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Conservatives, Show Us Your Fiscal Prudence!

03/27/2013 04:46 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT

First published at The Prince Arthur Herald

Jeffrey Simpson is absolutely correct (and so is Bruce Stewart) when he observes that the most recent budget is a complete disaster.

Again, as before, the Conservatives have done precisely the opposite of what every self-respecting economist has been saying for years. That is, it is necessary to shift taxes away from income and onto consumption. Yet the Conservatives under Steven Harper, the economist, keep shifting taxes onto income instead.

Even worse this time, the most recent budget has implemented measures that will ensure that Canadian consumers, who are already paying anywhere from 20 to 60 percent more then American consumers, will pay even more for imported products in the future.

Also, as Simpson notes, with the most recent budget, Canada's tax code has become more complicated and more convoluted than ever before. This is not good, because a complex system of tax rules actually makes it more expensive for government to administrate. It also opens up considerable leeway for people to cheat on their taxes. Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, claims that he wants to go after tax cheats, but obviously the measures included in this budget speak a different language.

In so many words, 2015 cannot come soon enough for the vast majority of Canadian consumers and voters. With each passing day, it is becoming more and more apparent that Canadians will vote for a drastic change next time. And the big loser will be the Conservative Party of Canada. It doesn't matter how many times Stephen Harper's fans praise his accomplishments and try to portray him as one of Canada's finest prime ministers ever, unless Harper and his "Conservatives" finally do what they were elected to do, they will be left standing alone at the polls, jilted even by conservatives.

In an attempt to whitewash history, Harper and his troops keep telling everyone that the current deficit was caused by the global recession in 2008. But nothing could be further from the truth. Harper had already increased federal spending by a higher rate than any of the previous Liberal governments, thus leaving a gaping hole in the federal finances. The global recession merely aggravated the gashing wound that Harper had already inflicted on Canada and its economy.

Unfortunately, when Canadians voted Conservative three times since 2006, they didn't get a conservative government. This is not to say that there aren't any conservatives in the party, but neither Harper nor his finance minister is a conservative. At the very least, they are not fiscal conservatives, but this, and only this is what Canadians voted for, but didn't get.

The Prime Minister starts virtually every sentence with "obviously" -- a condescending way of letting the public know that he's smarter than all of us combined; that he has all the answers, and that he alone knows what's best for the country.

But obviously this isn't so. If he were a proper economist, he wouldn't have gutted the GST back in 2006, but instead rolled back personal (and not corporate) income taxes. If he were a proper economist, he'd recognize the merits of free trade, particularly for a country like Canada where people have been blackmailed into overpaying for goods and services -- not only in comparison to the United States, but also several other Western countries. Import tariffs, just like the entire supply management system, must be dismantled, rather than reinforced.

There is no doubt for this commentator that Stephen Harper has gone way past his expiry date. The kind of (fiscal) conservatism promoted by the current incarnation of what passes for Canada's Conservative Party must be rejected out of hand by all Canadians from coast to coast come 2015.