Thursday, January 21, 2016

Memory Lane: Liberals against borrowing for tax cuts

Now that it is clear that the Trudeau Liberals will be borrowing to pay for their tax cut, I have gone to the trouble of gathering some quotes from prominent Liberals accusing and criticizing Ontario premier Mike Harris for doing the same. 

One of the differences between Liberals and Conservatives (I hope) is that Conservatives think taxpayers' money is their own, so the idea that governments have to borrow to let taxpayers keep more of their own money is absurd. But Liberals start from the premise that the government's money is the government's no matter what.

As it turned out, Harris eliminated the $11.6-billion deficit he inherited in four years. To be fair, Prime Minister Two Nannies has pledged to get to a balanced budget in four years. So we'll see how that works out. In the meantime, enjoy:

Cutting income taxes before retiring the provincial deficit, he added, is irresponsible.

"They've put my daughter $23.2 billion in debt," [Vaughan-King-Aurora Liberal candidate Tony] Genco said.

"I don't know if Al Palladini runs his business like that. I don't know any business that would borrow to pay shareholders a dividend."
--Toronto Star, June 1, 1999

On the trust issue, Mr. McGuinty argues that Mr. Harris was less than honest about his intentions in the 1995 campaign. "Did he say that he would close our hospitals? Did he say that he would cut and close our schools? Did he say that he would borrow for a tax cut? ... In fact, he did all those things," the Liberal leader said during the debate.
--Ottawa Citizen, May 22, 1999

After focusing on health care for the first week of the campaign, Mr. McGuinty turned the spotlight on what he says is the government's irresponsible decision to borrow money to pay for tax cuts, while pulling money out of health care and education.

"Not only does this guy not have the corner on fiscal responsibility, he's not even on the same street," he said at a strip mall in this suburb of Hamilton.
--The Globe and Mail, May 13, 1999

"The Tories have no credibility to attack our plans," [Liberal campaign manager Tim] Murphy told reporters at a news conference called by the Liberals to try to diffuse the attack by the Conservatives on the Liberal financial projections.

"They added $24-billion to the debt. They've borrowed $9.6-billion to fund a tax cut which has caused chaos and crisis in our health-care and education systems. They're going to borrow another $500-million and that's traded off against a $500-million cut in education [spending]," Mr. Murphy said.
--The Globe and Mail, May 10, 1999

For the Liberals, the challenge is to convince voters that there is more to governing than tax cuts, said deputy Liberal leader Gerry Phillips.

"I realize, politically, people perhaps like a tax cut. But I think people now realize they've paid two prices for it. One is, it's cost us a quality health-care system. And the second thing it's cost us is we've got to borrow every penny for that tax cut," he said.
--The Globe and Mail, Apr 30, 1999

Liberal finance critic Gerry Phillips called the platform irresponsible. It doesn't foresee balancing the budget till 2001* and would spend only $2 billion on shrinking the province's $110 billion debt, he noted.

"Here we go again: we are continuing to borrow money for a tax cut."
--Ottawa Citizen, Apr 30, 1999

* The 2000 budget reported that the budget was balanced in 1999-00

In a campaign-style speech, Harris recalled that the Liberals back in 1995 thought his income tax scheme was "wacky."

The Liberals are still opposed to tax cuts, he charges.

"They don't get it that it's your money to begin with, it's not the government's," he said, to several rounds of hearty applause. "They still don't get that tax cuts work. They work for families, they work for jobs, they work for the economy."

McGuinty responded to the attack, saying Harris had to borrow $10 billion to pay for the income tax scheme and then nearly destroyed health care and education by slashing funding.
--Toronto Star, Apr 9, 1999

McGuinty was low-key and to the point in delivering his speech, which was billed as a major plank in his election platform and was intended to convince both supporters and voters that he has what it takes to battle Harris for the premier's office.

"Unlike the current government, we will not borrow to provide tax relief. And we will not run deficits to provide tax relief," he said. McGuinty said the 30 per cent tax cut introduced by the Tories was premature and only served to add to the province's debt and delay balancing the books.
--Toronto Star, Mar 30, 1999

Liberal finance critic MPP Gerry Phillips said what Harris fails to tell taxpayers is that the money for the province's tax cut has been borrowed.

"The tax cut has been at an enormous cost to the debt ... we've had to borrow roughly $10 billion to fund the tax cut. We're paying close to $800 million a year in extra interest just for the tax cut," Phillips said.
--Windsor Star, Nov 27, 1998

Liberal finance critic MPP Gerry Phillips said the government has bribed Ontarians with their own money "when a far smarter thing would have been to balance the books . . . and then look at a tax cut."

