By The Maven | When Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party of Canada first came to power in 2006, they inherited a budget surplus that had been hard-won by the earlier Liberal government. The Liberal budget for 2005-06 was not only balanced, but for the 8th straight year under Liberal rule, boasted a sizable surplus. This was delivered along with significant new money for defence and the environment, and some modest tax reductions for individuals.
As we know, the Liberal minority government was forced to the polls by the NDP in 2006, ushering in the Stephen Harper era as Prime Minister.
Harper’s first budget in 2006 lowered the GST by 1% to 6%. In January of 2008 it was cut again to 5%–this despite the protests of almost every economist in the country that the cut would take billions out of Federal coffers just when it appeared world economies were slowing. A year later, the Liberal surplus had been turned into a Conservative $34 billion dollar deficit.
Now, mind you, this was before the recession’s impact. Indeed, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was still saying in early 2009 that Canada would not experience a recession.
He made no plans for it either to stimulate the economy nor to reign in spending. Indeed the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has raised spending to unprecedented levels while cutting corporate and income taxes, and managed to erase all the surplus built into Paul Martin budgetary planning. And don’t forget that the very same Jim Flaherty was finance minister in Mike Harris’s ultra-right government whose Common Sense revolution left Ontario badly in debt after they got through with it.
With Jim Flaherty and the Conservatives jauntily denying the extent of the economic downturn, they were forced by the NDP, Liberal and Bloc to bring in a budget for 2009 that incorporated stimulus spending. This was the Economic Action Plan (as conceived of by the opposition parties and initially vigorously opposed by the Conservatives) that is now advertised by the Conservatives as proof that they should stay at the helm to ride out the last vestiges of the economic storm.
But from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush in the United States, to Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper in Canada, the right has been a disaster for slowing economies with their reliance on supply side economics.
Hell, even the Conservatives in oil rich Alberta can’t even manage a budget with all the oil royalties they are they are blessed with.
So why does the Canadian voting public still say in public opinion polls that they trust the Conservatives more than other parties to manage the fiscal situation in difficult times? It certainly isn’t based on reality.
We need more of this economic history to get out there. Why aren’t the opposition parties pushing the Conservative’s dismal record more volubly?
In Election Diaries, The Maven comments on the leaders, the parties, the issues and the campaigns for Canada’s 41st federal election.
Read more of The Maven’s Election Diaries at www.tomaven.wordpress.com.
For past articles by The Maven on the West Annex News, visit The Maven archive.