An analysis of Stephen Harper’s economic stewardship

“His government will likely be remembered as Canada’s worst economic manager”

To the Expositor:

Sound economic stewardship, Mr. Harper?

The Harper School of Management is that of big business, big oil or simply put: that of the corporate élite that is dominated by what is more and more referred to as the one percent. It is an ideology steeped in the marginalization of the public good in favour of self-interest and fear of the other. It rewards self-interest at the expense of the public good.

Here’s how it works:

Corporations tell governments, such as Harper’s, that increases in corporate taxes, will cause their country problems. That they may simply have to relocate their operations and/or move their investments to other countries with lower corporate tax rates.

They also claim that lower taxes could actually bring growth to the whole national economy and thereby create the possibility for the government to finance and improve the services it offers to its citizens.

They, and their lobbyists, suggest that decreasing the corporate tax revenue a government collects is good because it grows the economy. This in turn provides a base for more taxes, so that government ends up with more revenue, with which it can do more for its citizens, particularly those who are in need.

Sounds like an all round win-win to disciples such as Harper. Definitely the one he has been spinning to Canadians at the behest of deep-pocketed corporate interests who play one country off against the other…right across the world.

Well there’s an even stronger argument to be made that it is in fact a lose-lose approach to our country’s economic governance. That it is little more than a race to the bottom that really only benefits the rich. That widens the income disparity between the rich and the poor (and brings on the gradual yet steady disappearance of our middle class).

A good example is what has factually happened to Canada under Harper’s rule.

When the Harper Conservatives came to power in 2006, they ate up Canada’s hard-earned surplus as well as the $5 billion in reserve that had been set aside for the implementation of the long negotiated Kelowna Accord unanimously agreed upon by the AFN, the federal government and all of the provinces and territories.

The corporate tax rate of the day was set at 21 percent.

By the end of 2011, the Harper Conservatives had lowered that corporate tax rate to 16.5 percent.

In January 2012, the Harper government lowered the corporate tax rate yet again, to 15 percent.

The annual cost of these corporate gifts (aka corporate welfare) is more than $13 billion. That’s $13 billion less in government’s coffers: revenue that is, in principle, intended to provide an improved range of services to Canadians.

So the “win-win” that big business that Harper would have us believe it is actually plays out as the following “lose-lose”:

Short of the lost revenue it needed as a result of these corporate tax cuts, the Harper government went on to cut all federal government department budgets by 10 percent. (Since the costs of public services are easier to measure than their benefits, politicians of Harper’s ilk can cut those costs with no obvious immediate effect on the benefits; benefits that can often take years to show up, not so much as numbers as in the experiences of people who suffer the consequences; i.e. the ill effects of deregulation, self-regulation, the dismantling of environmental protection laws, the loss of scientific research, the effect on veterans services, etc.)

This renders government departments less able to provide the range and the quality of the services they do/did. What a superb way of rendering our government services as inept as its critics like to claim. What a superb way of justifying the sale and privatization of a number of public services. Harper gets to put the revenue generated from their sale (or give away) into the government’s coffers to reduce the size of his year after year deficits. (An often unmentioned but very real side effect of “privatization” is a little something called “kickbacks” be they in brown envelopes or in political party contributions.)

Meanwhile, the cost of it all is borne disproportionately more by the 99 percent while the one percent get exponentially richer.

The interests of the people and the environment take a backseat to the economic interests of the few.

To make a long story short, under Harper we have seen all our eggs put in the same (tar sands) basket.

The only real growth we have seen in the non-petroleum export sector of our economy is in our export of military related equipment, weaponry and supplies (i.e. over $14 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia alone in 2014).

It’s no coincidence that while Harper openly criticizes Cuba on its human rights, he has nothing to say when it comes to Saudi Arabia’s far worse human rights record on both the domestic front or the foreign front (i.e. Yemen). Our military sales see us ranked as the world’s sixth greatest merchant of death.

Harper’s government led us into debt and devoted the rest of its time in power to trying to get us out of debt by more cuts to government programs.

Under Harper we have faced a deficit year after another during each of his years in power, and this year will be no different.

Canada has racked up a full 25 percent of its $633 billion national debt under Harper’s tenure yet he continues to maintain his is government led by good economists and good financial managers. Since the proof is not in the pudding that this is so, the best I can say is that he is a so-so bookkeeper (no offence intended to bookkeepers.) His government will likely be remembered as Canada’s worst economic manager; a classic example of what can happen when one rules in the belief that might is right. His lack of compassion is evident as is his utilitarian approach to governance. He rules by fiat, cares not about the environment our children will be obliged to contend with and wants us to stay the course. What he is doing is tantamount to the deckhands who busied themselves rearranging the chairs on the Titanic’s deck as it was sinking. Think about it. Vote ABC (Anything But Conservative).

Gary Champagne

Champlain, Ontario