Phillips said what people forget is that the government so far has had to borrow about $10 billion to pay for the tax cut at a cost of about $2 billion in interest.
--Windsor Star, June 25, 1998

"The average taxpayer ($32,500 annual income) will get an extra $1.44 more per week, and a person earning $50,000 will get an extra $2.86 a week," after the latest cut takes effect Jan. 1, [Liberal MPP Gerry Phillips] says. Those with much higher incomes will see substantially larger cuts in dollar terms, he said, calling this fiscally irresponsible because "Ontario has to borrow every penny used to fund the tax cut."
--The Globe and Mail, Dec 23, 1997

Mr. McGuinty said he will attack the Conservatives on how they have gone about reducing the provincial budget deficit to $5.6-billion from $11.2-billion. "I think to borrow $12-billion or $15-billion to deliver on a tax-cut promise is not fiscally responsible."
--The Globe and Mail, Dec 22, 1997

"Every penny (of the tax cut) the government is going to have to borrow while it is cutting hospitals, school boards, municipalities and making seniors pay for their drugs,'' Liberal MPP and finance critic Gerry Phillips says.
--Windsor Star, Nov 29, 1996

Liberal Finance critic Gerry Phillips said the government will be forced to cut closer to $10 billion, as the bond rating agency suggested, in order to deliver the tax cut.

"Everybody loves a tax cut but every dollar of that has to be borrowed money," Phillips said.
--The Record, Nov 2, 1995

The Harris government has said that it will have to borrow $15 billion over the next four years to pay for the tax cut. The extra annual interest charges alone will be more than all the money saved in last week's spending cuts.

--Liberal finance critic Gerry Phillips, Ottawa Citizen, July 25, 1995

Monday, November 12, 2012

Photo Essay: Remembrance Day, Prospect Cemetery, Toronto

Earlscourt Branch 65 of the Royal Canadian Legion held their 85th Annual Sunrise Service at Toronto's Prospect Cemetery.

Cenotaph and honour guard

Wreaths to be placed during the service

Parade from cemetery entrance to the cenotaph

Service attendees

Retiring of the Old Flag

Dr. Norman Gunn dedicating the New Flag

Raising the New Flag

Firing Party

Last Post

Parade leaving Prospect Cemetery

Lest we forget

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who will run? Handicapping the Liberal leadership pool

Never let it be said that Dalton McGuinty lacks mercy. At the same time he is yanking the hay out from under Ontario’s horse-racing industry, he has promised gamblers more casinos where they can relieve themselves of their cash and dignity. And now, by quitting while staring at the same uncertainty as many in the racing industry, McGuinty has given Ontarians an opportunity to rate the Liberals who may succeed him. Here’s a rundown of some of the likely candidates, and the odds that they will saddle up for the starting gate.  With the leadership vote set for January 25th, we should be hearing some announcements pretty soon:

Dwight Duncan: Losing weight and staying out of trouble may be the minimum barrier to entry in Hollywood, but in the McGuinty government it qualifies you for the A-list. The newly svelte finance minister has been a lifelong Liberal operator, going back to his days as a staffer in the Peterson government, and has amassed a lot of friends and favours. When Duncan ran for the leadership in 1996, he participated in an ill-advised CPAC documentary, the highlight of which was a bewildered Duncan being confronted by the shock, anger and disgust of his own supporters after he unexpectedly endorsed Gerard Kennedy. To me, the most embarrassing clip was when he admitted being brought to tears by Herb Gray. In 2012, Duncan will likely run and do very well, assuming he nixes any behind-the-scenes videos. Odds: 1-1

Kathleen Wynne: Wynne first came to the public’s attention fighting Toronto amalgamation with Citizens for Local Democracy. To her credit, she publicly called out McGuinty for proroguing the Legislature when he quit. Wynne had a successful tenure as education minister, thanks to the bags of taxpayer cash that McGuinty handed her to hand to education unions. She will probably come under some pressure to carry the rainbow flag in the leadership race, and if she can see a way to do so without going into debt, probably will. Odds: 3-1

