Monday, June 30, 2014

Stephen Harper's Legacy


Michael Harris has written a devastating indictment of the Harper regime. The piece is a little long. After all, the man has done a lot of damage in eight years.  But, by far, most of the damage has been done since the prime minister was given his majority:

It was revealing. Unlike his minority governments, where a murder of political crows flapped overhead waiting for the fatal misstep, after 2011 there was no vote Harper could not win, and no cabal in the Opposition ranks that could topple him.

The new prime minister ushered in his majority government with a performance that both confirmed and contradicted some of his earlier pronouncements. It was true, as he once predicted, that the country was becoming unrecognizable through fundamental changes pushed through in his majority. Many of them had to do with the effective deconstruction of Canada’s democratic institutions. It was untrue, outrageously so, as he claimed, that he would be the prime minister of all Canadians after his election in 2011.

As the country quickly discovered, Harper was the Great Divider, pitting one group of citizens against another, a tactic singled out and criticized by former prime minister Joe Clark. He was the champion of a voracious corporate sector, the practitioner of bully-boy diplomacy, and the generous patron of the police and security establishment.

What makes Harris' piece so interesting is what insiders  -- some anonymously -- have told Harris:

A former Harper cabinet minister told me that the prime minister despises the Charter almost as much as he does the man who gave it to the country, Pierre Trudeau.

“Mandatory minimum sentences have no rational basis,” criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby told me. “One of the reasons Harper put them forward is that he hates judges and doesn’t trust them. So he takes their discretionary power away from them and hands more power to the prosecutors. Now a prosecutor can make a deal with an accused, waiving a minimum sentence in return for a guilty plea. The real decisions will now not be made in open court, but behind closed doors.”

“The reason for the muzzling [of scientists] is clear: control the message,” said Jeff Hutchings, an internationally acclaimed fish biologist from Dalhousie University. “This is like an Inquisition – ‘Who did you speak to, what did you say’. This wreaks of an atmosphere of suppression.”

Harper's legacy comes down to one word: tyranny. That is why, Harris writes, the 2015 election will mark a watershed:

The year 2015 will be a Rubicon election for Canada. That is the year that Canadians will have to choose between a national security state run by an autocratic cheerleader of the oil industry, and any semblance of a healthy, inclusive democracy – provided, of course, the opposition parties present that option. It is a matter of serious debate whether the Harper government’s work can be undone, or whether he has created a new normal in the country’s public life.

Mr. Harper has worked hard to make his changes permanent. The next election will determine whether or not he has succeeded.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Contempt And Criminal Justice


Eddie Greenspon and Anthony Doob write that Stephen Harper's contempt for all things institutional makes him a poor lawmaker:

Stephen Harper’s high-handed personal attack on the chief justice of Canada is part of a pattern of contempt for legal institutions and the law itself. Harper’s so-called “defeats” at the Supreme Court of Canada illustrate his disrespect for principles of fairness and his complete lack of interest in attempting to create coherent, sensible laws.

And the result is that he leaves legal chaos in his wake:

Harper’s approach to criminal law reform is best described as a confused mess. In one of his early bills, he raised the mandatory minimum sentence for carrying out violent crimes like robbery with a handgun from four years to five years (though for inexplicable reasons, the four-year mandatory minimum for robberies with shotguns or high-powered rifles was left unchanged). Does he really think that there are people who would be deterred by a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, but would not be deterred by four years? Is using a shotgun in a robbery really less serious than using a handgun?

More recently, the government introduced a new law dealing with harming police dogs and horses. If passed, the sentence for injuring a police dog will automatically be consecutive to other charges arising out of the same incident (e.g., resisting arrest), but if there is no dog or horse and two police officers are assaulted, the sentences need not be consecutive.

When it comes to criminal justice, one law impacts another law. That means that legislation requires an integrative approach, not legal cherry picking. There used to be a time when governments of all stripes understood this principle:

The criminal justice system needs thoughtful comprehensive legislation dealing in an integrated manner with difficult issues. In the past, governments — Conservative and Liberal — did this. In 2003, Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act replaced the discredited Young Offenders Act. Criticism of youth justice laws virtually disappeared. In 1992, a Conservative majority government passed comprehensive legislation dealing with penitentiaries, parole and other forms of release from prison. A major integration of Canada’s drug laws was introduced by the Liberals a few years later.

But the Harper government operates on the simple formula that if you want to decrease crime, you must increase punishment. This principle applies even if crime is at an all time low. Harper and Co. are simply vindictive -- towards opponents, towards anyone they see as a potential enemy.

And that's why, when it comes to crafting legislation, they are incompetent.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Nation Of Laws

                                          DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

This week's Supreme Court decision is not a blanket rejection of pipelines. It's more complicated and far reaching than that. Tom Walkom writes:

First, it doesn’t exclude aboriginal lands from provincial laws. Provinces are free to make laws about matters like oil drilling and forestry. But these laws must be applied to lands under aboriginal title in a manner that protects native rights.

For instance, provincial governments can’t unilaterally let forest companies clear-cut Indian land.

Second, the decision does not give first nations a veto over government-authorized projects that affect their lands.

In fact, the eight justices ruled that for purposes of “building up infrastructure’ or “general economic development,” federal and provincial governments can override the wishes of first nations — even those that possess clear aboriginal title to their territory through treaties or court decisions.

The decision, however, does set forth is a set of principles. Governments must:

consult with the First Nation in a meaningful way, in an effort to win its consent.

have a “compelling and substantial public purpose” for overriding a first nation if that consent is not obtained.

must maintain their constitutional duty to protect First Nations. In particular, they must act in a manner that protects aboriginal territory for future generations.

For a government which tore up the Kelowna Accord, bad mouthed Chief Theresa Spence and generally treats all its opponents -- not just First Nations -- with contempt, the Court sent a clear message.

Canada is a nation of laws, not men. More specifically, it is a nation in which one man does not make the rules.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Grasping, Grungy and Gloating


The Harper Spin Machine marked Michael Ignatieff's return to Harvard this week by releasing an attack ad which it didn't use when he was Liberal leader. The idea was, "We told you he was just visiting."

