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Harper's Made a Mess of Our Economy, But It's No Crisis

02/10/2015 05:53 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT
AFP via Getty Images
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to the media at a press conference in Calgary, Alberta, May 3, 2011. Harper won re-election Monday at the head of a majority government, the first for his Conservative Party since 1988, television projections showed. In a ground-breaking election full of firsts, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) was on course to surge past the Liberals, which governed for most of the last century, and become Canada's official opposition. AFP/GEOFF ROBINS/STR (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

To reinforce his obvious campaign themes about fear and insecurity, Stephen Harper has taken to describing Canada's current economic situation as a "crisis."

If that's his pitch, one should ask under whose watch did this so-called "crisis" develop? And why is Canada so vulnerable -- after more than nine years of Harper government and nearly six years after the recession officially ended?

Our country is no doubt in an economic mess, but calling it a "crisis" is simply a scare tactic. It says more about Mr. Harper than about the economy. De-energized and often incoherent, his government doesn't seem to know what to do about Canada's challenges, so they've punted their budget into another fiscal year.

The crisis here is one of leadership -- nine years of hyper-partisan mediocrity. And on closer examination, several other strong words come to mind to depict this government's performance:

Reckless - How else could you portray a new government in 2006 that inherited (from Liberal predecessors) the most robust fiscal standing in the western world and squandered it in just two years, putting Canada back into deficit again while the global economy was still thriving.

In denial - A bit later, with the 2008 recession clearly looming, instead of preparing Canadians for what lay ahead, Mr. Harper deliberately misled them. He denied there would be a recession or any risk of a deficit. He prescribed austerity as his only policy and falsely projected five more surplus budgets.

Incompetent and deceitful - That's the description provided by the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer about the Harper government's bungled acquisition of F-35 fighter-jets for the air force. The costs ballooned from nine-billion dollars to nearly $50 billion or more, and Canada still doesn't have a single new plane.

Gross mismanagement - That's a kind way to characterize the Temporary Foreign Workers debacle. This government took a suite of programs that had been reasonably successful over some 30 years and totally screwed them up, with no reliable labour market data, no monitoring or enforcement, woefully insufficient pathways to citizenship and no solutions for employers still strapped for workers.

Unconscionable waste - Through an avalanche of tax-paid government advertising, an endless string of external consultants, a bloated Cabinet, lavish Ministerial offices, and a humongous Prime Minister's Office, this costly government must rank as the most self-indulgent in history.

Partisan bias - They took funds approved for border crossings and used them instead for ornamental gazebos and sidewalks to nowhere, just to puff-up one Minister's riding. They created a program to help the disabled, but skewed it to favour Conservative MPs. They made big promises to veterans for which Parliament voted the money, and then they clawed back more than a billion dollars just to help Mr. Harper concoct the appearance of a balanced budget.

Blind ideology - Think of the destruction of the Census which is steadily eroding Canada's database for sensible decision-making. Think of government scientists who have been muzzled and then de-funded. These are just two examples of a government driven by prejudice, not evidence.

Dereliction of duty - It's a fundamental obligation of the federal government to get Canadian products to world market, but the Harper regime has presided over two major market access failures. Their dysfunctional grain handling and transportation system cost farmers over $5-billion last year. And for all their bravado about energy exports, the Conservatives have failed on every major pipeline proposal they've ever touched -- nine years and not one inch of progress.

Perverse priorities - With an average economic growth rate of just 1.7 per cent per year since he took power in 2006, Mr. Harper has the worst growth record of any Prime Minister since R.B. Bennett in the Dirty Thirties. You'd think he might want to invest in better growth, like transformative community infrastructure. But no, he's chopped a multi-billion dollar hole in his "Building Canada Fund," delaying three-quarters of it until after 2019. Instead, he's planning to spend more than $12-billion on an Income Splitting scheme for wealthier families. None other than the late Jim Flaherty panned this scheme as too expensive and unfair since 86 per cent of Canadian households will never be able to qualify, and among those who do, the biggest benefits go to the most wealthy.

The list could go on.

The good news about this litany of Conservative failure is that it can be fixed -- just as soon as Canadians have the opportunity to choose a new and better government.

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