Author Topic: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government  (Read 3166 times)

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Offline GAP

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A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government - Taxpayers' Top 20 Policy Priorities
Part I Article Link
Part II Article Link

Shortly after the 2005/06 winter election campaign, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) issued its Top 20 Policy Priorities for the new Conservative government. The agenda items culled longstanding CTF policy prescriptions with taxpayer-friendly promises made by the Conservative Party. Together, they represent a bold wish list to strengthen the Canadian economy, ensure tax dollars are spent more wisely, restore government accountability, and give Canadians a louder voice in Ottawa.

Taxpayers recognize Stephen Harper did not win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Nonetheless, that does not mean the Conservative Party should abandon its agenda or reject good ideas not included in its election manifesto, such as reducing personal income taxes. As Opposition leader, Mr. Harper said he was a friend to taxpayers. But opposition parties do not write budgets or pass legislation. In office, Canadians expect Prime Minister Harper and his caucus to deliver much-needed reform to the federal government. So how are the Conservatives progressing so far? Here is the CTF evaluation of its first 10 policies priorities. (The next 10 will be released later this week.)
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niceasdrhuxtable

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2007, 11:48:37 »
I realise it was part of their elected mandate but I have a really hard time getting over the GST cut. I'm a firm believer that consumption taxes are more progressive and better for the overall economy than income taxes so I would have much rather seen a cut in personal income tax or more debt repayment. Everything else this government has accomplished has been tainted in my eyes for that little misstep.

I guess that's populism though

Offline Cdn Blackshirt

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2007, 12:22:42 »
I realise it was part of their elected mandate but I have a really hard time getting over the GST cut. I'm a firm believer that consumption taxes are more progressive and better for the overall economy than income taxes so I would have much rather seen a cut in personal income tax or more debt repayment. Everything else this government has accomplished has been tainted in my eyes for that little misstep.

I guess that's populism though

I think the GST was the exact wrong tax cut to provide, but I wouldn't paint with such a wide brush as you that it 'tainted' everything else they've done.  Candidly my one wish is they run on a debt elimination agenda, and start paying the $472 billion down in huge chunks.  Specifically, I'd like to see the $3 billion contingency grow to $15 billion - $25 billion.  You have to eliminate debt while times are good and in our case, we have further urgency because of our demographics.

Regarding the rest of the things he's done - sadly the "solving the fiscal imbalance" with the provinces, although expensive, he will get zero credit for.  I also believe that as frustrated as Ottawa makes me at times, I think the provinces are absolutely sink-holes for taxpayer funds, and "Equalization" is an absolute rip-off by citizens in provinces who like to live beyond their means, from citizens in provinces who are working their tails off.  The "Income Trust" decision was the right one, although handled absolutely awfully by his office.  All they needed to do was pass an immediate moratorium until a panel review had been completed.  That would've taken the bubble out of the prices over time and allowed a slow re-allocating of assets by income trust holders.  Flaherty's popping the bubble in one shot was mind-numbingly callous and unnecessary.  For his re-funding of the military (especially as it contrasts to what a Liberal government would've done), he gets big marks.

Overall I'd give Harper a "B-".  It's just disappointing because when he was elected, I was so optimistic at this time I'd be grading him with an "A".


Matthew.   :salute:
IMPORTANT - 'Blackshirt' is a reference to Nebraska Cornhuskers Football and not naziism.   National Champions '70, '71, '94, '95 and '97.    Go Huskers!!!!

Offline GAP

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2007, 12:27:20 »
Remember we are talking about a "minority" government. Everybody's expectations are based on us having Majority government which is what we are used to. They need to do stuff in baby steps right now, otherwise they can easily shoot themselves in the foot.
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Offline 2 Cdo

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2007, 13:18:44 »
Remember we are talking about a "minority" government. Everybody's expectations are based on us having Majority government which is what we are used to. They need to do stuff in baby steps right now, otherwise they can easily shoot themselves in the foot.

Well said. A minority government has no option other than to compromise if they want to accomplish anything. If people want to see real government, and real change from the Liberal taxpayer theft form of government all they need to do is elect a Conservative majority in the next federal election. ;D
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Offline IN HOC SIGNO

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2007, 14:48:26 »
+1 here and let;s see if he continues to re-equip the CF.

niceasdrhuxtable

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2007, 14:56:51 »
Regarding the rest of the things he's done - sadly the "solving the fiscal imbalance" with the provinces, although expensive, he will get zero credit for.  I also believe that as frustrated as Ottawa makes me at times, I think the provinces are absolutely sink-holes for taxpayer funds, and "Equalization" is an absolute rip-off by citizens in provinces who like to live beyond their means, from citizens in provinces who are working their tails off.

