My Apology to Dan Quail

First, have a look at this YouTube video…

Alaska, sandwiched between Russia and Canada. One on one side, the other, on, uhm, the other side. Foreign countries, both of them, if you’re from Alaska. And if you’re lucky enough to be from Alaska then obviously that makes you a powerful leader, poised to lead the world’s most powerful nation.

My apologies to Dan Quail for making fun of him. I’d like to retract all of my Dan Quail jokes and summarily project them to Sarah Palin, the leader of leaders from places that are in between other foreign places.

The Big Issue Is Pushed To The Sidelines Again

Regardless of a persons’ thoughts on the Liberal, NDP, or Green parties, and regardless of whether they support the Conservatives, I think it is absolutely critical to Canada that people take the keenest of interest in the environment and encourage the Conservatives to do more than what they are currently proposing. If you have young kids like I do, just think about what life might be like 30 years from now for them, and what we can do now to ensure a solid future for them. In my opinion, this issue is the biggest of them all and daft compromises will have significant effects in the years to come. Of course the economy is a huge issue too and is intrinsically linked to sustainability. Things like crime, childcare, tobacco laws, etc, pale in comparison to the environment issue.

Sound Economics

It’s always been my understanding that one of the big draws to the Conservatives is their supposed sound economic policies. Over the last few evenings I’ve tried to find some balanced, non-partisan overview on the Harper government’s economic performance. Overwhelmingly the information I’ve found has shown these economic policies are about as sound as a canvas covered canoe, minus the canvas.

This conservative Harvard economist thinks Harper’s energy tax policy is the opposite of correct.
Bad GST cut? Did the GST cut decrease your product pricing? There are too many examples of disagreement with the GST cut as being good economic policy, I’ll sum it up with this excerpt from a Maclean’s article:

It is, though, a move that annoys most experts on tax strategy, who tend to see value-added taxes on consumption like the GST as a much better way to fund government than taxing personal or corporate earnings. “It’s bad tax policy, bad economic policy,” said James Milway, executive director of the Toronto-based Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity.

I’ve also heard quite a bit recently about Canada’s drop in productivity.progressive-economics has an article on it, I suppose there are many other sources.
Added to the above is the deficit the Conservatives have racked up in the last 4 months. I’m not sure that is sound policy?

The one thing that Harper is good at is choosing policies that are extremely popular. If it’s simple and immediately pleasing to Canadians, then Harper will put it in his mandate. That is his economic plan. The GST cut, pretty much panned by all economists, was very popular with the voters and helped his party win a minority government. More recently the Conservatives are dishing out money leading up to the election, even though Harper insists “this is not money being thrown around on the eve of an election.”
Aside from economics, the Conservatives thrive on popular issues in all sorts of areas. Their “tough on crime” policy resonates with voters but a lot of it is doomed to failure. The USA is a prime example of how “tough on crime” doesn’t work. The Greens put it more succinctly than I.

Back to economics, the most frustrating thing about the Conservatives is that they don’t even come close to the very good record of the Liberals. As Chantal Hébert points out, despite what we think of Paul Martin the Prime Minister, there is a lot of good things to be said of Paul Martin the Finance Minister.

If you’re looking for some different viewpoints on the above issues, it’s not so easy finding them. For example, do a google search for Conservatives “tough on crime” and your first and second hits are pretty typical of what is being written on the web.

If you have any thoughts, idea, or links that are contrary to the above I’d like to hear from you….

Economic Bits on the Left and Right

I came across a couple of articles which expose downright silliness (if you believe the authors to be correct) with the Conservative’s economic plan. The first article is pretty funny. With regards to Harper, the author asks “if increasing taxes on carbon and reducing taxes on income would destroy the economy, shouldn’t Harper be raising income taxes and slashing carbon taxes in order to create an economic boom? If he truly believes what he says, isn’t he showing gross negligence with respect to the Canadian economy. Given that the economy is currently struggling – couldn’t he fix this with a reverse green shift, e.g. black shift?” You can find the whole article here at Crawl Across The Ocean.

The second article is less witty and more analytical. If I tried to summerize it, I doubt that I would do the author justice. So just read it if you get the chance and are interested.