Chris Bentley: Bentley has always reminded me, in appearance and voice, of a character from “Green Acres” called Mr. Haney. Haney was the local salesman/gouger who sold the New York Douglases their farm at an inflated price, and then in subsequent episodes sold them the fixtures and equipment that were originally on the farm, one truckload at a time. This is not unlike Bentley releasing documents about the Liberals’ power plant cancellations, one truckload at a time. Sadly, Bentley isn’t half the salesman that Haney was, and so McGuinty’s resignation could not have come a moment too soon. Nevertheless, the leadership race will need a moderate, somewhat dull, professional white guy to balance Duncan and Wynne (as McGuinty contrasted with Kennedy and Duncan), and Bentley is an obvious choice to fill this role. Odds: 3-1

Gerard Kennedy:  With a longer campaign, Kennedy might have enough time to overcome the facts that (1) he was the kingmaker in the Stephane Dion debacle, (2) he lost his own seat federally, (3) he has no seat now. But the campaign is going to be barely three months long.  Odds:  50-1

Sandra Pupatello: I was surprised to read that Pupatello is considering throwing her stilettos into the ring. I’ll never forget that Pupatello compared former premier Mike Harris to Adolf Hitler, but luckily for her, much of the media and public have forgotten. Unburdened of the government’s baggage since choosing not to run in the 2011, Pupatello could be a serious threat, but running against her fellow Windsorite Dwight Duncan might limit her potential. And if she won and didn’t want to call a general election right away, someone would have to quit so she could run for a seat in a by-election. If she wins against Dwight Duncan, he might be happy to be that guy. Odds: 50-1 

George Smitherman: I spotted Furious George at Toronto’s recent Word on the Street festival, where he was pushing a stroller and looking like any other exhausted parent of young children. Why this is the pinnacle of five decades of gay struggle is beyond me, but then I don’t think women who want to stay at home with their kids for a few years are betraying their sex, so God bless. Smitherman’s baggage from eHealth, Ornge and energy are considerable. Add to this the fact that other Liberals were left holding some of these bags while he took off to run for Toronto mayor, which is not unimportant in an internal party race. His frustrations with unaccountable bureaucrats are understandable, but they are perceived by most outsiders as whining and buck-passing. Smitherman can credibly plead that his kids are too young for him to run for leader, though a return in the next provincial or federal election is not out of the question. Odds: 100-1

Michael Bryant: Bryant was one of stars of the McGuinty cabinet until he had enough of McGuinty and quit, though Bryant’s political skills were rarely in doubt. And you have to have a grudging admiration for a man raised in the wilds of B.C., who comes back from a year at Harvard with the accent of someone who has been summering at Hyannis Port since birth. Bryant recently released a searingly honest biography, detailing his own alcoholism and the tragic life and death of bike courier Darcy Sheppard. Unfortunately, the only Liberals who want a searingly honest leader left for the Greens or NDP years ago. Odds: 250-1

Monday, June 06, 2011

Some people just don’t respect democracy, do they?

In 1995, I worked on the provincial election campaign for Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives. On the day after the election, I manned one of the two reception desks for a while to help answer the phones, which were pretty busy. Most of the calls were people offering congratulations, and urging the party to keep the promises it made during the election.

The reception area was directly across from the elevators. At one point, the elevator doors opened, and out came a few scruffy-looking young people. They ran up to the other reception desk and snatched the small stack of the party’s election platform document (the Common Sense Revolution – perhaps you’ve heard of it?) that was on the desk, ran back into the elevator, and disappeared.

It struck me as weird, but I forgot about the incident until I was watching the news later that night. Lo and behold, the same scruffians who had pulled off the daring snatch-and-dash at our HQ had been captured by a news camera, setting fire to the platform documents they had stolen. Now, I don’t wish to be unfair to them, but I am guessing that they hadn’t read it first. Again, this was one day after the election.

Alas, this is the sort of thing that Canadian conservatives of a certain age have become somewhat inured to. Whenever a conservative government is elected, or attempts to enact the promises it made to voters, its leaders, ministers and parliamentarians are compared to Hitler and portrayed as being bent on “destroying” education, health care, children, seniors, the disabled, and small pets. Ipso facto, they must be “stopped,” no matter how much rudeness, law-breaking, spectacle or street-clogging it takes. These accusations are generally accompanied by paranoid implications that said conservative government has all the legitimacy of a military coup, because they are only a minority government, or garnered less than 50% of the popular vote. (Though I believe that both Bob Rae and Liberal Jean Chrétien squeaked out majorities with less than 40% of the vote.)

So when I heard about Senate page Brigette DePape’s Code Pink style protest during the Throne Speech, I can’t say I was surprised. After all, it was earlier that very day that I spotted the charming graffito pictured above, equating Harper to Hitler, on a Bloor Street pedestrian underpass mere steps from my home.

