Friday, September 20, 2013

Harper's Achilles Heel

I wrote yesterday that, when it comes to the economy, Stephen Harper takes his cue from the 19th century. And that perspective, Lawrence Martin writes, should make the economy Mr. Harper's Achilles heel. Ralph Goodale certainly thinks so:

A more partisan view came this week from Ralph Goodale, Paul Martin’s former finance minister, who with charts and graphs argued that Stephen Harper “has the poorest economic growth record since R.B. Bennett.” That may be partisan — it’s also quite an indictment, since Bennett was in office during the deepest trough of the Great Depression.

[And] an overall growth record that, as Goodale claims, is worse than that of any government in eight decades still has a powerful ring to it — and it’s something on which the Liberals should be blasting Harper daily. If the Conservatives were in opposition and the Grits were putting up those numbers, you can be sure the Tories wouldn’t be letting them off the hook with talk of ‘global conditions’.

And therein lies the problem. The Liberals and the New Democrats have not taken on Harper's claim to fame -- that he is a competent steward of the economy. Having a Master's Degree in Economics doesn't make it so:

Another point Goodale’s been hammering home is the spike in our national debt under the Tories: the figure he cites is $169 billion. There’s been a lot of talk about the deficit, a problem which was worsened by the government’s two per cent decrease in the GST. But the debt hike has not received the attention it’s due. Under Chretien and Martin, as Goodale noted, the debt-to-GDP ratio was cut by more than half. Under the Tories there’s been no reduction in that ratio.

Some other statistics of recent vintage are hardly flattering. Newly released global competitiveness rankings from the World Economic Forum place Canada at a dreary 14th. On the trade front Canada now has a billion-dollar deficit. Our current account deficit of three per cent of GDP makes Canada the worst performer in the G8 in that category.

Harper's record is at odds with who and what he claims to be. That is more than an Achilles heel. It's a travesty.


CK said...

And how does Mulcair react? By saying he will be making attack ads-- against the Liberals.

Justin Trudeau hasn't found a way to shake it neither. Sure it's good that he is talking to Canadians and such and that he is honest, and seems to not like going on a script, which can be also refreshing, but he has to shake Harper, Flaherty et al off their script as Mulcair must do. I wonder why they can't do this?

Perhaps it's because Canadians themselves have been brainwashed not only by the bumper sticker slogans which Harper has mastered, but they think if their taxes are lower and GST is lower, the economy is good.

Add to the fact that they think Flaherty is Santa-Claus; he's freezing EI preniums. What they forget is that this comes just after a recent hike to preniums on both workers and employers.

Perhaps Mulcair and Trudeau are caught between a rock and hard place--the only way to improve the economy is to hike corporate tax rates as well as taxes on the wealthy. They can't campaign on that and neither will dare to even attempt it.

Owen Gray said...

Everyone's afraid of the wealthy, CK -- because they grease the political machine.

That said, Harper's record is nothing to crow about. Instead of attacking each other, the Liberals and the New Democrats should focus on the man who is responsible for the problem.

Anonymous said...

Harper studied economics at cowtown college, not Harvard or the London School of Economics. His master's thesis is available online if you want to glimpse his economic thinking:

Harper's economic thinking appears to be anti-Keynesian and non-human like. I wonder if opposition finance critics have analyzed this document? That would make for interesting reading.

Owen Gray said...

I've seen the document, Anon. It strikes me as a rehash of Milton Friedman -- who, interestingly, seems to have disappeared since the meltdown of 2008.

Anonymous said...

Milton disappeared in 2006, Owen. Yet his bizarre thinking lives on. And I agree, Harper's economic thinking (and, presumably, that of the UoC economics faculty) seems to mimic the thinking of the destructive 'Chicago School'.

Owen Gray said...

Milton disappeared from the planet, Anon -- and most economic discussion. It's as if his former disciples fear what would happen if he were raised from the dead.

Gaianicity said...

Harper's economic performance should be rigorously attacked.It isn't just the present numbers that are important. Also in the mix are the economic opportunities that Harper has ignored in his role as CEO of Fossil Fuel Canada and his thrust to take Canada back to the previous century. Don't forget to also add in his race to the bottom that basically left a whole generation of Canadian youth without a hope for a prosperous future. This squandering of human capital should be underscored. His claim to good economic management is preposterous.

Steve said...

Its the big lie that Conservatives are fiscally responsible.

Owen Gray said...

Precisely, Gaiancity. Harper's tunnel vision -- with its single minded focus on fossil fuels -- has left an entire generation twisting in the wind. And it has left an entire country in an economic swamp.

Owen Gray said...

Exactly, Steve. Thanks for the link to your blog.