ‘saving the world’ (PM Brown) with their stimulus spending.

  9. “If the coalition is dead, and Iggy and Harper find common ground on how to adress the economy, at least in the short-term, then Harper’s political situation in Parliament is closer to Merkel’s in Germany. I suspect that is what will happen.”

    It is amazing to me that there are people out there who still do not understand the pathological hatred that Harper holds against the Liberals.

    A coalition govt with the Liberals?!?!

    MUAHAHAHA!!!!

  10. Two Yen – You’re half right. It’s not about “spending wildly”. It’s about investing in an intelligent and strategic way so that we cushion the blow of the recession and come out of this ready to rumble.

    Luckily the sound fiscal management of the Chrétien/Martin years still leave us in a relatively good position (although Harper has undermined that as quickly as he could in his brief time in office).

  11. A hit piece without context?

    The best kind of hit piece you can find.

    In a WORLDWIDE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN Harper’s governement has OUTPERFORMED all other leading nations. Such that, on the international stage, we’re considered a shining example of economic stability. A minor detail (that we’re by far better off that most if not all comparative nations) that would get in the way of a good narrative I guess.

    He saw it coming and took the appropriate steps 18 months ago.

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled Harper Bashing.

  12. kody – ‘He saw it coming and took the appropriate steps 18 months ago.’
    ———

    MUAHAHAHAHAHA! You neocons are in FINE form this morning. More than usual even.

  13. The anti-Harper deranged left (and their left leaning friends in the media) can’t see it due to their thick ideological blinders.

    Most other Canadians can: thus their strong desire to have Harper steer our ship in these turbulent waters (as reflected in every poll on the subject).

    Flame away.

  14. It’s true, what kody says. No country on the planet has brought a decade of consecutive surpluses to a screaming halt as quickly as the Harper Conservatives. Thanks for reminding us of the context, kody.

  15. I can’t decide. Is this Hell or High Water?

  16. PolJunkie – I didn’t say Conservative-Liberal coalition, I did say those parties finding common ground on the budget. That does mean adopting some Liberal thinking on the budget. That’s a politcal reality, one that neither Wells nor Coyne want to acknowledge for their analysis because it renders their analysis meaningless.

    Wells is critical of Haper for not governing as if he had a majority. Coyne and Wells were making the same critique of Harper in the last Parliament. Since Harper doesn’t command a majority, it’s criticism that’s not very persuasive, in fact it’s fundamentally flawed.

  17. Wells is critical of Haper for not governing as if he had a majority. Coyne and Wells were making the same critique of Harper in the last Parliament.

    They were? What evidence do you have to back that up?

  18. Yeh, some things make it appear that the PC faction in the governing party have experienced difficulty giving up the pork. But Harper’s short term tactics have been integral to his long term strategy of achieving a majority. Despite the difficulties in constraining his own flock, at every step Harper has been able to outmanoeuvre the Liberal Party and force them into self-destruct mode. Long term crippling, if not destruction, of the Liberal Party is essential to his majority strategy. So far so good.

  19. “No country on the planet has brought a decade of consecutive surpluses to a screaming halt as quickly as the Harper Conservatives.”

    Government surplus of billions of dollars meant that we were being over-taxed Paul. The government was taking money from the people that they had no use for. Harper’s government gave it back to the people mostly by way of a 2% cut to the GST. Fleecing taxpayer’s is hardly good government policy.

    This idea that Liberals were good money managers because they overtaxed the Canadian public is a tired Liberal talking point. I”m a little disappointed in seeing you peddle this nonsense.

  20. “PolJunkie – I didn’t say Conservative-Liberal coalition, I did say those parties finding common ground on the budget. That does mean adopting some Liberal thinking on the budget. That’s a politcal reality, one that neither Wells nor Coyne want to acknowledge for their analysis because it renders their analysis meaningless. ”

    If someone is having trouble accepting reality, it is you and all of those CPCers who still think that Harper can be reasonable when it comes to dealing with the Liberals. If this latest debacle hasn’t demonstrated to you what a liability your leader has become, nothing will.

    While I’ve washed my hands of the LPC, there is at least one thing that I know THEY have come to understand and that is that Harper cannot, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, be trusted. Nothing, not a word that comes out of Harper’s mouth can be taken at face value.

    I do believe however that Iggy will support the budget but it will be out of self-preservation since the LPC is in no condition to go to the polls.

  21. You cannot grasp the true form of Harper’s attack!

    (also, there really should be a hat tip to Dean Baker for the title)

  22. Jarrid,

    Has Harper been true to his principles these last three years? While the Liberals were rolling over for Harper and letting every bill and budget pass safely through the House without making any demands for new spending, the Canadian government grew at its fastest pace since the Second World War.

    In this unprecedented peace-time growth in the size of government, we see Haper’s true principles. He does in fact believe government should help people, specifically people who are useful to his political ends. People like pollsters, lobbyists, consultants, communication experts. And swing voters, especially swing voters in Quebec and select ethnic communities.

    No one forced Harper to shove untendered contracts out the door, increase equalization payments less than two years after the signing of a ten-year deal, create a wealth redistribution scheme aimed at swing voters, enact tax cuts that economists have panned as the cuts that provide the least stimulus for the economy, and increase spending by 25%. Most of it was in the party’s platform. That was all Harper and his “principles”.

  23. If surplus means overtaxation, does a deficit mean undertaxation?

    CONBOT LOGIC FAIL

  24. See, the interesting thing about the past few weeks is that it helps us determine whether people’s partisan allegiances are based on any kind of principle or whether they’re about team jerseys. I think it’s really easy to argue that Stephen Harper has had a strong few months — if you waited nearly 30 years for a prime minister from Alberta, or if you prefer prime ministers’ names to contain the “ph” dipthong when possible. If, on the other hand, you prefer a prime minister who sets a program before the people and then delivers it prudently with a due eye to circumstance, I don’t see how you can defend this prime minister, this autumn, with a straight face.

    Cards on table. In a choice between the Harper Conservatives and any coalition comprising the currently-constituted opposition parties, I prefer the Harper Conservatives. But that is based on a hope, perhaps naive, that Harper will take a cold hard look at his behaviour since June, realize it has been a festival of belligerent ineptitude, and give his head an almighty shake.

    I know a couple of members of his cabinet who, when the Conservatives were in opposition, used to have the guts to go bell the cat now and then, and they would walk into Harper’s office and tell him he was screwing up. I wonder whether that’s changed too.

  25. kody –

    I’ve heard your point before I think, but never quite understood it. Could you specify where the government took action specifically because they foresaw the economic crisis? In other words, connect actions taken to words spoken.

    Then, please reconcile any evidence you manage to assemble with all fo the publicly spoken words that our economy is just fine and that we will not be going into deficit.

    It will be tricky, but I just know you can do it.

  26. KOL – see my 9:21 answer to Poljunkie.

    You need 155 seats to command a majority in Parliament. After the 2006 election Harper had 124 seats, after the 2008 election he had 143, both are short of 155.

  27. Err.. what article were you reading Jarrid?

    I don’t see any indication that Mr. Wells has indicated Mr. Harper should govern like he has a majority. In fact, I see the exact opposite. He’s saying that Mr. Harper *has* been attempting to govern as if he has a majority, instead of governing from this reality where he has a minority. (eg “If the fall update had contained fewer irritants, trivial in dollar amount but lovingly designed to infuriate the opposition parties and their client groups, it could have built the case for principled, effective dissent from the Keynesian orthodoxy driving most Western governments’ response to the crisis…. Instead Harper went in like Moe from the Three Stooges. And as a direct result, everything he is so proud of defending — the cuts to party funding, the dissent from deficit spending, the sink-or-swim approach to economic management — is falling away.”

    And no, running a surplus in good times is exactly what the government should have been doing, and what’s more, it should have *kept* running that surplus, so that when times like this occur, they could provide stimulus or cushioning without going into deficit. Instead, Harper et al, blew through it like drunken sailors, expanding government when it should have been contracting, taxing less when our economy had the fiscal room to support higher levels of taxation, and now finds itself in this position.

  28. Why does every posting such as this turn into a forum for how much certain people HATE Harper and use these forums for an opportunity to spew their hatred. I certainly don’t like a lot of things that Harper is doing, but hate is such a personal emotion to direct at someone you don’t even know personally and probably have never met – it just seems a bit strange (and maybe mentally unstable), There are people I dislike and will choose not to associate with, but in reality there are very few people I hate (and I am no goody-twoshoes). May I suggest before people start to go down that path they do a bit of self-examination and attempt to find out what is driving these emotions, rather than just string a bunch of hate words together in an attempt to make your case -because by doing so you rarely demonstrate anything but the minial level of comprehension.

  29. Paul Wells,

    Interesting that Dion’s attempt to blame Harper for a worldwide recession,

    is parroted by you almost to perfection.

    Also interesting that you DESIRE to turn my argument on its head by, once again, intentionally refraining from providing context/benchmarks (ie how are we doing compared to others in a similar situation.)

    Omitting context is one of today’s leftist media’s “go to” tools to maintain a narrative when the facts say otherwise. Your last point suggests that government revenues (which are tied to the country’s overall economic output) declined [reducing the surplus] because of Harper. But all other countries did as well at precisely the same time.

    But the kicker is that, as compared to the rest, Harper’s economy is seen (by those on the outside who have no bone to pick in our political fight) as a prime example of how to do things right.

    Paul knows this.

    But in the circles he travels in, folks wouldn’t take too kindly with an analysis that doesn’t end in some form of Harper derangement.

    Yet another example of the media being out of step with the average Canadian (who overwhelmingly trust Harper on the economy).

    A bit of marketing advice to end our little discussion:

    the customer is never wrong. Trying to convince the market to purchase something they just won’t “buy” is suicide. Trying to figure out what attributes your widest possible market wants, and then providing it to them is true marketing.

    Honest perspective (not omitting crucial facts because it maintains a narrative you want to give rather than giving all of the pertinent facts and letting the public decide what perspective to take),

    is a good start.

  30. “Government surplus of billions of dollars meant that we were being over-taxed Paul. The government was taking money from the people that they had no use for. Harper’s government gave it back to the people mostly by way of a 2% cut to the GST. Fleecing taxpayer’s is hardly good government policy.”

    Except to pay down the debt. Or to make sure there is a cushion for when money is needed. Or both.

  31. I would suggest, kody, that it is not Harper’s economy that is seen as the prime example of how to do things right (especially when you look at the reaction of economists around the world to Harper’s FU to Canada), but rather that it is the remants of Martin’s economy that they are seeing.

  32. Are you suggesting, Wells, that Harper is not a leader? Because he is, you know.

    And soon enough, there will be ads portraying him as such while Iggy will be depicted as a dithering arrogant snit unworthy of our trust.

    And you and Coyne and the rest of the punditariat will swallow it whole, and report it as fact. Just you watch.

  33. Thwimm,

    that is a discussion about which both of us could make good points (your best argument on that score would be that Harper simply followed Martin’s [the finance minister] model.

    But what neither of us could credibly argue is that this downturn, which is worldwide, and which is far less severe in Canada than elsewhere,

    is Harper’s fault.

  34. Hmm, tossing out the government money in a furious attempt to win votes? Harper is looking more and more like Mulroney. First he rebuilt Mulroney’s old coalition and now he’s running things in the same manner. I just doubt he’d ever get 211 seats.

  35. Well, this discussion is in the toilet.

    You can’t really blame Kody/Jarrid/Conbot #29983 though; their drivel is hardly any worse that what you see at the highest level of the Conservative *intelligentsia.*

  36. Paul,

    Harper could have been the perfect conservative PM over the past few years; I can’t see how it would matter w.r.t a bailout. You have an economy going to hell and every other western nation commiting an aggregate total of trillions of dollars in bailout money. I can’t see how not providing a stimulus to our own troubled industries is a politically defensible position for any government to take. I won’t bother pointing out Bush as a conservative who has partaken in the bailout orgy because…well, because he’s Bush. But Gordon Brown (who leans conservative IIRC) is partaking…I’m not up on Australia’s efforts, but I’m sure they are too?

    You may or may not be right at this point regarding how much Harper hates having to do this; I agree with you that it’s getting more and more difficult to see what his end game is. But I fail to see what alternative he has other than the “Money Gun” (I love that term); or what alternative he might have had with any kind of different behaviour on his part.

  37. Apparently on the Maclean’s blogs, there are two kinds of commenters, capital c or small c conservative-leaning ones on one hand, and neutral ones on the other. The latter are completely free from partisan bias or assumptions. It’s a curious thing. Where are all the Liberals, small or capital L, where are all the NDP’ers? Nowhere to be found.

    I have a leaning but my analysis has stood up pretty well over the last number of months that I’ve posted on these blogs. Who won the Maclean’s election pool? I did, along with Two Cents, now known as Two Yen. The proof’s in the pudding folks. Anyway I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but just because hard-headed political analysis shows that Harper is doing fine doesn’t mean it isn’t incorrect, even if the person saying so has conservative leanings.

  38. Paul Wells – See, the interesting thing about the past few weeks is that it helps us determine whether people’s partisan allegiances are based on any kind of principle or whether they’re about team jerseys.
    —————

    Well speaking for myself, my partisan allegiance and principles happen to coincide in this case. That principle being: ANYONE would be a better choice to govern Canada than Stephen Harper. That argument may have been more difficult to make a year ago or so, but it gets easier and easier to make with each passing day.

    And Maureen in response to your post: I never liked Harper but I used to have a certain amount of respect for him. That was before it became clear that the number one priority in his agenda is to destroy all serious sources of opposition to his regime. And that was before he started playing with national unity matches and appealed to the worse instincts of Canadians in order to boost his poll numbers and try hanging on to power, I deeply love both Canada and Quebec and never want to have to choose between the two. Now I despise Harper and no longer have any respect for him. Hope that provides you some insight.

  39. I meant to say “…it isn’t correct..”

  40. On cue,

    the notion that Harper is not to blame for the worldwide recession (a point based on logic, reason, and simple fact)

    brings out the insults. To today’s reactionary left, all roads lead to trashing Harper. All roads.

  41. What I find baffling is the failure of the Conservatives to explain the rationale and logic they see – or make that ‘saw’ – in resisting the temptation to engage in massive bailouts. While they were so busy claiming the democratic and moral high ground against the ‘traitorous coup’, they missed the opportunity to put forward their case.

    As much as folks often assume I’m a raving lefty, I happen to agree with letting the private sector sink or swim on its own merits. I’d also be willing to hear any reasoned arguments in support of injecting billions to certain sectors, like automobile manufacturing. I think it’s a bad idea, but I’m open to hearing why I may be wrong. Problem is, we’re not having the debate. And that is surely something Harper wears, not the coalition.

  42. Paul, this column, and your feistiness in the Reply section, makes for great reading and discussion. Wonderful.

    As for the coalition, Jack Layton was reported making comments over the weekend that he could understand Ignatieff’s mixed feelings about the coalition. These two guys aren’t blind, they can read polls (hey, when’s the last a Liberal supporter could say that?) The coalition will be retained only as the most nuclear of options. And if Harper comes to Parliament with a real stimulus package, as it looks like he will, it will get passed.

  43. “I can’t see how not providing a stimulus to our own troubled industries is a politically defensible position for any government to take.”

    john g

    Merkel and her Finance Minister have been slapping Gordon Brown, and his spending plans, around for the past few days. Merkel is now known as Frau Nein (Mrs. No). Wouldn’t it nice to have our own Frau Nein here?

