Sunday, August 08, 2010

Harper's Gift

There's an excellent editorial in today's Toronto Star, detailing the new Conservative expenditures and the wider theme of imported ideology. There is another thesis developing, which hasn't quite made it on to the political radar, but one that could prove central come an election.

With all this talk about planes and prison, upwards of 25 billion allocated for these two expenditures alone, the Harper government has inadvertently given the Ignatieff Liberals a WIDE berth on the fiscal front. One of the supposed chief attack lines- that Ignatieff has made expensive promises, his agenda is something we just can't afford in these "tightening purse string" times. Harper had the clear edge as money manager, Ignatieff attacked by the PMO for every new policy utterance as another example of "big spending" Liberals. It would appear, NOW, with these massive numbers in the public realm, that the Conservatives have lost the "appearances" advantage, any fiscal high ground argument almost laughable, inviting forceful retort.

If the Conservatives argue you can spend 25 billion dollars, AND cut corporate taxes, amounting to another 5-6 billion lost, you've essentially given the Liberals 30 billion to promise this and that, with NO THREAT of credible criticism. The Conservatives can balance the books with all these new measures- heck they deficit is now slated to end a year ealier that previous forecasts- so Ignatieff has a mountain of money available to push the Liberal platform. We won't cut corporate taxes, we think the prison expenditure is ludicrious and we will review the F35 expenditure. The Liberals can nimbly make a mockery of these "fiscal conservatives" and/or pivot and use the same Flaherty balance sheet for other, more pressing, needs. Sure we can afford national day care, and THEN SOME, according to this government, there's money EVERYWHERE and the deficit is still slain- according to this government anyways.

Harper's chief advantage is evaporating before our eyes. The Conservatives are voluntarily eroding their own fiscal image, while simultaneously providing the Liberals with a free pass, to check off a few big ticket items of their own. Then the question becomes, just what expenditures are most important to Canadians. Planes and prisons, hardly a compelling "kitchen table" consideration, allowing for an interesting contrast. Neutered on the "big spending" front, obscure and distant on the allocation front, I'd say thanks for the massive opening if I'm a Liberal strategist.


RuralSandi said...

C'mon Steve - you know that all those trees out there drop money. That's where Harper's going to get some. That's why he's not into the environment, because he needs those trees to shed money for him.

Remember, Harper's spending on borrowed money - like a kid with daddy's credit card.

william said...

We have to stick to the message - no corporate tax cuts as we are already competitive, and work with that. We are the party of fiscal prudence Steve, not fiscal incompetence like the cons.

Steve V said...

The corporate tax angle is to narrow now, we need to widen it as part of something more compelling. 25 billion is a massive, massive amount of new money. The taxcuts are part of a bigger absurd dynamic, spend more, take in less and still balance the books. How? And if you can, then it gives us all the latitude we wish to put our own stuff in the window, much more attractive than prisons.

ottlib said...

Mike Harris claimed he could cut taxes by a huge amount in Ontario and still maintain social programs at the same level.

Of course it was bullshit but Ontarians bought it on a huge scale.

Never underestimate the ability of the average voter to check logic at the door when they hear something they want to hear.

Steve V said...

That's only half the equation here though ottlib.

Frankly Canadian said...

It’s about time Harper and his minions are exposed for who they are and what they stand for, a bunch of hypocritical zealots that couldn’t manage there own car allowance together with there lunch budget. I would imagine if you were to take your calculations as far back as the “income trust lie” near the beginning of his reign, you would find he has blown far more money than 30 billion on his zealot ideology. Anyways I agree with you Steve, the Liberals do need to capitalize on some of the practical solutions for complex situations they have in their platform, and the fact that they don’t cost near the amount of money Harper has spent frivolously.

RuralSandi said...

The largest group of voters - seniors. Deal with them.

Youth vote also needed, deal with them.

Maybe stressing to "old" Progessive Con voters that Harper is not the progressive con party they think he is. For example, my elederly aunt, staunch conservative thought she was getting another Bill Davis type with Harper. She totally detested Mike Harris...draw the parallels.

Jerry Prager said...

The prison money and the planes are corporate spending, privatizing prisons for profit, it's all corporate socialism, empower the arms dealers and security industry.

JimmE said...


I hope some of the brain trust in Igglandia read & are impressed with your post as much as I am.

Koby said...

I agree. It should be easy for the Liberals to juxtapose their policies with what the Conservatives are offering up. However, the Liberals have no policy proposals worth talking about.

Take the Liberal's early childhold education plan. It is politically useless. The Liberal promise to work out a different deal with each province amounts to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare sometime in the future. Canadians could not figure out what this would mean for their lives in 2006 and not surprisingly they preferred the Conservative baby bonus. Nothing has changed.

What it could look like: What would you rather have? All day preschool and kindergarten for every kid in Canada or fighter planes and prisons. Vote Liberal

What it looks like now: Iggy has not met a Conservative crime bill he did not like and likes futile wars every bit as much as Stephen Harper, but Iggy does not support building new jails. Instead Iggy pledges that the Liberals will work with the provinces to set up an early childhood education plan for kids under 6. We have no idea what kind of services will be offered, or have any clue when they will be offered or for that matter a clue as to how many kids will be served. However, anything is got to be better then building new prisons. Liberals are tough on crime too. Vote Liberal

Tof KW said...

Great post Steve!

RuralSandi said...Maybe stressing to "old" Progessive Con voters that Harper is not the progressive con party they think he is.

That's actually been my suggestion for the Grits since Harper took over the PC's; though you were mired in the Chretien vs. Martin feud at the time. There are still a good number of uncomfortable Red Tories out there who voted for Harper, because they can't bring themselves to vote Liberal; all due to past history and stereotypes (Adscam didn't help). Convince them you are the true party of fiscal conservatism (Paul Martin has given you some street-cred here), and not the same old Liberal Party your grandma voted for. It may make the difference between the disenchanted old PCers staying at home on election night, or taking a chance and voting Lib.

After all, we're the ones who swung over to McGuinty in the Ontario-2003 election - once we determined the common sense revolution was more of a US Republican scam than anything resembling proper fiscal conservatism. All those slightly centre-right votes in Ontario are in play if you convince them that we can't afford Harper's version of 'conservatism'.