Monday, July 13, 2009


"You know, there's two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I'm in the latter category. I don't believe any taxes are good taxes." -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Now that's the Stephen Harper I once knew!

It's making me all nostalgic.


Ted Betts said...

Gerry can you clarify your nostalgia for me?

Are you nostalgic for the Harper who sees the world in simplistic binaries - black or white, good or bad - that bear no resemblence to reality? 'Cause that Harper has never disappeared.

Or are you nostalgic for the Harper who utters simplistic and unrealistic ideological platitudes and babble?

Seriously, "no tax is a good tax" slogan has become as stupidly and unrealistically carved in stone for conservatives as "no two tier health care" for liberals.

Neither slogan demonstrates any grasp of reality - political, economic, governmental, social or even demographic.

Just as I bet there are very few Canadians who actually what single tier health care for ALL healthcare, including eye glasses, pharmaceutical, and the many things not currently covered...
I doubt there is a single Canadian who actually believes that when you press them. There are many many things we are all quite happy to pay taxes for such as police and other security, roads, the actualy basic infrastructure of democracy and government.

It's a catchy slogan that distracts from the real issues.

The real issue today being that Harper has created the largest deficit, by far, in our history and not only has no plan on how to pay it down - if you don't count his plan to pass it on to the next PM and our children - and has actually ruled out the two means of eliminating it quickly before inflation crushes us: tax increases and spending cuts.

This man created a deficit even before the recession because of his inability to add (record spending + record tax cuts = deficit and more debt). He has no sense of fiscal intelligence.

Gerry Nicholls said...

Ted, way to ruin my good mood.

Anonymous said...

HArper's comment is vacant pablum for right wingeres. Your excited state proves it. Harper's track record is just the opposite. Sadly, Jena Chretien was a better manager of the economy than Harper.

Harper's vacant comment was counterbalance by his reference to fiscal prudence as "dumb policy". Seriously, we can't run deficits forever. We either raise taxes or cut services. Duh. Harper seees shovelling taxpayer cash as a way to get votes.

Conservatism is dead in this country. Otherwise conservatives would be demanding that the government gets its fiscal house in order.

wilson said...

'Sadly, Jena Chretien was a better manager of the economy than Harper.'

LOL, Chretien/Martin raised EI premiums and changed the rules at a time of near 10% unemployment, and then raided $54 Billion from the EI fund to balance the budget over the years 2001-2005, illegally, so says the courts ...yah, real good managers of the economy.

Take the $54 Billion EI fund out of the equation and tell me Ted, which years Chretien/Martin would NOT have run deficits.

Anonymous said...

Hey - Harper enjoys the perks of taxes - home, summer home, chefs, servants, perks galore

Ted Betts said...


Taking the EI money was not illegal, according to the Supreme Court. What was illegal was the process they employed to adjust the rates.

To balance the Trudeau/Mulroney deficit, Chretien and Martin employed a variety of tools. They cut spending across the board, they took from the EI surplus, they cut transfer payments to provinces, they did a massive massive program review to find efficiencies and cost savings, they reduced foreign aid, they chose not to cancel the GST, they raised a number of fees to reflect costs better, etc. There is the famous story of some minister going over Martin's head and complaining directly to Chretien about Martin's attempt to cut 25% of the budget for a particular program; Chretien responded by saying the cut would be increased to 50% as a result of the complaint.

The point is not whether this was draconion or they should have done more of this or less of that.

The point is that when you have a huge deficit - one that results in ever increasing debt and ever increasing interest payments including interest payments to foreign entities and governments - there is no magic bullet. If we learned anything in the 1990s - provincially as well as federally - it takes a massive amount of effort and planning in all sections of the government to reduce the deficit.

But what does Harper tell us? He's created an even bigger deficit and what does he tell us? He's just going to let the economy take care of it.

I can't think of any bigger abdication of his duties as financial manager of our tax dollars and our federal finances.

Harper wants to paint Ignatieff as a "tax and spend" Liberal based on some pretty obvious statements he made, i.e. to reduce the deficit, if spending cuts and other measures don't work, he's not going to take taxes off the table.

