What Stephen Harper isn't telling you

Lana
Lana Payne
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It's no wonder Stephen Harper is happy to talk up crime.

Any hot-button issue will do in order to avoid talking about the elephant in this federal election - the economy, jobs and the growing insecurity of Canadians.

Anything to avoid talking about his party's dismal record of failed tax cuts over economic investment. Anything to avoid talking about Canada's evaporating manufacturing sector and the loss of more than 350,000 well-paying jobs that go with it.

It's no wonder Stephen Harper is happy to talk up crime.

Any hot-button issue will do in order to avoid talking about the elephant in this federal election - the economy, jobs and the growing insecurity of Canadians.

Anything to avoid talking about his party's dismal record of failed tax cuts over economic investment. Anything to avoid talking about Canada's evaporating manufacturing sector and the loss of more than 350,000 well-paying jobs that go with it.

Anything to avoid discussing that Canada would have been plunged into a recession in the first six months of this year had it not been for Canadian consumer spending.

And anything to avoid talking about how the number of people needing Employment Insurance benefits in July jumped by 6.1 per cent over June - a time of the year when the job market is usually hot.

So what happened to those billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts that were supposed to spur on business investment and create jobs? Seems they are just not doing the trick.

Every single percentage point cut in the federal corporate tax rate costs Ottawa about $1.75 billion a year. Yet there is no evidence that this money is doing anything except padding profits. Business investment in Canada has stagnated despite skyrocketing profits and slashed corporate taxes.

According to Steelworker Union economist Erin Weir, profits rose nine per cent in the second quarter of 2008, while capital investment by corporations dropped by one per cent. Corporate tax cuts are not stimulating the economy as Harper and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, would have Canadians believe.

Weir warns that once all the numbers are in this December, we may discover we have been in a recession, but that won't be known until long after Canadians have voted, which is the real reason we are having the federal election now rather than later. Harper could not risk going to the polls during a recession.

Remarkably in this election, Harper has basically said guaranteeing or protecting jobs is not his job or the job of government. The fact that Canadians were not outraged by such a declaration speaks to how much damage this Conservative government has done in just three years.

The damage has been to our expectations of what governments can do and should do - or at least what the federal government can and should be doing.

With respect to the economy, Harper's response has been for us to keep spending. "Canadian consumer spending has been a rock that has sustained this economy and we anticipate that this will continue," he told reporters when forced to answer questions about the Wall Street fiasco and the impact it might have on the Canadian economy.

Keep spending! This is the best economic advice the prime minister can come up with. Let's get this straight. So, spending our way out of a recession is OK as long as it's individual Canadians doing the spending and increasing their personal debtloads, but the same prescription does not apply to government and businesses.

There is something really wrong with this kind of thinking.

Admittedly, though, even if the prime minister didn't need to dodge the economy, he'd still likely be talking crime. It is part of his pro-Republican ideology - that includes longer sentences for young offenders while de-nouncing any plan to deal with guns, gun control or poverty. A crime plan that fails to tackle the growing problem of guns on our urban streets or poverty will fail.

But then poverty and doing something about it is another topic Canada's sitting prime minister hasn't had much time for. Neither would he care to be reminded about a recent report by the World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health.

That report concluded "social injustice is killing people on a grand scale" and is even a problem in wealthy countries like Canada.

Monique Begin, a professor at the school of management with the University of Ottawa, was one of the commissioners who worked on the international report.

She noted that all Canadians do not share equally in the quality of life Canada can afford. "The truth is that our country is so wealthy that it manages to mask the reality of food banks ... of unacceptable housing, of young Inuit adults' very high suicide rates."

She said the report should serve as a wake-up call for Canada - to start living up to its reputation as one of the best countries in the world in which to live.

Such big ideas of building that better nation are largely non-existent in this election. And that perhaps is the most disappointing thing of all - we have leaders who have failed to inspire Canadians to dream and a prime minister who fails to see nation building as being his job.

