Wednesday, May 07, 2008

One thing you cannot say about Stephan Harper-and you can say many things, most of them uncomplimentary- is that he is stupid. Ever since he became leader of the Reform takeover of the Conservatives he has rode shotgun on an incredible collection of loose cannons. Quite successfully ! He has also moved to leave a legacy, often by stealth, that may irrevocably bind the hands of future governments. One wonders what it would be like if he had a majority. All the more reason why nit is hoped he doesn't get one. The following recent article from the Harper Index speaks about how Sneaky Stevie has moved to make his policies outlast his government.
Boxing in future governments is part of Harper plan
The next prime minister will find it difficult to undo today's changes.
OTTAWA, April 30:
The federal budget debate illustrates one of a number of ways in which the Harper government has tied the hands of future governments, forced them to follow his policies, and prevent them from doing anything new at all.

"The Conservatives' three budgets have left Ottawa financially incapable of offering any new national social program like affordable housing, higher education or day care," wrote Winnipeg columnist Frances Russell in a column that appeared in "Although overall spending went up, mostly on the military, measures were taken to deplete revenues to the point future governments' hands will be tied unless they raise taxes or run deficits, both prescriptions for political suicide."

"They're boxing in the ability of the federal government to come up with new program ideas," Stephen Harper's longtime mentor Tom Flanagan told Canadian Press last March. "The federal government is now more constrained, the provinces have more revenue, and conservatives should be happy."

Stephen Harper has tied the hands of future national governments by:
1. Giving up federal powers, responsibilities and revenues to the provinces. Since the days of the "Alberta Firewall" article, Harper has favoured provincial powers and a smaller role for the federal government. This fits with his Quebec strategy, which is aimed at winning support from nationalist voters who currently support the Bloc. Like Brian Mulroney before him, Stephen Harper knows that the only way he can have power is to bring together western Reform types and Quebec separatists. It will be nearly impossible for Ottawa to regain powers that have been given to the provinces.
2. Promoting trade deals such as the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) that force Canada to adopt lower environmental and labour standards. Most of these agreements were first promoted by preceding Liberal governments but have been advanced by Harper.
3. Accepting a deal on softwood lumber that locks Canadian forestry into export taxes determined by the US. The virtually irreversible impact is that Canada is now shipping less lumber and more logs, resulting in Canadian job loss and the shut-down of mills and communities across Canada.
4. Cutting federal government spending power by cutting its revenue in ways that will be hard for future governments to undo. Corporate taxes have been cut across the board regressively and so have personal taxes and GST. By 2012, the cuts will cost the federal government $40 billion [see chart, page 68] every year. Before this government, Canada ran large surpluses, which left room to fund new programs for things like child care, health care, or transportation. New programs now will require massive new levels of taxation, politically dangerous for any new government.
The Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA) announced in the 2008 budget will "become exponentially more expensive over time," according to United Steelworkers economist Erin Weir. "This measure could burn a significant hole in future government revenues."
"The real cost will be down the road, when many seniors will have untaxed investment income sheltered in the TFSA," wrote Jack Mintz in Canadian Business Magazine. "Of course, someone else will be in power by then, and Flaherty's new account will make life a lot tougher for tax-and-spend governments in the future."
5. Privatizing services. Presumably due to fear of public outcry, the government has moved slowly on privatization of services but has actively promoted public-private partnerships (P3s), which put financing and control of public facilities into private hands. Privatization can be a one-way street in many instances due to NAFTA, which won't allow the governments to provide services publicly in competition with private suppliers already in the business. Such changes become unfeasibly expensive to reverse.
6. Selling public buildings, often to landlords who lease them back to the government at a profit. Last summer, for instance, public works and government services minister Michael Fortier decided to virtually give away nine government buildings to the private sector. Research for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) undertaken by the economic consulting firm Informetrica showed that the government significantly undervalued its assets, which in the end resulted in close to a $400 million windfall for Larco Investments - the company that won the bid to buy the buildings.
7. Privatizing laboratory and research work, reducing Canada's ability to do necessary public research and development that ensure, in an impartial way, the safety of food and consumer products. Federal science staff have been laid off as a result of across-the-board budget cuts, with the National Research Council laying off 105 employees last summer. Michèle Demers of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) warns that federal labs have been identified for possible closure, with responsibility for public safety handed over to the private companies. Cutbacks, she says, have become "disheartening" to many federal scientists. As morale sinks in the public sector, it becomes harder to retain skilled professionals with an understanding of memory of issues and policies.
8. Making Canada little more than a cheerleader for American foreign policy. As an infallible source of support for US policy, Canada no longer is seen as a credible middle power with a respected, independent role in global affairs. This change is not irreversible but will take time and effort to reverse.
9. Committing Canada to the war in Afghanistan until at least 2011, thanks to the report authored by Liberal John Manley. This significant change from the nation that gave the world the concept of peace-keeping leaves Canada financially drained with no capacity for troop deployment elsewhere in the world.


Larry Gambone said...

Now I, as you know am a "moderate" anarchist, but Neoliberalism, by making future social democratic reforms - let alone libertarian ones - impossible is creating a situation where revolution is the only possible means of alleviating the oppression of the working majority and the poor. The far right thinks is smart by appearently boxing us in. Rather they will be the ones responsible for future unrest. Also if it takes mobilizing the entire population, strikes, occupations and riots to say defend public water supplies, people will say, what the hell, lets go for the whole hog, not the chitlins. (Think of Bolivia and its fight against piratized water, and what it lead to.)

Werner said...

I'd go along with Larry on this. The pathology of the Conservatives seems almost bottomless. I also wonder when public opinion will "blow up" against some notable scandal. I did get a flyer in the mail today from Saskatchewan's "permanent liberal" Ralph Goodall complaining about everything from the Cadman sleaze to the attack on Elections Canada. After going through that battle over "single payer" medicine on Carnival of Anarchy (Larry was there also) I really don't want to see much more of the kind of "thought", here in Canuckland, that stands for far too much of political debate south of the forty-ninth. I believe most social democrats and other people on the centre-left in this country are wondering when the Liberals will start to show a little backbone. I'm not hoping for much but any improvement would be ... well improvement, I suppose.