In this series CMR will examine the policy proposals set forth by the top three parties in Canada’s 2015 federal election.
PART I: The NDP
PART II: The Liberals
PART III: The Conservatives (current article)
Obviously these parties are all terrible. So the question is simply this: which party will beat you with the biggest stick?
We will refer to the helpful National Post article “Everything you need to know about the parties’ platforms, from taxes to terrorism to the environment.”
In Part I and Part II, we reviewed the NDP and Liberal platforms. It enough to make any reasonable man fear for Canada. We have saved the current ruling party for last. Can we expect the Conservatives to be any better?
Those who prefer smaller government will usually assume the so-called ‘conservative’ party is the best choice. But the CPC is Canada’s neocon party, so — despite over-the-top proclamations from the opposition during election season –they offer only a different variety of socialism.
The issue then becomes whether the socialism of the Cons will cause less suffering than the socialism of the somwhat more leftist centrists, the Liberals, or the somewhat more radical leftists in the NDP.
The Cons have been leading the government since 2006, and they have had a majority since 2011. In all that time, they haven’t done much that is “conservative”: tax cuts have been cruelly parsimonious and offset by higher and higher spending as well as the overall expansion of Ottawa’s interventionary powers. Just look at the numbers. In 2006, the Conservative’s budget was $220 million of expenditures. In 2015, government spending will be $290 million. Meanwhile, our GDP has gone from $1.3 trillion to $1.8 trillion in that time.
If we are to be charitable, when you think of what we’ve seen around the world post-2008 financial crisis, Harper’s Cons have presided over a government that is growing relatively slowly. The other parties might grow the government at a far more accelerated rate.
Change for the sake of change is not good. We can see that in Alberta. The incumbent party is usually corrupt and lazy but less dangerous than a party aggressively campaigning to bring “change” and “fix things.” Anyone with a modicum of political wisdom knows “fixing things” in political speech translates as “bigger government, more spending, more taxes, more interference.”
So here we go: the Conservative Platform and parts of their record.
Economy, Taxes, and Pocketbook Issues
– Introduced a “family tax cut” that allows couples with children under age 18 to split up to $50,000 of income; caps non-refundable benefit at $2,000.
This is relatively good because it leads to less tax paid. It is somewhat unfair in the sense that it only applies to certain people, while others get nothing. What about couples with no children? What about single people? Relatively good, but every other taxpayer needs more relief as well.
– Increased annual contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) to $10,000 from $5,500.
The TFSA is a useful tool for getting more tax free investment income. The TFSA is better than the RRSP and here at CMR we are happy it exists. Increasing the contribution limit is good. Too bad they didn’t make the contribution limit even higher, or just eliminate it. Imagine — no tax on investment income! Canada economy would be the envy of the world within two years.
– Increased Universal Child Care Benefit to $160 a month for children under age six, up from $100; added new monthly benefit of $60 for children age six to 17.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you are a net taxpayer and you get the Child Care Benefit, it’s just like taking a regular old tax credit and reducing your overall level of taxation. If you are a tax-consumer (like a welfare recipient or an employee of the government), this is just extra welfare. The policy is a mixed bag in the first place, and increasing is kind of here nor there.
– Reduced small-business tax rate to nine per cent from current 11 per cent by 2019; have reduced corporate tax rate from about 22 per cent to 15 per cent.
Very good. They should have cut it further. Even to zero. All corporate taxes should be called “shareholder taxes,” because that’s who pays for them. These corporate and small business taxes are sinister forms of double-dip income taxation and should be abolished.
– Promise to balance the budget this fiscal year.
It appears they have accomplished this. But as we have said before, balancing the budget is only good if balanced by means of spending reductions.
– Increased eligibility age for receiving Old Age Security benefits to 67 from 65.
Probably good overall, since the Old Age Security benefit shouldn’t exist and therefore it would be a good policy to increase the eligibility age to 500. For some, however, it is a way of getting back money that has been previously plundered from them in the form of taxation.
– Are examining ways for Canadians to voluntarily contribute more to the Canada Pension Plan.
The CPP is dreadful but at least the policy under consideration is more voluntary contributions. None of the contributions now are voluntary. A real improvement would be making the entire CPP voluntary — let people opt out if want.