    I also read a post by Greg Mankiw the other day that looked at “the amount of short-run GDP expansion one gets from a dollar of spending hikes or tax cuts.” Unsurprisingly, you get at least twice as much bang for the buck by reducing taxes compared to spending increases. So decreasing taxes and spending would also seem like a “politically defensible position” for a government to take, particularly a Conservative one.

  44. john g: I’m surprised it’s not clear about his endgame. It’s been pointed out numerous times that Mr. Harper’s primary end-game is the destruction of the Liberal party in Canadian politics. This does not equate, however, to the betterment of the Conservative party — if Mr. Harper has to take down the Conservatives in order to destroy the Liberal party’s ability to compete, he’ll quite happily do so.

    Mr. Wells points out what Harper’s alternative may have been right in this very article. “it could have built the case for principled, effective dissent from the Keynesian orthodoxy driving most Western governments’ response to the crisis.”

    I’ll go even further, I would suggest that if Mr. Harper had actually been true to his words before being elected in ’06, he would currently be in a majority position.

  45. From the TO Sun:

    ” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a Liberal caucus with any significant representation from Western Canada, or even one truly concerned about national unity, agreeing to such a deal, knowing the fury it would set off in the West.

    Much of the Ottawa media — who constantly adopt the Liberal narrative of Canada as their own — joined the Liberals in blasting Harper for saying what was accurate: That the Liberal/NDP/Bloc accord is an unprecedented deal with Quebec separatists, giving them more power than they have ever had before, and one which, if implemented, would weaken Canada.

    This Liberal/media complaint was based on their insistence calling separatists, separatists is forbidden, because it offends Quebecers, unless, of course, Liberals are doing it, in which case it’s OK.”

    And the last line is a kicker:

    ” Michael Ignatieff, the latest Liberal leader, says he understands how vital it is for the Liberals to revitalize themselves in the West.

    Perhaps he could start by explaining why to his own caucus and media groupies.”

    “Media groupies”.

    Paul Wells, rather than on taking that as in insult, the wise move would be taking it as tonic.

    A tonic to cure what ills today’s ailing media.

  46. kody,

    Enough with the media already. If you haven’t convinced anyone with a few hundred posts on this theme, it’s unlikely a few hundred more will get you any further down the field. Surely there’s other topics you could find to shine your light of wisdom upon.

  47. “Problem is, we’re not having the debate”

    The debate has been going on for decades. And it should have been settled at the end of the 1970s, when it had been shown, for the second time in the 20th century, that big government bailouts are incapable of reversing economic downturns, instead they exacerbate them. But there is a lot of ignorance out there, and you cannot blame Harper for that.

  48. No one is blaming Harper for the economic downturn, we’re upset with him for weakening Canada’s ability to weather it. The surpluses weren’t overtaxation, they were paying down the debt and funding programs that were helping disadvantaged Canadians, with some left over for unforeseen circumstances such as a global economic meltdown. Wells point also has more to do with how Harper goes about his business than what has or has not been achieved. Harper clearly has no cogent plan – idealistic, principled, pragmatic, or any other kind – he’s been making it up as he’s gone along based on political goals and now he has a disfunctional parliament and looming deficits to show for it. And since he hasn’t given anyone the confidence that he has a long term plan to see Canada through this crisis, he has to resort to blind spending to keep everyone happy. Canada’s shining example of economic prudence comes from the Liberal government, not the Conservatives’ tax cutting/increased spending program of the past two years.

  49. “But that is based on a hope, perhaps naive, that Harper will take a cold hard look at his behaviour since June, realize it has been a festival of belligerent ineptitude, and give his head an almighty shake.”

    You too Wells? I have to ask…

    What will it take for people to get what Stephen Harper is all about?

  50. I think Paul’s point is very important.

    Like Chretien, Harper has been successful at occupying the ‘mushy-middle’ by frequently co-opting opposition ideas — or shall we just say, ideas from the middle.

    However, what he is doing, of late, is throwing the baby out with the bath water. A a few smart Liberals see this (although there are not many of them left) and hence they are trying to push him to further alienate his brands most basic promise – sound economic management. This has been the only front on which he has been invulnerable to this point and it just so happens to be ‘the’ ballot question Canadians have been asking themselves.

    Now you can fault him from time to time for choosing political strategy over principle but the moment he leaves the ‘sound, prudent, fiscal manager position’ open to the Liberals (which some may argue he is doing right now) — he is toast.

    I believe that others in the cabinet know this too. But I think that they are just to chicken to say it to his face.

  51. Sean, this a media run blog.

    Their perspective is the media’s perspective (for the most part).

    When I see media bias, I call it out.

    Leaving it alone, is like asking a man swimming in a pool of water, to “leave the wetness alone already.”

    I identified two points of bias (on Paul’s post trashing Harper, which omitted important context – the bigger picture- and on Paul’s follow up comment to me, with the rediclous assertion that the drop in surplus brought on by worldwide economic downturn was Harper’s fault).

    Rather than on asking me to stay dry in pool of water, perhaps the answer is draining the proverbial pool of bias.

  52. Or perhaps you could get out of the pool.

  53. sf,

    Why not?

    This is a guy who’s built the most formidable communications machine in modern Canadian politics. He used it, quite effectively, to deliver a devastating message: Dion=poo. Could he not use it to deliver an argument about the proper role and limits of government?

    Flaherty’s fall update was a mumbled 35-minute speech, read head down in a noisy Commons, by a guy who had nearly nothing to do with its preparation. In 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, Paul Martin delivered fall updates lasting more than an hour, with charts, graphics, elaborate background papers, minister and colleagues fanning out across the country afterward to repeat and repeat and repeat a few key messages. Endlessly. Diligently.

    Later, Martin turned flighty and handed himself over, wholesale, to staffers who were serenely persuaded that Canadians are too dumb and distracted to handle a government that talks to them like adults. But in the early years, the Chrétien government was a formidable pedagogical team.

    I honestly believe Harper is better at the arts of political communication than the first-mandate Chrétien Liberals were. Or rather, he would be if he bothered to try. I can’t decide whether that shows a lack of faith in Canadians, or in his own ideas.

  54. But there is a lot of ignorance out there, and you cannot blame Harper for that.

    Uh, the buck has to stop somewhere, and since Harper’s been in charge for the last three years, it’s more than reasonable to blame him. This downturn was predicted at least since Harper came to power. If he had decided to govern instead of campaign during that entire time, things might have turned out differently. As it stands, it’s just too late.

    I don’t know what it’s going to take for Conservatives to stop defending this criminally-inept government, but at this juncture, they should really consider examining it more critically, rather than continue to torture the rest of us with partisan boosterism.

  55. “perhaps the answer is draining the proverbial pool of bias.”

    By quoting opinion from the Toronto Sun? The paper that exists for folks who move their lips as they read? The paper that has proudly depended on boobies to drive sales for decades? The Toronto Freaking Sun?! Really?

  56. Kody is attempting to do what a lot of Conservatives are doing: blur the line between Harper’s responsibility for the recession and Harper’s responsibility for the fiscal deficit.

    I don’t think anyone seriously believes that Harper is responsible for the global recession. But he is entirely responsible for the deficit and his erractic and reckless decisions on the economy have made it worse, not better. It is absolutely fraudulent to claim that Harper saw this recession coming. In fact, the effects of the recession will be worse because he ignored the signs or did not understand them.

    If Harper had seen the economic turbulence coming 18 months ago then he should be fired now for complete incompetence. In fact, just like his own actions of late really put to question his reputation as a master tactician, his actions on economic matters should really raise serious questions about his competence on economic matters:

    – the problem with his broken promise on income trusts was not that he broke his promise but that he made the promise in the first place. It was reckless and created an income trust market that was truly untenable as businesses and investors relied on his promise. Moreover, it was a reckless promise designed for one purpose: win votes regardless of the economic consequences.

    – record breaking reckless pork barrel spending combined with record tax cuts made the deficit “inevitable” as Harper’s own budget chief points out, not the recession as Harper and his apologists claim. It takes a master talent to turn a $10B surplus into an expected $10B deficit when our “fundamentals of our economy are good”.

    – as noted in an incredible story in the Globe this weekend, Harper recklessly created the subprime mortgage market in Canada in 2006 when he bowed to lobbying pressure from US mortgage insurance companies to allow zero down 40 year mortgages. He tries to claim credit for shutting this down but he created the problem in the first place. If you think we have avoided the US subprime nightmare because we have more cautious financial institutions, you are about to find out exactly why Harper broke his own election law and promise early: he needed to have an election before the economic Frankenstein he helped create comes to life.

    – another forgotten example of his recklessness with the economy was the elimination of the foreign tax credit given on foreign interest that gave Canadian businesses investing abroad a fairer chance competing in Canada and abroad. It was announced out of the blue and caused such chaos and fury that Harper had to retreat on this one and adjust his policy.

    – his policy on spending as a “stimulus” is erratic as Paul points out. He is all over the map now, scrambling to bail water on a sinking ship. The question is whether the sinking Conservative ship will take more of the country down with it. Careful, measured spending can help temporarily right a ship, but there is no evidence that Harper cares for anything more than what will get him votes.

    This is all evidence of anything but the “stable hand” of an “economist” and more like the reckless or erratic hand of someone scrambling to get votes or who doesn’t understand cause and effect between government action and business/economic results.

    I once saw a prominent Conservative consultant speak. You see him on TV all the time but this was a private speech. He said a year and a half ago that he was concerned about his own government’s PMO because they were so centralized and so concerned about accountability appearance that they simply did not consult with anyone outside of the PMO’s own hires. Where most governments would hold roundtables or other discussions with “stakeholders” – those who live their lives in a particular industry or a particular field and therefore have a more day-to-day knowledge and experience of how things work – but Harper and his team simply make the decisions on their own, with limited discussions and only internal.

    Another somewhat less prominent but well-connected Conservative from the Harris days told me that, before Giorno came, Harper’s darker instincts were in their view at least somewhat vetted or deflected by the combination of Ian Brodie and Peter Van Loan. Van Loan would volunteer to take the uglier side of petty partisanship so Harper did not have too much mud on him and Brodie would curtail a bit the partisanship entering too deeply into actual policy. Now Brodie is gone and Van Loan has his own portfolio and Giorno is the opposite of a filter on Harper’s basic political instincts.

    So we have a really perfect political storm combination now: an erratic reckless decision-maker on economic issues, driven by unfiltered petty partisan bitterness and vote buying efforts.

    Didn’t Harper say we wouldn’t recognize Canada when he was through with it?

  57. jwl I find it puzzling that none of our elected representatives on either side of the stimulus debate are advocating the obviously reasonable position that an expensive stimulus package might not actually be in the best interests of Canadians.

    Puzzling indeed. It makes you wonder whose interests they are in fact representing.

  58. “No one is blaming Harper for the economic downturn, we’re upset with him for weakening Canada’s ability to weather it.”

    And if we to follow that quote with the words: “such that Canada is positioned in this downturn significantly better than any other comparable industrialized nation”

    the point would be lost.

    The words I added are true. But they defeat the narrative completely.

    The narrative being that Harper could have done things differently or better (which would be a moderate suggestion as no government is perfect and finding the “perfect” solution is the stuff of fantasies), wasn’t Paul’s point,

    the narrative is that Harper’s government is a disaster.

    And so I’m asked to “get with the program already”,

    which program is one founded on dishonesty as the broader perspective not only shows Paul’s point to be incorrect,

    it shows the “Harper is a disaster” narrative to be completely untrue.

  59. Regarding the contrast to Merkel’s principled resistance to a stimulus package:

    See here

    From the above article:

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who today fought off European Union calls to increase her stimulus plans, faces renewed domestic pressure to spend her way out of the worsening economic outlook when she hosts Dec. 14 talks.

    The German government “will be discussing further steps in January,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels. “But we can’t say now what those will be.” She has set a deadline of a Jan. 5 coalition meeting before considering any new measures to help avert a deeper recession.

    Economists including Merkel’s own council of advisers have criticized what they say is the relative paucity of Germany’s 32 billion-euro program of construction investment and tax relief.

    Forty-eight percent of respondents to a poll by FG Wahlen for ZDF television published today said that the government’s stimulus package, approved by parliament last week, doesn’t go far enough. Twenty-six percent said it was sufficient, while 10 percent said it went too far, according to the poll of 1,286 voters conducted Dec. 9-11.

    So Merkel’s approach is similar to Harpers…wait till January (with the exception of the whole killing the opposition unpleasantness in the meantime…but set that aside for now).

    Merkel faces elections soon…let’s see how long she holds out. I bet that by February Germany will have upped its stimulus dramatically. Any takers?

  60. “This is a guy who’s built the most formidable communications machine in modern Canadian politics. He used it, quite effectively, to deliver a devastating message: Dion=poo. ”

    Oh? What I saw is Harper delivering expensive attack ads. The rest of the work was done for him by the punditry and “anonymous liberal insiders.”

    I think you give Harper too much credit and gloss over the role of the press in all of this. I wouldn’t refer to “communications items” such as Oily the Splot as “formidable.”

  61. “This is a guy who’s built the most formidable communications machine in modern Canadian politics. He used it, quite effectively, to deliver a devastating message: Dion=poo.”

    After stepping down as Liberal leader in the days after the election, Dion blamed his demise on this same Conservative’s formidable communications machine.

    I think it’s time to that we give Dion some credit for his own political self-destruction. The coalition fiasco, signing on to it and executing its first crucial public steps, was the final devastating confirmation of Dion showing to everyone beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was political doggy-doo.

    The Conservative communications machine was not the cause of his eye-brow raising political ineptitude, Mr. Dion did it all by himself. Iggy’s first basic task is to extricate himself from that coalition manure before the stench becomes associated with the Liberal party for the foreseeable future.

  62. kody –

    I on’t hate Harper and am not attacking him, personally. Ye tyou failed to answer my need for information in favour of enjoining a p*ssing match with PW and others.

    So I will ask a follow up question to your exchange with T Thwimm where you say: “But what neither of us could credibly argue is that this downturn, which is worldwide, and which is far less severe in Canada than elsewhere, (sic)

    is Harper’s fault.”

    Do you believe the prescient economic changes the government made helped? Do you think we would have been in worse or better shape if we had not, at the point it was done, cut GST? Were the conservatives in favour of the tight regulatory structure within which Canadian banks operate, or were they agitating for loosening up those regulations?

  63. Jeff j
    ‘Long term.. destruction.. of the liberal party ic necessary…for majority’
    Amazing!! Why didn’t this sort of strategy occur to Mulroney while he was fumbling around with those record majorities.
    i never thought i would utter these words: I miss Brian. I’m sure i’ll get over it, but Harper is starting to make me a believer.

  64. “Could he not use it to deliver an argument about the proper role and limits of government?”

    Paul

    I wonder about this as well. You use Lib example to point out that Canadians will listen to serious arguments but I believe Mike Harris is a better example, at least for Cons. I am probably wearing rose-tinted glasses when I think of Harris but I seem to recall the Cons constantly hammered home their message and plans at least two years before their first majority government and after a while people started to listen and believe. And Ontario is considered a lib province.

    I have no idea what Harper’s thinking but it comes across like he’s embarrassed by his beliefs and so wants to implement them via stealth or watered down. Harper, by deciding to govern like Libs-lite, lost the battle before it even started.

  65. kody: Being “positioned in this downturn significantly better than any other comparable industrialized nation” is not mutually exclusive with the idea of being positioned significantly worse than we would have been were it not for Mr. Harper’s mismanagement.

    Has he managed to totally bankrupt the country yet? No.
    Is it for lack of trying? No.

