A government's claims of economic competence must surely depend upon a sound record in certain crucial areas -- such as economic growth, debt reduction, balanced budgets and management of the tax burden.
On all four counts, the Harper regime is a serious disappointment.
Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record since R.B Bennett. During Bennett's years, the Canadian economy barely grew at all, averaging just 0.16 per cent. Mackenzie-King's average was 5.54 per cent. St. Laurent maintained growth at 5.28 per cent.
Diefenbaker got 3.67 per cent. Pearson achieved 5.97 per cent. Trudeau's average was 3.92 per cent. For Mulroney, it was 2.33 per cent. Chrétien came in at 3.39 per cent. Paul Martin recorded 3.20 per cent.
Under Harper, Canadian growth has averaged a paltry 1.54 per cent and his trend is negative. Economic growth in each year since 2010 has been worse than the year before. Another reflection of these sorry results is stock market values which have stalled for eight year -- today they're only fractionally above where they were when the Harper years began in 2006.
With respect to debt reduction, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio is also about where it was in 2006 (around 34 per cent).
Mr. Harper has no progress to report. Indeed, his government is adding $169-billion in new Conservative debt -- driving the accumulated total to an all-time record high at $627-billion. His earlier target for significantly reducing his debt-ratio has been postponed for eight years, until 2021.
On the issue of balanced budgets, the Harper record is laughable.
He inherited a decade of surpluses from his Liberal predecessors and surfed on that momentum for a couple of years, while over-spending by three-times the rate of inflation and undermining safeguards in the budget-making process designed to protect against adverse events. By 2008, Mr. Harper had squandered Canada's hard-earned fiscal security, creating a deficit again BEFORE the recession that arrived later that year.
The last six Harper budgets have all been deficits, continuing a long-standing Conservative tradition of red-ink. Before Mr. Harper, the last Conservative to balance a budget for Canada was Robert Borden in 1912 -- more than 100 years ago. He too inherited a surplus from a Liberal predecessor (Wilfrid Laurier) and blew it in just one year.
As for taxes, that's where Mr. Harper brags the most. But check reality!
While claiming they never raise taxes, the Harper Conservatives have in fact increased the net tax burden on Canadians in each of their last four budgets. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways which they hope you won't notice -- like taxing parking fees at hospitals and dinging Credit Unions for an extra $75-million in income tax.
One of their biggest cash-grabs has been constantly escalating Employment Insurance payroll taxes. Starting in 2011, EI premiums have been going up every year by more than $600 million. So to date, Mr. Harper has raked in an additional $3.6 billion. He says he won't force EI rates up any further, but neither will he roll them back to where they were before he imposed these job-killing Conservative payroll tax hikes.
Two other Conservative tax increases are also netting Mr. Harper big revenues.
He has hoisted a broad range of tariff-taxes on imported consumer goods -- everything from tricycles to cosmetic wigs for cancer patients -- which will extract some $333 million more per year from the buyers of such products. And small business owners are going to be paying Mr. Harper some $550 million more, thanks to new Conservative taxes imposed on them.
At the bottom line, it's Canada's middle-class that bears the biggest burden from the incompetence and grinding mediocrity that characterize Mr. Harper's economic record.
Pamela Wallin, at Tory senator from Saskatchewan, also found her expense claims under close scrutiny in Februrary when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/13/pamela-wallin-travel-expenses-harper_n_2680229.html" target="_blank">she billed taxpayers $142,190.26 for trips between March 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012</a>. But only $10,551.99 of her expenses were related to travel between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, while the remaining $131,638.27 was filed under "Other." Questions were also raised about whether or not she satisfied the residency requirement needed to represent Saskatchewan in the Upper Chamber. Wallin split her time between Toronto and New York prior to being named a senator in 2008, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/senate-residency-pamela-wallin-duffy_n_2648325.html" target="_blank">does own a plot of land in the province and two properties with family members.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Patrick Brazeau first came under fire in December of 2012 amid reports he was using <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">his former father-in-law's address </a>in Maniwaki, Que., to claim a Senate housing allowance, while actually living in Gatineau, just across the river from Parliament Hill. The Senate Board of Internal Economy subsequently asked an auditor to look at Brazeau's residency claims and expenses. In early February, Brazeau was arrested and charged with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">assault and sexual assault </a>after a heated argument with his girlfriend turned violent. The charges promptly got Brazeau turfed from the Conservative caucus. On February 12, Brazeau was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/12/canadians-growing-ever-we_n_2667332.html" target="_blank">suspended indefinitely </a>from the Upper Chamber. <em>With files from CP</em>
Conservative Mike Duffy also courted controversy over his housing allowance. The P.E.I. senator <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">claimed his cottage in Cavendish as his primary residence</a> and his long-time in home in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, as a secondary residence for which he collected $33,000 in living allowances he since 2010. While always maintaining he was entitled to the compensation, Duffy <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">vowed on February 22 to repay the money</a>. He blamed the entire issue on confusing and vague Senate paperwork. <em>With files from CP</em>
Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, a Conservative senator from Quebec, came under fire in early March when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/pierre-hugues-boisvenu-senate_n_2803052.html?utm_hp_ref=pierre-boisvenu" target="_blank">he collected a housing allowance of $20,000 despite living little more than a drive across a bridge from Parliament.</a> Boisvenu claimed his primary residence was in Sherbrooke, but sources said he had been staying at his secondary residence in Gatineau since separating from his wife in February, 2012. Boisvenu was then forced to admit in March that he had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">carrying on a relationship with an aide, Isabelle Lapointe</a>. The Senate ethics officer had told him last year that he couldn't have his girlfriend on the office payroll but Boisvenu ignored the warning for months. The two have since split up and Lapointe is now working elsewhere. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">Boisvenu has repaid the $900 stipend he collected while living with Lapointe for three months near Ottawa.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>
Liberal senator Mac Harb also had his expenses audited after it was discovered that he claimed <a href="http://metronews.ca/news/canada/560000/senate-controversy-senator-mac-harbs-home-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">about $40,212 in living expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012</a>. Harb, a former Ottawa MP, claims his primary residence is <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/senator-harb-rarely-seen-in-area-he-calls-home-neighbours-1.1198184" target="_blank">a bungalow in the tiny village of Westmeath</a>, but neighbours claim that nobody lives there year-round and that it is basically a cottage.
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