Ignatieff's return to Canada turned out to be a very bad idea -- both for him and for the Liberal Party. Andrew Cohen writes in The Ottawa Citizen:

If he had wanted out three years ago, who could blame him? And now that he is leaving, who can blame him? What is there left for him in Conservative Canada except tears, taunts, cries and laments?

His political sabbatical was a disaster. He led the Liberals to the worst defeat in their history – worse than 1958, worse than 1984 – becoming the third party in Parliament, unprecedented in their long history.

Under Ignatieff, the party went from official opposition to prospective oblivion. If the Liberals run third again in the next election, behind the New Democrats, there will be pressure from progressives to merge with the NDP, as there was in 2011. And that will be the end of the Liberal Party of Canada.

When the Liberals convinced Ignatieff to return, they were repeating the same strategy they used when they convinced Mackenzie King -- comfortably ensconced in the United States  and working for the Rockefellers -- to return and save the country form Robert Borden and Arther Meighen.

But, unlike King, Ignatieff had been away too long. He had lost his feel for the country. Moreover, King was a consummate politician. Ignatieff was a teacher.

So Ignatieff has gone back to the comfort of teaching in the Ivy League. And the Conservatives  have gone back to their old attack ads -- which always revealed more about them than they did about those they targeted.

They are still grasping, grungy  and -- when they succeed -- gloating.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Politically Inconvenient


Hypocrisy  is at the heart of the Harper regime. That hypocrisy was on display once again this week when John Baird -- the prime minister's bullhorn -- declared that, in the case of Mohamed Fahmy, bullhorn diplomacy wouldn't work.

Harper has been using his bullhorn against the tyranny of Vladimir Putin a lot recently. But, when it comes to Egypt, he sees no tyranny at all. The reason for his blind spot, Linda McQuaig writes, is Harper's unquestioning support for Israel:

Harper has never cared about democracy in Egypt. On the contrary, democracy there has been seen as a threat to the interests of Harper’s most favoured ally, Israel, which has long relied on the Egyptian government to help it enforce its blockade of Gaza — a blockade that is extremely unpopular among the Egyptian people.

So, while most of the world celebrated the unexpected eruption of the Arab Spring in Cairo three years ago — and even Washington eventually abandoned its long-time ally Mubarak — the Harper government remained wary, reluctant to see the end of a helpful dictator.

Harper has no interest now in defending Mohammed Fahmy because it interferes with his higher priority — giving a free hand to the newly restored pro-Israel military dictatorship, which has enthusiastically taken up enforcing the Gaza blockade.

Fahmy -- like so many other people in Harper's path -- is politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wherever He Goes

With two recent decisions, Tasha Kheiriddin writes, Stephen Harper may have lost B.C -- and beyond. His first decision -- to approve Northern Gateway and then disappear -- has stoked growing opposition to the project:

The Tories’ sotto voce approval might be a sign not only of Gateway’s mortality but Keystone’s as well. This would put into question their entire western economic and political strategy. Without increased pipeline capacity, Alberta petroleum producers can’t take more oil to market, unless they send it by rail. That’s already causing massive problems for another western constituency — farmers — who are watching their crops pile up as trains full of bitumen chug past.

Without petrodollars, the Tories’ dreams of moving Canada’s economic and political axis from Toronto to Calgary will pass them by. If Keystone is dead, Gateway has to come through. But without another Tory majority government, it won’t. Hence the importance of B.C. and its 42 seats.

His decision to "reform" the Temporary Foreign Workers Program has elicited howls of opposition in both British Columbia and Alberta:

Meanwhile, unions are making noise over Ottawa’s changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program. B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair stated this week that “the program is still going to exist — they just found ways to massage public opinion so they can continue with it.” Consequently, he added, “our position is that (foreign workers) should be given citizenship … If they’re good enough to work here, they’re good enough to live here, bring their families and spend their paycheques in Canada.”

All of the Alberta Conservative leaderships candidates have voiced their disapproval. The prime minister is now making enemies of former friends.

He sees enemies everywhere because he creates them everywhere -- wherever he goes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Nation Of Yes Men

From her new perch at  the University of Calgary, former Liberal leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay suggests that building the Northern Gateway pipeline is really a nation building exercise. But Andrew Nikiforuk -- an Albertan of much longer standing than Findlay -- suggests that the province which now thinks of bitumen as its economic lifeblood provides a cautionary counterpoint to Findlay's claim.

Consider, he writes, what bitumen has left in its wake:

A ring of mercury now surrounds the mining operation.

Regulators have allowed industry to accrue a $20-billion public liability of toxic mining waste with a paltry billion-dollar corporate bond.

There is no plan to manage the fastest growing source of carbon emissions in the country.

Despite unprecedented changes to the hydrology of the region by steam plant operators, no effective groundwater-monitoring regime exists.

The reclamation debt is growing every year because restoring destroyed peat bogs and wetlands is almost impossible.

Every year, snow melt flushes all the dirt from oilsands air pollution into the Athabasca River.
The contamination amounts to an annual spill ranging in size from 5,000 to 13,000 barrels of bitumen.
One has to ask, is Alberta the kind of province we want to build? And do Canadians want Canada to follow the Alberta model?  The Harper government has made its preferences known. And it has its reasons. Nikiforuk writes:

Revenue from the project supports a 43-year-old one party state that spends money like an entitled adolescent, saves nothing, wears a Tea Party hat and acts like a national bully. You can't find a province composed of more yes-men and yes-women than in Alberta.

Stephen Harper seeks yes men. It would be so much easier to get things done if Canadians were a nation of yes men.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Old Joe's Advice

Old Joe Kennedy reportedly told his son, the president, "It's not who you are that matters. It's who people think you are." Old Joe was a master of self promotion. It made him rich and it opened the doors to the corridors of power. The prime minister has taken Old Joe's advice to heart. Michael Harris writes:

Stephen Harper has made an amendment to the old saying that bullshit baffles brains: marketing trumps all.

Playing off that central tenet of Harper politics, perception as reality, there is a rift out there these days suggesting how formidable the Conservatives will be in the next election. Incumbency tends to attract those kind of flies. The belief seems to be that Team Harper can serve up one more baloney sandwich to the electorate and win government again.

However, there are a few caveats:

It must be a fact-free exercise. Use government stats more dubious than Donald Trump’s comb-over, avoid reporters at all costs, and eschew any living form of debate. Most important of all, lots of advertising featuring A pluses for the government and dunce caps for the opposition. 

