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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stephen Harper: The party never really started

I’m going to be totally honest here. Stephen Harper has dried up pretty much all credibility he had with me.

I still grant Harper his political accolades; bringing ‘the right’ together, defeating the Martin Machine, and shifting the rudder of political direction in this country, albeit it slowly.

On the other hand, Harper has pretty much given up fiscal conservatism.

There is no more talk of shrinking government, increasing provincial autonomy, reforming the Senate. No. The new game boils down to Harper and the Conservatives trying to prove to Canada just how much like the Liberal’s he is—minus the corruption.

That being said, we are now faced with a bunch of frothing mouths on the other side of the aisle that see their chance to take power.

Now they’re all claiming that this is about a “lack of stimulus for the economy” (whatever the hell that means), and politically attuned folks know this really isn’t about the economy: this is about the opposition feeling like cornered rats, armed with the knowledge that Harper wants to take away their parties taxpayer subsidies.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people on this issue—people who vote NDP, Liberal and Conservative. And I’ve got to tell you, when you lay the taxpayer subsidy scheme down in front of them, most people objectively reject this. In fact, most people are flabbergasted to learn that the Conservative Party is the only party that doesn’t receive a majority of it’s funding through taxpayer subsidies. Yes, they actually fundraise. Who would have thought?

So when Harper’s staff told him that he could win an election on this issue, I think they were probably right.  The only problem was, they were a little too quick to assume that they would be granted a writ of election by the Governor General—a tactical error to say the least.

Philosophically, I am completely on board with the idea of cutting subsidies to the parties. But that being said, the Conservatives were not taking an ideological stand on fundraising. They were simply trying to bankrupt the opposition.

Had this been an ideological stand, they might have—at the very least—proposed this change as a phased in measure. Or better yet: removed donation limits and once again allow union and corporate donations to parties.

My property is my right. My money is mine to do with as I choose. If I want to fire-sell all my assets and donate it all to the NDP in a giant $700,000 cheque, that should be my bloody right. As it is yours.

Unfortunately, that’s all neither here nor there. If the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition coalesces, it’s about to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. We can look forward to “economic stimulus” in the form of corporate tax increases (a primary demand of the NDP for this coalition), a carbon tax (the Liberals and NDP have both made clear that the economic crisis is no reason to delay ‘greenshifting’ the economy), increases on social spending (universal child care), etc. Oh and they’ll throw billions of dollars at industry to “stimulate” them. After all, according to Liberal and NDP pundits, we’re the only developed country without a “stimulus package”—as if that some kind of bad thing.  You mean, we’re the only country not barrel-rolling into statism, economic interventionism, bank nationalization, and corporate handouts?

Well, soon we’ll have the “Coalition for Canada” to set that straight.

Posted by Mike Brock on November 30, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink


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Mr. Harper still represents the last, best hope for basic human rights and democracy in Canada. If this coalition succeeds, the CEOs and union bosses of Ontario will be back in charge. The consequences could be severe. Well, now comes the real test of his leadership. I wish him success in defeating these monsters.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-30 9:45:28 PM

"And yet the world is there, with the immediately visible effects of the implementation of the great neoliberal utopia: not only the poverty of an increasingly large segment of the most economically advanced societies, the extraordinary growth in income differences, the progressive disappearance of autonomous universes of cultural production, such as film, publishing, etc. through the intrusive imposition of commercial values, but also and above all two major trends. First is the destruction of all the collective institutions capable of counteracting the effects of the infernal machine, primarily those of the state, repository of all of the universal values associated with the idea of the public realm. Second is the imposition everywhere, in the upper spheres of the economy and the state as at the heart of corporations, of that sort of moral Darwinism that, with the cult of the winner, schooled in higher mathematics and bungee jumping, institutes the struggle of all against all and cynicism as the norm of all action and behaviour." - More

Posted by: Gene | 2008-11-30 10:45:17 PM

Great post, Mike.