However, putting more money in the CPP is economically harmful, even if it is voluntary. It gives more capital to the government’s portfolio managers, who then allocate vast sums of money with inauthentic investment theses and have a considerable impact on economic activity. The CPP is not a natural institution and giving it more money and power hurts the entire world. It is inherently incapable of making economical investments. Its assets should all handed over to taxpayers.
And… that’s it? That’s the Economy and Taxes part of the Conservatives’ program? Where are the income tax cuts? Where is the elimination of the GST? Where are the brutal cuts to government spending? Maybe they will throw us a bone elsewhere in the platform, but so far this ‘right wing’ and ‘conservative’ party is extremely lame. They clearly are neocons — leftist liberals who crave large government that provides mountains of resources for welfare and warfare.
Security and Terrorism
– Committed Canada to a military mission against ISIL, sending CF-18 fighter jets to Iraq and Syria.
Harper wants to be a War Prime Minister. He regrets that Canada didn’t participate more in the disgraceful Iraq War. He is excited to participate in the noble crusade against the evil Islamic State, as he was eager to participate in the war on Libya (which, by the way, has made that country far worse than before, and directly contributed to the rise of ISIS in the first place).
Putting aside the rather important fact that dropping bombs in civilized areas always kills civilians, in a purely realist sense intervening militarily in this conflict is extremely dumb. ISIS is brutal and vile, but it is not a threat to Canada, and Ottawa has no business forking over our resources to help evil governments in other parts of the world other evil people they don’t like. The only hope for resolution is for regional stakeholders to figure it out. Turkey or Jordan could crush ISIS in a month if they wanted to. No one wants to act decisively though, because they expect the US and its allies to do the dirty work for them. Crowding out local solutions by picking one side and bombing the other will ultimately make things worse, as it always does — like government spending crowds out good investment. Every time the Western military-democracies topple a dictator in the Middle East, the outcome is worse than before. Why can’t we learn?
And now that Russia is intervening to fight against ISIS and anti-Assad rebels in Syria, there is even less imaginable justification for Harper to participate in the intervention there. Russia is making a mistake, but we all need to let them make that mistake.
The war issue is one of Harper’s biggest weaknesses — Liberals and NDP have him beat on this.
– Passed Bill C-51, with broad new powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to expand surveillance and actively disrupt threats to national security. The bill makes it illegal to promote terrorism; lowers the legal threshold required for police to arrest and detain suspected extremists without charge; and allows more than 100 government entities to exchange Canadians’ confidential information if it is “relevant” to a potential or suspected national security threat.
This bill is an assault on the civil liberties that help protect innocent people from the government’s power and expands the surveillance powers of the state. Bill C-51 is an abomination.
– Committed $292 million over five years to help RCMP, CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency combat terrorism.
We need to cut the budgets of the RCMP, CSIS, and Canada Border Services Agency, so this is a bad policy.
– Created a new parliamentary police force by integrating the former, separate House and Senate security staffs into the Parliamentary Protective Service, while also committing $39 million in additional funding for operational security measures in the Parliamentary precinct.
Right… just what we need, bigger bureaucracies with more money.
Energy and Environment
– Approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline that would run from Alberta to the coast of Kitimat, B.C.; support the proposed TransCanada Energy East project, a west-to-east oil pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick; support proposed TransCanada Keystone XL oilsands pipeline from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast.
Basically they don’t oppose these, which is fine. They should not be opposed so long as the projects respect property rights.
– Committed to reducing Canada’s emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, largely relying on provincial measures to meet that goal.
This is a dreadful policy and needs to be reexamined. “Carbon emissions” should not be the subject of government policy. Relying on provincial measures is better than having Ottawa dictate everything though.
– Agreed with other G7 nations to move to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and eliminate use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
A foolhardy and destructive policy, but in a lot of ways these kinds of agreements are meaningless. Just look at Kyoto. We should probably be using MORE carbon in our economy.
Infrastructure and Transport
– $5.3 billion a year, on average, for provincial and municipal infrastructure under the New Building Canada Plan.
This is a terrible policy. Infrastructure spending should be left to the provinces.
– A New Public Transit Fund committing the federal government to spend $250 million in 2017, $500 million in 2018 and $1 billion a year after 2019.
We don’t need everyone in the country subsidizing people who live in big cities. Ottawa should completely stay out of public transit issues.