It's worked for three elections. Why not keep the string rolling?  Every attempt is being made to accomplish that feat:

I’m not drooling, despite the 7-per-cent unemployment rate, the nauseating comparisons to how well we are doing relative to the G-7, and GDP numbers that might give woodies to Corporate Kahunas but leave the rest of us unexcited. After all, what comfort does an unemployment rate give you without the details of what sorts of jobs people are getting? You never will get those details. Those are only for important people. And what do important people do with their valuables? Hide them.

How many of the government’s job creation numbers can be traced back to the offshore workers program — that hot potato currently scalding Jason Kenney’s hands? Besides, who can trust Stats Can anymore now that it has been politicized like every other branch of the federal government? 

But, Harris writes, the public is beginning to see through the spin. The Ontario election was only the latest indication that people aren't buying Harper Inc. anymore. Joe Kennedy eventually became a pariah.

I wonder if Stephen has read that part of the story.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Following The Weather Vane

Charles Pascal writes that there were several low points in the Ontario election campaign. However,

When Horwath said in defence of her non-platform that she “walks in the footsteps of Tommy Douglas,” I felt faint with incredulity as I instantly recalled my most treasured moment when it comes to my fascination with politics — a long and deeply memorable lunch with Tommy in the fall of 1983. He said something to me on that late September day that those aspiring to replace Ontario’s current NDP leader at some time, sooner or later, should heed.

Pascal recalled that, at a time when New Democrat numbers were going nowhere, Douglas told him:

“While it would be wonderful if we were higher in the public’s favour, I actually cherish these times when we are forced to get back to our core principles unencumbered by those occasional cocktail party socialists who want us to be something we are not.”

Horwath and her supporters will point to the fact that the party has the same number of seats in the legislature as they had before she triggered the election. But, Pascal writes:

With Wynne’s sense that Ontario, like Canada, is a place of fairness and Horwath’s dalliance with the mushy middle, we would all be better off with an NDP that is truly informed by Tommy’s compass. The continued use of a weather vane will take Ontario’s NDP further down the road of irrelevance.

Both the provincial and the federal Dippers are following the weather vane.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Norwegian Model

As a truly nasty fight takes shape over the Northern Gateway, Mitchell Anderson writes that there was always another way. Call it the Norwegian Model -- and it contains three distinct lessons which Stephen Harper ignored:

Lesson 1: Norway built pipelines -- to Norway

Back in the early 1970s, Norwegians insisted that North Sea petroleum be processed in Norway through a pipeline controlled by their state-owned oil company Statoil. This was not just an economic advantage, but an expression of resource sovereignty. The outraged negotiators for Phillips Petroleum, who were counting on controlling the lucrative offshore pipeline themselves, called the Norwegian demand "immoral."

Building pipelines from offshore rigs to refineries on the Norwegian mainland was not merely difficult; it was considered technically impossible. Bringing petroleum ashore in the United Kingdom or continental Europe was shorter, shallower and did not require divers to descend to the bottom of the Norwegian Trench, a depth of 360 metres. But by sticking to their guns and demanding to move up the value chain, Norwegians ensured they controlled their own resource and kept the jobs and money in their own country. 

Lesson 2: Norway invested in social programs

In 2012, the Norwegian government earned $46.29 per barrel of oil equivalent. In that same year, Canada and the provinces earned less than one-fifth that much. The federal government has eliminated more than 20,000 public service jobs since 2010, with more cuts planned. Alberta, which has a comparable population and petroleum production to Norway, is almost $8 billion in debt. Last year, the Fort McMurray School district voted on a proposal to shorten their work week because they couldn't afford school bus drivers five days a week. Companies investing billions in the oilsands are seeing their landlocked operations hang in the balance due to lack of public buy-in.

Meanwhile, Norway is ranked number one on both the Human Development Index and the Democracy Index, and is the second best country in the world to be a mother. (Canada ranks 11th, 12th and 18th respectively.) Norwegians enjoy free university tuition, universal daycare and 30 per cent more spending per capita on healthcare -- all of which is largely funded through public oil revenues.

Lesson 3: Norway respected First Nations

While the Sami People of the northern Norway are still subjected to considerable discrimination, they are far ahead of the deplorable situation on First Nations reserves here in Canada. The Sami have their own parliament and enjoy the same legal language rights as Norwegian speakers.

In fact, all ethnic Norwegians could be considered an unconquered First Nation, having lived in present day Norway since the end of the last ice age. Vikings, who had the same military technology and resistance to the same diseases as the rest of Europe, went on a pagan-raiding campaign throughout Christendom for 200 years. That ancient memory of land and place remains, and may be the leading reason why their country was so successful at negotiating a hard bargain with the world's most powerful industrial sector in the 1970s.

Mr. Harper ignored all of these lessons. He has turned the tar sands into a moonscape, sent our greenhouse emissions off the chart, treated our First Nations with contempt, and threatened to destroy the coast of northern British Columbia.

 They say he's the smartest guy in the room. The Norwegians would disagree.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Clearing Out The Rot

A number of shibboleths fell with the election of Kathleen Wynne. The most insidious of them was the notion that  the words "tax" and "theft" are synonyms. Linda McQuaig writes:

The centerpiece of this ideological orthodoxy has been an almost phobic attitude towards taxes. The vilification of taxes has profoundly changed our society in recent decades, dramatically limiting our ability to act collectively to achieve common goals that improve our lives, confining us instead to isolated lives as private consumers.

Under Stephen Harper, Ottawa today collects about $30 billion less in revenue than it did a decade ago — $43 billion if corporate taxes are included. That’s $43 billion less each year to put toward public programs like health care, education, child care and pensions — programs that Canadians demonstrably want.

The corporate elite will continue to cry fowl. But the evidence is clear. It is they who benefit from the vilification of taxes:

Of course, this won’t stop the corporate elite from demanding an anti-tax agenda — something from which it has benefited enormously. A study released last week showed that Canada’s rich are much richer than we think; the average income in the top 0.1 per cent is actually a stunning $2.1 million, not the mere $1.3 million previously reported.

