Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conservatism and spending

My column in the Sun Media yesterday, in which I proposed a conservative-sounding speech for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, generated an incredible response.

Most of it was positive, along the lines of "I wish the Prime Minister really would talk like that."

But it wasn't all supportive.

I got a negative reaction from the usual left-wing types and also from people who support the Conservative Party's current Liberal-lite approach.

One "Blogging Tory" in particular got all out of sorts.

Among other things, he or she took me to task for my idea that a conservative government should cut its spending.

This individual says conservatives actually only believe in eliminating "ineffectual spending."

This I suppose is in contrast to the Liberals whose slogan in the last federal election was "vote for us because we support ineffectual spending."

Anyway, one problem with this Blogging Tory's approach is that while it's easy to say you are opposed to ineffectual or wasteful spending, it's a lot harder to actually find it.

In fact, what constitutes wasteful government spending is a matter of opinion. Every single cent the government spends is crucial or important to somebody.

In other words, you will find someone or some organization to passionately defend every government expenditure no matter how outrageous it may seem to ordinary taxpayers.

So to say you favour eliminating only ineffectual spending is basically the same as saying you won't cut any government spending.

And indeed, that's why governments rarely do cut spending.

Yet if you agree that government is too big, that it's too intrusive and that it takes too much of our money, then its spending must be cut.

That's not a fantasy or an extreme ideology, it's just a fact.

13 comments:

Ted Betts said...

Even if you take his argument at face value, the Harper Conservatives have not even attempted to cut "ineffectual spending" other than a few paper cuts to the budget like funding for women's groups or court challenges (which, let's be honest here, were cut based on ideological opposition to what they do and not as some real conservative initiative to reign in spending).

Anonymous said...

All of these articles, and speeches, and books slagging Harper and he is still in power.

Imagine the glorious days ahead of you if Mr Ignatieff takes over with Mr Layton as his finance minister.

Gosh that would be exciting for you wouldn't it?

Kerry Forrest said...

Lowell Green raised that issue on his show today, focused on city services. He invited callers to call and articulate which programs they could live without. I do not recall a single caller on the subject. And I think about it myself, I want smaller, more effective government. But articulating that in any concrete way eludes me. I keep thinking we need to cut the waste, but can't put a finger on what is the waste. Maybe change the culture, but to what? This entry on your blog and that similar subject on the radio has me thinking. I feel the need to fight for something that I won't recognize when it happens, because I can't get a handle on where it ends.

Perhaps it is just a process, never to be finished, but always striven for. Perhaps I do have something in common with the bureaucrats after all.

Anonymous said...

So how would you go about cutting spending with-out the government falling and a media blitz that would see you lose the resulting election Gerry?
People who understand government spending is a curse are far and few between in Socialist Canada(the east) where the votes are.
Your biggest problem as I see it is you think the majority of Canadians have at least some political knowledge and a desire to see their fellow man succeed, you could not be farther from the truth, Canadians are amongst the least knowledgeable politically in the world, brainwashed socialists for the most part. The Game right now is to limit the harm.

Gerry Nicholls said...

Well Anon, I guess that's where leadership comes in.

We need a leader who can sell conservative principles to Canadians in a way that is persuasive and which resonates.

Is that an easy goal?

No but it's doable.

Besides to say "limiting the harm" is good enough is defeatist.

I want Canada to be a freer, better place.

Ted Betts said...

So how would you go about cutting spending with-out the government falling and a media blitz that would see you lose the resulting election Gerry? People who understand government spending is a curse are far and few between in Socialist Canada(the east) where the votes are.
Your biggest problem as I see it is you think the majority of Canadians have at least some political knowledge and a desire to see their fellow man succeed, you could not be farther from the truth, Canadians are amongst the least knowledgeable politically in the world, brainwashed socialists for the most part.


There is a thing called leadership and principles. Heck, Martin and Chretien cut back loads of spending and they got re-elected. Clinton did too. Mike Harris cut spending enormously and got re-elected by an even bigger majority.

So the whiny excuses are just that.

You have an extremely low opinion of Canadians. Maybe that is why Canadians don't like Conservatives: they don't think much of Canadians and they find every excuse they can to abandon principles.

The Game right now is to limit the harm.

Record-breaking spending, not cutting any spending at all, even before the election is a very funny way to go about "limiting harm".

If you want power for the sake of power and government for the sake of government, just say so. The Liberals do. Just don't pretend it has anything to do with left-right, conservative-liberal.

Anonymous said...

It is so frustratiing being a fiscal conservative in Canada today and would explain the enormous response to your 'for free' Harper speech. Sadly there is no third part voice out there rallying to the defense of fiscal conservatism at least not in the way the National Citizens Coalition used to before becoming Harper's lapdog. We need a new third party organization that represents the fiscal conservative movement and it needs to be fearless and faithful to its mandate. Anyway Nicholls keep up the great work -- WE NEED YOU!!! P.Page (p.s. don't worry about criticism, it's indifferene that is deadly)

KellyR said...

THr only leader I know of who successfully slashed spending and survived was Ralph Klein.

But his party has no opposition.

Ted Betts said...

"THr only leader I know of who successfully slashed spending and survived was Ralph Klein."

Um, how about Chretien?

Anonymous said...

The number one "indefensible expense" is Official Bilingualism, more appropriately called "Official Discrimination." It has cost over a trillion dollars since its inception. it was stuffed in both ends without a democratic mandate by the real party of the "hidden agenda"--the Lieberals under commie sociopath Pierre Trudeau.

Möbius said...

While I agree that reducing spending should be a conservative government attribute, and that the current government has failed spectacularly, attacking Chucker Canuck over his vaguely tongue-in-cheek rebuttals to you is pretty stupid.

Have you actually read any of his stuff, over the last year or so?

The CPC has lost my vote over auto company bailouts and "stimulus" spending into deficit, but it ain't going to the Lib's, who are encouraging such things. I expect the next election will have the lowest turnout in Canadian history.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Gerry Nicholls who only yesterday called for Libertarians to join Liberals and create Libertine Party of Canada??
Is this the same Gerry Nicholls who figured out the way that there is no way to win political debates with Conservatives from lefties point of view so he will try to haste Conservative march to the right and drive them over electoral cliff??
Is this the same Gerry Nicholls who has clever ideas how to cause destruction of his enemies by urging the to do what they are inclined to do anyway and hope that in a rush they will do it badly??

Too clever by half Gerry, too clever by half.

Anonymous said...

Better too clever by half than just stupid. Will Wilkinson was the one who suggested Libertarians form an 'association' with Liberals.
'Driving the CPC to the right'-yeah, that might actually work whereas going to the 'pragmatic'center has a historical failure rate of oh 100 PERCENT. Fool.