Saturday, May 23, 2009

Harper Calls Canadian Bank "Absurd"

These days, Harper and Flaherty can't utter a complete paragraph, particularly on the international stage, without bragging about Canada's banks. Interesting then, that Harper also thinks one of Canada's leading banks is lead by a bunch of "absurd", "irresponsible" economists. More troubling, this government has previously sought the advice of one of these "absurd" economists, which puts into question Harper's credibility on the economy- what kind of government relies on the advice of crazy people, who want to destroy our economy?

When you have a back and forth partisan debate, what should be key within that debate, what gives you a sense of the legitimacy of the competing arguments, independent analysis. On that score, we've had a slew non-"left wing" organizations weigh in, namely CD Howe, Conference Board of Canada, telling us substantive EI reform is essential during an economic downturn. We also have the TD Bank, according to Harper, one of the beacons for the world economy, arguing essentially the same point as Ignatieff the "absurd":

The federal government could accomplish the double aim of improving the equity of the system and increasing coverage rates by reducing the regional discrepancy in eligibility criteria and benefit duration. More specifically, we urge the government to immediately ease the VER (and extend benefit duration accordingly) in regions with unemployment rates of less than 10% from the current 560-700 hours to the lower floor of 560 hours. For all other regions, criteria would be unchanged. This measure would cost approximately $500 million per year.

Alternatively, the government could standardize the criteria for all EI contributors at 420 hours, which is the current minimum, or even reduce the bar for all, to 360
hours.

The federal government could opt to standardize the VER on a
temporary basis.

Pretty much verbatum Liberal proposal, and it speaks to the fact that Ignatieff didn't pull these ideas out of thin air, they're rooted in sound thinking.

What's truly "absurd", the way in which Harper catergorizes well founded reforms in such a dismissive manner. It's for that reason, the Liberals should call Harper's "bluff" (according to the press), because when the dust settles, Harper will find himself isolated, with virtually no non-partisan support for his stubborn refusals.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

yup - the same banks and regulations that Harper lobbied against and vote "no" - when Chretien/Martin did this.

kirbycairo said...

Yes.... except I suspect that the Liberal Party has become addicted to these 'bluffs' and lack the fortitude and courage to actually stand up for the vulnerable and actually bring down the government and fight an election on what should be an issue that is fairly easy to win on. I think if they ran a good election the issue of EI reform they could even pull off a majority .. .. but they won't. Harper keeps shoveling the bull and the won't take it by the horns. Alas.

Steve V said...

True enough, but using past references doesn't exactly fit with the new realities. This is the first time the Liberals have actually had any political leverage, the days of hiding and cowering are over. I think, the final outcome here, if the opposition stays united, Harper will have to make concessions or plunge us into an election. The Liberals probably won't get exactly what they want, but there will be a compromise, and in the end EI will be better than it is today.

Anonymous said...

It won't matter - Layton/NDP have not broken with their so-called principled stance (because they're scared) and won't help bring Harper down. Same for the BLOC.

A reader said...

I will believe it when I see it, Steve V. I don't think Harper believes it either, which is why he's standing firm on EI.

The Liberals are latecomers to the EI issue. If they *really* wanted changes made to the program (the unfairest aspects of which Liberals originally instituted, let us not forget), then they should have extracted those changes in return for their commitment to support the budget in February. Unfortunately that train has left the station, and Canadians are worse off because of it.

If Ignatieff holds his ground on this one I will be surprised, but it sure doesn't look as though the PM is in any mood to compromise, and it sounds for all the world as though Harper has developped and focus-tested some arguments he thinks are strong ones for him to fight back with ("45 days work gets you a year's benefits", "adds to the payroll tax of small business").

Iggy choked in February, and I think he will choke again.

Oh, and Anon, I don't see any evidence that Layton and the NDP are scared (just because the MSM keeps repeating it, doesn't make it so). In fact, they are pleasantly pleased to see their support holding at 15-16% during the Iggy lovefest honeymoon (when previous Liberal leader honeymoons have seen it drop lower before recovering).

John said...

This all seems like deja vu. I remember we had a policy that was supposed by EVERY independent analyst, economist and so on and Harper lied and lied and called it a tax on everything and well who won that little debate?

I think it's time we stop comforting ourselves in thinking "Canadians are smarter than that" and that they actually care what "experts" say.

