There is a perception that the Harper government has managed the economy well. Their economic track record is the reason they give for why they deserve a majority government.
For example, they are given credit for guiding Canada through the recession as even respected columnists, like the Record’s Luisa D’Amato in a front page opinion column on April 2, agree.
But the facts do not support this perception.
Harper opposed stimulus in 2008
Despite spending $79 million since 2009 on advertising to take credit for Canada’s Economic Action plan, the truth is that the Harper government was reluctant to introduce a stimulus package. The opposition parties forced Harper to take action.
After the economy took a dramatic turn for the worse in the fall of 2008, the Harper government brought in an economic update that did not include any stimulus. Instead, it actually included $5 billion in spending cuts to maintain a balanced budget. The decision not to follow the United States lead and act swiftly to stimulate the economy was one of the two main reasons that the government was almost defeated just weeks after an election. Stephen Harper only managed to remain Prime Minister by proroguing Parliament to avoid a vote of non-confidence that he was sure to lose. It was only after this near death experience that Harper agreed to a stimulus plan. If he had lead a majority government, I’m sure any stimulus would have been too little, too late.
If the stimulus package is considered a progressive policy to help Canada through tough times that does not make Stephen Harper progressive. He had no choice. He was shamed into doing something that went against his instincts and principles. And he has spent our money to convince us he should get the credit.
The Harper deficit
When Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, the government of Canada’s budget had a $13 billion surplus. In fact, there had been a long string of surpluses.
So how did we come to have a $56 billion deficit–the largest in Canadian history? Can we blame it on the recession? Is it the opposition parties’ fault for forcing a stimulus package?
Any government would have run a deficit to deal with the recession. Canadians look to our government to spend during a downturn to support individuals and families who have been hurt. We look to government to spend on infrastructure to stimulate the economy and create jobs. We also understand that government revenues are lower.
But the fact of the matter is that the federal deficit is much larger than it should be and Stephen Harper has only himself to blame.
When Harper kept his promise to cut the GST from 7% to 5%, he dramatically cut government revenues by $12 billion annually thus making it more difficult for the government to manage a recession. He compounded the matter by giving our biggest corporations a multi-billion dollar tax cut.
The Harper government does not deserve credit for how well Canada weathered the recession, it inherited a strong economy and squandered it. We should be in much better financial shape.
Can we afford a Harper majority?
The recession has been tough for many Canadians. Their jobs have disappeared. Families with young kids have struggled to get by without the national childcare plan Harper cancelled. A GST cut has not benefited people who are having trouble meeting their basic needs.
We’re told that the Harper government has the deficit under control and we will see a balanced budget in four or five years. But the details about how this feat is to be accomplished are vague at best. Their plan is to find efficiencies in government spending that have eluded them over the past five years and hope that revenues increase. Will Harper continue to believe that formula can eliminate the deficit after the election? Or will his right wing approach to the economy resurface and lead to significant cuts to services?
Stephen Harper’s management of the economy fails to inspire trust. Canada can not afford to take a chance on a Harper majority.