  66. I realize “The Rise of the Conservative Nanny State” suggest PW’s post is about the “bailouts” but I think Paul is focused On Stephen Harper’s recent descent into a place between a rock and something hard.

    So why don’t you pro-Harper people see if you can counter Paul’s position with one of your own based on what PW posted instead of all the other bollocks.

    “To pay the price for his inner jerk, Harper is about to deliver what Liberals want.”

    Did Harper unleash his “inner jerk” with the FU, etc., or not? If he did not, explain then what he did do.

    Are the bailouts delivering “what Liberals want” or aren’t they? If not, explain why not.

  67. ti-guy
    Hold on now. There’s absolutely no evidence that Harper ever intended to govern. I genuinely empathise with Cons who understandably thought this a reasonable thing to expect. After, i don’t know, you voted him in. It’s becoming increasingly evident that he is going to indulge his own little private grudge match with the libs, no matter want anyone else wants. I thought this sort of thing was supposed to be resolved in kindergarden

  68. I’m not sure how you can argue it wasn’t Harper’s fault that the surplus disappeared. I mean, each percentage point brought in $5.5 billion, so that means about $11 billion was lost. If the surplus was $13 billion, that means only $2 billion was lost from other means. The GST cut cost 85% of the surplus to disappear. Economic downturn or not, there was going to be an income there, but now there’s nothing, because of Harper’s cuts.

    Had he known an economic downturn was coming, why would he deliberately put our government in a position where it would have to go into deficit? Or was he gambling consumer spending would prevent a downturn here? That does seem somewhat plausible, I will admit.

  69. Kody is attempting to do what a lot of Conservatives are doing: blur the line between Harper’s responsibility for the recession and Harper’s responsibility for the fiscal deficit.

    I don’t think that’s on purpose. After all, Conservatives don’t really understand the economy. That’s should be axiomatic by now. And that wouldn’t be such a terrible sin if they’d just stop pretending to know what they’re talking about. I think most of the ones we deal with online are posting from a McJob at a call centre, anyway.

  70. Paul :
    Correct me if I am wrong but I think you want Harper to be less pragmatic and more principled —if that is the case then you will have the Liberals back in power in a heartbeat. His principles probably told him that there were better taxes to cut then the GST but he doesn`t win the 06 election without that cut.
    He knows that throwing money at 100 year old companies is stupid but there will be an auto bailout because pragatism means doing what most of the citizens want. We live in a country where a left-leaning media deliver the message to a largely socially liberal but fiscally conservative people. So you see —it`s a tight – wire walk. Also we shouldn`t mistake his desire to change the way things are done in Ottawa (political party welfare—Senate appointments) as naivety or meaness—-his beliefs take him in one direction, but if there is not enough people going in that direction. pragmatism takes over.
    I guarantee you that is his greatest frustration.

  71. kody –

    lots of good points being made in your absence. Are the talking points not helping?

  72. William offered an explantion of Harper’s conduct,

    that lacks villification of Harper,

    that makes the most sense (if your road doesn’t have to lead down Harper Derangement blvd), and

    that happens to be true.

    Bravo sir.

  73. Germany is “different” in the European context , particularly compared to Britain , because of the difference in its’ housing market structure.
    The level of home ownership in Germany is relatively low. Somewhere around 20%. Britain has more American aspirations with ownership around 70%.

    Most Germans are renters. And a significant amount of that is government owned and operated with a rent control structure that influences the private rental market.

    On the assumption that the crisis begins ( and probably ends ) with the housing/mortgage crash the initial impact on Germany has been minimal.

    But the crisis, having spread to the financial and real economies, has taken on global significance and so Germany is being called on to contribute to the EU and global response.

    And it’s not as though Merkel has locked herself in a closet. Germany has initiated a stimulus package in the order of $44B.

    I can’t find – right now – where I recently read this information. When I dig it up I’ll post it. But Krugman has some analysis on his current blog. Only math majors need apply.

  74. Aside from everything else, I’d be greatly amused to see “principled, effective” anti-Keynesianism.

    Especially that last part, since monetarism has generally proven itself about as effective as a two-legged stool and that Austrian piffle not even that.

  75. When any Country is having more then 3 well established political parties with strong followings the coalition / formal Or informal / is the ONLY pragmatic and sane thing to do.. with sharing power and sharing responsibilities …. no more extremities /amd this is the best part of it!!! /.
    Canada needs to grow up .

  76. Sisyphus, if Messrs. Coyne and Wells–and whatever Taylor should be classified as–are really aching for “effective anti-Keynesianism”, that’s probably not a name you should be dropping here.

  77. Note to my left leaning friends:

    a tax cut is not “spending”.

    It is not a “cost”.

    It is putting money back into the taxpayer’s hands, and hence most efficiently returning it back into the economy.

    Williams point is bang on, and more subtly addresses the point Jarrid made at the outset.

    The media skewers Harper for even attempting to maintian his ideologically held positions,

    and then skewers them when political reality dictates pragmatism must override his ideology (what the media complained he didn’t do enough of, hence his political bullyness).

    The recipe is this: when you’re a conservative, and particularly when you are a successful conservative as Harper most certainly is,

    to the left leaning media, you can never do right. You can only do wrong – even if you are doing what the media had chided you to do the day before.

    This was the recipe that led the media to look like fools in reporting (notwithstanding the spate of polls to the contrary) that Harper was the one who erred in the latest fiasco.

    It is also the recipe that leads Paul to use the highly inflammatory words “shatteringly inept” to describe what is good ol fashioned political pragmatism.

  78. jwl
    couldn’t agree more. I didn’t lik Harris, but he had some success, i presume by doing what he said he would do. [ whether that pleased peple like me isn’t relevant ]
    Harper on the other hand doesn’t seem to trust Canadians. Why? We have, as a country, and provincially elected Conservative goverments before. It may be hard work in a lib leaning country, but that’s no excuse for not trying.

  79. Demosthenes,

    Especially that last part, since monetarism has generally proven itself about as effective as a two-legged stool …:

    Agreed except stimulus in the wrong form might be a waste.

    Also, your blog’s hat tip to “Outliers” is bang on.

    Kind of a Nassim Talib for mainstream.

  80. Ti-Guy and the LoonyLibs are at it again, blaming the Conservatives for the present economic situation in Canada. It is a GLOBAL crises that originated in the US, understand? How well did that 700 Billion “stimulus” package work in the US? Conservatives realize that Government can’t fix all the worlds problems, whereas LoonyLibs (Ti-Guy #248857) think that Big Government can look after us and all we have to do is stay at home and play on our favourite websites, wait a minute). The majority of Canadian economists are now saying that a stimulus package is the wrong idea and favour the German approach (they all agree on the infrastructure spending boost).

  81. “i presume by doing what he said he would do”

    Funny, I don’t recall him promising to leave us with a five billion dollar deficit. Maybe I was busy doing something else that day…

  82. I used to believe, naively I will admit, that Harper actually believed in an economic policy consistent with his right wing ideology. How wrong I was. First, the Harper Conservatives introduce the biggest budget and the biggest spending increases in Canadian history. Then they create a structural deficit by reducing consumption taxes, which, by the way, every economist agrees is very bad policy. I never voted for them, but I figured that at least I would benefit from income tax decreases under Harper. Now I’m told instead that my tax money is going to be used to bail out a poorly managed automobile industry which produces products nobody wants to buy. So much for Harper’s belief in laissez-faire capitalism – yet another principle of his thrown under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

    Before we start throwing money around, we really need to have an intelligent (and non-partisan) debate about which policies are best adopted to the economic problems we face at present, what our options are and most importantly of all what the costs may be. There is a genuine concern that allowing the automobile industry to collapse might just be the tipping point for a deflationary spiral and financial system collapse – in plain language, a second Great Depression. Obviously, we need to do everything we can to avoid that. But we need to debate what form government intervention should take and try to achieve some consensus. The debate needs to be informed by evidence of what has and could again work, not partisan slagging.

    That is why Harper’s leadership in the face of this economic crisis is such an utter failure. He has offered no policy, no solutions, done nothing except to poison the atmosphere of Parliament when what we really need right now is to have all political parties work together to achieve consensus on possible solutions to this economic crisis. We still don’t know what this supposed plan is that Harper claimed to have during the election campaign. Now he is canvassing the Opposition for ideas. They shouldn’t allow themselves to be co-opted. Our economist Prime Minister has no idea what to do about this economic crisis. He has to take full responsibility on his own for his failings.

  83. Ti-Guy and the LoonyLibs are at it again, blaming the Conservatives for the present economic situation in Canada. It is a GLOBAL crises that originated in the US, understand?

    I’m not even going to defend against the lies the ConBots trot out endlessly. They never stop, after all.

    Learn to read, JC.

  84. While the echo chamber continues to repeat the mantra that “the coalition is dead / Iggy rejects the coalition” and other such characterizations, why is the current PM continuing to race around like his job depends on it – methinks because he knows that the coalition is far from dead. Worse, from Harper’s perspective, it has become the alternative option.

    The first, and preferred option of Canadians (openly stated by Liberals and grudgingly conceeded by Tories), of course is for Harper’s Conservatives to become Santa Claus. Provide presents, lets call them bailouts, for everyone and to do so with good cheer – Harper the team-playing jolly elf. The only problem with the plan is that Iggy gets to decide whether or not this is the real Santa or just some old fat man with a fake beard.

    Iggy didn’t create the coalition, is seen as an opponent of it and so will not get tagged with it as his plan in the same way that Dion or Jack (or even Rae) would have. Still, Ignatieff is, potentially, its greatest beneficiary. If the Government falls on its budget after getting its 6-week time-out, the Governor General really would have a hard time not giving this Parliament a chance to work – just under new leadership. The coalition document is still signed by all the key players and, at almost 2 months old, has proven itself more long-lasting than Harper’s good will with this House.

    The unprecedented proposed spending by Harper will still be seen as inadequate when it comes time to vote on the budget, besides we (read the coalition members) still don’t trust that he is committed to working with Parliament. When all is said and done, Chritmas cheer will be long gone by the time a January budget vote comes to the House floor and any glimpse of Harper irritation will be futher proof that the man is a loose cannon that can not be reasoned with.

    The coalition is dead, long live the coalition (just keep it under your hat for a bit).

  85. kody: a difference that makes no difference is no difference. For purposes of both budgeting and stimulus, tax cuts and spending are much the same thing: both reduce the money available in the budget, and both put money in the hands of consumers. And, by and large, it’s not the most efficient way of stimulating the economy, since the point of stimulus is to stimulate consumption, and government spending is (by definition) consumption.

    (Tax cuts tend to get hoarded. That’s understandable, but it’s not stimulus.)

    By the way, kody, if you’re such a proud conservative, might I suggest proving it by conserving paragraphs first?

    Ti-Guy: conservative ideology, especially economic conservative ideology, is facing effective annihilation. I imagine that it must be quite frightening; no wonder they cling to it all the harder.

  86. “conservative ideology facing extinction”

    Thus,

    Obama’s lurch to the right causing his left base to lose their minds,

    Canada’s most popular conservative government in decades,

    now vast swaths of Canada (and good percentages elsewere), including our economic powerhouse, are uniformly conservative, and

    the Libs are at 19-20% support, and have high popularity in only a handful of ridings, precisely because of their trist with leftist economic thought.

    Interesting conclusion to draw, facts notwithstanding.

  87. Paul:
    I enjoy reading you and even your commentors—just a couple of observations—it appears Jean Proulx has gone to sleep finally—doesn`t anybody work anymore.
    Most of the MacLeans commentors are liberal but quite readable—even when there is a gang swarming around a Harper fan like Kody. The exceptions are Proulx and Ti-Guy. Proulx writings have an unhealthy meaness to them—the constant blather does not hide his essential naivety about the governing process. If Liberals think the threat of a coalition is an effective opposition tool then ” fill your boots . But any wise Liberal should know the top brass woold never take advice from Proulx—-the plan is to use coalition as an opposition hammer, but you govern on your own.
    Ti–Guy must have gone to the Chretien school of Law—” da proof is da proof of da proof ” If you told him it was raining outside he would say ” where`s the evidence—how do you know it`s not a flock of birds urinating on you ” Guys who let their blind beliefs boil over the top often lose what little common sense they have left.

  88. Re: Kody’s laughable straight-line “Harper saw it coming…”
    I guess that would mean ‘Martin saw Harper coming and prepared the economy to survive a mutating moron who couldn’t practice economics except in a circus’…

  89. Demosthenes – I know that mentioning Keynes in certain quarters is kinda like chumming the waters but it’s good to remind people that there’s a whole world out there and a substantial part of it does not share the current view of economic orthodoxy.

    Besides I think he’s one truly funny guy.

    Haven’t seen Archimedes around lately, have ya ?

  90. You know your party’s in trouble when you have to go to the poltical failure before the last political failure,

    as a source of inspiration.

    Martin was to go down as one of the most failing Liberal leaders of our times, and then……..

  91. But I’m sure Iggy,

    who’s first great act as (unelected) leader, was bravely equivocating on a deal with the devil he now niether accepts or regects depending on which way the political winds will blow,

    will turn that all around in a jiffy.

  92. “tax cuts and spending are much the same thing: both reduce the money available in the budget, and both put money in the hands of consumers.”

    Demosthenes

    They are absolutely not the same thing and don’t nearly achieve similar results, as you write. Studies show that government spending one dollar raises the GDP anywhere between 1 dollar and $1.40 while a dollar of tax cuts raises GDP by three dollars. Tax cuts increase disposable income, consumption and investment spending while stimulus spending doesn’t.

  93. Ted, thanks for the measured listing of the facts–all in one place like that.

    This has been a pretty good discussion, but apart from jwl, the Conservative supporters have pretty much admitted to wearing the jersey.

    Regarding Mike Harris, I will say that he did say what he’d do, and he did do what he said. I even voted for him because of it. What it took many of us in Ontario some time to learn, unfortunately, was that the devil was in the details. On the whole I think it was a good learning experience for me. I can now listen to a politician and better understand that when they say something like, “we will not run a deficit” the word to really look at is “run”. They may drive one, they may walk one, etc.

  94. jwl, are all tax cuts equal though? I mean, personally, I’d rather have my income tax lowered before any kind of GST cut is administered.

  95. Ti–Guy must have gone to the Chretien school of Law—” da proof is da proof of da proof ” If you told him it was raining outside he would say ” where`s the evidence—how do you know it`s not a flock of birds urinating on you ” Guys who let their blind beliefs boil over the top often lose what little common sense they have left.

    Boy….You can tell the Conservatives don’t have much of case when the scolds show up and start complaining to teacher that others are spoiling it for everyone.

  96. @ William – In the spirit of civility, I will now say something nice about Stephen Harper. Ready? Wait for it…

    He is a talented partisan.

    Consider that a Christmas gift to my Conservative friends here at the Maclean’s comments section :)

  97. I used to believe, naively I will admit, that Harper actually believed in an economic policy consistent with his right wing ideology. How wrong I was.

    No, no, you were right. He believes it. He just don’t think that voters believe it, which appears to be not just his primary but his sole consideration for the past 5 or so years. He hears everyone screaming “do something!”, and he’s more than happy to oblige with a scatter gun. He would declare the earth flat if it would help him score a few more voters.

  98. demosthenese
    ‘A difference that makes no difference, is no difference’
    quoting Spock to buttress an argument just isn’t cricket, is it.

