Thursday, January 03, 2008

Williamson Calls it Right

John Williamson, the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, recently posted a commentary over at in response to a story on Prime Minister Harper's pessimistic year end message.

I am reprinting it year, because I agree 100 percent with John's take.

Here is what he wrote:

"And Happy New Year to you Prime Minister, but I hope it’s not as dark as you anticipate.

With Maclean’s and with other reporters in year-end interviews, Stephen Harper warned Canadians of tough economic times ahead. To make matters worse, he says the federal government will introduce tough policies to reduce carbon emissions and the public will most likely gripe about it. On taxes, Canadians, it seems, can get stuffed. If the economy slows there will be no relief for taxpayers. What kind of message is this?

The Prime Minister has tried to follow in the footsteps of President Ronald Reagan by talking directly to voters free of media filters. The man revered as the “Great Communicator” launched the modern-day conservative movement in the United States. His communications strategy was to bypass a liberal press and speak directly to the hopes and aspirations of voters and, yes, when necessary confront their fears while pointing ahead to a better day.

Prime Minister Harper has adopted only half of Mr. Reagan’s successful strategy. Missing is a reassuring, optimistic message that gives citizens a reason to support Conservative policy, even when the going gets tough. No tax relief to offset tougher economic conditions, higher energy prices legislated by Ottawa, and a looming election campaign. That’s hardly sound policy-making or, for that matter, a wise re-election strategy."


Bruce Stewart said...

It was wise of the Prime Minister to set expectations.

I hope, however, he has some tax relief tucked away in his back pocket. It would be wise to keep that powder dry at this time, and make it a true surprise on budget day.

Perhaps he'd really make me happy and add dismantling some old unnecessary programs and a department or two completely in the process, eh? One can only hope, of course.

In any event, and assuming he does have some good news in his hip pocket, doing this in two phases is a plus. Had he revealed anything for 2008 in his year-end interviews, there'd be acres of newsprint and reams of electrons on the web devoted to why it's all just wrong, wrong, wrong. This way, the discussion is simply about pessimism until the optimism can be revealed. Then the Opposition parties have to decide whether they're ready to campaign against tax relief (or whatever else is tucked away).

Anonymous said...

Let's go through the old small-c list:

Reduced spending? -- Nope!

Tax relief? -- Well, the Central Bank devaluing the dollar has probably negated any of the GST rebate. Future "liquidity injections" will undoubtedly follow so we can all look forward to working harder and longer.

Smaller, less intrusive government -- Not even close.

Laissez faire economics -- Hello Bombardier, Mount Tremblant, Canarie Inc., Pratt & Whitney, etc.

Reduced spending in Quebec -- $7.5 Billion in equalization makes Adscam look like good value for the money.

Open and Transparent -- Very funny, I wonder what Bilderberg, SPP and Trilateral Commission Folk would say.

Harper's whole strategy is to win a majority government which is in no way even conservative, and that's why he is likely never to get one!

Anonymous said...


Off topic!

But how come rarely choose to mention Libertarian, Dr. Ron Paul?

Or the fact that Paul just trounced the supposed front-runner Rudy Guiliani in Iowa... and Paul is the leading money earners for the Republicans in the fourth quarter...

You are not part of the anti-Paul conspiracy, are you?

Miles Lunn said...

I am not sure the problem with selling Conservatism is totally related to the media. Americans are by nature conservative and generally dislike big government so speaking directly to the people worked for Reagan. Canadians, however, tend to be more about compassion and helping the little guy. Therefore they will only support less government if it can be shown that less government will lead to a more socially just society. Otherwise if Harper wants to reduce government, he needs to argue not against the goals of the left, but their methods of achieving them. He needs to argue equality and social justice are not achieved through bigger government, but less government. Canadians value freedom, but compassion and equality take higher priority than freedom.

Anonymous said...

Miles Lunn:


PM Harper needs to stop blaming everyone else including the so called "liberal media" for his woes.

Q: How has Mr. Harper contibuted to educating the Canadian population on what real conservatism means?

A: He hasn't!

Why do you think that Ron Paul is eliciting such enthusiasm and support currently in the United States among young people -- including many that have often never contributed to political campaigns before?

Personally, I think it is because Dr. Paul both talks the talk and walks the walk -- Paul is BELIEVABLE (unlike John Baird) because he seems to mean what he says about lowering taxes, reducing government and cutting spending.

I don't think that Canadians are that different from Americans except we are better hockey players, of course. -- currently, roughly 40-50% of the population don't even care enough to vote federally so it is difficult to say whether Canadians in general are on the left or the right of the political spectrum.

However, I suspect that the public are increasingly cynical and have had enough of politicians who simply bribe them with their own money or play wedge politics to try to win government.

Miles Lunn said...

Anonymous - I agree with much of what you said except that Canadians are not much different than Americans. I would argue we are very different. Now part of the reason for this is Quebec helps push Canada to the left while the South pulls the United States to the right. The South is the region with the least in common with Canada. Also the differences are partly historical as the United States was created from a revolution that kicked out a government that they felt was unrepresentative. On the other hand Canada was created on the model that rejected American republicanism and instead embraced responsible government.

Ron Paul is an interesting one and he does speak to many Americans, although his approach on social programs and gun laws probably wouldn't sell too well amongst Canadians, however at least the fact he is principled and consistent would.

Iain G. Foulds said...

... Appreciating the above thoughts on the equality of Canadians and Americans. Few things are as evidently insecure as the arrogant assertion that we are collectively superior to others.
... It is likely closer to the truth that the spectrum of human qualities is consistent throughout the world.

Miles Lunn said...

Iain Goulds - I don't think we are superior to Americans, we are just different. I personally prefer Canadian values over American values, but that is simply a personal preference, not a fact of one being better than another. Besides, many of values are shaped by the environment I live in, so if I was born and raised in the US, I might think differently.