Wynne proved that, if the wealthy won't vote to increase their taxes, the general population will -- because society, as a whole, benefits:

Far from being the tax-phobic, one-dimensional characters described in economics textbooks — Canadians are capable of seeing that it’s more cost-effective and inclusive to pay publicly for important services like the provincial pension plan Wynne proposed.

Canadians not only like public programs, they consider them central to what they admire about Canada. A public poll released last week by the Harper government — part of the run-up to Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday — showed that Canadians regard medicare as the accomplishment that makes them “proudest to be a Canadian.”

This echoes results from 2004, when more than 1.2 million Canadians voting in a six-week CBC TV poll ultimately chose Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier who first introduced medicare almost 70 years ago, as the “greatest Canadian.”

All of which does not bode well for Stephen Harper and his claim that "there is no such thing as a good tax." The shibboleths are falling. Canadians are beginning to clear out the rot.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

This was supposed to be a banner year for the Harper government. It hasn't turned out that way. Chantal Hebert writes:

Time and time again over the past parliamentary year the government has turned what could have been policy gold into lead.
As often as not, a chronic incapacity to approach policy as more than a tool to drive a wedge in the electorate was to blame, with diminishing returns to the Conservatives.

The approval of Northern Gateway was supposed to be the triumph of the prime minister's economic vision. However,

the most vivid illustration of the perils of a my-way-or-the-doorway policy mantra pertains to the energy agenda that has long been at the heart of the prime minister’s economic strategy.

Even for a government that has never been in the business of giving Canadians more than a glimpse into its policy thinking, the absence of a designated ministerial pitcher to talk up the decision to give the green light to the Northern Gateway pipeline Tuesday was a stunning admission of how its handling of the issue has rendered it toxic.

Everything is falling around the prime minister's ears.The Supreme Court has ruled that Mr. Harper and the Constitution are frequently at odds. The voters of Ontario have just told him that they are in favour of a beefed up pension plan. And the prime minister's pipe dream of Canada The Petro State is mired in sludge.

The political alchemist has never been able to transform lead into gold. But he has an uncommon talent for accomplishing the opposite. It may be dawning on Conservatives that Stephen Harper is actually the Sorcerer's Apprentice. And, having troubled their own house, they are now poised to inherit the wind.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

He Can't Let Go

Lawrence Martin writes that, if logic prevailed, Stephen Harper would be heading for the exit -- particularly in the wake of Ontario's recent election:

You don’t have to be a reader of tea leaves to see the message. Hardly anyone is talking about it, but these and many other considerations suggest Mr. Harper should be seriously contemplating his future. It’s possible he can recoup enough of his support to score a minority victory next year. But where would that get him? Opposition parties would soon gang up to send that minority packing. As for the chance of Mr. Harper’s winning another majority, odds are not much better than for his stepping down.

Why would he go the long-shot route of another election when he could exit now with the status of a conqueror and guaranteed star-standing in the Conservative pantheon? With a legacy of unifying once-warring conservative factions; with having led the party to three election victories and only one defeat; with having advanced the right-side agenda in so many important areas.

But logic and Mr. Harper are strangers. Having been told by the Supreme Court that the government needs a warrant before looking into the Internet preferences of Canadians, the Conservative dominated Senate passed Bill S4 as written with no references to warrants. And, having been told that Federal Court Judges from Quebec are ineligible for appointment to the Supreme Court, Mr, Harper is repeating what he did the first time around.

No, logic is no where in sight. Martin writes:

But in the cauldron of power, one person’s sense of logic is not another’s. Instead, logic is sacrificed to ambition, to the eminence of high office. Toadies surround the commander, telling him what he wants to hear. There are too many hurdles to seeing things objectively. It makes the odds of Mr. Harper’s leaving no better than one in 10.

Stephen Harper is attracted to power like a moth to a flame. And, having held the reins -- or perhaps that should be spelled reigns -- he can't let go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's Driving Him Crazy

Popular wisdom holds that Stephen Harper's incandescent hatred of Pierre Trudeau is rooted in the National Energy Program. But, Michael Harris writes, it goes much deeper than that:

Stephen Harper’s real fight is not with the Supreme Court per se, but with the 1982 Constitution that created the charter. The problem for the Supreme Court is that it has the sole responsibility to assess all laws passed by Parliament against their interpretation of the charter. That means laws sometimes get struck down — although Parliament always has the option of responding with another law.

Ultimately, Harper is trying to crush a vision of Canada that sits behind the bulletproof glass of the Constitution — Pierre Trudeau’s vision, which saw the people as greater than their government. Harper can’t get at it, he can’t change it — and he can’t stand it.

And, so, we find ourselves spectators once again as Mr. Harper tries to do an end run around the Constitution in his second attempt to pick a Quebec judge from the Federal Court of Appeal:

Mainville’s appointment violates Section 98 of the Constitution: “The judges of the courts of Quebec shall be selected from the Bar of that province.”

Part of the problem is procedural hocus-pocus. Harper never bothered to ask the Supreme Court to answer the question about whether a federal judge could be appointed directly to the Supreme Court. Instead, when Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin tried to forewarn the PM and the Justice minister (really the same person) that there might be problems with the Nadon appointment, Harper reached for a mudball.

Last week, the Court informed the government that, if it wished to go fishing into Canadians' Internet travels, it needed a warrant. The Charter keeps getting in the way. And it's driving Stephen Harper crazy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

There Is Much At Stake

Kathleen Wynne's victory, Murray Dobbins writes, offers hope -- not just to Ontario, but to the rest of Canada:

While the right's hardliners may be lighting their hair on fire, citizens on the other hand may actually get to see what governments used to be like. There is, of course, still a possibility that Wynne will renege on these pledges as Liberals have done historically. But just imagine if she does deliver with the most progressive budget in Canada in 20 years. It could have huge implications for politics at all levels.

For forty years the Right has pumped the message that government is essentially evil and incapable of doing good. But Wynne could change that mantra:

If Wynne wants to have a really extraordinary legacy she has a golden opportunity -- and a powerful personal mandate. Progressive politicians can pitch good policies until the cows come home but the impact of actually seeing them work could be enormous: an executed plan is worth a thousand pledges. Wynn's $15-billion mass transit plan is huge in terms of reducing Ontario's climate footprint. Providing retirees with greater income security is something almost every government knows is critically necessary. Her pledge to raise the pay of the lowest paid health- and child-care workers directly addresses the issue of inequality. The rest of the platform was pretty interesting, too.

