When this election started, eleven long weeks ago, the Prime Minister wanted it to be about the economy. He and his followers believed this was their strong suit and that if they could convince Canadians that only they could manage the economy in troubled times, they would win. Things did not go according to plan. The fact we entered a mild made-in-Canada recession at the beginning of the year didn’t help. Nor did the events of the campaign that slowly made it into a judgement about leadership, vision and the kind of Canada we want. In these areas, the narrow, selfish economic proposals of the Conservatives did not go well.
Yet they persist, declaring that only they can handle economic matters while the views of the other parties are ‘unicorns and rainbows.’ Typical of the arrogant and abusive nature of Stephen Harper – who has always refused to engage in serious debate of any kind on any issue but always resorted to dismissive name calling.
No Prime Minister, in my long memory, has been so deserving of defeat – and not merely because of his character but because of his general incompetence. The so-called Conservative advantage is mostly, if I can copy Mr. Harper for a minute, trolls and dragons. Trolls meant to divide us and dragons – that is rich people – meant to rule us. His performance in real terms has been as weak as his braggadocio has been strong. Numbers, in this case, speak louder than words.
No government can really control the economy – there are too many random events and international forces at play – but they can certainly impact it by what they will or will not do.
Think of it this way. If you hire a carpenter to come do some work on your house, you expect him to bring all his tools. You never know what you will find once you tear down a wall so he better be prepared for anything. Mr. Harper and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Mulcair, arrive at the house with half their tools either left at home or broken in the tool box. The Conservatives have a single solution to whatever might be wrong – cut taxes or, better yet, create an inefficient tax credit. I’ve occasionally thought that they would eventually propose to stop terrorism by giving a tax credit to non-terrorists.
Governments need all of the tools in their box, which includes fiscal and monetary policy – the ability to spend or abstain from spending and the ability to control the money supply. There are some other tools as well – tax credits are one of them. Tax penalties are another as are changing laws to promote creativity and enhance productivity. Creating a climate of innovation – real innovation and not mere tinkering on the factory floor – is also critical to building a modern society.
The Conservatives have abandoned many of these tools. They have done damage to the climate of productivity by allowing corporations to horde their tax savings – or spend them on bloated CEO salaries – rather than invest them and by actively attacking science in the interest of their ideology. The NDP hobbled themselves by refusing to use the full range of fiscal options (i.e. no deficits ever) and so delaying some of the actually useful, economy building, proposals like $15 daycare for years if not decades. But, at least, they know that we need a better approach and more egalitarian society if we are improve the economic outlook for all Canadians.
The Liberals may or may not do a better job than the other two but at least they are coming to the job with the tool box full of working tools. And, unlike the fake economist and professional politicians in the current government, at least they will have people sitting at the Cabinet table with real world expertise in economics and the economy.
The future holds tremendous challenges. We can continue to hope that low taxes and a reliance on resource development – which has largely failed us so far – will turn things around. Or we can start to build a more modern and balanced and inclusive economy based on a mix of activities and industries. The Conservatives cling to the latter while the former requires the progressive ideas of both the Liberals and the NDP.
We can look to the past or we can look to the future. It’s all up to you.
And that’s a little more than ten minutes.