I think Frontier Centre research shows the NDP also gets the bulk of its money from private donations, and not public money.

As for the Conservative strategy behind this mess. I'm sure the Conservatives did not hope for another election. I think they expected the opposition to cave as they have to date. Perhaps they also expected the NDP, who (like the Conservatives) don't need the money as much as the Libeals and the Bloc, to be as partisan and tactical as themselves.

I don't like the political party subsidy either, as I've written on this blog, but the entire thing was so transparently self-serving and partisan it was bound to evoke strong response.

The sad thing is, if the Financial Update was indicative of things to come, the Conservatives were on the right track: selling crown assets, cutting $2 billion in waste, no stimulus mania, etc.

The party never really started.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-11-30 11:06:30 PM

"In fact, most people are flabbergasted to learn that the Conservative Party is the only party that doesn’t receive a majority of it’s funding through taxpayer subsidies. Yes, they actually fundraise. Who would have thought?"


When talking of public subsidies of political parties, the system we have of making political donations is the elephant in the room.

The first $400 donated results in the federal coffers reimbursing $300 (75%). The next $350 reimburses 50% ($175), and the next $525 reimburses 33.33% for $175.

Donating the max of $1275 results in the feds reimbursing the donor one-half of the amount: $650.

This is money allocated out of the public purse, and every political party pitches their donors to give more because of the tax credit. I've been in two political parties, and both have pitched $100 donations to mean you cut a cheque for $400 because the $300 will come back to you next Spring.

That's a heck of a lot more than $1.95! What's wrong with me directing two bucks of federal cash a year to a political party when it's fine to arrange even more using the tax credit?

And yet, Harper/Flaherty made no changes to the tax credit system, which is the one their party has heavily leaned on, more than all of the other parties combined.

Gee, I wonder why.

As for what a coalition may bring... we'll see.

Posted by: Mark Francis | 2008-11-30 11:26:53 PM

After all, if a group of people are qualified to form a party, they're *obviously* going to be rich. Rich people are our natural rulers. This subsidy just makes sure that it's harder for rich people to compete. Unfair!

Posted by: 300baud | 2008-12-01 5:26:28 AM

There is no more talk of shrinking government, increasing provincial autonomy, reforming the Senate. No. The new game boils down to Harper and the Conservatives trying to prove to Canada just how much like the Liberal’s he is—minus the corruption.
Posted by Mike Brock on November 30, 2008

Canada has been on an increasingly steeper slide towards socialism for some time now. I, like many of you had very high hopes for the Harper Conservatives when they first came to power.
Primarily that he would live up to his campaign promises, which I don't believe he did. I've come to the conclusion sinse that time that the Harper Conservatives are not really all that conservative, but merely the "slower" road to socialism. What we really need is a whole new system, the old one is broken almost beyond repair.

Posted by: JC | 2008-12-01 5:58:24 AM

Excuse me Mr. Brock, but do you dispute that there is an economic crisis in progress? If not, what are all the other countries in the world doing? Is Canada somehow immune from the effects of the credit freeze?
Do you agree with Harper that he should use the crisis and the disarray of the Liberals [primarily] to attack his opponents [the other parties and the PSU]?

Mr. Harper campaigned on his leadership and some undefined [and late] plans to improve the life of Canadians. He denied that Canada has any economic issues to be concerned about [besides high corporate taxation] and that we needed to stay the course. He also planned to work with his opponents to improve the political atmosphere.

So this economic statement did what? I will confess, I did not vote for the Conservatives, and I live in Ontario, but I did expect a little more from our government than this. Stop trying to focus on the public support of political parties and admit that the real issue is that our current federal government does not recognize a financial crisis outside of trying to ensure that the Cons don't have a deficit.
Jobs and the public good? They don't seem to care that much.

Posted by: Richard Stanczak | 2008-12-01 2:22:46 PM

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