It all comes down to whether or not she can deliver on her promises. If she does deliver, Dobbins writes, there are three potential long term consequences:

Most important is demonstrating to voters across the country that governments can do things that make their lives better -- voting can make a difference. When the punditry puzzle over how the Liberals could have won despite a litany of corruption charges and large deficits, consider this possibility: the tired mantra about deficits and debt (and the scary bond-raters) suddenly takes its rightful place in the political firmament when it has to compete with real public goods and higher taxes on the undeserving rich.

Secondly, if this does start a trend towards more rational and less ideological politics (like actually addressing the $160-billion infrastructure deficit across Canada) the NDP might once again find the courage to run campaigns and engage the public on social democratic principles. After all, if they are going to mimic the Liberals to get to the centre, better they mimic Wynne (who is moving the centre to the left). NDPers everywhere would thank her (notwithstanding the irony that it took a Liberal to push the fiscal boundary -- sort of like Nixon recognizing China).

Lastly, though there may not be time for this to play out, a government representing over a third of the country's population actually pursuing an activist agenda could make things very difficult for Stephen Harper's continued assault on democratic governance. The 905 area surrounding Toronto went solidly Liberal in this election and it is these voters that Harper must have to win even a minority in 2015. If they are happy with Wynne's performance, Harper could be in serious trouble.

Wynne represents the possibility of better government and a better country. There is a lot riding on her success or failure.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Politics Of Resentment

Doug Saunders writes, in the Globe and Mail, that the politics of resentment is tearing modern conservatism asunder.  The argument is about immigration; and it was apparent last week in Washington with the fall of Eric Cantor. There are now two distinct camps: One group:

argues that immigrants tend to be natural conservatives: They’re more likely than other voters to be small businesspeople (so are fiscal conservatives), and to be religious (so are social conservatives). Canada’s Stephen Harper, Britain’s David Cameron and Germany’s Angela Merkel have all recently tried to make theirs the party of diversity, with varying degrees of success (Mr. Harper has fared the best).

 The other camp – the one against which Mr. Cantor crashed and burned – looks at the same figures and concludes that the rising proportion of racial and ethnic minorities is going to make white voters more insecure and fearful, and playing to this fear will drive them to your party. This, for the past 40 years, has been the Republicans’ core strategy. The secret to success in American politics, the Republican Party activist Kevin Phillips declared in 1968, is “knowing who hates who” and using that hatred to your advantage.

Modern conservatives have made a lot of hay by first identifying and then demonizing "those who hate us."  In 1970, American political strategist Kevin Phillips advised Richard Nixon to adopt a "southern strategy:"

“The more negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are.” 

That was the beginning of the politics of resentment. The whole anti-immigrant movement in the United States goes back to a stoked resentment between whites and people of colour.  Saunders writes:

This is a pretty cynical political tactic – one that risks long-term damage to your party’s, and your nation’s, social fabric. And is based on a view that looks narrowly inside partisan politics, not more broadly at the world.

True, U.S. right-wing Republicans and European far-right parties have been able to chalk up electoral victories recently by appealing to these white voters who are frightened of immigration (they tend to be older and undereducated). As one national survey shows, partisan Republicans and Democrats have polarized themselves more than ever before into mutually resentful “ideological silos.” This polarization seems to be happening in many countries.

And, so, we view each other suspiciously, convinced  that "the other" is our mortal enemy -- even as our resentment grows.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Let's Hope They Draw The Right Lessons

Ontario -- and Ontarians -- are lucky. So writes Gerry Caplan:

The Liberals’ luck is also Ontario’s luck. The Conservatives, and a good number of observers, believed Tim Hudak would emerge with the most seats, though not a majority. By parliamentary tradition, the Lieutenant-Governor would have been obliged to ask the last premier to form a government if she could; had Andrea Horwath agreed to support the Liberals – and now we’ll never know – the latter could have formed another minority. Yet as another way of scaring voters away from Mr. Hudak, Ms. Wynne took the dubious gamble of promising to advise the L-G to ask Mr. Hudak to form a government if he got more seats. He would have done so, found an excuse to force yet another election, and very possibly have emerged victorious. The consequences for the province are unthinkable. So lucky Ontario has been saved.

Tim Hudak's fate, however, was not a matter of either good or bad luck:

He was the sole author of his own misfortune. He and his team headed off to Washington, met some of the most extreme Republican politicians and “thinkers,” and returned promising Ontario a full-blown Tea Party platform. It was a corporate fantasy come true and was soon blown out of the water. Rarely in Canadian history have so many independent experts agreed on the dishonesty and distortions of a party’s platform. Still, to be fair, it seemed that Mr. Hudak had managed to persuade the 36 per cent of voters who supported him in 2011 to stick with him again. At least so it seemed to virtually every pollster and every wise guy pundit – until election night. Somehow, fully 5 per cent of those supporters abandoned ship on election day, Mr. Hudak ending up more than 7 per cent behind the Liberals. It was an unequivocal repudiation.

Which is a round about way of saying that Ontarians knew a scam when they saw and heard it. And what about Andrea Horwath -- who Caplan criticized for triggering the election?

Ms. Horwath was mainly inept and a little bit unlucky. She increased the NDP’s vote from 2011 by 1 per cent and might have legitimately expected more seats in return. But it was not to be. Let’s be clear: her intention was honourable. Like Tom Mulcair in Ottawa, she understood that to increase the NDP’s vote, and give it any chance of forming a government, somehow the party’s appeal must be expanded. So far so good. But her execution was sloppy and incoherent. She alienated an important part of her base – always the wrong thing to do – without giving many potential new voters reason to support the party. It was an experiment gone wrong, with many lessons for the future.

I suspect that all three of the parties will be drawing lessons from this election. Let's hope they're the right ones.

Friday, June 13, 2014

His Cheese Is Slipping

Not long ago, Stephen Harper mused about scoring a hat trick in Ontario -- a Tory at Toronto City Hall, a Tory at Queen's Park and himself -- the Big Cheese -- in Ottawa. This morning, Rob Ford is in rehab; Tim Hudak has resigned; and Stephen Harper -- who knows?