  99. Kody

    “conservative ideology facing extinction”

    Hmm, let me consult my lagometer… yes, yes, extinction is definitely just around the corner.

    jwl,

    On what time horizon are you basing your favouring of tax cuts over stimulus? I would argue that GDP is the wrong measure when comparing the two alternatives. Sure tax cuts are important but so is infrastructure spending — heaven knows it’s needed, having been neglected for so long. It can be argued that protecting jobs during a recession is a bad idea and I accept that. Income support and retraining are probably better ideas.

    A couple of economists I read recently suggested it would be a better idea to use the U.S bailout dollars to pay every GM employee a lump sum $200 thousand buyout and let GM declare Chapter 11.

    How that affects the industry in Canada is another question.

    There are too many auto manufacturers considering global demand. One or two have to go to redress the imbalance. But if the transition to a smaller industry is too sudden, it could be catastrophic — so in spite of my druthers, I am not sure what governments should be doing…

  100. jwl: “They are absolutely not the same thing and don’t nearly achieve similar results, as you write. Studies show that government spending one dollar raises the GDP anywhere between 1 dollar and $1.40 while a dollar of tax cuts raises GDP by three dollars. Tax cuts increase disposable income, consumption and investment spending while stimulus spending doesn’t.”

    My understanding (perhaps incorrect) was that the rebate cheques mailed to everyone in the States had much less impact on the economy than expected, because a lot of it was banked. Debt reduction is great but does it flow into the economy? Perhaps the results of those studies you cite are dependent in part on the state of the economy at the time of tax cuts and/or stimulus spending.

  101. Just an addendum to my 11:35 comment :- I couldn’t (yet) find the original source of the information I noted but I did find a similar article from Die Welt posted to SkyNews business section on Dec. 12 by Thomas Kielinger. The only difference is that he writes German home ownership to be 30% rather than 20%. But I think that is a relative difference, not a real one.

  102. jwl, care to produce these “studies”? Because both macroeconomic theory and the research I’m familiar with suggest the exact opposite.

    kody: ask the Republicans about whether or not conservatism has much of a market in the U.S. Obama’s “lurch to the right” doesn’t make him a Republican. THEY painted him as a communist, remember?

    Meanwhile, everywhere ELSE in the world, including the Nobel Prize board at the Bank of Sweden, Keynesian has come roaring back. Which makes sense, considering monetarist solutions have been dismally ineffective, and market fundamentalism has crashed against the rock of the staggering dishonesty and incompetence of Wall Street.

    kc: There’s a new movie coming out, remember?

  103. Paul Wells: “This is a guy who’s built the most formidable communications machine in modern Canadian politics. He used it, quite effectively, to deliver a devastating message: Dion=poo. Could he not use it to deliver an argument about the proper role and limits of government?”

    Is this a rhetorical question?

    I think there is a fundamental difference between the politics of cohesion and the politics of destruction. On the left, you get the politics of destruction in the hormone-driven rhetoric about “destroying capitalism” and “stopping globalisation” — and the quick response that you don’t need to know anything about economics, or have an alternative to offer, as long as you can perceive the evil that men do. On the right, the politics of destruction means “government is bad” (instead of “programs X, Y, and Z are ineffective”) and “liberals are swine” and “Dion is poo.”

    When has Harper ever practiced the politics of cohesion, except with a cynical smirk? He and his base, who I now think are completely of one mind and spirit, are driven by the same gnawing hunger for confrontation hunger as the anti-globalisationists: let’s fight, let’s kill, let’s inflict more defeat than we sustain ourselves. In both cases you can slip the childish hate into natty pastel polyester iPod cases (“I don’t like big government” or “I don’t like global poverty”) but it’s pointless to reason with such people since their rationales are beside the point. Harper and ilk are a symptom of what is wrong with our society, not the cause.

  104. jwl – today’s Globe has an editorial on this issue: “People can’t be bribed into spending”

    “Tax cuts may be politically appealing, but Mr. Flaherty should know from the failure of the Bush rebate that, short of handing out vouchers, he cannot engineer a free-spending consumer in difficult times.”

  105. Oh, and Sisyphus, while mentioning Keynes may well be “chumming the waters”, the simple fact that an out-and-out Keynesian won the Nobel Prize–solo, no less–suggests that those waters are bloodied enough as it is.

    Why do you think they’re so agitated? Keynes has sprung back from the dead, little bowler cap on his head, ready to save the day once again. Meanwhile, the best one can say about Friedman and the Monetarist school is that they had a good innings in the 1980s; the Austrians and Objectivists not even that.

    (When even Greenspan, a man who dated Ayn Rand, says that he was wrong in trusting in the market, it’s pretty clear that the market fundamentalists hath been forsaken.)

  106. archangel

    I am not an economist, but I like to play one on Macleans comment threads, but I believe those numbers are true over a five year period. What surprised me is that Christina Romer, one of Obama’s senior economics advisers, has done a lot of work on this and found that tax cuts are better at stimulating economy than stimulus spending is. Greg Mankiw, Harvard economics prof, did a post last week called Spending and Tax Multipliers that looks at this issue.

    I agree that infrastructure spending is important. As a conservative, I believe that infrastructure is one of the few legitimate areas that governments should involve themselves in. However, I don’t believe we should be relying on infrastructure spending as a way to get us out of a recession.

    There are lots of ways that money can be spent. I think it was Jack M a couple of days ago who calculated we could buy 220,000 Chevy Cobalts for people without cars in Canada instead of handing over $3.5 billion to automakers for them to spend as they wish. I don’t understand why this group-think takes over and it becomes imperative that we hand over great amounts of money to people who have run their business into the ground and now need help.

  107. Mulletaur: “I used to believe, naively I will admit, that Harper actually believed in an economic policy consistent with his right wing ideology. How wrong I was.”

    You have obviously not tasted the Tory kool-ait, Mulletaur. Don’t you get it? As long as Harper stands for small government on paper, it doesn’t matter what he does, as long as it hurts the Liberals and NDP (or takes the wind out of their sails a trifle, as in this case). It wouldn’t matter if he nationalised the steel mills and collectivised the farms — he’s our guy! He’s the real conservative here, even if he grows a goatee like Lenin! Everything is expendable in the pursuit of truth! Everyone, even (on paper) Harper himself, must sacrifice themselves and, if necessary, sacrifice their “principles” (what a liberal word!) at the first ill wind in order to someday, someday, someday achieve that beautiful majority (so like the Kingdom of Heaven) with which weapon all enemies will someday be slain, all slights avenged, all grudges vindicated! Drink up, my friend! This ain’t your grandmother’s Tory party!

  108. How embarassing that I posted a rant right after jwl was commending my Chevy Cobalt idea.

  109. Ti-Guy, what lies are you referring to? Where is the evidence? How well did that 700 Billion “stimulus package “work in the US? There is a pattern here, if someone makes a valid point then you avoid intelligent dialogue and respond with simple sarcasm. Don’t the LoonyLibs know that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit? Honestly now, you are certainly entitled to your opinion but when you are so bias (Conservative hater and hyper-partisan) it is hard to take you seriously. Archangel I can take seriously, even though I rarely agree with him, and I respect his opinion.

  110. I, along with a few people here believe that Stephen Harper is the right leader for our times— voters will prove us right—- so will history. I don`t think any of us are told how to think by anyone.
    We live in a country where varying points of view make us stronger and able to change for the better.
    Bob Rae believed that soft–socialism is what Ontario wanted—Mike Harris and the majority of Ontarions disagreed. Jean Chretien and a series of Liberal leaders believed that what was good for their friends and the Liberal Party was good for the country—turns out Stephen Harper and soon to be majority of Canadians disagree.
    Criticism is good—-when the time comes Harper`s time will be up—in the meantime, just let him govern—God knows we were patient when Rae and Chretien were hoisting their beliefs on us.

  111. Ti-Guy, what lies are you referring to?

    That I’ve ever blamed Harper for the economic downturn (sensible people saw that coming ages ago…how can one not when the World’s largest economy rests on nothing but maxed out credit cards?). I’ve blamed him for not anticipating it and governing poorly, which is certainly born out by the reports claiming the Harper government facilitated the establishment of unsound mortgage practices shortly after it took over (which were only eliiminated this Fall). It’s obvious Mr. Masters Thesis in Economics doesn’t know what he’s doing.’

    Bring back North Star, Harper. That’s the best idea you’ve ever had.

  112. Have we all missed something here….. These sophomore Conservatives are Reform/Alliance party members…. the two of the most senior members Garth Turner and Bill Casey were thrown to wolves… because they dare question economic measures. Having a wolf in sheep’s clothing in any political party is deadly, so why has this man been given so much credit…. for what? I would defend that Mr. Harper has not helped Canadians in any way shape of form…. think? we did have money in bank and are now by all accounts as supported by many professionals that we are deep in the hole. Recent facts have shown the $75 Billion dollar bailout is a loosing deal….. Afghanistan is sinking both in statue and quickly tanking towards 14-20 billion in costs, and at the cost of now well over 200 lives lost, 100 or so on the battlefield and 140 or so suicides…. all for most part on Harper’s watch. Any educated person knows that sooner or later Iraq and Afghanistan must be returned to their own people…. and it will be all for not ( a million plus dead and buried) and we will have to pay the bills. Harper’s words are recorded and state he supports George Bush’s neoconservative views of Democracy by Force… which has allowed governments to take their eyes of the home front, primarily dealing with our nations business. Governments as stated may not be able to fix the economy but they sure can allow it fail by relaxing rules to allow big business to practice in quick money grabbing ventures and stepping to plate with multi billions to bail them out without any restrictions… in any rate … y’all here know that, the point is why are defending Harper & Co who were in charge and should have known better. Sorry, my wife and I are in charge of our house …. and we think Harper has been asleep at the wheel in our country’s house and we do not accept blame nor should the media allow him to blame the opposition. They did their job …. complian… the same way he did for years…. and tried the same tricks and more.

  113. Putting Keynesian or Supply-side theories aside, I’ve yet to see any evidence that tax cuts provide anything beyond a short term stimulus and usually lead to bigger problems down the road. Aside from the point made here by others that people tend to save part of their tax cuts and don’t spend them, tax cutting agendas are so rarely matched by the requisite spending cuts in order to keep the books in order, so we end up with deficits and a burdensome debt. Harper has followed in this path.

  114. *For the past 8 years, we watched George Bush batter and almost destroy the American spirit. With Barack Obama’s election, it has been reborn. The only difference is leadership quality. While inspiration and inclusion prevail south of the border, power and partisanship reign in Canada.*

    the cult of Obama elucidated: indeed, the `only difference is leadership’: St. Barry intends to: keep the Bush war secretary, put hawkish Hillary in State, is vacilating on Guatanomo, will not try terrorists through the crimnal justice system, wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan – and the cultists say YES! to what they said NO! to just months ago.

    A different correction:

    *These sophomore Conservatives are Reform/Alliance party members…. the two of the most senior members Garth Turner and Bill Casey were thrown to wolves*

    First of all, Turner was turfed because he violated caucus secrecy; Casey, because he publicly stated he would vote against the government’s policies on transfer payments. And Turner, at least, was `turfed’
    by the electorate in the previous eleciton, the one the opposition is trying to overturn now with their Coalition idea.

  115. Paul, you forgot that the only “priniciple” (i.e. Harperbot Vista operating system) is that which devoted to ensuring that he’s king of the castle.

    That being said, I’m more convinced that this random spreading of monies really suggests that he has no idea what to do, and so is covering his electoral bases.

    Austin

  116. Davey’s Politics Putting Keynesian or Supply-side theories aside, then proceeds to make an argument based on Keynesian economics…

    I’m not saying Keynes was wrong, but he was advocating US and British economic policy during and after the most destructive global conflict in history and the consequential economic collapse. The policy prescription for our current situation needs to match (a) the times and (b) the country that we live in.

    As Raging Ranter has pointed out, a stimulus is not necessarily the right policy right now, regardless of whether it is done through tax cuts or government spending.

    I also disagree with your statement that tax cuts more readily lead to deficits. Clearly that has been the fate of the US under the Bush II and Reagan administrations but spending increases are equally problematic.

    What we need is sensible long-term policy. Unfortunately nobody in any political party seems to be advocating that path.

  117. jack m
    Good post. But i think you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope [ Harper’s pov ]
    You see in his authorised version [ holy writ for the faithful] we, the great Canadian unwashed have been suckng back from the liberal punchbowl for so long now that cold turkey is the only remidy left. We’re gonna get dragged kicking and screaming, if necessary, into the new dawn of a Conservative age that we’ve secretly been longing for all along. We just didn’t know it. Steve was sent to save us all from ourselves.
    By the way, where can i get one of those chevy cobalts?

  118. William –

    With respect, I don’t think Ontarians voted for the policies espoused by Harris so much as for the image of him as leader as compared to the Liberal Leader McLeod, who led like Hillary and swooned like Hillary for the same reason: a safe comapaign with no substance and an opponeent capable of presenting an appealing persona.

  119. Steve, I didn’t put forth a Keynesian argument, I said that there was no evidence that tax cuts have worked. I was responding to the other posts proclaiming tax cuts as a viable means of stimulus. I agree with you that Keynesiasm isn’t the holy grail it’s made out to be because the spending has a declining marginal return – not to mention it has to be extremely prescient to be effective which is incredibly hard. A balance is necessary, no question.

  120. @kc — Good point about cadres vs. masses in the Tory mind. Re: Cobalts, it doesn’t look like they’ll be free anytime soon, as I am not the Minister of Industry. Thank God we’ve got a real creative thinker with a human touch in that PR-driven portfolio. You can check out the Cobalt on the GM site, which is still up. Hell of a collector’s item, and this is a great buying opportunity.

  121. I’d also like to add that one reason tax cuts have led to deficits is that it’s politicially easy to cut taxes since everyone wins but it’s hard to cut spending because someone will lose. This is why traditionally tax cuts have led to deficits as the tax cutters haven’t been able to, or haven’t had the guts to, cut spending. Usually, spending has been increased under the false assumption that it will be paid for by the growth from the tax cuts, which of course never comes.

  122. Davey: Having the tax cuts not be accompanied by spending cuts isn’t actually a bad thing in this case; while tax cuts may be preferable to spending hikes in some minds, it should be obvious that spending cuts are a disastrous idea when you’re trying to stimulate spending.

    Steve: What, pray tell, is so different about the current economic situation that stimulus is somehow a bad thing? The current world collapse is more akin to the Japanese one than the Great Depression in cause if not scope, and that collapse had nothing to do with “the worst global conflict in history”.

    (That doesn’t even make sense. The period directly following WWI was, at least in America, a boom, not the Depression. WWI was not the cause of the Depression by any stretch of the imagination.)

    Johnny Canuck: Uh, where’s your evidence that it didn’t have an effect? You’re the one asserting that it was useless. You need to back that assertion up, before challenging others to prove you’re wrong. Certainly AIG didn’t bring the rest of American banking down with it, as was projected to be the case if there was no bailout. How do YOU know the current situation wouldn’t be much worse, other than your ideology dictating the answer before the question is even asked?

    jwl: a blog post by a notoriously ideological economist like Mankiew is not a “study”. And were you intellectually honest enough to discuss his sources, you’d have noticed that the one on government spending multipliers (Hall/Woodward) is ridiculous on its face–as Paul Krugman pointed out on his own site–because the wartime consumer spending they were attempting to study was artificially limited during WWII due to rationing. The other suggesting a triple multiplier on tax cuts (Romer/Romer) may be accurate, but does not discuss government spending. Since it has a confidence band of 1.3 to 4.7, though, it could theoretically be less.

    And, in fact, if you look at Hall/Woodward and discount WWII, what you find is that government spending may be significantly associated with increased consumer spending, but that there’s somewhat of a delay effect. Which, in turn, suggests that if the government were to act, it’d need to act now.