– $150 million for Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program to fund community and cultural infrastructure projects across the country as a way to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017.
This makes the CMR editors cry. What a waste of money.
Foreign Affairs and Defense
– Increase Department of National Defence’s budget to three per cent starting in 2017-18, totalling an additional $11.8 billion over 10 years.
I’m afraid that the Department of National Defence’s budget is far too large already ($20 billion). Harper should be cutting the military budget.
– Commit an additional $3.5 billion over five years toward maternal, newborn and child health initiative, on top of $2.8-billion commitment at G8 summit in 2010.
Great, more money for government health care. What a disgrace.
– Beginning in 2017–18, increase annual health funding to provinces to grow in line with nominal GDP, guaranteed to increase three per cent each year (current increases are six per cent annually).
This is a terrible idea, the exact opposite of what is needed. The only way we are going to make health care better in this country is to get Ottawa out of it. We do not need to spend more federal money on health care.
– Retool $2-billion-per-year Labour Market Development Agreements with provinces to reorient training towards needs of employers and job seekers.
So they aren’t going to spend more, they aren’t going to spend less, they are going to “retool.” Well, since the current system basically just pumps money into provincial governments and subsidizes the unemployed, it’s hard to imagine how “retooling” it would make it worse but obviously the policy is awful and this entire program has got to go.
– Provide $65 million over four years, starting in 2016–17, to business and industry associations to allow them to work with post-secondary institutions to better align curricula with needs of employers.
We don’t need to spend government money on this at all. It doesn’t do anything about the problem of government universities churning out economically unproductive graduates.
Democratic Reform and Governance
– Place a moratorium on new Senate appointments in an effort to pressure the provinces to accept reforms to the upper chamber or abolish it.
This seems relatively harmless. It doesn’t matter much. Basically everyone except the Senators think the Senate is dumb.
– Introduce legislation that would require Canadians’ approval in national referendum before first-past-the-post electoral system could be changed.
While we should generally oppose new laws, no one cares about this.
– NOT decriminalize or legalize possession of marijuana.
The drug war is a complete failure and it should end. It doesn’t matter if marijuana is good or bad. The Conservatives are terrible on this issue.
– Consider Canadian police chiefs’ call for ticketing system for people possessing 30 grams of pot or less.
This is better than putting kidnapping people and putting them in jail, but come on. Just legalize all drugs already. Alcohol is legal and the world hasn’t fallen apart.
– Re-introduce previously tabled legislation to imprison the most brutal criminals for the rest of their natural lives and quickly deport hardcore foreign criminals. Also, to enact an amended version of the government’s previous mandatory-minimum sentencing law for gun crimes, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Deporting “hardcore” foreign criminals is a good idea. But if we can’t deport a brutal criminal to another country, we should send them to a deserted island or Antartica or the Sahara Desert or some other place where we don’t have to take care of them and they are far away from society. Minimum sentencing laws for gun crimes is a dumb idea, because it creates a greater possibility of disproportionate punishments.
– Review the 94 recommendations released in June by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which the Tory government established as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
The 94 recommendations are mostly bad, by the way. But simply “reviewing” them? That sounds fine, it will probably keep a few legislators and bureaucrats out of trouble for 15 minutes.
– Provide $500 million to building and renovating schools on reserves.
The government needs to stop making reserves worse.
– Commit $567 million over five years for Aboriginal people and northerners to help build “stronger communities.”
What? What does this mean? You can be assured when the government starts talking about building “stronger communities,” your communities will soon be less strong. We can all see how Ottawa’s efforts to create strong Aboriginal communities has been such a success so far (cough cough). This policy will inflict more damage on Canada’s aboriginals and northerners.
– Budget promises include $215 to provide skills development and training for aboriginal peoples; $200 million to improve First Nations education and outcomes in schools; and $30.3 million to expand a plan that helps communities create their own land management laws to improve economic development on reserve lands.
Stop. Please stop. Hasn’t Ottawa done enough to hurt First Nations?
Well, that was dreadful. While it has a few policies that help people pay less tax, the Conservative platform is full of economic destruction, while gleefully interfering in insane Middle Eastern civil wars and systematically spying on every Canadian. Truly Harper and his Cons are some of the worst ‘conservatives’ we have ever seen.