Beers, Burgers and an Election

Not sure how you want to vote for the federal election? Caught between a rock and a hard decision? Or perhaps you think it is an easy decision but there’s some lingering questions in your mind. Fear not, I have a new methodology that is sure to help. Simply ask yourself who you would prefer to have over for dinner. Yup, that’s right. Dinner. It’s a nice summer evening, you’re going to bbq some steaks and veggies, there’s some brewskies in the fridge, and you have to have one of the potential Prime Ministers over. Would it be Stephen Harper? I would consider that option, but only if I could rely on Grady throwing peas at him. That would be fun to see him flinching from flying peas, stiff as a board, awkward as hell and staring at his watch, waiting until it’s time to leave. Jack Layton could be fun too. I bet I could get him really drunk and have him tell some outrageous stories about Buzz Hardgrove. How about Elizabeth May? Hmmm, not so much. I’m sure she’s charming, and I also suspect that she is boring as hell. When it is all said and done, I think I’d want Dion over. He and May seem like the most “real” people of the four. More than that, Dion just seems like a good guy. I’m always disheartened whenever I read that people see Dion as being a weak personality. The fact is that they are correct, and that is sad because he is likely the most honest and good hearted of the big three and possibly has the best policies between the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens. Another disappointment in the “Come over for beers and steak” test is Liz May. From what little I’ve seen, she’s kind of bland. No, make that really bland.

Does Harper Deserve It?

Before Canadians sit down and really think about who they want to be the next Prime Minister, a good exercise for everyone to do is answer the question, “Does Stephen Harper deserve to have a majority government?” I think this question is fundamentally different from comparing parties, policies, and personalities, which is typically how the run into the election will be covered by the media.

I’ve been trying to take stock of the achievements of the Harper government, and what they mean to me and what they might mean to Canada. I am quite critical of how Harper has concentrated power in his office and manhandled his ministers. Rhonda Ambrose anyone? Similar to this, Harper’s disdain for interviews, the media and the public in general is also undesirable. His obsessive control on the media was typified by today’s little showing in Richmond. Similar to this is his bundling public diplomacy, such as his no-show at the China Olympics. On the other hand, Harper does come across as a very intelligent guy and I don’t think anyone would mistake him for a wimpy pushover. Overall I would say that his human interaction skills are terrible and it would be difficult to imagine even a hardcore Conservative supporter being pleased with this aspect of Harper and his government.

When it comes to the economy I think the Harper government is probably around the 50/50 mark. The down side includes the reduction in the gst and the $100 family allowance cheque. In fact, don’t get me started on the $100 cheque, it drives me insane. Here’s the summary of the $100 allowance. Families that can afford to have only 1 working parent love it because they now get $100 per child, as opposed to them getting nothing while other parents would get some affordable daycare. Meanwhile, back in the land of everyone else, families struggle to make ends meet and therefore need to send their kids to daycare, which is really tough because there aren’t enough spots. On the positive side of the economy I can say that the Harper government hasn’t ruined it. I have no doubt that a crappy federal government couldn’t step in and royally screw things up, so that’s why I give the Conservatives credit. They didn’t sink the ship (yet). I believe there are a lot of criticisms of the economy (ie slowest growth of the G7), but let’s just call it 50/50. And that’s being generous.

Okay, here’s an easy one. Everyone that thinks Harper has done a positive job when it comes to social issues, raise your hand. Just one of you? Oh, you just wanted to go to the bathroom? Alright…

Other remaining issues that we can judge Harper’s current performance by include the military, government integrity, and health care. Health care is probably another 50/50 proposition. I could be wrong, but I think the provinces have most of the leverage when it comes to health care. The feds dole out the money and can try to mandate programs but overall I’d say that it’s a provincial matter. I’m not sure Harper has done anything terribly positive or negative for health care. As for the military, I would say that Harper is on the backside. I really don’t know much about his fascination with the arctic, and the debacle in Afghanistan admitably is not of his origin. Make no mistake about it though, if Harper had his way 6 years ago, there would be many more Canadians dead in the Central Asia, only it would be in Iraq and not Afghanistan. As for government integrity, Harper has done poorly on this too. If I was comparing him to other governments (such as the Liberals) it wouldn’t be so bad, but this article isn’t about a comparison. Harper has that whole hyprocasy thing going for him. Some prime examples are Emerson’s defection, Michael Fortier’s appointment, and the Grewal affair when Harper refused to meet with the Ethics Commissioner.

Lastly there is the issue of the environment. I really hope that I don’t need to explain too much on this one. The Harper government is not environment friendly or progressive in any manner. I’ve heard Conservatives give interviews in which they think the world is 8000 years old, and it’s this kind of attitude and belief system that perhaps poses the biggest risk to all Canadians of all different political and ideological backgrounds, for generations to come.

On his merit alone, Stephen Harper hasn’t done enough to warrant a majority government. Is he a better Prime Minister than what Dion or Layton would be? That’s a question for another time.

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