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Santa Harper’s candy cane economics

Canadians like ‘strong’ leadership in a troubled world, pollsters report. That means standing up to tyrants, autocrats, and bullies (except when on an important trade mission, of course.)

GATINEAU, QUE.—Prime Minister Stephen Harper is enjoying a mild resurgence in the polls, spurred, apparently, by his resolute response to global threats and his reputation for economic competence.
Canadians like “strong” leadership in a troubled world, pollsters report. That means standing up to tyrants, autocrats, bullies (except when on an important trade mission, of course.) It means shaking Vladimir Putin’s hand, but reluctantly, while ordering the flinty Russian imperialist to get his troops out of Ukraine.
It means scolding the colourfully-perverse human rights abusers of La Francophonie with an impassioned speech opposing forced marriages for girls. It means championing maternal and newborn health in Third World countries— important work and, like all global challenges, easier, somehow, than remedying the poverty afflicting many First Nations mothers and children in Canada.
The Harper foreign doctrine—the Responsibility to Object—also means sending a handful of outdated warplanes to help fight ISIS in Iraq. If need be, we could rent some boats and send naval assistance, too. And, of course, it means facing down those climate change nags at the United Nations, and growing world opinion, by refusing to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands. That’s tough, bold leadership; it takes real focus to ignore the steady drip-drip of melting icecaps.
But elections are not won or lost on foreign issues. It is Harper’s masterful handling of the economy that has his opponents grinding their teeth and voters taking a second look.
Say this: he hasn’t bankrupted the country in his eight years in office—although, his belligerent advocacy on behalf of the tarsands isn’t getting pipelines built or oil flowing to Asia. And, oddly, not a dollar of a $200-million federal program to help Ontario’s devastated manufacturing sector has been spent, two years after the announcement. This is becoming a pattern: budgeted spending that, somehow, vaporizes before it reaches anyone’s wallet. Harper’s version of frugality?
He has also rescued us from deficits, albeit his own. After presiding over six, including the largest in our history, we are tantalizingly close to surplus, give or take a few unneeded tax breaks for the upper middle class (notably the $3-billion Family Tax Credit, that will benefit a mere 15 per cent of tax filers.)  
Harper’s policies alone didn’t cause deficits, of course; they were a response to the 2008 recession and external factors. He just made them worse with his pre-recession spending spree, compounded by welcome job-creating infrastructure projects (not counting that unwelcome gazebo in Tony Clement’s riding.)
Deficits are of greater concern to pundits, professors and politicians than to normal people, so they occupy an exaggerated importance in public discourse. If veterans services have to be slashed, 20,000 public servants laid off, coast guard stations closed and—this just in—federal funding for health research withdrawn, it is the price we pay for our profligacy. The price some of us pay.
The unemployment rate—something normal people do care about—is no better than when Conservatives took office. Youth unemployment averages 13 per cent, much higher in some places. Part-time work is the new norm, good jobs with liveable salaries and benefits—public service, anyone?—are disappearing.
Voters are best to trust their instincts, and check their basements, for a true picture of this government’s job creation record. It isn’t pretty—not that debt-ridden, unemployed university grads, or their parents, or the working poor, would be inclined to vote Conservative anyway.
In fact, who does belong to Harper’s phantom army?
The winners are financially comfortable, and complacent, including those who have benefited from the government’s wasteful, random, boutique tax credits for everything from public transit, to tools, to textbooks, to volunteer firefighting. Even then, the individual saving is trivial—too small to influence behaviour—and skewed towards those who can afford to pay tax advisors to sort through the complexity. Yet, overall, these credits drain the treasury of money that could be used in targeted, equitable and effective ways.
The sharpest critics tend to be conservatives—the C.D. Howe Institute, John Manley of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, bank executives—who argue that these credits clutter the system and reduce fairness.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver couldn’t care less what his old friends—or, his own finance department—say. His new Small Business Tax Credit will cost $550-million over two years and, far from creating jobs, could actually cost 9,000, according to the independent assessment of the Parliamentary budget officer.
“We don’t do analysis on every expenditure,” Oliver explained, adding that the Canadian Federal of Independent Business had already concluded this credit would be a “good news story” for small business.
So maybe the polls aren’t so mystifying. Maybe “competent” management doesn’t mean what it used to: careful stewardship of the money we send Ottawa, targeted spending to advance the public good. Maybe it means throwing small bags of loot to your friends, like candy canes from a Christmas float.
Susan Riley is a veteran political columnist.
sriley@magma.ca
news@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times

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Santa Harper’s candy cane economics

Canadians like ‘strong’ leadership in a troubled world, pollsters report. That means standing up to tyrants, autocrats, and bullies (except when on an important trade mission, of course.)