The majority are opposed to bail-outs and paying anymore then they already do. The EI proposal will cost half a million more, of course that's affordable for the federal government but it will allow Harper to claim it's "unaffordable", he'll probably claim it costs $2-3 billion a year or some nonsense and sadly we don't have the pulpit or finances to meaningfully counter the spin outside an election campaign. Very few people are going to watch youtube videos and read National Post op-eds.

Thankfully for us Canadians are a lot more pissed off at Harper than they were then. But the only way to harness that attitude and to win the battle for meanintful EI reform is go to the polls.

We can't compete in the media spin war otherwise. The EI debate will be settled one way or another next month. Harper will bring forth a half-baked tepid improvement over the current system and we can either reject it and stick to what we know is just or accept that phoning it in is good enough for the unemployed.

A reader said...

er, pleasantly surprised, I should have written. It sounds lame the other way.

John said...

typo, should say:
This all seems like deja vu. I remember we had a policy that was SUPPORTED by EVERY independent analyst, economist and so on and Harper lied and lied and called it a tax on everything and well who won that little debate?

ottlib said...

There will be no election on EI this spring or summer.

There are no confidence motions on the parliamentary calendar so the Liberals will have to wait until June 17 to put an opposition motion forward.

I can virtually guarantee that the Conservatives will pull the plug on this sitting of the House during the week of June 8.

Mr. Harper will not put forward any EI proposals in the next couple of weeks so nothing will change until the fall at the earliest.

burlivespipe said...

"...unfairest aspects of which Liberals originally instituted, let us not forget.


You mean back when Canada was emerging from a recession, clearing the way to end a decade of deficit governance? You mean the Liberals who then went on to run 13 surplus budgets which allowed us to weigh more federal expansion of programs or even new programs? You mean those days?
I love it when people try to frame one decision of the past without any form of context. It gives us a chance to recall back to 'the good old days.' Let's not get into how many times and issues the NdP have changed gears on - because its what successful political parties do.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Liberals set up the present EI system - back when Canada was on the verge of losing its credit rating and CPP was in crisis, and, back when people abused the EI system. The number of people who only worked the required number of days to get time off was astounding. And, the NDP can cry it's their money all they want but it was devastating to small businesses. The cost of recruiting and retraining was unbelievably hard on small business.

Means nothing to the NDP - they hate corporations and companies - they want unions to control Canada.

RuralSandi said...

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" - Albert Einstein

Andrew Escobar said...

Steve,

You often leave out any mention or a link to the source or article you are referencing.

Steve V said...

http://www.td.com/economics/special/gb0409_EI.pdf


I find the "choked" crack laughable, but really more ignorant than anything else. Why don't you do a review of what the Liberals were saying in the pre-budget period and what the Cons were saying. I can find a gulf the size of Aden between the Con rhetoric after the economic update and the budget. I haven't heard on unbiased source catergorize the Liberals in the way you have, sure partisans with an agenda, but not anybody else, ESPECIALLY the Canadian public, who gave Ignatieff rave reviews for his budget stance.

You know how the Cons are bragging about how they've already extended EI benefits. The only reason they did, is because they were trying to make the budget more palatable for the Liberals, and pretty much everyone recognizes that (well except you, but...)

Harper will either run away or make concessions, and neither of these reflects badly on the Liberals.

kirbycairo said...

Unfortunately Michael Harkov has it right. When the Liberals had a serious majority in the House and didn't fear opposition they gutted EI. Now they seem to be converting to some sense of justice. Is this a Constantinian conversion of convenience? We can't know for sure. Either way, as dangerous as I think Harper is to democracy and the rule of law, and as much as I would love to see him ousted, I am dubious whether the Liberals will have the gumption to go to the all on this. We shall see.

Steve V said...

kirby

But, remember Ignatieff was out of country during that time ;) People like Mickey can't have it both ways.

It's a conversion, based on circumstance. Past is the past, I honestly don't see the relevance, other than the convience of L.

kirbycairo said...

I guess time will tell Steve.... But it seems to me that if the Conservatives were doing the same type of conversion, very few Liberals would be saying 'the past is the past.'

Steve V said...

Ideologues aren't capable of conversion, so that's a mute point.

Here's the deal, I don't really feel any need to defend past actions from a party I didn't support, or people who aren't even around anymore. I think it's a waste of time argument.

kirbycairo said...

