Monday, March 28, 2011

Takin' Care of Business

Source: CBC News: Ignatieff, Harper Trade Barbs on Taxes, Spending

Well, it's day three of the election campaign, and so far very few actual policy ideas have been brought forward by any of the parties. This is to be expected, given that the first days if not week of an election campaign will be mostly spent setting the tone of the election and developing key themes.

Harper continues to bemoan the coalition lurking over Ottawa; Ignatieff has crossed off forming a coalition; Layton and Duceppe continue to bring up, rightfully, how eager Harper seemed to be in 2004 to form a coalition with the opposition to bring down Paul Martin. Harper and his team have rejected this conclusion, saying instead they were simply forming a 'co-operative effort'.

You say co-operative effort, I say coalition. Semantics, and Canadians deserve better than debating whether or not co-operative effort is Conservative-Speak for coalition; since they can't say coalition now because of the harm they're trying to inflict on the word.

I'm pretty sure I've made my thoughts on a coalition government clear on this blog. I'm for it. It's more democratic, given that more voters are heard, than simply awarding a minority government to the party with the most seats. After all, in the 2008 election, 70% of Canadians voted for non-Conservative candidates.

John Baird said in the House of Commons that the party with the most votes forms government...But the Conservatives, with their 30%, may have had the most single votes but not the most votes over all.

You can't have it both ways fellas, so please, let's just put this issue to rest and all accept that coalition governments are a norm across the world and nothing to be afraid of.

Now, back to the main part of this post.

Harper announced today the first major election promise in the campaign, and it revolves around helping families.

Harper announced that for families with children under the age of 18, the government would restructure the tax code so that parents could income-split to a maximum of $50,000 which he said would save them about $1,300 a year.

Now, I'm not an economist, so I might have the details wrong here (If I do, someone please correct me): Income splitting basically allows the 'breadwinner' in a family to transfer some of the money that they earned to their spouse/partner, which results in the 'breadwinner' paying lower taxes over all.

Now, that sounds like a reasonable idea. After all, families need every dollar they can get now a days...

But there's a catch.

Harper has made this promise on the premise that the Conservatives will only pass such a motion once the deficit is gone and the books are balanced. According to their predictions, while they were in office, that would happen somewhere around 2016. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, the Conservatives had no plan to balance the books when the government fell and paying off the deficit could likely take much longer than 2016.

There's also some other concerns here.

Harper's government had just tabled a budget, yet this idea was no where to be seen in it. So, why the sudden about face to include a measure which should have been included the in the failed budget?

Obviously, the words vote buying come to mind...But the conditions behind this policy also mean that if the Conservatives are re-elected, it won't be in the next budget...Or the budget after that.

So, why even announce this?

Because it sounds good; and Canadians who only pay attention to numbers and small details will hear the positives of this idea, but not the part about it only coming when the books are balanced.

So, let's consider for a moment what a re-elected Harper Government budget would look like:

It would mostly be a rehash of the failed budget, only with the measures to appease the NDP likely taken out or scaled back to such a level that they become insignificant. This policy won't be there, either.

What will be there?

Billions of dollars for building new prisons, while adding nothing for rehabilitative programs.

Billions of dollars for stealth fighter jets, sole-sourced to Lockheed Martin who now has a former lobbyist for them running as a Conservative.

Billions of dollars for corporations in federal corporate tax decreases, while leaving the middle class and lower class waiting for the day the books are balanced.

Canadians deserve a government that actually has their best interests at heart. Harper has shown his disdain for Parliament, being the only Parliamentary leader in Commonwealth history to ever be found in contempt; and now he's showing his disdain for average Canadians by promising they will finally get something, but on a day that will never come while the Harper Conservatives are in power.

If Canadians want a government that is looking out for them, it is not found in the Harper Conservatives.

To borrow a phrase, and modify it, from Bachman Turner Overdrive:
"The Harper Government's been takin' care of business, so Canadians have to work overtime."

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified this as being Day Four in the Federal Election campaign. I apologize for the error.

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