    No, you clearly aren’t an economist. Nor someone who knows how to evaluate research, or even research-derived blog posts.

    You might be better cut out for something simpler. Like teaching kody how to write paragraphs, or that Johnny guy to back up his assertions. (At least you tried.)

  123. steve w
    I have no proplem with H following HIS economic policy agenda, if he would only try and sell it and build some kind of national consensus. why must we pay the price of his thwarted ambitions. If he can establish consensus the opposition should allow him to govern within those constraints.

  124. Demosthenes the current situation is markedly different from the problems facing Japan in several key ways. Look the level of savings in Japan in 1990 compared to the current level of debt in the US and then tell me why the same policy should be used.

    Also what was it about the stimulus in Japan that was so successful? If anything their problems were and still are due to a closed nepotistic culture with an aging population. I don’t think things are actually getting better there.

    I posted a link over in Coyne’s “All for All” thread that you will hopefully share your thoughts on.

    Regarding the reference to the destruction of production capacity, I guess I was referring more to WWII than WWI, but my point is that you have to look at this stuff in historical context. Keynes lived through a completely different set of circumstances that we are facing now.

    Economics isn’t Physics. It’s not like Keynes, Friedman, Krugman or Stiglitz have come up with immutable laws of nature – they are describing human behavior and their writings shouldn’t be seen as dogma.

  125. Demos:

    while mentioning Keynes may well be “chumming the waters”, the simple fact that an out-and-out Keynesian won the Nobel Prize–solo, no less–…

    Meanwhile, everywhere ELSE in the world, including the Nobel Prize board at the Bank of Sweden, Keynesian has come roaring back

    I’m so sick of hearing this argument. First of all, Friedman, Hayek, and economists of all ideological stripes have won Nobel prizes in the past. Winning a Nobel prize emphatically does not make someone automatically right about everything for ever and ever. Second of all, Krugman’s prize was for his work on global trade theory, not Keynesian fiscal policy. Third of all, if those geniuses at the Nobel Prize Foundation are such economic wizards, able to choose among the world’s leading economists and confer decisive accolades upon them, why don’t they just solve this economic crisis themselves?

  126. In the beginning of December I read that the Queen’s representative suspended parliament. Is that accurate? If it is why are the Canadien citizens not furious?

    Could someone set me straight as to what happened in regards to the suspension of parliament?

  127. Kurt check the story at /blog.macleans.ca/2008/12/11/inside-a-crisis-that-shook-the-nation/

  128. If it is why are the Canadien citizens not furious?

    We are furious.

  129. Good. I am from the US and have been looking for follow up articles on this topic and they have been few and far between.

    I have to admit I was shocked. I didn’t know that the Queen’s representative had any real power.

  130. She acted on the advice of the Prime Minister. She doesn’t have to follow his advice. In that sense she has power, but it’s generally held in reserve.

  131. Demosthenes – consider the waters chummed.

  132. Ti Guy:

    NO—- We are not furious. At least the 75% of us that aren`t furious all the time anyway. Furious would have been replacing a capable Gov`t with a bunch of opportunistic bewildered misfits.

  133. Paul: Interesting observation, and I apologize if I am repeating thoughts of others, I cannot run through all the comments on my break. So here goes…

    YES it’s a shame that these Tories can’t actually stand for their principles.

    YES it’s a shame that the margins are razor-thin and a deficit is quite likely even if we don’t give away the store propping up failing industries with “stimulus” just in order to delay the necessary iindustry restructuring.

    YES it’s a shame that those margins are so razor-thin because drunken-sailor spending has gone on for a couple of years already. NOT because there have been a few tax cuts, some smart, some less so.

    YES it’s a shame that the Tories keep acting like they have a majority, except, wait a minute, they got used to that with fraidy-cat Liberals not ever acting like an opposition the last time, and wait a minute, they are actually meeting with opposition parties to see how best to give away the store (and the future) in order to satisfy said opposition. So I am not quite sure how we get to blame them for acting like a minority governing party right now.

    BUT:

    I’d still rather have Canada’s problems than any number of other developed countries’ problems right now. I just hope we don’t ruin it by stealing gazillions from our kids to prop up some industries that deserve to die. And on that last point, I am getting increasingly nervous.

  134. Do you elect your parliament? If you are unhappy with the actions your parliament is about to take shouldn’t the citizens put pressure on their representatives to enact their will.

    That didn’t exactly work for the states the last 8 years, but in theory that is how the us government is supposed to work. If the Prime Minister can just decide to oust parliament if he disagrees with them that could go down a pretty dark road. .

  135. Sadly, William, we did just that.

    Back in ’06.

  136. Paul Wells: “I honestly believe Harper is better at the arts of political communication than the first-mandate Chrétien Liberals were. Or rather, he would be if he bothered to try. I can’t decide whether that shows a lack of faith in Canadians, or in his own ideas.”

    Firstly, I gotta agree with William.

    I do believe you have a point, that Harper does not have an effective visionary communications machine. I think it was a heck of a lot easier to create “not a leader” attack ads and bait Dion, to the point where Dion embarrased himself.

    I do believe Harper has a vision, and that at times you have been able to articulate much if it. I could articulate it myself, which I’ve done before, but I’d rather stick to yout point about communication. I think that the message of small government is a difficult message to deliver, it’s much easier to tell people that government can deliver anything you like, and if you vote for me, I will deliver whatever you ask for (eliminate poverty! everybody gets a house! a government job for everyone!), and then later when you fail to deliver you delve into your bag of excuses. That’s why Jack Layton can talk forever, his message is a lie but it sounds good to a lot of people.

    Maybe one thing that is holding him back, is the fact that the more you say, the more your opponents can use to attack you with. This was the whole point of the hidden agenda attack line, and the most effective counter-weight to the hidden agenda attack is to stop talking. Anything you way might be twisted to mean something else that is dark and sinister.

    Or perhaps he feels that it is not possible to be heard over the cacophony of opposition leaders (3 of ’em in the house), and the majority of the media who, often times, are essentially cheerleaders for the opposition.

    I think that the coalition did back him into a corner. He knows if he gives the LIberals a few bones the coalition will die. But if he follows his principles we will be back to the GG, with her deciding election vs Iggy as PM. So now we will see things that we would be seeing from him otherwise, such as the forestry, shipbuilding, and auto bailouts (which as Andrew Coyne puts it, is just transferring money out of one industry and into another).

  137. I also agree with Coyne that it’s frustrating and disappointing, but at the same time I know it’s a heck of a lot better than what we’d be getting from the opposition if they were in power.

  138. On the other hand, Kurt, it’s Electoral College Day in the USA. The real election day.

    We all have a lot to get our heads around.

  139. Davey’s Politics: “Putting Keynesian or Supply-side theories aside, I’ve yet to see any evidence that tax cuts provide anything beyond a short term stimulus and usually lead to bigger problems down the road”

    How about the end of the 70’s economic malaise followed by a 25 year bull run during which living standards grew faster than at any rate in history. The main ingredients: tax cuts, less intrusive government, and an end to the fallacy that inflation is required to reduce unemployment.

  140. sf I just printed off your comment and hung it up on the wall of my den

  141. by a 25 year bull run during which living standards grew faster than at any rate in history.

    …and now the bills are coming due.

    Oh well, it was “fun” while it lasted. And if it hadn’t happened, we would never have had all this cool *stuff*.

  142. sf
    Iv’e read that Harper maybe the first truly transformational [ hated that word ever since PMartin claimed it for his very own] national figure since Trudeau. he would be coming at it from the other end, i suppose. I’m not one of those libs who would be bothered by this ,if it were true. I know it’s unreasonable to match the formers charisma, but is it too much to ask for communication of the message? Pin your colours to the masthead, i say. Where’s the courage? Where’s the vision? Whining about liberal original sin isn’t enough. This man promises so much and delivers so little.

  143. By cutting the GST, Harper decimated the surplus and handcuffed himself from providing an economic stimulus- like a GST cut! Or, umm, bailing out our banks! Oh, they’re alright? Never mind then, I’m sure they’re SOMETHING to spend money on!
    Paul, like you I am inflamed when I think of what an a-hole Harper is, and how much opportunity has been lost for advancing conservative principles. But you know what? You take a deep breath and look at the BIG decisions of the last couple years, and the guy suddenly looks like not such a bad PM after all.
    I hope that in the budget we’ll see some serious infrastructure money- get a big sexy dollar sign on it to satisfy the hounds. Maybe some one-off bailout funds. But rather than putting more dead industries on the government teat (urgh, move over Bombardier, you’re hogging!), why not create innovative programs that will help our people deal with change? I don’t know what those programs would be, but I’d rather see long term funds go to increasing education, retraining, mobility and adaptability than to calcifying our economy. What I mean is, if we are going to make long-term structural commitments, let them be ones that help Canadians change rather than offering false protection FROM change.
    Lastly, more money for the abacus makers.

  144. I wonder if the federal civil servants will be getting Harper Days.

  145. Just so we are clear, Keynes was in favour of state investment to the point where the marginal efficiency of investment would be zero. He was also in favour of any policy which would stimulate consumption, but his main preoccupation was the disappearance of the rentier class, replaced by a substantial role for government in productive investment, raising aggregate demand and leading to full employment. This is a long term, structural change to the capitalist economy – state capitalism, if you like. What he did not propose was to have governments take over badly managed privately owned industries which produce products nobody wants to buy. He did not exclude private capital, nor did he wish for the “animal instincts” of investors, which he viewed as the root of speculative flows which wrecked the world economy before the last Great Depression, to rule the capital market. He foresaw a long period of socially directed investment in the economy – Keynes suggested 25 years, about as long as the “long boom” actually turned out to be. Economists subsequently developed policies based on the economic insights of Keynes, particularly the multiplier effect. Short term stimulus policies as well as automatic stabilizers such as welfare policies were developed by others later, not by Keynes.

    We are in a similar situation to what was faced during the Great Depression to the extent that speculative flows have once again led to the near ruin of the financial system. Investment for wealth creation (as opposed to rentier capitalism) is going to remain frozen for some time. This is not a matter of ideology, it is a matter of pragmatism. We need to start thinking about how we can best save ourselves from this mess and leave the ideological and partisan crap out of it.

  146. We need small government — Ottawa must learn to do more with less. The fact that Canadians households lose 45% of their annual income to taxes is proof that government (at all three levels) is way too big.

  147. Werner is correct. The only things governments should provide are sidewalks.

    I demand more sidewalks!

  148. And a pony!

  149. Mr. Harper was on ATV this evening, (Did not see full interview) but he did mention he is making the Senator appointment because he was afraid the Coalition would….. whats wrong with this picture? There is no Coalition and there is no prospect of one… and Dion is gone…. and who says there would be some chance it would happen… “Do not make Assumptions” so what gives… would he, could he be giving good jobs away in light of the storm that is coming…. all couched in Canada’s bad book keeping in the finance department… Hey look at what is happening as we speak on Wall street…. $50 Billion missing (Bernard Madoff) have we been duked with i8 Senator pay off plus 148 appointments made prior to the Fixed Election Date Election and another 25 made just after the non budget. budget financial update…. Why? from a man and a party that stood on big soap boxes and preached “Accountability” It matters not which party you voted for …… Canadian books need to be opened and placed on the taxpayers table…. could we have a few billion in reserve as Mr. Flaherty hinted or could we be multi billions in debt as many professionals have suggest…. and is Mr. Ignatieff right in asking to see the books???? due tell journalists everywhere… we await with open eyes and hears…

  150. I caught part of it too, David.. even a part of it was too much. Again with the nefarious and long-standing plot between Guy Fawkes and Marinus van der Lubbe in service of the French catholic/communists to overthrow the acknowledged tribune of the people …. or something like that.

    Oh, and Everybody knows that Everybody is against public funding of politics.

    Not a Liar.

  151. David Bakody :

    So happy about your recent concern about waste in the Senate—–while you are focusing on the 30 something Conservative Senators would you see if we are getting our money`s worth out of the 60 odd Liberal Senators ? Check to see if there has been any words of wisdom out of Frank Mahovolich lately.

  152. I have my own tag? Seriously?

    Now that I know you still read my blog, Paul – thank goodness for RSS feeds – I’ll post more, at some point, over there. But the short of it is: fair enough. Last time I wrote: “it may be that Harper’s sin is failing to recognize that his brand of conservatism is destined to cause divisions that, in a minority parliament (or a dysfunctional confederation) are bound to be fatal.” At the time I was thinking that such conservatism could be said to be fatal to the minority parliament or, at a stretch, to confederation; I take your point that it might also be fatal to conservatism itself.

  153. Kody, this is reply to an older post from earlier this morning:

    “Note to my left leaning friends:

    a tax cut is not “spending”.

    It is not a “cost”.

    —— I agree, and I think political parties on all sides are guilty of not being consistent on this.

    It is putting money back into the taxpayer’s hands, and hence most efficiently returning it back into the economy.

    —– partly true, but the important thing here is *what kinds* of tax cuts? I can understand that Harper cut the GST by 2% in order to win the 06 election, while also knowing that while electorally expedient, an income tax cut would have been better for the economy (esp in this crisis in where a bigger savings cushion would alleviate the lack of credit problem). We also would have an extra $11billion and a smaller deficit. You cannot blame liberal media bias for these facts– and not resort to whining that Harper is being criticized for fulfilling liberal media wishes– most economists across the sprectrum agreed about this in 06 and agree now.

    “”The media skewers Harper for even attempting to maintian his ideologically held positions,”

    ——— this may be true for the “alternative” free weeklies like NOW, and from many writers in The Star, but MacLeans has been among those who simply report that Harper (or any other leader) has ideological positions. I’ve heard Coyne or Wells say “he believes x and his tactic to achieve this is move y and let’s see how this plays out.” I’ve never heard them say “sheesh what a jerk,having ideological positions, how dare he, it’s so ideological, eveyone should think like we do on any given issue.” What the PM has been criticized for is not that he loathes Liberals per se (“maintaining”), but that his tactics/ the reaction/his counter reaction/ were a blunder that has needlessly damaged the country and delayed action on the real crisis at hand. Not to mention strengthened the Opposition.

    “and then skewers them when political reality dictates pragmatism must override his ideology (what the media complained he didn’t do enough of, hence his political bullyness).”

    — Again, this whole crisis was set in motion because he chose ideology first, not pragmatism.

    “”The recipe is this: when you’re a conservative, and particularly when you are a successful conservative as Harper most certainly is,

    to the left leaning media, you can never do right. You can only do wrong – even if you are doing what the media had chided you to do the day before.”

    ———- again, true for the ultralefty free weeklies, but for MacLeans & the Globe, the PM is being chided for this egotistical detour to what was to be done “the day before” anyway, only now with more money and more widely spread than would’ve been the day before because the Opposition now has more say.

  154. From “Nothing To Do With Arbroath” suggested by Boing-Boing:

    “At Christmas time we should always spare a thought for those less fortunate than us. After 20 years of bleeding the world, the global financial community has fallen on hard times. These people desperately need our thoughts, prayers and lots of our money. If you have any investments or savings left, or any money left over at the end of the month please, please give generously.”