GATINEAU, QUE.—Prime Minister Stephen Harper is enjoying a mild resurgence in the polls, spurred, apparently, by his resolute response to global threats and his reputation for economic competence.
Canadians like “strong” leadership in a troubled world, pollsters report. That means standing up to tyrants, autocrats, bullies (except when on an important trade mission, of course.) It means shaking Vladimir Putin’s hand, but reluctantly, while ordering the flinty Russian imperialist to get his troops out of Ukraine.
It means scolding the colourfully-perverse human rights abusers of La Francophonie with an impassioned speech opposing forced marriages for girls. It means championing maternal and newborn health in Third World countries— important work and, like all global challenges, easier, somehow, than remedying the poverty afflicting many First Nations mothers and children in Canada.
The Harper foreign doctrine—the Responsibility to Object—also means sending a handful of outdated warplanes to help fight ISIS in Iraq. If need be, we could rent some boats and send naval assistance, too. And, of course, it means facing down those climate change nags at the United Nations, and growing world opinion, by refusing to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands. That’s tough, bold leadership; it takes real focus to ignore the steady drip-drip of melting icecaps.
But elections are not won or lost on foreign issues. It is Harper’s masterful handling of the economy that has his opponents grinding their teeth and voters taking a second look.
Say this: he hasn’t bankrupted the country in his eight years in office—although, his belligerent advocacy on behalf of the tarsands isn’t getting pipelines built or oil flowing to Asia. And, oddly, not a dollar of a $200-million federal program to help Ontario’s devastated manufacturing sector has been spent, two years after the announcement. This is becoming a pattern: budgeted spending that, somehow, vaporizes before it reaches anyone’s wallet. Harper’s version of frugality?
He has also rescued us from deficits, albeit his own. After presiding over six, including the largest in our history, we are tantalizingly close to surplus, give or take a few unneeded tax breaks for the upper middle class (notably the $3-billion Family Tax Credit, that will benefit a mere 15 per cent of tax filers.)  
Harper’s policies alone didn’t cause deficits, of course; they were a response to the 2008 recession and external factors. He just made them worse with his pre-recession spending spree, compounded by welcome job-creating infrastructure projects (not counting that unwelcome gazebo in Tony Clement’s riding.)
Deficits are of greater concern to pundits, professors and politicians than to normal people, so they occupy an exaggerated importance in public discourse. If veterans services have to be slashed, 20,000 public servants laid off, coast guard stations closed and—this just in—federal funding for health research withdrawn, it is the price we pay for our profligacy. The price some of us pay.
The unemployment rate—something normal people do care about—is no better than when Conservatives took office. Youth unemployment averages 13 per cent, much higher in some places. Part-time work is the new norm, good jobs with liveable salaries and benefits—public service, anyone?—are disappearing.
Voters are best to trust their instincts, and check their basements, for a true picture of this government’s job creation record. It isn’t pretty—not that debt-ridden, unemployed university grads, or their parents, or the working poor, would be inclined to vote Conservative anyway.
In fact, who does belong to Harper’s phantom army?
The winners are financially comfortable, and complacent, including those who have benefited from the government’s wasteful, random, boutique tax credits for everything from public transit, to tools, to textbooks, to volunteer firefighting. Even then, the individual saving is trivial—too small to influence behaviour—and skewed towards those who can afford to pay tax advisors to sort through the complexity. Yet, overall, these credits drain the treasury of money that could be used in targeted, equitable and effective ways.
The sharpest critics tend to be conservatives—the C.D. Howe Institute, John Manley of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, bank executives—who argue that these credits clutter the system and reduce fairness.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver couldn’t care less what his old friends—or, his own finance department—say. His new Small Business Tax Credit will cost $550-million over two years and, far from creating jobs, could actually cost 9,000, according to the independent assessment of the Parliamentary budget officer.
“We don’t do analysis on every expenditure,” Oliver explained, adding that the Canadian Federal of Independent Business had already concluded this credit would be a “good news story” for small business.
So maybe the polls aren’t so mystifying. Maybe “competent” management doesn’t mean what it used to: careful stewardship of the money we send Ottawa, targeted spending to advance the public good. Maybe it means throwing small bags of loot to your friends, like candy canes from a Christmas float.
Susan Riley is a veteran political columnist.
sriley@magma.ca
news@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times

  

Parliamentary Calendar
Sunday, December 21, 2014
HILL LIFE & PEOPLE SLIDESHOWS
2014 in photos Dec. 19, 2014