The Conservative defeat last night -- and that's what it was -- was a case of a flawed message and a flawed messenger. Voters clearly understood that Tim Hudak's much vaunted one million jobs plan couldn't pass a grade four math class. And Mr. Hudak was a lousy salesman.

Because Ontario's provincial ridings mirror its federal ridings, there are a few lessons Harper should take from last night's results. Tasha Kheiriddin writes:

Fear of cuts trumps fear of corruption. NDP leader Andrea Horwath learned this the hard way. She kicked off the election to kick out a scandal-plagued government, but people were more concerned the Tories would cut services. And they voted Liberal to prevent that from happening.

Ontarians don’t feel overtaxed. No, really. The Tories promised to cut taxes. The Liberals promised to raise them. The NDP promised to do both. And the Liberals got a majority government. Sigh.

Likeability matters. In the corridors, when no one was watching, even stalwart Tories would shake their heads and lament that voters just didn’t like Hudak. Ontarians didn’t love Wynne or Horvath, but they liked them better. Which could explain why …

Harper joked at Jim Flaherty's funeral that even his friends don't like him. And his government has served up both corruption and tax cuts.

There will be two federal by-elections in Ontario at the end of the month. The results should be interesting. It's beginning to look like the province which gave Mr. Harper his majority could well show him the back of its hand in the next federal election. As they say in the American South, "The boy's cheese is slipping off his cracker."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hudak And Zycher

One of the "bright lights" behind Tim Hudak's one million jobs plan is Benjamin Zycher. Linda McQuaig writes:

His sensibilities are closer to the Old South than Ontario; he once described Michelle Obama as a product of “lifelong affirmative-action coddling,” suggesting she only got her Princeton degree “because of her skin color.”

Zycher’s jobs prediction assumes that Hudak would introduce ‘right to work’ legislation in Ontario — even though Zycher’s analysis was released by the Hudak team as a backgrounder months after Hudak announced he wouldn’t implement such laws.

When Hudak suggested that he'd introduce such legislation, there was a backlash  -- even within his own party.  And, so, he took Right To Work out of the party platform. But the Zycher assumption is still there:

At the root of Zycher’s analysis is the belief that the anti-union legislation increases “economic freedom.” (True, getting rid of unions does give corporations a freer hand to keep wages low, while denying workers the economic freedom to organize collectively). Zycher tries to establish that “economic freedom” (the kind favouring corporations) increases GDP per capita.

He does this by pointing to an index of “economic freedom” prepared by the right-wing Fraser Institute, which shows that GDP per capita is about $2,000 higher in U.S. states in the third quartile of the index (including Arkansas and Mississippi) than in states in the fourth quartile.

He then makes the wild leap that if Ontario were to increase its “economic freedom” to the level of third quartile U.S. states, it could increase its GDP per capita by about $2,000.

The central idea behind the Hudak plan is that economic freedom will create jobs the way Arkansas and Mississippi have created jobs:

But, as [Jim] Stanford notes, this completely ignores the fact that Ontario already has a higher GDP per capita than states in the third quartile, despite our lack of “economic freedom.”

Having made the utterly baseless assumption that increasing our “economic freedom” would lead to a gain of $2,000 in Ontario’s GDP per capita, Zycher then calculates that this would translate into 10,600 jobs.

The Hudak team then takes this fabricated number and multiplies it by eight (because Hudak’s jobs plan spans eight years), despite the fact that even Zycher assumed it would be a one-time jobs gain.

  Anyway you look at it, Hudak's plan is bogus, y'all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Suppository Of All Wisdom

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott visited Ottawa on Monday. He and Stephen Harper got along famously. Abbott called Harper, "an “exemplar” and a “beacon for centre-right parties around the world”.

Why? Because the prime minister is a climate change denier. Nothing will prevent Harper from developing the oil sands, just as nothing will prevent Abbott from developing Australia's coal industry. Paul Adams writes:

More than anything, Abbott admires Harper because he sees him as a world leader in the fight against doing anything meaningful to contain global warming.

Like Harper, at one time Abbott was close to being an outright climate change skeptic. “The argument (behind climate change) is absolute crap,” he once remarked.

Like Canada, whose economic dependence on dirty tar sands oil has grown under Harper, Australia has an emissions problem. In fact, Abbott seems bent on increasing the growth of his country’s coal industry, which is closely linked to China’s economic expansion.

That’s why Abbott is joining Harper in forming a cabal of nations trying to slow efforts to contain emissions. He is trying to repeal the carbon tax imposed by [Julia] Gillard. And he has been an outspoken critic of President Obama’s recent climate-change initiative.

Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar. But, like George W. Bush, he is also a Master of Malapropism. In an effort to sound wise, he once proclaimed that, “No one, however smart, however well educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.”

Wanna bet?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Preview Of Coming Attractions

As the Ontario election campaign runs down, Kathleen Wynne says that a vote for the NDP is a vote for Tim Hudak. And Andrea Horwath says that Ontarians don't have to choose between "corrupt" and "crazy."

The dilemma facing Ontario's progressives, Chantal Hebert writes, will raise its head again in next year's federal election:

More so perhaps than any recent federal election, it will feature a fight to the finish for progressive voters between Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau.

Based on the pattern of the provincial campaign, the NDP/Liberal federal battle for Ontario will be Trudeau’s to lose.
As much as many left-of-centre voters fear a Tim Hudak government, that pales in comparison with the trepidation that the possibility of a fourth Stephen Harper mandate often inspires.

If we had a system of proportional representation, there would be no such dilemma. But that solution is far away:

Meanwhile, as Ontario goes, so must apparently Canada.
Thus irreconcilable differences between the NDP and the Liberal Ontario clans have gone a long way to bring both sides to all but rule out a pre-election rapprochement between Mulcair and Trudeau.
The enmity between the two opposition parties in the House of Commons increasingly runs higher than their common dislike of the Conservatives.

And so we, the voters, allow ourselves to be manipulated for the most cynical of reasons. Ontario is a preview of coming attractions.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Chicken Hawk


Last week, Stephen Harper bloviated about the evils of Communism and Vladimir Putin, in particular.  Michael Harris writes that it was all surreal:

Our 1950s prime minister has even taken us back to the political rhetoric of suburbia’s golden age. It’s like General Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers are back warning us of Ruskie tank divisions poised to strike Europe.