  155. You know, a week before the economic statement, many, including Andrew Coyne, were advocating the tories get rid of the tax-payer based funding for political parties, implying that would show initiative and leadership. It did (it really is perverse. The greater the voter turnout, the more we pay. Maybe no one should vote, which would save us a bundle). Now some think it was the mean-spirited Harper showing his true ugliness – even though he withdrew the ‘offending’ suggestion.
    What the past week really reminded me of was how Leah Casselman and her rank and file unionists dealt with the Harris Tories – foaming at the mouth, constantly, would be an apt description. Just like the coalition deals with the Harper tories.
    And few seem to dwell on why is it that Quebecers (Dion, Layton and Duceppe are all representing or come from there ) who just cannot let go of the dream of having their own country, plus running the ROC. Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of it, and everyone west of Kenora is too (except for the Leah Casselman clones).
    Would Harper behave differently if he had a majority? You bet he would.
    And the sooner, the better. Even Wells admits this is a desirable outcome.

  156. Wells writes: “Which is why Colleague Coyne is in such a snit this morning. Having painted himself, all full of swagger and bravado, into a corner, the prime minister is now going to walk out on a carpet of tax dollars. Bail out the auto industry? That was last week’s concession. Now it’s forests and mines.”

    ———————–

    You mean, having painted himself into a corner for not having smoked out the cobbled together coalition from the very get-go? Had ‘we’ all been a bit curious as to how it would play itself out? Did the growing strenght of the coalition not partly depend on how the media kept egging on, and on, and on,

    Because if the (mis)merits of the coalition had been analysed earlier on, the country would not have found itself sitting on this panicky driven bandwagon.

    And really, Paul, there are no relevant comparissons to be made with Angela Merkel or Germany; not in respect to leadership and certainly not in respect to coalition governments. Germany and Canada are not comparable in that way.

  157. When I comment on this site,

    another commenter above noted how I (a Harper supporter),

    am “swarmed” by highly partisan Liberals. Reminiscent of highly agitated wasps’ reaction to their hive being disturbed, I would add.

    How fitting that Paul was part of that swarm today.

    As an aside, I am less a Harper supporter, than I am a critic of the media.

    It just so happens that the media is in full Harper derangement syndrome, having lost all pretext of objectivity, overhyping the slightest percieved misstep, ignoring or underplaying his accomplishments, and generally parroting opposition talking points, objectives, and storylines.

    As such, I’ve become a one of “them” (one who doesn’t think all evil in our society is generated from Harper and conservatives).

    Worse yet, one of “them” who dares to disturb this liberal hive.

    It’s too bad they don’t realize that I’m now in the majority.

  158. Speaking of the media, I am a bit curious about one thing.

    The minute the Liberals said that Dion needed to be replaced the media should have said “But Why?” – instead everyone excepted it as a foregone conclusion

    Nobody said, “But if Dion steps down, who will lead the coalition?”

    Why was it so obvious to everyone that Dion had to step down instead of waiting until May?

  159. excepted <– read accepted. good grief

  160. It’s too bad they don’t realize that I’m now in the majority.

    Seriously, get help, Biff.

  161. You know, Kody,

    about twenty years ago I actively campaigned for the Liberal party nominee in my riding (no small dare when living in Alberta!) and even later I had contributed to the Liberal candidates running. I have always felt that all parties should be able to run within elections as long as they have something to offer.

    ‘Something to offer’ left the Liberal party and so I stopped offering my support. It is really that simple for me.

    If you listen to what Harper has to say, he makes a lot of sense. No one is perfect, not even you or me, Kody, but you knew that, right? But you have to read a little bit between the lines because Harper knows he is in old-politicking country and that’s not an easy territory to be in when trying to make some needed changes.

  162. The only changes Harper thinks are needed are the ones that will give him more power.

    He’s done absolutely nothing for this country but p*ss off the majority of us.

  163. Mr.Wart,

    “Nobody said, “But if Dion steps down, who will lead the coalition?”

    —————–

    Nobody had said before Dion had stepped down: “But who will lead the coalition?”

  164. Steve, I really liked Dion because he was committed to things that mattered, like addressing climate change, stimulating the economy and moving it to the future, and helping those who need help — and even US Republicans will admit privately that a carbon tax is a much simpler and cheaper way to price carbon than cap and trade. However, the fact is that Dion was a drag on Liberal votes. The Liberals could neither fight an election nor lead a coalition with Dion, because he turned off too many voters.

  165. “If you listen to what Harper has to say, he makes a lot of sense.”

    What do you mean by that? When you listened to Harper say that his fixed election date law would reduce voter cynicism and increase voter turnout by removing the right of a government to choose election timing to optimize their chances or when he called an election to optimize his chances? When you listened to Harper say he would never run a deficit and that the economy was fine or when you listened to him say he would run a deficit? When you listened to him say after the election that he was going to bring a more collegial atmosphere to Parliament? Exactly when does Harper make any sense? And when he does, won’t he just turn around and say the opposite in a couple weeks?

  166. catherine – I think you’re right. But it was an emotional decision and it wasn’t justified (in the sense that the argument for removing him as leader wasn’t made public).

    I’m sure his supporters thought it was unfair.

  167. It was unfair, but I don’t think Dion or his supporters expect things to be fair. I think the Liberal Party is stronger now for having changed leaders.

    Meanwhile, Harper is a liability to the Conservatives. Harper is unpredictable and capable of bringing out different personalities, so he might pull out a new Harper and do fine for a while. Harper’s trying out his victim personality in CTV’s interview today. However, Harper can’t stick with any one personality for any length of time and there is a significant risk that Harper will take the CPC down with him.

  168. How quickly these propeller-headed liberals forget how “irresponsible” it was of Harper to have warned Canadians in December 2007 of the looming economic crisis…..

    ‘Challenging year’ ahead, Harper warns in year-end interview
    Andrew Mayeda, Ottawa Citizen
    Published: Thursday, December 20, 2007
    OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a sobering message for Canadians this holiday season: Enjoy the eggnog and candy canes while they last, because the party could soon be over.

    The prime minister is warning the public to expect a “challenging year” as a global economic slowdown looms

    Now that Harper’s predictions have come true, Ti-Guy and other predictable idiots have moved from last year’s talking points: “Harper is destroying investor confidence” to this years: “Harper is personally responsible for the global economic slowdown. If he’d have given me an extra 20 bucks per cheque through income tax cuts instead of the $260 per year I save on the GST, its highly probable that Bear Stearns, General Motors and the banking sector in Iceland would be posting record profits today ”

    These gems are brought to you by the same people who would have you believe that banning handguns is the solution to gun crime. If so, why not just ban criminals altogether? If you’re going to call yourself a real critic of Harper, why stop at the global recession? Surely he is also to blame for car accidents and cancer too?

  169. I did write to Mr.Harper expressing my concern of calling an election before the fixed election law.

    But here are the facts: after having called the election, the votes for him increased, so his action on calling an early election have been confirmed by the voter as not the ‘wrong thing’

    You will have to remember that the fixed election law itself might have flaws within, namely that the law does not really deal adequately with minority governments, and that the role being played by the GG is not taken out of the fixed election law.

    Do remember also that when Chretien had called an election very early into a mandate, he had done so with a majority sitting government.

    During the election campaign, the Liberals also had promised not to go into deficit. The economic times are as such that they need some sort of short term deficit. Have you ever had to manage your own financial affairs? Have you ever had to go into debt because of unforeseeen circumstances? If not, then you clearly don’t understand life.

  170. before the fixed election law. = before the fixed election date

  171. Francien! In all sincerity, thank you. That is the very first time I’ve seen a Conservative (except jwl) express dissatisfaction with Mr. Harper.

    Mind you, you kind of ruined it a little bit by then saying, since the votes for him went up, he doesn’t need to have honesty or integrity. Hey, why have those traits–you can’t take them to the bank, and all that matters is power. I get your point, and I DO understand that these are politicians we’re talking about so maybe they are justified in thinking power is all that matters. That is the name of the game they are in.

    But you’re not. And so I’m pleased to see that you did feel uncomfortable, at least for a little while, when Mr. Harper threw away any integrity he may have had for an opportunistic trip to the polls.

    It’s not that I blame him for an opportunistic trip to the polls, just to be clear. I blame him for creating a law that he SAID would prevent him and all Prime Ministers after him from doing so. He didn’t need to do that, and it just makes him look silly now.

    As for the deficit that everybody said they wouldn’t run, I blame the media and by extension, the Canadian people for that one. Why force our politicians to lie to us with stupid questions like that? They can’t say “yes, yes I would consider a deficit if I felt it was necessary,” (even though that’s the truth) while in the middle of an election. It’s just political suicide. See the difference between these last two paragraphs?

  172. Kody: “Harper Derangement Syndrome” ? Really, jumping the shark so quickly? Read the other posts and respond to the *points* they make, don’t just splat Limbaugh-worthy catchphrases in your attack of the media. You act as if there is no nuance to be seen– “either you’re with Harper or you ‘re against him.” Do you support the PM’s ideology but regret his tactics, or do you support his tactics but have mixed views about his ideology? No one can tell b/c you’re more interested in restating “he’s our PM so he should be respected for that reason alone” and not a back and forth debate.

  173. Hey Brian, how’re those stocks that you bought doing? You know, the ones which Harper recommend you buy to take advantage of the dip? Afterall, anything bad that would’ve happened would’ve happened, right?

    Austin

  174. We don’t need to save the auto industry executives or unions. We need to retreat, retrain, relocate.

    Chanakya was the Chief Minster of Chandragupta Maurya between 323 and 298 B.C. Prior to Chandragupta’s reign Alexander the Great’s legacy had left much of the Indian region under corrupt foreign rule. Chandragupta with Chanakya’s guidance was able to raise an army and eventually seize control of much of what is now known as India and reign over it for the betterment of the people for 25 years. This achievement is considered legendary to this day.

    V. K. Subramanian has compiled a collection of The Maxims of Chanakya with both the original Sanskrit and the English translation. Chanakya has been referred to as the “Machiavelli of India”, but I do not regard that as a fair parallel. Chanakya was a pragmatist believing that wealth was both the goal and the cornerstone of the state, however he also believed that wealth should be used to cultivate the best in rulers and the kingdom. Chanakya believed:

    Nothing should be allowed to remain of debts, enemies and disease.

    But he did not believe in direct confrontation if it could be avoided. He always felt it better to “win over” these three evils than waste the resources of the state. The method was “other people’s money” pitting one opponent against another instead of pitting oneself against either.

    The American people consider “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as fundamental rights. Is not life the elimination of disease? Is not liberty the elimination of enemies? Is not happiness the elimination of debt? Perhaps if the United States and every nation made providing disease elimination healthcare, enforcing inequality elimination laws and observing debt elimination economics the only working goals of the government, business and people we would all be “healthy, wealthy and wise”.

    The United States, Europe and Australia are completely out to lunch with the Keynesian crap. We need to take the credit industry and eviscerate it. We have no moral obligation to banks or corporations. There is no crisis, just a manufactured effort to concentrate real wealth by money lenders and make countries take on the burden vacuous paper credit assets. If the governments were rational they would seize ownership of national mineral and food resources, dismantle the multinationals, forgive their citizens’ debt and redistribute the wealth equitably. It’s not communism, it’s the removal of worthless psychopaths from power.

    So Canada isn’t being caught up in the global madness. Fine by me.

  175. And of the “derangement” about which I speak?

    It is so, not merely because Harper is a highly successful conservative. That would lead to frustration yes, but something more is required.

    The answer to that “something” more lies in the genesis of a comment someone made about me in a thread of Paul’s regarding my comment on how the media covers the deaths of soldiers. I made the point about a little child who dies from not wearing his seat belt, not having the cameras follow his little casket. He only gets a regular obit.

    In response a liberal commenter noted their surprise at my thoughtfulness and sensitivity towards a poor dead child. That wasn’t the first time a liberal was surprised that I showed indications that I showed ANY sign that I was not an insensitive monster. A cold, calculating robot or “conbot” (which is the insult de jure so common around here).

    While I may disagree with the left, I can appreciate where their heart is. Yes they are wrong, but they mean well. Therefore, I disagree, but I cannot hate.

    My firm belief in sound economics, in free markets, in historical and cross-national comparisons in which socialized economies produce devastating calamaties on the populace, compared to the prosperity of free market countries (no not everyone is equal, but that can never be the case, but overall everybody is better off and the poor are less poor than in the socialist utopias) brings me comfort in knowing what I believe, leads to the betterment of humankind, and will lead to a better world for my three young children (oh God no, the “conbot” cares for young children).

    From the left, my beliefs are not merely disagreed with. All too often they are hated. My belief that instead of giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day, we build a fish processing plant and feed his whole community for a lifetime, is “cold”, uncaring. Why? They only see that I choose not to give the man the fish, but they ignore that I seek to have something even better for him. They shudder when I oppose the unionization of the fish plant, but ignore that my concern lies in the plant dying (as it is now undeniable that high labor costs is what has killed the “big three auto co’s” – clear to me at least).

    That the left presumes malice, and not a firm belief in what is right for all of us, explains the vitriol and “swarming” of me. But more importantly, it explains the left and the media’s oftentimes childlike hatred of Harper. That is why the only compliment folks can muster of him around here (including Wells himself) is really a backhanded compliment – his cunningness. “You have to respect how good he does his eeevil ways, with his whole communications thing, tricking us all so well.”

    When folks complain about the level of discourse here, and in the house of commons, it may be wise to look inward as well as pointing the finger. I would ask the leftist media to do the same, but they appear to be a lost cause, incapable of even a scentilla of introspection.

  176. “During the election campaign, the Liberals also had promised not to go into deficit”

    You were not paying attention. The Liberals said they would not CAUSE a deficit, but that Harper already had. Harper insisted we were heading for a surplus and he said he would never run a deficit.

    You can read what Harper said about the fixed election date law when he introduced it and it was pure lies. Sure, lies work on lots of people. Some people prefer lies to the truth. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking the lies make sense.

  177. Harper ’caused’ the deficit?

    Catherine, you really do suffer from the derangement syndrome of which kody speaks.

  178. Wes, the arguments are clear – by increasing spending at such a significant rate (much of it on things of little value,) eliminating our safety cushion and cutting the GST just in the leadup to a global economic downturn, Harper left Canada unnecessarily exposed and caused our economy to falter sooner. Now, by delaying taking protective measures, it may be too late to have the optimal effect. Present your own counter arguments as to why the increased spending and GST cut were good or neutral if you wish, but many experts will disagree.

  179. Catherine is right. Canada’s structural deficit was eliminated in large part by the introduction of the GST. Now Harper has brought the structural deficit back by reducing the GST. Our economist Prime Minister has wrecked our fiscal equilibrium. Harper : Not a leader.

  180. Catherine: “eliminating our safety cushion and cutting the GST just in the leadup to a global economic downturn, Harper left Canada unnecessarily exposed and caused our economy to falter sooner.”

    Catherine, you (like most journalists) don’t know the difference between the current Federal Budgetary balance and the entire frickin economy. You and many others would now argue for the government to go into deficit to stimulate the economy, having just argued that going into deficit (GST cut) caused the economy to falter. Neither contain much in the way of truth, but are mutually exclusive.

  181. Some people prefer lies to the truth.

    A Liberal typed these words, without a hint of irony. Just let that soak in for a while.

    Paul’s post is painful because it is true. But for the want of 11 more seats, the country is going to get a dose of bad economic policy in the form of bailouts for dying industries. It is deeply frustrating because, as with supply management, every last person in that Tory cabinet and caucus knows that it is demonstrably bad policy, proven time and again to be completely counter-productive. Once that bailout money is spent, the fundamental problems faced by those industries will remain. The big three auto makers will still be facing uncompetitive wages and benefits for their employees, and a steadily shrinking market for their products. The forest industry will still be looking at having their largest customer, the United States, in an ugly housing slump that is going to take years to resolve itself, as opposed to months.

