'For all our tough talk we haven’t done half what Martin and Chrétien did'

What would a truly conservative agenda look like?

In a Huffington Post piece about the Harper government’s relationship to conservative principles, Conservative MP Brad Trost questions the government on a number of fronts.

“This isn’t all about winning the next election – we would like to win – but if we are only fixated on winning, we are not starting off with what is good for the country as our first question,” he said in an interview from his riding office is Saskatoon. “That’s why you’ve got the tension,” he said, pointing to the government’s preference for small tax credits over bold changes to the tax code; piecemeal justice legislation designed for the news cycle rather than “principled stuff,” and a feeling among MPs after the Warawa incident that they no longer have the right to speak freely – despite a party policy stating that they do.

Over the years, Trost said, he has heard Conservative party members question why the Harper government is carrying deficits when former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin got Canada’s fiscal house in order. Martin, as Jean Chrétien’s finance minister, slashed the civil service and drastically cut transfers to the provinces in the 1990s to bring Canada’s fiscal house in order. “There is irony to it, for all our tough talk we haven’t done half (of) what Martin and Chrétien did,” Trost said.

There is an interesting discussion to be had here. Given the impact of the GST cuts on the federal balance, would grassroots Conservatives have rather that the Harper government done something else to reduce taxes? Would they have had the government make cuts equal to the revenue lost when the GST was cut? Do they think they would’ve won the 2006, 2008 and 2011 elections following such policies?

(Also: do those who consider themselves considers conservatives believe the government should reduce greenhouse gas emissions through regulations or a market-based system like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade?)

Rob Anders has some other ideas.

Topping Anders’ wish list is the elimination of the capital gains tax, which the Conservatives promised in the 2006 election campaign to kill. He wants to get rid of the GST and cut “several branches of government.” He would also like to see Harper defund the CBC and get out of the banking business by shutting down the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada and regional economic development agencies.