Elizabeth May: Emperor Stephen Harper is wearing no clothes

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      It is reminiscent of the old children’s story. As a naked emperor parades through town, no one but a small child is prepared to point out the obvious. Our modern day parallel is our prime minister’s repeated self-praise of his magnificent raiment of fiscal responsibility. Fortunately, Canadians are not so easily fooled by such imaginary cloth. The bare facts reveal the truth.

      What kind of fiscal responsibility would get us into deficit financing before the global meltdown in financial markets?

      Cutting the GST two percent to win votes when taxpayers are paying $15 billion a year in interest on the national debt was fiscally irresponsible. This reckless revenue reduction eliminated the annual budget surpluses that were directly applied to paying down our national debt. Conservatives were not motivated by sound economic analysis—no economists believed cutting the GST was wise—but by the hope of gaining votes from this tax-cutting shell game. They hoped most of us would not notice that we will end up collectively paying far more in total interest charges from the slower repayment of a larger national debt. There is more than irony in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent statement that Canadian homeowners will significantly reduce their total mortgage interest payments from his decision to reduce the maximum mortgage amortization period from 35 to 30 years. What happened to practicing the fiscal responsibility you preach?

      At the same time that Harper’s Conservatives cut the GST, they also cut corporate taxes, while increasing spending. It doesn’t take an economist to know that if you cut revenue and increase spending, you’ll go into the red. And it is certainly not fiscally responsible to further cut corporate taxes with borrowed money on which additional interest payments will now have to be paid.

      When the late 2008 recession began, as it always does at some point in the business cycle, the Conservatives found themselves caught out with no budget surplus to buffer the normal revenue decline and higher social expenses of an economic downturn. The Conservatives managed in two years to erase the prior decade’s $90-billion national debt reduction. Balancing the federal budget after the Trudeau and Mulroney eras was a painful exercise for most Canadians at very real cost in blood, sweat, and tears. All gone now in a self-promoting spree of deficit spending that will add yet another $90 billion new debt before we balance the budget—maybe. So much for our decade of sacrifice.

      Conservative government meddling in CMHC lending practices has also created a very real risk of significant public financial loss should the housing market soften further. Finance Minister Flaherty hurriedly cancelled the 40-year zero-down mortgages that his government had earlier encouraged only after the stunning credit and housing crash in the United States. Should there be a significant adjustment downwards of Canadian housing prices, Canadian taxpayers could well be on the hook for as much as $125 billion in CMHC-insured higher risk mortgages. No wonder Minister Flaherty is scrambling now in damage-control mode to avert a potential crisis.

      Our international competitors are investing strategically in energy efficiency and renewable energy knowing this conserves the “natural capital” on which the human economy depends. This gives them a head start on who gets the high-quality green energy and manufacturing jobs of the future. Our federal government is putting Canada’s future economic competitiveness and green job creation potential in peril by not providing a robust green energy policy framework to strategically guide private and public sector investment. Instead, by subsidizing fossil fuel production to the tune of over $1 billion a year, the Harper Conservatives channel private investment into an unbalanced petro-economy, causing significant collateral damage to manufacturers, the pulp and paper sector, tourism, and other sectors that are sensitive to U.S-Canadian dollar exchange rates. So much for economic smarts.

      Then to add further insult to economic injury the Conservatives spend an incredible $ 1.2 billion—the equivalent to the investment setting up the national gun registry that Stephen Harper loves to attack—on a short G8/G20 photo-op summit that featured a fake lake and questionable spending in Conservative ridings. So much for election promises of accountability.

      The old stereotype that Conservatives are fiscally responsible and good economic managers has proven itself to be only that: an out-of-date stereotype. The current Conservative government is “conservative” in name only. The Alliance party take-over of the Progressive Conservatives did more than eliminate the “progressive” element of that party. It also moved to a more libertarian bent, without those fiscal instincts so long associated with Conservatives. The new version of “Conservatives” abandoned core principles of fiscal prudence embraced by the Progressive Conservatives they destroyed. A more accurate representation of the Harper Conservatives is that they are fiscally irresponsible and economically misguided, but hope no one notices the naked truth.

      Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada.

      Comments

      28 Comments

      Jack Simpson

      Feb 8, 2011 at 10:49pm

      Does a party leader who appoints a politically correct absentee candidate over a local candidate have any credibility at all? Not with me she doesn't.