    As for money for shipbuilding, words fail me, except to say that this is precisely the kind of policy that gets made when everyone knows the government is handing out free money like it is kid’s day at the fair. Everyone is going to line up for their fair share of the bacon, and why not? This is precisely how the U.S. bailout package went down – if you were an influential Congressman or Senator, and you didn’t manage to get some pork for your constituency, then you just weren’t trying very hard.

    The reason why Canada’s economy is in a better spot than many other nations is precisely the kind of policy decisions that the opposition has pilloried. (It is actually amazing that Ontario isn’t in worse shape than it is, given all that has gone on. The job losses, while difficult, pale in comparison to the way the workforce was decimated during the last two major recessions.) The tax cuts injected a good dose of liquidity into the economy, giving consumers real gains in disposable income. Those gains, unlike the phony stimulus packages in the States, were earned through economic growth and debt reduction, debt reduction that will now allow Canada to do further stimulus as required.

    Here’s the larger question — why is it that such a strong political consensus has emerged surrounding a policy option (direct taxpayer bailouts) that has been so thoroughly discredited? If we really wanted to help struggling Canadians, we should advocate for a sharp rise in the basic personal deduction for income tax. Canada starts taxing people at one of the lowest rates of income of any of the major industrialized nations, and it is not something of which we should be proud. This is a tax cut that would benefit everyone, but would disproportionately benefit students and the working poor. What’s more, we know that these groups will immediately spend these tax savings to improve their standard of living. This strikes me as a far more sensible method of stimulus than multiple bailouts.

  182. Mule Head : “Catherine is right. Canada’s structural deficit was eliminated in large part by the introduction of the GST. Now Harper has brought the structural deficit back by reducing the GST. Our economist Prime Minister has wrecked our fiscal equilibrium.”

    The brain dead gives props to the stupid. Beautiful. I’ll Translate: “When the Federal Government has more of my money and therefore a surplus I’m better off.” You may be, but only if you are unemployed, which then translates to: “I’m better off if the Federal Government has more of your money.”

    Mullet, one of the really good things about a cash strapped govermnment is that it is the only way they even come close to efficiency. Canada’s Federal govenment is a bureaucratic leviathan of waste, slop, incompetence, nepostism, empire building crap. Their are legions of drones in Ottawa that busy themselves attending meeting after meeting regurgitating buzzwords they heard on their latest junket to some forum or other. A thousand of them couldn’t set up and operate a lemonade stand without outside consultants, an environmental assessment and impact study, a team of lawyers, food inspectors, a diversity plan, eqaul opportunity hiring goals, a pay equity expert and PR folks, as well as forennsic auditors to determine what went wrong before the first lemon was put in harm’s way.

    Just trimming 1% of the bloat would be a national service.

  183. Peter @ 12:30

    Comment of the year.

    By a long shot.

  184. Peter, what examples can you give of efficiency? All the outward appearances suggest otherwise. Harper’s motorcade to travel the block to the GG was longer than ever (previous MPs simply walked), his cabinet is as bloated as ever, and staff paid by our taxes standing on street corners protesting the coalition hardly suggest that Harper is more efficient because his government coffers are empty.

  185. Problem one: Inefficiency of government is assumed with no proof. Even worse, inefficiency of government relative to inefficiency of large business is completely uninspected.

    Problem two: A government being short on cash does not lead to a government spending less. Reference: Conservative government 2007/2008 which has been working in an operational deficit for the majority of the period, buoyed only by bond sales which although not recorded as operational debt, do mean the government will be having to pay back a lot of money in future.

  186. And further to my point above:

    to Catherine,

    facts never change,

    honest mistakes are never made,

    pressures that once didn’t exist, never materialize,

    only “lies” are made…….by Harper.

    Her chosen leader. Yes of course, he’s human, humans can be forgiven, complex matters require nuance after all.

    Harper? He’s not human. Not in the sense that she thinks of humanity. To her all of Harper’s actions lead not only to disagreement, but scathing, hateful scorn.

    The derangement is real.

    Thankfully it is suffered by a relatively small number of Canadians, though regrettably, a significant number journalists have also caught the fever. A fever that will be alleviated only when the world is righted again and a left leaning party has rightfully regained its place of power over us.

    Until then, watch the fever pitch intensify. Watch how the world is turned on its head, such as,

    in an instant, fighting seperatism becomes not a noble act of federalistic bravery (as was the case with the Liberals for decades), but a slight to all the people of Quebec (when in that instant, the Bloc joins forces with the media’s darlings to take down the CPC),

    and in that same instant raising the Bloc’s stature to that of national governance – that was overlooked,

    it was suddently daring to call an avowed seperatist a “seperatist” that became the threat to national unity.

    The media didn’t bat an eye, in turning the federalist struggle on its head, when to do so meant a narrative that blamed the eeevil Harper.

  187. Wow – the CPC are damned if they do and damed if they don’t with you left wing media, huh!

    First you are blaming Harper cause he isn’t doing anything – then you are blaming him for poking a stick in the eye of a Coup wanting to grab power – then you are blaming him for calling for a time out instead of an election – now you are blaming him for doing something that the opposition and the media have been screeching for him to do!!

    So what is is – do you want him to do something for the economy or not? Make up your minds, because it is extremely confusing trying to wrap our heads around just what it is that you people want from the Conservative Government.

  188. Catherine,

    I am talking about the Government as in the departments, not the Privy Council. The 100’s of thousands not the few. Cabinet will waste, no doubt, but a million here and there are not my issue, billions are. I have clients in the computer business, among others, the Feds still shovel it out the door at the fiscal y/e, still operating on the use it or lose it guaranteed expenditure growth model. It doesn’t get more inefficient than that.

  189. Dennis Prouse – ….If we really wanted to help struggling Canadians, we should advocate for a sharp rise in the basic personal deduction for income tax. Canada starts taxing people at one of the lowest rates of income of any of the major industrialized nations, and it is not something of which we should be proud. This is a tax cut that would benefit everyone, but would disproportionately benefit students and the working poor. What’s more, we know that these groups will immediately spend these tax savings to improve their standard of living. This strikes me as a far more sensible method of stimulus than multiple bailouts.
    ————

    There is some sense to what Dennis Prouse writes. And lowering income tax would be more intelligent then say…cutting the GST. The only stipulation I would add is that we then agree to RAISE income tax when the economy improves. But that’s where the Neocons get off the bus right? Ah the pleasures of ideological thinking. So simple. So elegant. So half-right.

  190. T. Thwim,

    Inefficiency of large business is not my concern unless I am an owner, then it is my fault.

    Inefficiency of government is obvious, as a taxpayer, I am an owner without recourse.

  191. Sure, Peter. That’s why Jim Flaherty was dubbed “the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada” by Andrew Coyne when he emerged from the March 2007 budget lock up – because the Conservative Party of Canada believes, as you do, that everything the government does is an inefficient waste of time and money. It must really gall you that Flaherty’s 2007 budget was the biggest one ever in the history of Canada.

    Oh, and by the way, I notice that you didn’t address the original point about creating a structural deficit by reducing revenues from the GST. But I did very much appreciate your post. Keep the diatribes and insults coming, I feed off your righteous anger.

  192. >Here’s the larger question — why is it that such a strong political consensus has emerged surrounding a policy option (direct taxpayer bailouts) that has been so thoroughly discredited?

    Panic among the uninformed. Among the informed, the knowledge that free-spending governments are opportunities for enrichment if you know where to find the teat.

    But that is one of the points, if not the point, our host has put up for discussion. The government could have chosen the path of an explanatory fiscal update – reveal all, or at least most, of the cards – followed by a disciplined budget, and worked to convey the supporting message: Canada’s finances are in good shape; projections are not irretrievably dismal for Canada; we can work the problem conservatively without blowing massive sums spending down blind alleys.

    But, the government did not take that path. Instead, possibly irked by the unwillingness of Canadians to return a CPC majority, or possibly to pre-empt a rumoured parliamentary opposition manoeuvre, or for some other reason, it took the path on which we walk. So know the problem being worked is politics rather than governance, and the government is reacting rather than driving. “Reacting” often is synonymous with “spending” to shore up support. Now that the keg has been tapped, everyone wants a taste despite the fact there can clearly never be enough to go around.

  193. Reducing GST revenues – and other sources, via various tax cuts or social spending masquerading as tax cuts – did not create a structural deficit. What we had was an engineered structural surplus. In the very recent past, each such surplus was correctly criticized as unnecessary and people and media commentators wondered – repeatedly – when the federal government would undertake to balance its operating budget more closely. The government delivered that. Paul Wells wrote several columns pointing out how the Harper government appeared to be playing a long game to carefully shut down various streams of “windfall” revenues which would constrain future governments. We still don’t need to have a “structural deficit”, unless we elect a government which decides to have one.

  194. Government inefficiency is “proven” to the extent that proof by example matters. I worked for several small business owners who managed shifts – number and duration – closely to accommodate demand. A government office may easily be inflexibly over- or under-staffed. Either is inefficient: operating expenses are borne unnecessarily, or the public at large is time-taxed.

  195. Peter is absolutely correct.
    BTW, in part because of the GST cuts, I spent more freely this past year.
    For instance:

    1. I bought a gun.
    2. I went on a hunting trip.
    3. I shot an elk, which necessitated buying a new freezer.

    The above was at least $100 cheaper because of the GST cuts. Plus I still have the gun, and a freezer full of tasty and nutritious elk meat, which will do me good no matter what the depth/breadth of the looming recession/depression.
    Had I got an income tax cut and saved that money (which is what the ‘experts’ say would likely have occurred), I’d probably have lost most of it over the last couple of months.

  196. Peter, Harper & Flaherty have increased spending by about 17% since they took over, so what evidence is there of any increased efficiency? I see no evidence that Flaherty or Harper are concerned with spending tax money wisely. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary.

  197. How ’bout spending as a percentage of GDP?

    When a business gets busier they spend more (revenues and expenses both go up). Same with government. (I’m sure the Ugandan government spends less than Canada’s, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign of greater efficiency)

    That’s why spending as a percentage of GDP is a better contextual gauge.

    It’s also why Catherine won’t touch it, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

    Harper “bad” remember.

  198. Here’s a quote from a union guy complaining about the exact opposite of Catherine’s complaint – that government spending is dropping (using % of GDP numbers):

    “It’s interesting to track Canada’s GDP, and the federal government’s total spending from 2003 to 2007. During that time, of course, the GDP of Canada increased every year, from $1,213,175,000,000 to $1,531,427,000,000. Canada has been getting richer.

    But in that same time period, our federal government’s total spending as a share of GDP fell every single year, from 15.59% in 2003, to 15.28% in 2004, to 15.05% in 2005, to 14.86% in 2006, to 14.6% in 2007. It is a very consistent pattern.”

    Note the continued shrinking government under Harper.

  199. “How ’bout spending as a percentage of GDP?”

    Because the need for elections, health care, education, policing, and the like, do not expand and contract in step with a nation’s overall GDP.

  200. What has happened to MacClean, has everyone gone nuts starting from the Harper’s Nanny State article. It was so filled with bile and unsubstantiated invective I can’t even read it…Even Barbara Amiel, was up in the air exploring a convicts mind ( understandabley so.)Y our opinon eds this month read like ramblings from residents of the North Bay Centre for the Mentally Disturbed. I’d venture I would get more common sense from the patients there. I often go to McClean’s for a sanity fix and Well’s in depth coverage after the gut wrenching, insane speculations and mouth frothing reactions of the national media, stretching and squeezing, puffing and pulling the daily news way out of rational porportion.
    Why did Harper force the oppostion’s hand with the Economic Update. For the very reasons he stated. Getting government to be an example of the same belt tightening they were going to ask of the Canadian population.
    To achieve this he also had clean up the House and get rid of obstacles to governing. Like any man will clean his workshop and place his tool in order before taking on a new project. First task, get the opposition to lay down their cards in front of all Canadians. Expose the supposed Emporers in waiting, Dion and Layton.. The country was entering and economic crises. It would be near impossible to run a conservative government when the Bloc could block your legislation and the coalition threaten to bring down the government at every turn.
    Certainly the people could see the importance of taking the course first by example then launching critical legislation or not launching it if it would be bad for the future. He called the Coalition’s bluff and only 30% of Canadians supported the Bloc backed two headed monster. And most of those were Bloc supporters in Quebec.

  201. Sean:

    wrong.

    Variable costs (as opposed to step variable or fixed costs) abound:

    More commerce, more trucks, thus more road repairs.

    More businesses, more audits, therefore more auditors required.

    More sales, more taxes need to be administered. ect ect

    I’m not saying the government doesen’t need to be more efficieint. In fact I called the comment above regarding government waste “the best comment of the year.”

    Once again, I object to the raving anti-Harper sentiment, and the penchant to throw away facts/context to get there.

  202. Kody, Our real GDP has risen between 2.5 and 3% per year since Harper was elected, so that accounts for less than half of the increase. If you take uncorrected GDP, then spending does show a marginal decrease as percentage of GDP — but less than half the decrease of our provincial budgets over the same period.

    Efficiency means looking at what is provided/achieved relative to the cost. None of these numbers give any evidence of efficiency. If there was substantial waste before Harper as Peter claims, no one has provided any evidence of waste reduction.

  203. Yes, Jean, I always get off the bus when tax increases are being proposed. That is because tax increases act as a disincentive to productivity, and cause a flight of capital. If you can cite an economy that taxed its way to prosperity, I would be interested in hearing about it.

    Tax cuts, however, must be paid for through productivity gains. This was the problem with the last U.S. “stimulus package”. Remember the cheques that the U.S. government mailed to everyone last April? That was all borrowed money, a.k.a. deferred taxation. The growth in government spending in the U.S. has been shockingly irresponsible. For our part, our growth in government spending in Canada, while not nearly as high, has still been troubling in both Liberal and Conservative governments, More could have been done during the boom to both lower taxes and cut the national debt, actions that would have left Canada in better shape to fend off the global downturn. It truly was a lost opportunity.

  204. Brad swallows
    I follow your argument that returning the surplus was consistent and arguably the correct thing to do, if you accept canadians are overtaxed, as a whole. Surely it’s here Harper went astray. If the gst was useful in bringing down our national debt, doesn’t it follow that it might later prove useful again in tackling other headaches, like ,i don’t know… climate change. But of course there’s politics- that always has to trump commansense. I see you conveniently leave out the bit about H’s gov then proceeding onward to become the largest spending gov of all time. No objection personally to con policies that are consistent, and make good sense. i don’t see much of that here though.

  205. “Alberta Girl “: There is not point trying to make sense of Harper Derangement Syndrome. The only thing you can do is recognize the symptoms so that you can take appropriate evasive action, and go elsewhere for reasonable conversation.

  206. “Alberta Girl “: There is not point trying to make sense of Harper Derangement Syndrome. The only thing you can do is recognize the symptoms so that you can take appropriate evasive action, and go elsewhere for reasonable conversation.

  207. Alberta girl
    It’s also important to keep a grip on reality
    Harper’s stike in the eye happened before the coup attempt, not the oher way round
    harper arguably prorogued HOC for self interest ie lossing a confidence vote. A time out was added bonus
    On the qestion of the economy he’s been all over the place. If he is in fact going to do what everyone is screaming at him, then i guess we’ll all have nobody to blame but ourselves. If you’re confused, don’t worry to much, so’s most everyone else.

  208. If you can cite an economy that taxed its way to prosperity, I would be interested in hearing about it.
    ——————

    Oh…I’ll see your one economy and raise you an entire region. How about Scandinavia?