I think you meant it was a 'moot' point, unless the point was incapable of speaking, in which case it was indeed 'mute.''

To say that Ideologues are incapable of conversion is the type of thing only an ideologue would say.

Steve V said...

Yes "moot" :)

Actually, that's the inherent problem with ideologues, their rigidity. I don't that's a revelation, nor do I see your play on words as particularly relevant. I'd rather have pragmatic politicians, because they don't tend to have the answers prior to exploring particular problems. Harper's an ideologue, the only bending he does is for optics.

A reader said...

BIP: You mean the Liberals who then went on to run 13 surplus budgets which allowed us to weigh more federal expansion of programs or even new programs?Yes, I mean the Liberals who used those reasons to cut back, but never actually got around to restoring things afterwards, because they were trying to out-Reform the Reform Party.

Anon: the NDP can cry it's their money all they want but it was devastating to small businesses. The cost of recruiting and retraining was unbelievably hard on small businessSo, the incentives would be different exactly how, now, you believe? Sorry, that's Harper's argument already. If you accepted it before, we can assume you don't really support your party's position now either.

Steve V: I find the "choked" crack laughable, but really more ignorant than anything else. Why don't you do a review of what the Liberals were saying in the pre-budget period and what the Cons were saying. I can find a gulf the size of Aden between the Con rhetoric after the economic update and the budget. I haven't heard on unbiased source catergorize the Liberals in the way you have, sure partisans with an agenda, but not anybody else, ESPECIALLY the Canadian public, who gave Ignatieff rave reviews for his budget stance.Well, I suspect you're going to be hearing it more and more, Steve. The press gallery was "in the tank" for Ignatieff, but the honeymoon won't last forever. And then he's going to have a record to defend, like why he didn't use the leverage he had at budget time to wrangle more concessions than just a change in the Conservatives' rhetoric, which you seem to think was such a victory. Or why his positions on everything from Gaza to asbestos to carbon pricing seem to bend based on who he's talked to last.

It appears that Ignatieff and the Liberals want to do as little as possible, and think they can coast to a majority government based on not being the Conservatives. But that's a risky strategy if you wind up with few accomplishments to show for all that time in office, even in opposition. And the seat-by-seat math is not good for you guys with a united right, a relatively strong NDP, and a still viable Green Party. Plus, Iggy's never fought a national campaign before, and if he has a hard time winging it now, we can only imagine what pitfalls lie ahead.

If NDPers thought the national media were unbiased sources, and believed if everyone else said something it must be true, we would have packed up and joined the Liberals a long time ago (like when they said Paul Martin was going to win a majority with over 200 seats, for example).

So, I don't find your argument convincing. But I'm glad to read it. thanks.

Steve V said...

Actually, the math works out quite well. Even with this small lead we've seen, it translates to a healthy minority.

As for the budget frame, that's already a done deal, so I don't expect to hear "more and more". If we pass the next budget, well then...

ottlib said...

The Liberals did bring in the current form of EI. At the time the economy was booming, Canada was enjoying "zero" unemployment and you could still find a manufacturing job in Ontario.

Now the economy is in the dumps, the Ontario manufacturing sector is being hollowed out and overall unemployment is heading upwards.

So, seeing these changes to the economic situation in Canada the Liberals are demanding that EI be changed to fit the new reality.

Pragmatic bastards!!

RuralSandi said...

It seems to me that a good leader should be able to adjust policy to the times. There's absolutely nothing wrong with changing and improving policies when warranted.

I worked for a small business when the Liberals change EI - it was a relief. You see, people were working only the necessary time to collect - it was epidemic and hurt small businesses - recruiting and training constantly.

Today is different - we have a "global mess" right now.

A reader said...

Steve V: Actually, the math works out quite well. Even with this small lead we've seen, it translates to a healthy minority.Well, that's interesting because neither Robert Silver nor Robin Sears agrees with you.

I suppose one way to settle this is to name your list of seats you believe the Liberals would have to win in order to win this 'healthy' majority. Because none of the seat projection models from small national samples take incumbency into account, so I think it's going to be an uphill battle for you folks.

Steve V said...

Well, if you could read that would help. MINORITY, not MAJORITY.

If you want to artificially make the mountain seem higher, that's your prerogative, all I know is the recent polling suggests 115-130seats for the Liberals.