As I tweeted on Friday night, Ms. DePape is the natural result of two decades of government "education" and self-esteem building, which taught her that every thought she has is profound, and everyone else should have to listen to it. In her interview on CBC’s Power and Politics she also displayed the audacity and entitlement common to her generation, announcing in a chipper manner that she is looking for “employment opportunities.” Naturally, PSAC, the union of federal government workers, soon offered her one. Well, PSAC is certainly the right place for her.

This sort of thing keeps happening because the media rewards it, and conservatives rarely call its perpetrators on their rank hypocrisy and tantrum-like intolerance, the shorthand for which is: anyone in power who is not simpatico with Brigette and her pals must be stopped by any means necessary, including vandalism, physical intimidation, and disrupting state occasions that they have been entrusted to support, not subvert.

What are workaday folks, who do not have the luxury or inclination to engage in such rule-breaking or vandalism, supposed to do in protest to such camera-friendly antics? How does one explain to the DePapes of the world that: (1) the people have spoken and (2) you’re not really a democrat if you don’t accept election results you don’t agree with? Generally, all their natures and upbringing will permit everyday people to do is vote or donate to the conservative party, and hope that their votes will be honoured.

Sometimes I wonder whether conservatives should get into the disruptive protest business, pulling up in our pick-ups and SUVs and blasting Carpenters and Barry Manilow at outdoor protests where people are demanding the “right” to more money from their neighbours. Or yanking some hippie’s guitar without warning and smashing it, a là John Belushi in "Animal House." Oh, if only we were cool with disrupting other groups’ organized events, and trashing other people’s property!

There is sometimes wild talk, especially in the US, about these days resembling the time portrayed in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, when government’s attempts to control the economy grew in size and reach, as their effectiveness steadily decreased. The eventual result, as in Rand’s working title for the novel, was the mother of all Strikes: productive and competent people eventually disappeared, leaving the country to collapse under the contradictions that could no longer be sustained without them.

But ex-page DePape and her ilk needn’t worry: such a movement is unlikely to take hold here, where the government and state-funded information and educational institutions are deeply entrenched and continually dispersing new platoons of DePapes. Canada’s productive and competent will keep working, providing her and her soon-to-be brothers and sisters of PSAC with the opportunities and retirement that the education system and left-of-centre politicians have told them they deserve.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Check me out at the Sisyphus Blog

Some very kind and tolerant folks have invited me to be an author at the Sisyphus Blog. Please check it out at

Monday, March 08, 2010

James Cameron: just another butt-kicking Canuck

All of Hollywood seethes at kid from . . . Kapuskasing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for directing. Though I’m relieved she won only two Oscars: because had she won a third I’m afraid she would be thanking toll-booth attendants and airport security officers in her speech. And I am amazed that Barbra Streisand agreed to hand out the directing award, after the academy ostentatiously declined to nominate her for directing Prince of Tides years ago. (Who knew Babs was so forgiving?)

But I must admit to being tickled (though baffled) for some weeks now at the low-level hatred Hollywood seems to have for James Cameron, the director who spent his formative years in Kapuskasing and Niagara Falls (the good side).

It’s an odd hatred, because if there’s one thing Hollywood loves above all else, it’s financial success. Cameron has directed two of the highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic and Avatar.

Even if you are hooked on drugs, cheating on your wife and mistress at the same time, and a lousy parent, no matter: so long as you deliver at the box office – and can be insured – you will keep getting hired in Hollywood.

But it seemed to me last night that every time an Avatar nomination was announced, or the camera alit on its director James Cameron, there was a certain hostile quiet, a froideur, if you will, in the Kodak Theater.

Why is Cameron despised? Because he’s divorced four wives? I doubt it. Or maybe it’s because he’s an unrepentant, demanding a**hole on set, and because actors seem secondary or even tertiary in his films. But is Cameron the first SOB to fart in a director’s chair? Are the makers of animated films despised like Cameron is? Don’t think so.

Even if the reasons made sense, I’m not sure I would ever get over the fact that a kid from Northern Ontario can become the object of such resentment in one of the most competitive and wealthy industries in the world. Do you know what the main economic activities of Northern Ontario are? Scraping minerals out of the ground, cutting down then grinding up trees, and tourism centered around guns and fishing rods. Oh – and government.

Almost a century ago, the most successful Canadian in Hollywood was Mary Pickford, America’s sweetheart (born in Toronto). Today, it is James Cameron. I don’t quite get it: but I’m still tickled.