      RonS

      Feb 8, 2011 at 11:39pm

      I don't support the Green Party but Ms. May is dead on. These new conservatives are the worst managers of our public assets ever. Look a our own Province. When the Gordo LIbERalS (AKA CONServatives) took power in 2001, BC had just made, under the NDP, the largest ever payment toward reducing the provincial debt and left about 2 bil in the bank for Gordo's mob.

      Guess what happened? He gave it all away, reduced taxes for corporations and went on the spending spree that would make a drunken sailor hitting port for the 1st time in a year envious. Conservative my ass!

      You take it back, Ms. May!

      Feb 8, 2011 at 11:39pm

      It's an insult to libertarians to suggest that Harper is anywhere near our ideals, tax cuts or no.

      RFB

      Feb 9, 2011 at 4:10am

      I see you like to slam Alberta oil, and how Canada subsidizes Alberta oil. Maybe it is time Alberta ended our subsidies to the rest of Canada. Ottawa gets over 50B a year in royalties from Alberta oil. And then an extra 5,000 dollars per man woman and child in Equalization Taxes on Albertans. How about handing back your Poll Tax you recieve for every vote.

      billg

      Feb 9, 2011 at 4:47am

      Maybe Ms May is right, but, she leads a party that over the past 5 years would have destroyed the Canadian economy with its "green" ideals so, its very very hard to take anything she says seriously. I'd like Mr Harper to be more Conservative, but, he'd never get elected telling voters the truth about our economy, just as Mr Chretien couldnt tell voters the truth about the new GST in 1993. Sorry, but, its just the way it is.

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      Mark Rose

      Feb 9, 2011 at 6:15am

      Dead on! Now if only she would take the same logical tact when considering this country’s future. We are a country that overwhelmingly supports the left but are forced to stand on the sidelines after election time because smart politicians like May allow their egos to interfere with common sense. Her grass roots intellectual approach would be better served speaking for Canadians in the house, not on a soap box outside. A political party’s ideological base should be like multiculturalism and represent all shades of the same values.
      If my wife and I ran our life like politicians I’d have a new wife (or she would have a new husband) every time we didn’t see eye to eye. I have to work really hard sometimes to get my own way and man oh man does it ever take patience. Sometimes I concede and other times I debate but I never just run out and get a new wife.
      We may be different shades of left but left we still are. If we’re not united however, we might as well be right...

      Bruno15

      Feb 9, 2011 at 6:38am

      Of all of the things Ms. May could have criticized Harper on the last one should have been on fiscal matters. Ms. May would seem to have some credibility on environmental matters and Harper a great weakness. Hit him (deservedly) hard on this matter. But to criticize his government for deficit sending which ( was universally agreed upon by all major parties) during a once in a lifetime depression scenario is beyond laughable and removes whatever shred of credibility Ms. May might have had on the matter. Should she have bothered to read a newspaper in the last two years, she would have seen that virtually every other government on earth has fallen all over itself to commend Canada's financial position and handling of this world economic calamity.

      Maps

      Feb 9, 2011 at 6:45am

      This is pretty rich coming from someone who has been pushing the whole green fraud of global warming on us and would have had us decimate our economy on the holy grail of killing off tree food production. Give it up Lizzie. You are a self-interested shill and most Canadians have turned you off - for good.

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      LaserGuy

      Feb 9, 2011 at 7:05am

      Oh Ya.. I'm sure the ZERO experienced 'Greens' Could do so much better.. Right now, The Greens are sucking $2.00 per vote received out of the economy in a subsidy for doing absolutely NOTHING. They don't even have a sitting member.. Is Ms. May willing to give back those unearned millions, to help fight a deficit that under the world economic situation would probably have been far worse with the Liberals in charge (after lining their own pockets again of course).
      I doubt it..

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      Jen

      Feb 9, 2011 at 7:13am

      What we are seeing is the advent of the Canadian conservative nanny state.
      Expanded welfare programs, keynesian expansionary policies and bailouts are targeted to the top 1% of earners. This is combined with rhetoric about free markets and lectures on belt tightening for everyone else.
      Astonishingly this seems to work politically in Ottawa. Hopefully Elizabeth will call Harper on this hypocrisy in a televised debate.

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