May 01, 2015

How Stephen Harper spent your money like a Liberal

MJ SheppardRebel Blogger

Arguing with Conservative voters is one of my favorite past-times because so many of them know so many things that aren’t so. Foremost among them is the prime minister’s handling of the 2008 financial panic and the massive spending involved in “Canada’s Economic Action Plan.” 

The 2009-10 spending spree was, per capita, larger than even Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, which many Harper supporters believed to be “Marxism,” although nowhere in it was the workers taking control of the means of production advocated or funded. That’s all well and good if you’re a proponent of the Keynesian school of economics, but Harper and his then-finance minister, Jim Flaherty, spent decades arguing in public that they weren’t. 

One of the constant refrains that I hear from partisan Tories is that the prime minister, heading a minority government during the relevant period, was forced to spend greater sums of taxpayer money than even the “socialist” Obama. He had no choice, you see!

The history refutes that assertion.

On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, precipitating what many clever folks thought might very well be the End of the World. The New York Stock Exchange lost half its value in one day. Trillions of dollars just ... vanished. It was the 9/11 of money.

At a campaign rally that day, Harper declared that the fiasco “could be a great investment opportunity,” a fairly clear indication that he had no idea what was going on.

On November 27th, after the election, Flaherty delivered the Economic and Fiscal Statement, which basically declared that everything was fine, and, boy, we delivered some pretty great tax cuts, didn’t we? Buried in the speech was notice that the government intended to end the public subsidies for the parties.

That got the attention of the opposition parties, who started negotiating a coalition agreement to topple the Conservatives at the earliest confidence vote. Although the agreement imploded in mere days, Harper responded by shuttering Parliament and leaking that he was going to spend a fortune in public stimulus.

By the time the budget was introduced in March of 2009, Stephane Dion had been replaced as Liberal leader by Michael Ignatieff, who had been instrumental in destroying the coalition.  It was a dead issue, and had been for months, annihilated by Liberal arrogance, Conservative fear-mongering and an exceptionally lazy media.

But Harper spent the money, anyway. Actually, he was gleefully spending it. Signs declaring “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” appeared in such numbers that reasonable people became fearful that they might be soon affixed to the foreheads of the citizenry. And for two full years, they kept appearing. I took a trip to rural Quebec in the spring of 2012, and you could ever find the infernal signs there. For miles around, there was nothing but fields, cows ... and “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” signs, albeit in French.

Even after the spending stopped, it didn’t. Television ads showing all of the awesome things that the great and glorious Stephen Harper built for you and me ran on television well into the fall of 2014; millions upon millions of public dollars of them. You’d never know that the Conservatives only came to power in the first place due to the attempts of the Liberals to stimulate the advertising industry with public money.

If the standard partisan defense is correct, and Harper was “forced” to spend all of that money – increasing the national debt by 50% in the process – he sure had a strange way of showing it. Being humiliated by three guys I had just throttled in an election probably isn’t the kind of thing I’d spend millions putting on TV. I certainly wouldn’t be bragging about it five years later as a means of building public support for my leadership.

Harper wanted to spend the money, and he hasn’t stopped bragging about it to this day.

I don’t know why that’s so hard for his most fevered supporters to accept.


