Friday, March 30, 2012

My 5 cents on the federal budget


For years the Liberals warned you of Stephen Harper's hidden agenda. Just wait until he gets a majority, and you won't recognize Canada.

For years, Conservatives quietly whispered to their base that they couldn't go as far as they wanted because of that damn minority government. The Liberals won't let us, the Senate won't let us!

So after waiting for nearly a decade, we finally got to see the long anticipated Harper majority budget. And what was the flagship change he needed a majority to bring in?

The elimination of the penny.

OK, so it wasn't exactly the "transformational" budget we'd long feared or hoped for, depending on our allegiances. But it does provide a good look at what kind of Prime Minister Stephen Harper truly wants to be.

This budget should tell us once and for all, that he's not a guy who wants to fundamentally change Canada. Sure, he's tossed a few symbolic gestures to the base, in the form of CBC budget cuts, the death of Katimavik, and a warning to environmental activists. But Harper remains the head of the biggest spending government in Canadian history, even after accounting for population growth and inflation.

The budget also shows us he's not hunting for a legacy, quite yet. There are some "big picture" reforms in this budget, but they're mostly fine tuning - a speedier immigration process, changes to the innovation agenda, pension reform. These are all worthy initiatives if they work, but they likely won't ever find their way into history textbooks. They're also the sort of things a Liberal government would do.

So, there you have the real Stephen Harper. A largely low key and pragmatic Prime Minister willing to toss symbolic gestures to his conservative base. A man whose greatest legacy at this point is the elimination of the penny.

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17 Comments:

  • If it's your 2 cents, rounded, it would be your worthless opinion, rather then 5 cents, since 2 cents is rounded down.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:21 PM  

  • The Germans have a metaphor about consuming sausage. You start with a whole brautwurst and just take a sliver off the end. And then another. And after a while the sausage is gone. Read Paul Wells. Read about boiling frogs.

    About being surprised that Harper is a big spender, well that's the same game plan used in the States. Bankrupt the government, and then use the deficit as an excuse to cut social spending and government regulations. When this regime is done, we will be left with a Federal Government so enfeebled … you know, I can't even finish this it's so obvious.

    Jokes about the penny just make me ill. They are like – Hey, there goes the Olympic Torch Relay!, or Hey, we're getting pandas!

    By Anonymous CrescentHeightsGuy, at 3:29 PM  

  • Harper has been fundamentally changing Canada and continues to do so.

    He just isn't changing it into something that "small-c" conservatives, his purported base, would find desirable.

    But Bay Street and corporate Calgary (though many of these are just branch offices of transnationals) are happy.

    The lack of visible conservative principles and policy consistent with past rhetoric doesn't mean there's been no change at all. It only means that somebody has been lying about his true goals.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:26 PM  

  • IF the Harpercons are good at anything it is ruling by stealth, and it is the little things that are really going to change things. Take for example their decision to stop monitoring health claims on food packaging. It seems like a little thing but it is one step toward Pottersville. Their ultimate goal is to have no regulations at all on what corporations do from what they put in your food, your water, your drugs, and your air.

    By Blogger kirbycairo, at 4:34 PM  

  • Harper's engaged in quite a long program of fabian neo-conservatism and, just because he isn't doing it all in one fell swoop doesn't mean he isn't changing the nature of Canada's state. The elimination of the mandatory long-form census has dealt a crippling blow to the accuracy of statistical information necessary for solid, effective public policy and, in a few censuses time, we'll be feeling the repercussions.

    Harper has strengthened the war on drug users, implemented a Dumb on Crime policy, replaced more some of the more efficient direct public spending with tax credits that overcomplicate the tax code around the margins, used the heavy hand of the state in labour disputes (including private sector ones, such as Air Canada's dispute), and increased the portion of Canada's public sector that is military focused (they're one of the few areas sheltered from cuts). Stephen Harper is very much turning Canada into an Anglo-American corporate welfare state in the worst sense of the term.