But it is Harper who has ACTUALLY raised taxes: first an income tax increase on the lowest tax bracket, then income trusts, now a carbon tax (which the government calls a carbon {cough cough, wink wink} "charge").

So what we REALLY have with Harper, despite his empty sloganeering, is a Prime Minister who is proven as a "tax and borrow and spend and spend" Conservative.

Ted Betts said...


Sorry to ruin your good mood.

That was not my intent since, after three years of Harper government, you no doubt needed a little shot in the arm morale booster (that the attacks from the left side last week could only do a bit of). ;-)

Ted Betts said...

Jeffrey Simpson does make the same observation as you do, Gerry, regarding the return of Ideological Stephen:

"Indeed, the comment harkens back to Mr. Harper's days shilling for the National Citizens Coalition and early years with the Reform Party, when he believed that just about everything governments were doing was bad and wasteful and led to huge deficits. Since then, and especially as Prime Minister, Mr. Harper has shelved many of those views, since a distinguishing characteristic of his government has been a reluctance to cut government spending.

Not a single major government program has been eliminated since he took office, perhaps because of minority governments, or perhaps because political reality has shackled Mr. Harper's deep instincts that all taxes and, by extension, the programs for which taxes pay, are bad.

His governments cut taxes, which is in line with the Prime Minister's ideology, the problem being that the GST was the wrong tax to cut, as almost every qualified economist in the country has underscored.

Now, with deficits burgeoning, Mr. Harper insists again (the ideology returns) that he will never raise taxes, even though future deficits are going to be much larger than his government has forecast.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer and TD Economics have both destroyed the government's rosy deficit projections (and much else) in recent reports that show deficits stretching well beyond 2013-2014, when the government insists the budget will be balanced.

By ruling out tax increases, and refusing to indicate that big spending cuts will be needed, the government is shackling Canada with deficits stretching into the distance, with more accumulated debt - a strange state of affairs for a nominally conservative government.

Politically, of course, this aversion to tax from a prime minister who believes “no taxes are good taxes” has terrified the Liberals, who are afraid of being honest by telling Canadians that resumed economic growth alone will not restore Canada's balanced budget.

(Simpson seems to be referring both to Harper's statement about taxes and his comment that his Budget Chief is "dumb" for suggesting, and that is "dumb" to think, that increasing tax OR cutting spending may be necessary to eliminate the deficit. And Harper still continues to insist that he is an "economist".)

wilson said...

Yes Ted, I know.
Chretien/Martin ILLEGALLY taxed Canadians,
then laundered the money thru general revenues,
then used the $54 Billion to fake balanced budgets and surplus'.
Chretien/Martin gave themselves a cash cow to abuse.
Big surprise the Adscam Party would do that!

So answer my question Ted, list the years that Libs would have posted balanced/surplus budgets, without using the raided EI funds.

Ted Betts said...


You are deliberately misleading readers here. The Liberals paid down something like $60 billion in deficits and then had a total of something like $60-70 billion in surpluses over the years.

So right off the bat, to claim the use of the EI surplus paid down the deficit is a perfect example of Conservative math. It doesn't compute.

Also, it is flat out wrong.

The Supreme Court concluded that the government wrongly raised premiums (i.e. raising premiums was not wrong, the way they went about it was wrong) in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Those were all well after the Liberals had retired the deficit they had inherited from Mulroney.

Most importantly, your hatred of all things Liberal is distracting you from seeing the very simple and quite unpartisan point: to reduce a massive deficit, a government has to employ massive efforts in all sectors of government, using all tools available.

The deficit was retired in the 1990s in large part because of one of the greatest economic growth periods we have seen. And yet, it still took massive cuts, program reviews, cuts to transfers, increases to fees, not cancelling the GST, etc.

Thinking that the economy is just going to take care of the deficit is an abdication of your duty as fiscal manager of taxpayer money.

Especially when the economy even when it eventually recovers (already way later than Harper said it would) will recover at a much slower pace and only after inflation turns the Harper deficit into a real monster of a problem.

Harper: a "tax and borrow and spend" Conservative who is making it up as he goes.