I agree 100% with you there but unfortunately, their hands are tied as equalisation is enshrined in the constitution. I just moved to Nova Scotia and it's amazing the amount of (what I consider to be fraudulent) rhetoric being sloshed about by the provincial government.

Your idea about huge contingency funds is one I quite like too. I think the Norwegian oil revenue model is one that deserves careful study and potential emulation.

Offline smitty66

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2007, 15:42:12 »
Personally I think for a minority government they are not doing too bad. There are obviously areas for improvement, they seem to be really weak on getting their message across to the public. They really have to decide what they want to say and just say it.  The PM is constantly having to jump in to correct statements from various Ministers. Just a sign of inexperience on the part of the appointed Ministers I guess. I think if given a chance to get the experience, they'll certainly improve.
In my opinon the get some pretty good marks with regards to funding for the military. It's been along time since the Forces have seem someone committed to providing troops, sailors and aircrew with replacement equipment that is long overdue.
IMHO they're getting a B-

A few points from previous posts:

Quote
I just moved to Nova Scotia and it's amazing the amount of (what I consider to be fraudulent) rhetoric being sloshed about by the provincial government.

I've lived in NS for almost all of my life, and I find it odd that some of the facts regarding equalization payments and the history there of seem to be forgotten outside of the Atlantic provinces.  I seem to have just read some of that "fraudulent rhetoric" that said Alberta was allowed to keep the existing equalization payments for 8 years while they were developing the Oil Sands project? (if someone has some credible proof otherwise it would certainly be nice to see the details) .  Allowing the previoisly negotiated and signed agreements to stand for a few years (8 years sounds about right), would help NS and Nfld to build stronger economies and potentially come into their own financially. 

Quote
I think the provinces are absolutely sink-holes for taxpayer funds, and "Equalization" is an absolute rip-off by citizens in provinces who like to live beyond their means, from citizens in provinces who are working their tails off

Would you care to elaborate on that statement?

Cheers

Offline Cdn Blackshirt

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2007, 23:53:00 »
Would you care to elaborate on that statement?

Cheers

Sure.....

It means a couple of things:

1)  Provinces are sink-holes for money.  When was the last time you heard of a province actually releasing a measurement model for the value they provide for $X billion in spending in healthcare or education?  The answer is never.  Each of them is in bed with the unions.  Their solution for everything therefore is throw money at a problem they don't understand without addressing the inherent failures of the systems which if you use either healthcare or education as benchmarks results in higher individual salaries for doctors and teachers, INSTEAD OF more doctors and teachers providing more services for provincial residents.  I should add, did you happen to see what Jean Charest did with the recent billion dollars he negotiated away from Mr Harper to solve "the fiscal imbalance" which Mr Harper provided specifically for the social spending?  Charest turned around and the next day blind-sided Harper by giving it away as tax cuts.

2)  The Equalization fundamentally is not equal at all.  At present the system assigning a base dollar value for "social spending" is absurd when the costs of providing said services in different provinces vary so greatly.  As an example if the calculation states that Ontario has tax revenue base capable of supporting $6,900 worth of social spending per person and Nova Scotia only has $6,200, the current model picks a fairly arbitrary number like "The Gov't of Canada guarantees a base amount of $6,700 per capita", and from that Ontario gets nothing, whilst Nova Scotians receive a Federal Top-Up of $500 per person.  Problem: What if Nova Scotia due to its lower costs of living (especially housing), can actually afford MORE doctors, nurses and teachers with its original $6,200 per person tax base than Ontario could with its $6,900 tax base?  That is, with only its own tax revenue of $6,200, Nova Scotia could afford 3.2 doctors, 6.4 nurses and 4.5 teachers per 1000 population while Ontario with its $6,900 could only afford 2.7 doctors, 5.6 nurses and 4.1 teachers per 1000 population?  Would it really be "Equalization" therefore for Ontario to send additional money so that the actual services received in the "have not" provinces actually dramatically exceed those in the so-called "have" provinces?  My answer is no.  Ontario and Alberta have recently caught onto this issue and have asked that Equalization be adjusted accordingly at which point the "have not" provinces (which obviously form a majority) threw a complete hissy fit as they've become so dependent on "Equalization" to run their provincial budgets.