It’s Steve Versus Communism; Steve standing tall against the Russian Menace. Steve sending war planes. Steve … the only member of the G-7 making a complete fool of himself over the whole sad mess.

What you are seeing is a professional politician doing the only thing he knows how to do — extract crass political advantage back in Canada from the tragic events unfolding elsewhere. It comes from having never had a job in his entire life other than political marketing. When this guy’s brain gets into high gear, it sees billboards and 15-second spots.

Apparently, Mr. Harper has not paid attention to recent events. Russia may be led by a man who is a nasty piece of work. But it is no longer a communist country. China, on the other hand, is officially communist. And how does Mr. Harper deal with that well head of depravity?

As for the biggest Communist country of them all, China, Harper’s tough stand has amounted to selling off Canadian resource companies to Chinese state-owned entities, and renting the odd panda bear from them. Not much talk of standing up for Tibet, or tough sanctions for human rights violations.

On the international stage our prime minister consistently makes a fool of himself. World leaders have his number. Despite all the hot air, they know he is a chicken hawk.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Self Interest Is Their Only Interest

The Harper government is all about politics, all the time. Policy is not about improvement. And it's certainly not about seeking out expert advice. It's about exploiting personal advantage. Consider the  proposed prostitution legislation, Bill C-36. Michael den Tandt writes:

At a stroke, the Harper government has won itself and the country an emotional, divisive debate over values and social policy, one that breaks down along classic social conservative/progressive lines, and one the Tories must know they will ultimately lose. And perhaps that’s the whole point: another big bust-up with professors, lawyers, journalists and other pointy-headed, latte-sipping flibbertigibbets.

There is a method to this madness:

It is, in sum, the Conservative party’s first big foray back towards the social conservatism of its Reform party roots, and away from the libertarian-leaning model that has worked for it for a decade. Further, it is evidence the Tories realize they need more than just their old mantra of thrift and tax cuts to motivate their base and hold off a Liberal resurgence. The hue and cry from civil libertarians may also cause social conservatives, so long ignored, to open their wallets.

No, the proposed legislation is not about making lives better. It is a weapon to use against their opponents. It's always been about their opponents -- those who oppose the government's corporatist agenda and Bible Bill Aberhart's morality. The Harperites only interest is their self interest.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A Name That Will Live In Infamy

We once had to wait weeks, Andrew Coyne writes, for a new Harperian abuse of power. Now it happens daily. The latest example is the government's proposed legislation on prostitution:

It was expected the government would opt for the “Nordic model,” criminalizing the purchase of sex rather than the sale, as a replacement — a contentious but tenable response to the Court’s decision. It was not expected it would, in effect, fling the ruling back in the Court’s face. Not content with leaving the impugned provisions, but for a few cosmetic changes, essentially intact, the government imposed new restrictions, for example banning prostitutes from advertising: not just in violation of the Constitution, it would seem, but in defiance of it. The bill is written as if calculated to provoke another confrontation with the Court, ideally in time for the next election.

Harperian abuse shows itself in several ways:

a contempt for civil liberties, for due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage.

But it is most apparent in the prime minister's appointments:

What we’ve been seeing lately is a series of puzzling, troublesome and downright incompetent appointments: the parade of senators now in various stages of trouble with the law; the ill-starred promotion of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court (his successor, Clement Gascon, was better received, but without even the pretense of parliamentary scrutiny that attended Nadon); the conversion of what had been an arm’s-length process for choosing the Bank of Canada governor into the personal pick of the Finance minister; the selection of Arthur Porter — Arthur Porter — to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Like Orwellian,  Harperian is taking on a meaning all its own. It is a name that will live in infamy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Living, Breathing Dinosaur

Stephen Harper has always suffered from delusions of grandeur. Linda McQuaig writes:

Relatively little has been said about his grandiosity. Only months after becoming prime minister in 2006, he showed it off in an overseas speech that attracted surprisingly little attention in Canada.

Outlining his plan to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” he told the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in London that developing the “ocean of oil-soaked sand” in northern Alberta would be “an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the Pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.”

His is, indeed, an epic vision. But it is an epic vision with satanic undertones:

Harper’s struggle is epic, although not in the way he meant. It’s epic in that it pits him and a group of largely foreign investors against those willing to act to preserve the planet for human habitation — a group which now includes the U.S. government.

The simple reality is that much of the oil in the tarsands will have to remain in the ground if there is to be any hope of curbing the out-of-control growth of greenhouse gas emissions, currently on track to drive up the world’s temperature by six degrees Celsius within a few decades — a scenario considered semi-catastrophic by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization created by the leading Western nations.

There is another option:

Due to the marvels of modern technology, the world now has the technical capacity to move to a post-carbon age. The International Energy Agency is clear about this. In a report last month, the agency — which is the energy equivalent of the OECD or the IMF — pointed out that it is possible for the world to “decarbonise almost all power generation by 2050.”

Sure, but we’d all be back in the Stone Age, right? Employment would be confined to shovel-ready pyramids.

Actually, no. The IEA estimated the global cost of moving to a post-carbon world at $44 trillion — which sounds like a deal-breaker until you read on and discover that this massive cost would be more than offset by $115 trillion in fuel savings, resulting in a net saving of $71 trillion.

Does that mean the transition would be costless?

Overall, yes. Huge numbers of new jobs would be created as we redesigned our entire economy for a green technology age, just as happened years ago when we moved to the age of the railway and combustion engine.

But Mr. Harper sold his soul to Big Oil long ago. He has become one of those beasts whose demise created the oil industry. He is one of the last living, breathing dinosaurs.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

His Way

Much has been written about Stephen Harper's increasing isolation. Michael Harris writes that isolation was in plain sight when Harper chose Canada's new privacy commissioner:

The man named as Canada’s new privacy commissioner, Daniel Therrien, placed dead last in the competition for the job in the opinion of the selection committee that interviewed all six candidates.
He was considered by the panel to be a work-a-day deputy minister — competent, not brilliant.