Mark Burgess
Justice Minister Peter MacKay, NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat, and Patrick Brown at the Canadian Tire Canal Classic, a charity shinny game between parliamentarians and the press on the Rideau Canal in January. The MPs prevailed.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, Chris Frogatt of National Public Relations and Blue Sky’s Sandra Buckler at the Manning Centre party in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
NDP MP Peter Stoffer in his Parliament Hill office in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre prepares to testify before the Procedure and House Affairs Committee in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at the party’s policy convention in Montreal in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner and Conservative MP James Rajotte at the Fuelling the dream Canadian Olympic team luncheon on the Hill in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Speaker of the House of Commons Andrew Scheer showing off his stickhandling skills at the February Fuelling the dream Canadian Olympic team luncheon on the Hill.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Liberal MP Wayne Easter and Conservative MP John Duncan at the Fuelling the dream Canadian Olympic team luncheon on the Hill in February.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Minister of Sport Bal Gosal at a Nature Canada event on the Hill on Feb. 3 alongside an owl.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
The late Jim Flaherty pictured on Feb. 11 2014, the day he delivered his last federal budget.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
The post-budget day party at Hy’s Steakhouse.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Prime Minister Stephen Harper heading out to greet Shi Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader Aga Khan on Feb. 27.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Laureen Harper, the Governor General’s wife Sharon Johnston, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper pictured Canadian as soldiers came home from Afghanistan on March 18, 2014. Also pictured, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, and Chief of Defence Staff General Tom Lawson.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
NDP MP Andrew Cash and Canadian songstress Serena Ryder at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards in March, in Toronto.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
NDP MPs Pierre Nantel, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, Peggy Nash and Laurin Liu on the red carpet at the Canadian Screen Awards in March.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Heritage Minister Shelly Glover and Gabrielle star Alexandre Landry at the Canadian Screen Awards in March.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Actor Viggo Mortensen shows his true colours with Heritage Minister Shelly Glover at the Canadian Screen Awards in March.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Conservative MP Michael Chong, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green Party Leader Elizabeth attend the launch of the iVote-jeVote campaign at the University of Ottawa in March to encourage young voters to engage in the political process.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair talk democratic engagement at the University of Ottawa in March.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and NDP MP Megan Leslie, pictured on April 2, 2014, at the Politics & the Pen gala, which raised $350,000 for the Writers Trust. The two hosted the evening, cracked a lot of jokes and sang Gloria Gaynor's song, I Will Survive.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivering remarks to his caucus upon hearing of Jim Flaherty’s passing on April 10, while an emotion Laureen Harper looks on.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Conservative MP Susan Truppe comforts Labour Minister Kellie Leitch upon hearing of Jim Flaherty’s passing on April 10.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Conservative MP John Weston comes up for air while swimming laps at the Chateau Laurier’s pool in May. Mr. Weston is one of “The Chief Fun and Fitness Officers,” a group of MPs that take part in physical activities together.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
A pro-choice protestor holds a sign reading “my body, my choice” during the annual National March for Life demonstration on the Hill, on May 8.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Conservative MPs John Williamson and Rob Moore.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
NDP MP Megan Leslie.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Another lawn summer night at the Elmdale Lawn Bowling Club.
The Hill Times photo by Steve Gerecke
First Nations protesters on Parliament Hill as part of the Peoples’ Social Forum gathering in Ottawa in August.
The Hill Times photo by Steve Gerecke
Peoples’ social forum in August.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
The Government Relations Institute of Canada’s board members took on the Ice Bucket Challenge outside of the Chambers building on Aug. 29.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
CBC TV's This Hour Has 22 Minutes comedian Mark Critch interviewing NDP MP Pierre Nantel, his party's culture critic at the September edition of Movie Night on the Hill, the Canadian premier of Elephant Song.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Postmedia’s Stephen Maher dressed in his cowboy best, with Camille Labchuk, for the Jaimie Anderson Fundraiser at the Black Sheep Inn, in Wakefield on Sept. 26.
The Hill Times photo by Mark Burgess
At 9:52 a.m. Oct. 22, the first calls come in of shots fired at the National War Memorial. People try to save Cpl. Nathan Cirilo’s life.
The Hill Times photo by Mark Burgess
Mid-afternoon on Oct. 22, police head down Metcalfe Street to secure buildings that had been on lockdown for fear of a gunman on the loose. Reports later confirmed the lone gunman had been killed inside Centre Block.
The Hill Times photo by Steve Gerecke
Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, NDP MP, had come to the Hill on Oct. 22 with her baby and was breastfeeding in the lobby when the gunman entered. She hid in a phone booth until Hill security brought them to a safer place
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers carries the mace during the first Speakers Parade into the House of Commons following the shooting, on Oct. 23.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Flowers at the National War Memorial to honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
A soldier stands guard at the National War Memorial on Nov. 11.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
The Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Canadian rock icon Burton Cummings backstage with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire at the Hope Live gala at the Great Canadian Theatre Company on Oct. 27.
The Hill Times photo by Jake Wright
Competing culinary team from the Lowertown Brewery at the 10th annual Gold Medal Plates on Nov. 17 at the Shaw Centre.

MICHAEL DE ADDER'S TAKE