    By Blogger The Analyst, at 9:00 PM  

  • It's a skilfully crafted maiming field to the Canada that was left him; so many targets to worry about, so many small fires to stamp on that his opponents are intended to sprain an ankle before they get halfway through the damage.
    Take raising the amount for cross-border shopping. Besides being a populist type of morsel that gets the folks sitting at Timmies all nodding in agreement, just who was demanding it? Where's the study that shows Canadian retailers, especially those located near the borders, can withstand the loss of business? Is it a move to toss Obama a bone, to nudge him a little closer to giving Keystone a stamp?
    Then there's the pension change. Many comments and articles on how raising the age of retirement will impact seniors, especially women, living on the brink or in poverty. But nothing to offer as to how to manage this potential issue --- all the while creating a strawman to sell it? And where is the PM when it comes to explaining this huge shift in governmental policy? Pearson, while trying to introduce a new flag before Canada's 100th birthday, walked into a hall of veterans and legionaires to put his case forward -- and faced an angry mob. Harper's only policy pronouncement came in Switzerland, amidst the coocoo clocks... My father's generation, who fought in WWII, wished to make things lighter and more accessible for the next generations. Yes, we've had it incredibly easy compared to those who stood tall in the early half of the 20th century - but Harper is leading the first reversal of political modernism in Canada (telling future generations that they won't have it as easy; that we'll make them work longer)... The attack on environmental safeguards, extending big business' ability to bring in off-shore workers, eliminating the penny, cuts to the CBC. There's nothing muffled about these; Canada is indeed changing before our eyes.

    By Blogger rockfish, at 3:34 AM  

  • As someone who stopped voting Conservative because they wouldn't be fiscally conservative, this budget doesn't do much to earm my vote. Scrapping the penny? An NDP MP was pushing the idea long ago and they would have saved several hundred million dollars if they had done it in their first budget. Laying off civil servants? BQ leader Gillis Duceppe promoted the idea of saving billions by not replacing retiring government employees some time ago. The Conservatives are playing catch-up to NDP and BQ ideas. Hopefully there will be a cabinet shuffle and this was Flaherty's last budget. Maybe someone who will actually cut spending could be the next finance minister.

    By Anonymous Nuna D. Above, at 12:12 PM  

  • Didn't we the last government get defeated over a budget that was pretty much the same?

    This is what we were trying to avoid? This is why we risked a Harper majority? This is why we elected high school kids in Quebec?

    Thanks Ignatieff. Great call.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 3:36 PM  

  • @ Nuna D. Above

    Public spending as a percentage of GDP isn't really high and is low-average in terms of recent history.

    By Blogger The Analyst, at 6:17 PM  

  • What a giggle.

    Calgary Grit posts the truth: Harper is a pragmatist.

    Indeed, this budget is nothing compared to the savage (albeit needed) slashing the Liberals have done in the past.

    The predictable response: No, no! Harper really is Darth Vader. This budget is a stealth Death Star.

    I'm sorry, children. It's past your bedtime.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:05 PM  

  • I haven't chewed on the budget yet. At least Harper in red can retire oil sands capital depreciation tax breaks. He might not be able to pass such legislation in the USA. Their lobbying has exposed a weakness that when science finds an efficiency; science hasn't been a strong lobby there since 1944.
    D.Smith doesn't have kids cuz she is an intelligent adult who likes adult company; she could've been the coldest Con ever but she will warm up to Liberalism. Morons want everyone to be a moron. There has to be a few smart people. Smart *and* beautiful. For now. Gravity is mean to our faces and other parts. Gravity is why we have an atmosphere though. Too much CO2 and all. If you lobby against a carbon tax, you need a spank!! I had a point...

    By Anonymous The Keystone Garter, at 9:52 PM  

  • Oh yeah, a Google news search; the headline still called Harper a Liberal. They said he spent in recession and was austere in surplus. It isn't true: he cut GST and corporate taxes in surplus, is along with recession, why we are in such red. I don't think cutting resource company and finance, corporate taxes, does anything but raise debt. Maybe cut taxes for finance customers and copper. You know there isn't a titanium dioxide ETF. Harper should outflank P.Martin and force finance industry to start up new contracts. There is a rare earth element mine potentially. Is Gold Canyon I think, in Nevada. Bore holes are expensive. Let's not give it all to carbon-intensive companies. Chretein's GAI would've cut Provincial budgets.

    By Anonymous The Keystone Garter, at 9:58 PM  

  • Stop the presses! Harper is such a right-wing ideologue that he - get this - implements the most popular policy choices presented to Canadians!

    There will be policies we each disagree with, but the elimination of the penny has been the goal of many Liberal Senators over the years, and has grown in popularity as well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:26 PM  

  • If you're talking about the penny and cross-border shopping, then they've already won.

    By Anonymous Marc from soccer, at 10:59 PM  

  • Harper is a Conservative Mackenzie-King, not a Conservative Trudeau. In the long-run, that should be the scarier outcome for Liberals and Dippers.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 6:55 PM  

  • Either Harper's had a chance of heart about many things, or he's playing the long game. He's obviously looking forward to his second majority government! This is just setting the groundwork, and working to gradually adjust the attitudes and perceptions of Canadians.

    Smart political players know that you can't truly enact fundamental change until people are receptive to it (you could generate a backlash otherwise which could make conditions "worse" for you than before.) This could be just working on the latter aspect before getting to the former.

    By Anonymous J, at 12:21 AM  

  • heyy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23 AM  

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