Therrien was not even interviewed by the panel at the same time as the five other competitors — all of whom had direct experience as privacy advocates, while Therrien had none. His interview came two weeks after the others, and after the panel agreed that the top candidate was Lisa Campbell, a lawyer and rising star at the Competition Bureau.

On top of that, Therrien had zero experience in the private sector, a shortcoming the panel thought was vitally important. There were reservations about his language skills — was he fully bilingual?

In the end, Tony Clement said, Therrien was chosen because he was someone the prime minister would be “comfortable with.” That's it. Therrien works for Mr. Harper, not the people of Canada. And that's what people like Kevin Page, Linda Keen, Marc Mayrand, Pat Stogran and Munir Sheik forgot. They work for Harper -- not the people of Canada.

Only a man who lives in a bunker could believe that balderdash. It's no secret that Harper has a soft spot for old Beatles tunes. But, these days, he must be walking in and out of the rooms at 24 Sussex singing Paul Anka's signature tune, "My Way."

That's how it's got to be -- his way

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Worst Choice

Kathleen Wynne gave a less than stellar performance in last night's Ontario Leaders Debate. But, this morning, even John Ivison at the National Post writes:

The PC leader spent the evening moving his arms around, as if he were about to break into Simon Says. He looked slightly swivel-eyed when he rambled with messianic zeal about his “Million Jobs Plan,” which Ms. Horwath pointed out has “a million math mistakes in it.”

And Martin Regg Cohn, over at the Toronto Star, writes:

The three rivals avoided big mistakes, unleashed their attack lines and unfurled their talking points without a dramatic take-down or catastrophic error that destroys a campaign. It rarely turns out that way, and it didn’t Tuesday night — despite the best efforts of Tory leader Tim Hudak and the NDP’s Andrea Horwath to wound Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne.

To these old eyes and ears, the debate was a series of repetitions -- repetitions of pre-rehearsed talking points -- and it all became rather tiresome.

What matters, of course, is who shows up at the polls on June 12th, not who watched the debate. And, frankly, I have no idea who will show up and who will choose to stay home. However, not to choose is to choose -- and past experience tells me that refusing to choose yields the worst choice.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Turn Of The Screw

Yesterday, Barack Obama announced that the United States is moving to restrict the emissions of its greatest polluter, the coal industry. The objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal by 30% in the next sixteen years. Stephen Harper responded by saying that Canada already restricts emissions from coal. What he neglected to say, of course, is that coal accounts for only 11% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian equivalent of coal is the tar sands.

Since he came to power, Mr. Harper has done everything he could to pave the way for bitumen -- and he has trashed those who advocated limiting tar sands emissions. Lawrence Martin writes:

Mr. Harper doesn’t seem to have changed his outlook much since 2008, when he responded to Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion’s plan for a “Green Shift” carbon tax. Mr. Harper called the plan a threat to national unity and said it would destroy everything his government had built. “It will actually screw everybody across the country,” he said.

When it comes to action on the environment, Canada stands alone:

On environment protection, Canada’s ranking is rock-bottom, according to Washington’s Center for Global Development – 27th out of the world’s wealthiest 27 countries.

Obama has been telling Harper for months that, if he wants to see the Keystone Pipeline cross American real estate, Canada will have to show a credible plan to protect the environment. Harper's response -- along with the other climate deniers in his party -- has been to do absolutely nothing.

Now the heat is on -- and Mr. Harper is beginning to feel the turn of the screw.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Quality Of Mercy

Last week the Harper Spin Machine trumpeted the message that the present government has saved Canadians and their corporations $43 billion in taxes. That accomplishment was presented as if it was one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. And the opposition parties seemed to agree that, indeed, Canadians have been blessed. Murray Dobbin writes:

There was no critical comment from any of the national political parties. For so many years now, the conversation has been like one-hand clapping. Anti-government voices like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the National Post, the Fraser Institute and C.D. Howe Institute and the editorial writers in virtually every newspaper in the country repeat the mantra that tax cuts are good to the point where there is apparently no level of government impoverishment that is unacceptable.

Perhaps, he suggests, Canadians should know what could have been done with that money:

The folks at Press Progress did some of the work on such a list, allocating $43 billion in additional revenue annually.
Balance the budget: $2.9 billion
Pay down debt: $10 billion
Urban infrastructure and public transit: $9.5 billion
National child-care program: $2 billion
National pharmacare program: $3.8 billion
Reduce university tuition to 1992 levels: $3 billion
Invest in affordable housing: $1.5 billion
Invest in First Nations communities, water supply and education: $2.2 billion
Invest in long-term health care for seniors: $5.6 billion
And, say the authors, we would have enough left over to buy a Welsh pony for every child under the age of nine (cost: $2.5 billion).

It's all about the quality of mercy, not mania.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Imprudent Economic Management

The Parliamentary Budget Office reported this week that "Canadians are paying Ottawa about $30 billion less this year — or a little less than $1,000 per person — due to tax changes introduced in the past decade. Dennis Howlett writes:

But here’s the thing: The annual loss of revenue due to tax cuts is actually closer to $43 billion if corporate tax cuts are counted, which the PBO report did not include. Any way you cut it, that’s a lot of money. So who benefited from these tax cuts?

More than that, the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is growing:

The top 20 per cent of income earners saved $10.9 billion, or 36 per cent of the total, while the bottom 20 per cent got $1.9 billion, or only six per cent. On a pocketbook level, the lowest 20 per cent of income earners have gained less than $500 in tax reductions, while the top 20 per cent have seen their taxes go down by almost $2,000 a year.

As for those tax cuts boosting the economy, there is little evidence of that:

What have we gotten in exchange for those tax cuts apart from a few more dollars in our pockets? The Conservative government claims that tax cuts spur consumer spending, investment and job creation. There’s very little evidence to back up this claim. While middle and lower-income Canadians may spend their extra money, the rich tend to bank most of their savings — and they got the lion’s share. Tax cuts are one of the least effective ways to stimulate the economy.

As Mark Carney said before he left for Britain, what the cuts have created is a pile of dead money. Consider what that money could have done:

What could $40 billion buy? A national child care program. A pharmacare plan. Cutting university tuition to 2009 levels. An affordable housing strategy.

When seen in context, that $43 billion a year doesn’t seem like such a bargain after all.

Contrary to Conservative spin, that's nor prudent economic management.