Goodale thinks Stephen Harper drank his milkshake
Liberal hothead Ralph Goodale gamely attempts in the National Post today to frame the next election around the notion that the federal government is being rendered into a deficit-burdened weakling under Stephen Harper (actually, that sounds like the Liberal party under Stephane Dion, but never mind).
This is to distract from the frame that the Liberals have already hung around themselves: namely that they would have to raise taxes to pay for their yet-to-be-revealed social and environmental schemes, currently being wordsmithed by Bob Rae (aka “$40 Billion Deficit Man”).
Ralph writes of his glory days as Paul Martin’s finance minister, before it all came crashing down on him: “the government of Canada was working on its 10th consecutive balanced budget.” Translation: “After years of waiting for Jean Chrétien to retire, I was in my robe and slippers writing my second kick-ass budget, and then out of nowhere that f***er Jack Layton pulled the rug out from under me, and the RCMP wrapped me in it!!”
The inflamed gum at the root of Ralph’s latest tantrum is that the only way a Liberal government would have enough cash to launch massive, new social or environmental programs (like the day care program the Liberals promised for 13 years and never got off the ground, despite having blown $250 million, or the $250 million they spent on Kyoto, while our CO emissions increased by 30%) is by . . . raising taxes.
Ralph feels personally betrayed that the surplus he dreamed of spending himself has gone into things such as restoring the military after the Liberals’ dark decade, and Arctic sovereignty. What do these things have in common? They’re national responsibilities (more on that later). And here’s something you don’t hear too much about: federal transfers to the provinces are increasing under the Conservatives. Federal transfers to Ontario are budgeted to increase by $1.2 billion over the next two years (Ontario Budget Papers, p. 93). And that number is assuming Ontario stays a “have” province.
Admittedly, some of the surplus that Ralph believes is the rightful property of the Natural Spending Party, has also gone into the taxpayers’ pockets whence it came: horrible, horrible taxpayers who blow their cash on big screen TVs, World of Warcraft, and memberships in Liberal riding associations where Dion ends up appointing the candidate.
Unfortunately, Ralph’s claim that the GST cut “does nothing to improve tax fairness, disposable incomes, household savings, productivity or competitiveness,” is flat wrong.
In terms of fairness, it is widely accepted that consumption taxes have the greatest impact on low-income individuals, who spend most of their disposable income and likely do not qualify for income tax cuts. That’s certainly what I remember from back when the GST was introduced (to replace the Manufacturers’ Sales Tax), because that is what all the GST’s opponents were screaming at the time. And that’s why the Liberals under Jean Chrétien said they’d “axe the tax.” So by reducing a tax that hits hardest at the poor, the Conservatives have increased tax fairness.
And I think even Ralph can figure out that if you pay less tax, you have more disposable income. But then Ralph’s concern for people’s disposable income seems a little suspect, given his membership in a government that increased CPP deductions, and kept EI premiums higher than they needed to be. Yes, there was good reason to increase CPP premiums, and the Liberals obviously believed they outweighed the impact on people’s take-home pay.
As for savings, well, you’d be surprised how many people put aside their loonies and/or toonies and deposit them in the bank at the end of the month. Surely a 28% cut in the GST adds up to a few more loonies? One notable exception to this habit, of course, is Jean Chrétien. Chrétien kept giving his spare change to his legion of homeless pals. Why do you think he had to go home for lunch every day like a five-year-old? By the time he got to work, all he had left in his wallet were fifties and hundreds.
What Ralph’s beef boils down to is this: Liberals think that giving citizens more than a little taste of their own money is a really bad idea. Instead, the federal government should take that money, keep some for itself, hire consultants to research and write papers on day care or global warming (keeping some money for themselves), set up pilot projects (those need money, too), and give some money to the provinces that are going to play ball with the Liberals (there goes some more money). Then if the Liberals happen to lose power (“God d*** you Layton and Zaccardelli!”), they blame the Conservatives for destroying their brilliant, about-to-be-rolled-out program.
But seriously, Conservatives are not opposed to government. We are opposed to incompetent, unfocussed government that majors in inserting itself into the provincial sphere, while minoring in (1) letting national responsibilities slide, and (2) demonizing conservative governments in Alberta and Ontario.
Provincial governments already run the big social programs (health, education, welfare), they are closer to the people than the federal government, and they have the income tax, sales tax and business tax revenue to pay for social programs. Federal equalization helps poorer provinces offer similar social programs. In the Liberals’ eyes, Stephen Harper’s sin is that he respects federal/provincial jurisdiction. This is what Ralph calls an “ideological obsession to stop the federal government from being an instrument for good in the lives of ordinary Canadians.”
Canadians seem pretty happy with their GST cut, so I guess if the Liberals want another massive program that will be an “instrument for good,” then during the next campaign they will just have to tell Canadians (1) they will raise taxes if elected, and (2) what they want to use the money for. Good luck, Ralph.
Or, they could just try to do what Dalton McGuinty did: promise they aren’t going to raise taxes and then raise them anyway. Liberals seem to be able to get away with that.