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commented 2015-05-08 03:04:38 -0400
In turn, I would ask you, Jason Bertucci, if you have actually read Bill C-51?
commented 2015-05-04 18:01:52 -0400
I would ask if all those so over sensitive about criticism laid against Harper, do you know what basic freedoms bill C-51 will destroy?
commented 2015-05-03 22:17:29 -0400
The New Democrat and Liberal alternatives are worse. Stephen Harper was a key figure in submerging the Reform-Alliance, the only electable, fiscally conservative federal party of the past half-century, into the old line Keynesian Red Tory party. So my choice is to vote Conservative or Libertarian and the latter just helps elect a New Democrat or Liberal. Hey I’d love to see a fiscal conservative takeover of the Conservative party perhaps led by Brad Wall or Jason Kenney but I’m not holding my breath. Danielle Smith’s calendar is also free but she’d probably just betray us at the federal level like she did provincially.
commented 2015-05-03 14:55:44 -0400
Thank you, Erin Berney, for taking the trouble to expose Sheppard’s post for what it is – a shallow, partisan hit-piece. As for some of the other comments, it’s fairly well-known that some C/conservatives, me included, are less than happy with some Harper government’s policies. But they should take care not to get sucked in by the propaganda spread by the likes of MJ Sheppard.
commented 2015-05-03 14:47:55 -0400
If I want to read negative articles about Mr. Harper, I need only to go to CBC or CTV or the Toronto Globe & Mail, or Toronto Star, or Huffington Post, or any number of other blatantly leftist outlets. I DO NOT need to see it in the Rebel; the left has far more that its fair share of voice in the media without expressing itself here.
commented 2015-05-02 21:36:02 -0400
Erin Berney, well said!
Kathy, that Surplus you think you have coming to you, is only for the current fiscal period. When added to all the Deficits you/we owe, there won’t be a real Surplus for a long time.
commented 2015-05-02 03:27:22 -0400
I am extremely surprised with the views expressed by MJ, and with the comments posted so far. Fortunately, they are just opinions, for the most part. I disagree with so many points that I don’t even know where to begin, but I’ll try.
MJ, you acknowledged that the 2008 worldwide financial crash and recession was like the “9/11 of money”, with “trillions of dollars” lost in seconds. First, the 9/11 reference is a bit much, as the financial crisis was not the result of a terrorist attack, though it does convey an appropriate degree of seriousness with widespread, immediate and long-lasting effects. It was pretty scary at first, but Harper and the Conservatives handled it remarkably well, which is why Canada is accordingly regarded among the G-nations for its sound, stable fiscal policies. The ability to acknowledge reality by admitting such facts surely isn’t limited to C/conservatives, although I am flattered by the suggestion. You liberals are always labelling anything you don’t understand and/or that you disagree with as “conservative”, as a signal for end of discussion. If you don’t care for this observation, I suggest not leading your piece with an ad hominem attack on conservative voters.
I would actually argue that the opposite is true. I have found conservative voters to be — on the whole — much better informed on parties and issues, and more likely to exercise a rational vote. In fact, they are more likely to vote in general. MJ, I’d like to introduce you to the Liberal Elite:
This is what it feels like from my perspective when I’m forced to talk to liberals.
The bottom line, MJ, is that you haven’t provided a single fact to support your opinions. What’s worse, the article is riddled with logical contradictions, unproven, biased assumptions, and outright misinformation.
The headline infers that Harper’s Conservative government spent my money just like a liberal. Even if that were true, so what? If liberal policies are so great, that shouldn’t bother you. But you then mention the Conservatives’ cutting of public subsidies for political parties, to which the liberals (for obvious, self-interested reasons) were staunchly opposed. I’d love to understand why, despite the failure of the so-called coalition and the oh-so-NOT-a-scandal involving the PM proroguing Parliament, you seem to find it galling that the Conservative public-stimulus budget, including the abolition of public subsidies for political parties, still went into effect? Canada indisputably weathered that particular storm well, and to suggest otherwise is to refute reality and deny history.
Equally illogical is the assertion that Harper and the Conservatives engaged in fear-mongering, while simultaneously quoting both Harper and Flaherty reassuring Canadians that “everything was fine”. Were the stimulus program advertisements somehow fear-mongering? Hmm. Maybe the ones I saw were different, because they were all positive, confidence-inducing messages promoting the various programs available to Canadians under the stimulus package. The way I see it, the Conservatives’ plan didn’t force a one-sized fits-all solution, but created options and left the choice to Canadians.
Claiming to have seen a stimulus advertisement two years after it was introduced somewhere in rural Quebec is somewhat meaningless. Last time I was in Montreal, in around 2013, I saw old liberal sponsorship program signs. If anything, that says more about the differences between rural Quebec and Montreal than it does about so-called Harper bragging. WTF is that about, anyway? What bragging?
What does the Liberals’ attempts to “stimulate the advertising industry” mean, exactly? Is that an oblique reference to the sponsorship scandal, by and far one of the most expensive, corrupt political swindles of taxpayers’ money in Canadian history? Is that how the Conservatives came to power? If so, voting out the party responsible for costing taxpayers nearly $10 billion sounds like a GOOD outcome.
Finally, federal debt increased by closer to 33%, not 50%. Unless of course you’re including provincial debt and using net figures. In that case, the feds are responsible for more like 44%. By contrast, Ontario and Quebec alone were responsible for increasing total net debt by 45%. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan was the only province not to go into deficit after 2008, and Alberta still managed to decrease its total net debt by 2/3, while also being forced to support one more have-not province: Ontario.
MJ, I don’t know what conservative voters you’ve been talking to (or if that’s just what you call people who disagree with you), but I’ll take you on in debate any day.
Bring it on.
commented 2015-05-01 17:38:34 -0400
To anyone outraged by this column:
I’m a girl, so math is hard but…
Isn’t the only reason this budget is “balanced” is because of that huge surplus and…
Isn’t a surplus just “the government hanging on to my stolen money”?
So how can I be — as I keep hearing — “being allowed to keep more of my money” under the Conservatives?
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want a Trudeau or Mulcair government. But we also have to be honest with ourselves.
Being blindly partisan should be for lefties.
commented 2015-05-01 14:14:05 -0400
Flaherty turned out the be the worst Finance Minister in decades. Indeed, there was no justifcation in piling on our national debt the way the CPC did. But more recently is how little concern conservative voters have had about Bill C-51 which would give more power to the RCMP and CSIS – two organizations I am skeptical to trust.
commented 2015-05-01 14:02:43 -0400
Interesting analysis.
commented 2015-05-01 11:49:00 -0400
You’ll find little disagreement here. But that’s just me being conservative. opposed to Conservative.