Lana Payne is a former journalist who is active in the labour movement. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns October 11.

Organizations: Employment Insurance, Steelworker Union, World Health Organization Commission on the Social Determinants of Health University of Ottawa

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Justin Case...I'm on pace for a $8 gazillion dollar surplus this year. I invented the hamburger, pickles, dragons, and sarcasm. Do you know why I'm right? Because I make that statement on a news website comment board without any backup. And because the gnome that lives in my left armpit told me so.

  • Marco
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Wearing sweaters and kissing babies does not make Harper more warm, fuzzy and cuddable - or are Canadians really niave?

    ...Americans were when they voted for Bush and supported the vote for Iraq...

  • Beverly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    I can see why Ms Payne is a FORMER Journalist. What utter garbage.

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Your doom and gloom doesn't square with the facts. The country is still on track for a $2 billion dollar surplus.

  • Dumb
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    You can make yourself look like a millionaire on paper but in reality you're a pauper. Balance forwarding is a wonderful thing.... If reduce your revenue from taxes and increase your spending by more than you realize from taxes, how is it you can post a surplus of billions????? By the same token, if you spend more than you make you are in the red and have to borrow to pay you're bills........Pretty simple...

  • ken
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    The depth of feeling in NL against the Prime Minister warranted or not is such that for the good of the country they should seriously consider separation. I can only see total disruption at any Federal /Provincial meeting as long as Williams is there.

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Thank you Lana Payne for another excellent column. I have a suggestion on how the Harper government can use some of that 2 billion dollar surplus, he can extend EI benefits to thousands of manufacturing sector and other laid off workers, and you forgot to mention Lana that Harper broke his own law by calling an election before 2009, after saying all along that he had no intention of helping the auto industry he doled out millions to GM and Ford right before calling an election. I always read Lana Payne's and my friend Ed Smiths columns first, I love Ed's great sense of humour.

  • Dennis
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Right on! Thank you for bring this to the attention of your readers!

    Dennis Raphael is a professor of health policy at York University in Toronto and editor of Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives, 2nd edition. Social Determinants of Health is published in November by Canadian Scholars Press Incorporated. (www.cspi.org).

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Phoebe Tilley's response is the very reason I do not like the ABC campaign. I'm assuming that Ms. Payne, like myself, would not have voted for Harper if there were no ABC campaign anyway. But now, because of this campaign and Danny's popularity, it will be assumed that anyone who does not vote for Harper will be a mindless sheep following their Newfoundland king. I never voted for Harper in any of the elections which he has been leader of the Conservative party. I would never be able to force myself to vote for the party he leads. But now people will assume I am just another person blindly following Danny Williams.

    On another note, Pheobe, if you are going to critise some elses argument, at least try to make some kind of sensible point instead of simply calling Ms. Payne's article garbage. Do you have any arguments to dispute hers? Or is your arguing style to simply belittle someone elses opinion?

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    What a pile of absolute Garbage spewed out from the computer of Ms Payne. If not for doom and gloom what else would you have to write about. Get your facts straight and take your head out of the sand Lana. I guess your one of Dannys ABC followers are you sweetie? How very sad. Too bad there will be a Conservative Majority Lana. Then who will be the target of your doom and gloom garbage?

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    There's a lot Mr. Harper isn't telling us.

    He doesn't have a plan. The premier of Alberta and oil producers were taken aback by his environmental announcement on Friday.

    How much is his environmental plan going to cost us and how is it going to address our lagging productivity and other obstacles in the way of economic performance? He admits his plan is going to raise the cost of everything (fuel especially) but won't tell us by how much or will he help us meet these rising costs.

    Mr. Harper doesn't have a plan.

  • JM
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    The difference, Marco, is that Americans are no longer naive, Canadians... well... John from BC is a good example.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    For me crime is the big issue.The only party that is strong in this area is Harper and the Conservatives.Who else is there to vote for,tell me.I realize that Taliban Jack maybe the unions choice but he is not mine.