    On the other hand, you know who doesn’t pay a lot of taxes? Somalis.

  209. Brad : until our accumlated debt is for all intents and purposes zero, and as long as the surplus was being used to pay down the debt in good times, nobody was against this. Taking away the federal government’s fiscal room to maneuver when the economy is heading towards recession is the purest folly. Now we have nothing to cushion the blow of recession – even without spending money propping up the car industry or any variety of other industries, stimulus packages, etc. we are heading into deficit based on automatic stabilizers such as unemployment insurance and welfare. Actually, the federal government currently is in deficit – Flaherty has cooked the books once again by showing revenues he doesn’t have from asset sales, just like he did when he was Finance Minister in Ontario. But apparently you do not recognize the reality of the business cycle or its impact on fiscal outcomes.

    As Wells has pointed out before, lower taxes means less revenue. Lower GST means less revenue. The Laffer Curve is meaningless for consumption tax and anyway has such a small effect for a change between a 7% and a 5% GST rate that it has virtually no effect. I have said it before and I will say it again : Harper’s GST cut has created a structural deficit. The federal government can no longer finance itself without running a deficit. Time to face reality. Harper – Not A Leader.

  210. Putting 54 billion of EI money into general revenue, and shifting some of the federal financial burdens onto the provinces are two ways for eliminating deficits.

    In fact, there is evidence.

  211. Without a Net: Sweden was rich long before their excessively high tax rates. Same with Denmark. Norway is a petrol nation. Somalia is a failed state in constant civil war with no effective government at all, it is not an absence of taxes but an absence of government that is the problem.

  212. Jenn,

    I think it is very normal to express one’s opinion on an act of the party leader one does not agree with.

    I wonder how many NDP’ers have written Jack expressing concern about his complete election promise reversal. Or does the NDP party not express disagreement with its leader?

  213. “So what is is – do you want him to do something for the economy or not? Make up your minds, because it is extremely confusing trying to wrap our heads around just what it is that you people want from the Conservative Government.”

    ———————-

    Alberta girl,

    they want Harper gone. Out. Now. It’s really that simple.

  214. alberta girl
    you’re right!

  215. francien
    my mistake. You’re right!

  216. kc,

    I never knew this was about being right or wrong. All I’m looking for is some reasonable explanations through argumentation. Isn’t that what all reasonable people would be looking for?

  217. francien
    yes the to and fro of argument is good. Trouble is all i ever see from you is a lot of toing and little or no froing.

  218. but kc,

    when posters circumvent the real issues by simply skimming over the surface or veering off in all directions just so they can miss the point, would be pointless, would it not?

  219. Mullet, That 2% GST cut put $12 Billion in the hands of Canadian taxpayers annually, $12 B i l l i o n !!.

    You state “meaningless for consumption tax and anyway has such a small effect for a change between a 7% and a 5% GST rate that it has virtually no effect. I have said it before and I will say it again : Harper’s GST cut has created a structural deficit.” In order to state that with a shred of credibility, you must be able to argue the corollary with a straight face; i.e. a 2% increase from 7% to 9% would have had no deleterious effects on the economy. Clearly the Federal Government would not be in deficit, so why not? Those 2 points don’t do much after all. In fact, by your logic, how about 15%? We should all be knee deep in cash, I doubt the Mercedes dealers could cope with demand.

  220. sf – Sweden was rich long before their excessively high tax rates. Same with Denmark. Norway is a petrol nation. Somalia is a failed state in constant civil war with no effective government at all, it is not an absence of taxes but an absence of government that is the problem.

    ——————-

    Actually, no. Scandinavia was a traditionally a poor region of Europe It was with the rise of the welfare state that they became one of the most prosperous regions on earth (or in human history for that matter) and its people started to enjoy probably the highest quality of life in the world.

    In any event you do not challenge the fact that even with their “excessively high tax rates” they are somehow still rich. And what’s more that wealth is spread much more evenly in their society. Interesting that.

    RE: Somalia – Nice to hear a conservative cite the “absence of government” as a problem. That may be a first for me. Baby steps.

  221. Nice to hear a conservative cite the “absence of government” as a problem. That may be a first for me. Baby steps.

    Well, stick around, pal, you might continue to learn a thing or two, maybe even start to walk. If your brain wants to equate conservative principles of limited government with anarchy, then your brain needs help.

  222. sf – ha! nah, just as close to anarchy as possible right? just so long as the taxes go towards paying for police and the army.

    nothing more to say about how Sweden’s “excessively high tax rates” have somehow miraculously correlated with one of the richest countries in the world? No? We’re moving on?

  223. Buddy, if you want to believe that “the rise of the welfare state” has led to Swedish utopian prosperity I won’t stop you. I’m not movin’ on. IKEA’s founder, however, sure as heck did — taking his wealth away from that confiscatory paradise.

  224. madeyoulook
    Are you serious.The welfare state has not played a role in the general rise of prosperity since say the second WW? If you want to argue that at some point the wf states contradictions begins to outweigh it’s benefits, i’m with you.

  225. Jean Proulx: “Actually, no. Scandinavia was a traditionally a poor region of Europe It was with the rise of the welfare state that they became one of the most prosperous regions on earth (or in human history for that matter) and its people started to enjoy probably the highest quality of life in the world.”

    A quick search of the actual prosperity of countries reveals your argument to not only be facile, but actually refutes your theory.

    Selected countries by GDP per capita:

    USA 6
    Ireland 7
    Canada 12
    Sweded 16

    Leaving the US and Canada out, Ireland was actually the poorest region of Europe, but has risen in only 20 years to one oof it’s wealthiest, by shriniking the welfare state and slashing taxes. Sweden is on the decline, and with it’s oppressive welfare state has reduced the birthrate to near 0, relying exclusively on immigration to replace its citizens. These immigrants have refused to live by Swedish norms, causing massive social strife. Paradise? Please.

  226. Jean Proulx, more fun with numbers. GDP per capita figures for most of the world from 1969 to 2007 can be downloaded as time series in Excel. Very easy to rank and sort, compare growth rates, etc. as you no doubt know.

    Sweden’s growth rate over this period of 38 years is the third lowest in Europe, behind only the Netherlands and Denmark. Good old socialism at work in the progressive paradises? Your argument that Scandanavia was traditionally poor region is bogus. In the 60’s it was the wealthiest part of Europe, but has been caught and passed by less “progressive” regions. You just pulled that out of your hat and hoped, didn’t you?

    Ireland growth rate during this period was the highest in Europe, over double Swedens, and vaulted them from 4th worst to 2nd best in Europe in this same period.

  227. Peter – These immigrants have refused to live by Swedish norms, causing massive social strife.

    ———–

    Thank you for educating me Peter. I did not realize Stockholm was on fire.

  228. Peter – More fun with numbers. GDP per capita figures for most of the world from 1969 to 2007 can be downloaded as time series in Excel. Very easy to rank and sort, compare growth rates, etc. as you no doubt know…Your argument that Scandanavia was traditionally poor region is bogus. In the 60’s it was the wealthiest part of Europe, but has been caught and passed by less “progressive” regions. You just pulled that out of your hat and hoped, didn’t you?
    ———-

    Oh Peter, I know all about having fun with numbers and I agree that’s what you are doing. You see its all which numbers you use. You conveniently choose to start looking beginning at 1969 once Scandinvaia was already very wealthy.

    Your confusion is related to the fact that I used the word “traditionally” and you assumed this implied only going back 40 years. I am, of course, looking at a larger historical tableaux than you. If you back before the 20th century, you will see that Scandinavia was economically marginal (compared to countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany, etc.) It was only with the embrace of the welfare system (yes, well before 1969 my number-manipulating friend) that the region started to become so fabulously prosperous. Actually Canada presents a similar case study. Was the welfare state the ONLY reason for this prosperity? I would not go that far. But it certainly is conspicuous and it certainly does not appear to have hurt :)

    And I’m sorry I don’t have time series data for you. I instead rely on an elementary knowledge of history. By all means though, continue playing with your calculator.

  229. Jean Proulx: ” I instead rely on an elementary knowledge of history.” That is one of your more accurate statements, no doubt about it. I only spent enough time to find numbers back 40 years, they are very much at odds with your all too elementary knowledge. Where is Swedens vaunted prosperity? It has been caught and passed by countries which value hard work rather than punish it.

    What say you on Ireland? Its GDP per capita was one third of Sweden’s 40 years ago, and today is larger.

  230. Peter: With respect to Ireland, examine their post-secondary system. They may have reduced taxes, but they did so in concert with a massive reduction in tuitions as well.

    However, at this stage, I’d be careful at looking at what anybody’s supposed “productivity” is.. especially because that number contains financial transactions as well, and I think we need to see what the shake-out is after this financial bubble has popped.

  231. How naive, Peter. You expect to change a closed mind with actual factual evidence? Good luck with that.

    Hey, I mean all that in a good way…

  232. For several years in succession each federal government has become the greatest spender over all its predecessors. However, as a measure of %GDP the CPC government has held its spending approximately steady. In dollars, program expenses took a jump in the 2008 budget (over 2007) by a little under $7B. Transfers to other levels of government increased by just over $4B – which is where most of the past few years of spending growth has occurred – and about $1.5B was new initiatives. There is also year-over-year inflation to be accounted; I can’t find an exact measure but on a base amount of $200B+ it must be worth a couple of $B. I obtained those numbers from the fin.gc.ca website.

    If former governments broke the deficit by downloading expenses, we should be satisfied that current and recent governments have been making restitution.

    The “structural deficit” is easy to fix – cut some spending. Not much needs to be cut to make up the difference. But for those who support the Liberal/NDP spending proposals – please cleanly admit that $30B in combined revenue (tax) cuts and spending increases is not something that can be swept under the carpet as a “tiny deficit” or balanced out with “modest cuts”. No one who desires a Liberal or Liberal/NDP government based on their current platforms has much basis for criticizing the Conservatives for overspending or undertaxing.

  233. Brad, you won’t find a liberal or NDP supporter criticizing the conservative government for overspending. That’s simply a straw-man you’ve made up.

    You will find them criticizing the conservatives for promising one thing, and then delivering completely another. And if you want to be really accurate, what’s actually being criticized is the blind willingness of the conservative supporter to swallow the load and say it was the tasty treat they were expecting all along. The criticism is at the average conservative voter who is so far into their partisanship that any disconnect between what the conservative party promises and what the conservative party does is simply glossed over.

    That worries us. It worries us because it suggests that conservative supporters are willing to ignore being repeatedly lied to by their party and we find ourselves asking, “Why? What on earth makes these people happy to see conservative government governing like Liberals other than the fact that it’s called a conservative government” and when you start thinking along those lines the mind quickly turns to things like bill C-10, C-61, C-484, and the various other bills pointing the way to social conservatives legislatively oppressing their beliefs and values upon others.

  234. T. Twit:“Brad, you won’t find a liberal or NDP supporter criticizing the conservative government for overspending. That’s simply a straw-man you’ve made up.”

    Fer Chrissakes Twit, check bac 20-30 posts in this same thread, the exact criticism you claim isn’t there is right infront of your face.

  235. >Brad, you won’t find a liberal or NDP supporter criticizing the conservative government for overspending. That’s simply a straw-man you’ve made up.

    It is not. There are plenty of bloggers and commenters who accept what they’re told – that the Conservative government has set a new high watermark for budget expenditures (true) – and run with it on face value. Basically, it’s the “tu quoque” bandwagon, but with a convenient memory hole for how Liberals have governed and a willingness to ignore the implications of what exactly the Liberals and NDP propose. I’m not entirely satisfied with the Conservative approach to spending, but I try to temper it with an understanding of which spending is worthy and which is just cheap politics.

    The “disconnect” is the understanding that what the government must do in the interests of all Canadians including those who didn’t vote CPC is not always going to align with what I prefer. Sometimes the government will not favour my interests because it is deliberately courting votes. I accept that. “Not one step back” and “NIMBY” are not helpful principles to follow if we are to have a society rather than clans. So from where I sit, much of the criticism being levelled by Liberal and NDP supporters is self-criticism. They are making ad hominem arguments (in the proper sense: arguing “to the person” that he should stand by his principles), but those can only be vacuous appeals to anyone who is not a rigid ideologue.

    Who is the “us” whose favoured party does not also lie and subscribe to weak economic tenets and practices?

  236. Peter, go back to the kids table, please. When you can come back with something other than name calling, perhaps the grown-ups will speak to you.

    Brad, fair points. I would suggest however that the length and breadth of the lies espoused by the conservative party are unrivalled by other parties in Canada to date. Typically, the lie of a political party is to promise one thing and then not do it. However, when it comes to Mr. Harper, his lying has quite often being promising one thing, and then actively doing the exact opposite. What is more, the overarching theme of his ’06 campaign wasn’t on the policy/day announcements, but rather that he was going to govern differently and better than the Liberals. I think it’s fairly obvious at this point that his governing style has not been a bit different, except for the ways in which it is nastier and more wasteful (ie 10 percenters, the two year “Not-a-leader” non-election election campaign, etc.)

    Perhaps I’m not as into the blogging scene as some, but, at least for me, I’ve never approached the issue without an understanding that the Liberals and NDP also spent more.. but the difference is that the supporters of these parties typically approve of these things. Hell, there was a lot of grumbling amongst Liberals when Martin started announcing his cuts.

    So this brings me back to what I was saying before. The party continues to support Mr. Harper — quite loudly and robustly — despite his repeated betrayals of the supposed financial principles of the conservative ideology. This brings up the question of “Why?” and the answers are not pleasant. I’m pretty strong in believing that were their more grumbles being heard from the conservative party about Mr. Harper’s governance, the vitriol held against him by the opposition would not be nearly as loud. I really wish there were more conservative supporters like you who were willing to say “Yeah, that stuff sucks, but I still like him better because of this, this, and this” rather than the fingers-in-ears “lalala, everything he does is wunnerful” mentality that seems to pervade most of the party.

    After all, it’s only by acknowledging the failures that we can be assured they won’t happen again. I’d really like to see Conservatives taking Mr. Harper to task when he lies on things like softwood lumber negotiations, income trusts, or unelected senators, but then still supporting him. Help make him a better leader by telling him not to make those kind of mistakes rather than encouraging him to go further and further (ie fixed election dates)

  237. Peter, so in character for you to cut words out of context to make a point which is so off-topic it doesn’t even have the honour of being wrong. A 2% GST cut makes a big difference to the deficit, which is now structural because no matter how hot the economy is, the federal government will not be able to cover expenditures with revenues without borrowing. It also undoubtedly encouraged some consumers to spend on big ticket items. For example, a few more people would have purchased automobiles as a result … oops, I guess that didn’t work so well, did it ?

    In fact, the GST cut did nothing to increase consumption in any significant way in the economy. Conservatives can repeat the contrary as much as they want, but they have no numbers to back it up. Consumption taxes are regressive – reducing the rate of consumption taxes is equally regressive. That is why the GST didn’t help – it didn’t put any money in the hands of people who would have spent it. Starting the personal exemption for income tax at $20,000 per year (that’s somebody working on average 2000 hours at $10/hour) would. That is where taxes should have been cut, not the GST. Now there is no flexibility to do that due to the GST cut. Our economist Prime Minister apparently doesn’t get this. Harper – Not A Leader.

  238. The lack of polling information this week is deafening! Give me some good polling stats please. And don’t tell me they don’t have the data and didn’t run polls over the weekend. The idea is absurd.

    If I don’t get a poll result damned soon, I shall have to conclude the last polling stats have been turned on their head. Have Canadians finally come to their senses? One can only hope.

Sign in to comment.