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Justin Case...I'm on pace for a $8 gazillion dollar surplus this year. I invented the hamburger, pickles, dragons, and sarcasm. Do you know why I'm right? Because I make that statement on a news website comment board without any backup. And because the gnome that lives in my left armpit told me so.

  • Marco
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Wearing sweaters and kissing babies does not make Harper more warm, fuzzy and cuddable - or are Canadians really niave?

    ...Americans were when they voted for Bush and supported the vote for Iraq...

  • Beverly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    I can see why Ms Payne is a FORMER Journalist. What utter garbage.

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Your doom and gloom doesn't square with the facts. The country is still on track for a $2 billion dollar surplus.

  • Dumb
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    You can make yourself look like a millionaire on paper but in reality you're a pauper. Balance forwarding is a wonderful thing.... If reduce your revenue from taxes and increase your spending by more than you realize from taxes, how is it you can post a surplus of billions????? By the same token, if you spend more than you make you are in the red and have to borrow to pay you're bills........Pretty simple...

  • ken
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    The depth of feeling in NL against the Prime Minister warranted or not is such that for the good of the country they should seriously consider separation. I can only see total disruption at any Federal /Provincial meeting as long as Williams is there.

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Thank you Lana Payne for another excellent column. I have a suggestion on how the Harper government can use some of that 2 billion dollar surplus, he can extend EI benefits to thousands of manufacturing sector and other laid off workers, and you forgot to mention Lana that Harper broke his own law by calling an election before 2009, after saying all along that he had no intention of helping the auto industry he doled out millions to GM and Ford right before calling an election. I always read Lana Payne's and my friend Ed Smiths columns first, I love Ed's great sense of humour.

  • Dennis
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Right on! Thank you for bring this to the attention of your readers!

    Dennis Raphael is a professor of health policy at York University in Toronto and editor of Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives, 2nd edition. Social Determinants of Health is published in November by Canadian Scholars Press Incorporated. (www.cspi.org).

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Phoebe Tilley's response is the very reason I do not like the ABC campaign. I'm assuming that Ms. Payne, like myself, would not have voted for Harper if there were no ABC campaign anyway. But now, because of this campaign and Danny's popularity, it will be assumed that anyone who does not vote for Harper will be a mindless sheep following their Newfoundland king. I never voted for Harper in any of the elections which he has been leader of the Conservative party. I would never be able to force myself to vote for the party he leads. But now people will assume I am just another person blindly following Danny Williams.

    On another note, Pheobe, if you are going to critise some elses argument, at least try to make some kind of sensible point instead of simply calling Ms. Payne's article garbage. Do you have any arguments to dispute hers? Or is your arguing style to simply belittle someone elses opinion?

  • Phoebe Tilley
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    What a pile of absolute Garbage spewed out from the computer of Ms Payne. If not for doom and gloom what else would you have to write about. Get your facts straight and take your head out of the sand Lana. I guess your one of Dannys ABC followers are you sweetie? How very sad. Too bad there will be a Conservative Majority Lana. Then who will be the target of your doom and gloom garbage?

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    There's a lot Mr. Harper isn't telling us.

    He doesn't have a plan. The premier of Alberta and oil producers were taken aback by his environmental announcement on Friday.

    How much is his environmental plan going to cost us and how is it going to address our lagging productivity and other obstacles in the way of economic performance? He admits his plan is going to raise the cost of everything (fuel especially) but won't tell us by how much or will he help us meet these rising costs.

    Mr. Harper doesn't have a plan.

  • JM
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    The difference, Marco, is that Americans are no longer naive, Canadians... well... John from BC is a good example.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    For me crime is the big issue.The only party that is strong in this area is Harper and the Conservatives.Who else is there to vote for,tell me.I realize that Taliban Jack maybe the unions choice but he is not mine.