3)  Looking at what revenues should be included in the Provincial Statistics.  Specifically, why is it that some provinces want resources to be excluded?  Are they not generating provincial tax revenues?  Why is it that natural gas development should as an example be treated any differently than Ontario's manufacturing sector, especially considering that the Ontario's manufacturing is actually being depleted at a higher rate than most "have not" provinces natural resources?  To me, provinces like Saskatchewan and the East wanting Ontario to count manufacturing in its calculations but asking to have their natural resource projects omitted (how many hundred million in windfall earnings is Saskatchewan making on potash and uranium production at the moment) takes a real set of brass balls.  "What's mine is mine, but yours?  Let's start negotiating how we want a peice of that too."  In my world, if it's revenue, it's revenue and you count it.   If that revenue ceases to exist in the future, that's when you stop counting it and you adjust your calculation accordingly.  For the "have nots" to ask for both to play in their favour is incredibly arrogant.

4)  Should there be benchmarks in earning Equalization?  I have a huge problem with the seasonal worker mentality.  "I once was a fisherman, therefore I should have a right to be a fisherman for the rest of my life, and when I'm not fishing, I should be able to sit on my rump and collect benefits."  That entitlement philosophy plus the skewed EI structure which enables the behaviour means that in Newfoundland right now, you have barely 50% of your working age population actually working.  Please give me one good reason why any population that only has half its people working deserves the same quality of life as another region that a participation rate of 70% as an example?  My response is they shouldn't....and the fact that a myriad of interrelated government systems exist to support and even reward this set of lifestyle choices because it buys votes exists makes me nauseous. 

Hope that clarifies my position sufficiently....


Matthew.   :salute:
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Offline Not_So_Arty_Newbie

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2007, 00:33:54 »
You seem to forget the the province paying the most in equalization payments has zero debt and divorced the unions long long ago, right about the time the Klien govt said to everyone you now have 20% less in your budget than you did last year,    deal with it, so, it's not impossible for a highly indebted province to dig out, it takes some hard choices.

Offline RangerRay

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2007, 00:44:48 »
You seem to forget the the province paying the most in equalization payments has zero debt and divorced the unions long long ago, right about the time the Klien govt said to everyone you now have 20% less in your budget than you did last year,    deal with it, so, it's not impossible for a highly indebted province to dig out, it takes some hard choices.

That's right.  Campbell did the same thing in BC, and now we are quite properous again.

Although he may not be perfect, Harper is so far the best prime minister I have observed in office.  I would give him a B because the government is in a minority situation, and they are doing some things that I do not neccessarily agree with to get a majority.  As well, they really need to do a better job communicating.
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Offline smitty66

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2007, 08:49:50 »
Cdn Blackshirt
You do make some valid points, but do you seroiusly think that for example Alberta developed it's oil industry all on it's own without any Federal Assisstance? Was it always a have province? If not who supported it on is rise to prominence? Do you think that "if" NS and Nfld were given the chance to develop their respective Offshore Oil Industries that the equalization formulas would stay the same?
Also you have far too many generalizations about the East Coast and the people that live here. Years ago when the fisheries was the primary employer for the majority of the population some may have been true, but today's reality is that most people are employed in a variety of other fields. And the trend over the past few years has been, if I can't find something here, maybe I'll go to Alberta, Ontario, BC etc. So much for people sitting around on their Keister's collecting E.I.
I am not saying that the equalization formulas should be written in stone for ever, but if the provinces were given the incentive of existing equalization payments for X number of years, after that  let the chips fall as they may, could give the provincial governments the kick in the pants they need to get things in order.

Cheers


Offline Cdn Blackshirt

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2007, 13:44:56 »
Cdn Blackshirt
You do make some valid points, but do you seroiusly think that for example Alberta developed it's oil industry all on it's own without any Federal Assisstance? Was it always a have province? If not who supported it on is rise to prominence? Do you think that "if" NS and Nfld were given the chance to develop their respective Offshore Oil Industries that the equalization formulas would stay the same?
Also you have far too many generalizations about the East Coast and the people that live here. Years ago when the fisheries was the primary employer for the majority of the population some may have been true, but today's reality is that most people are employed in a variety of other fields. And the trend over the past few years has been, if I can't find something here, maybe I'll go to Alberta, Ontario, BC etc. So much for people sitting around on their Keister's collecting E.I.
I am not saying that the equalization formulas should be written in stone for ever, but if the provinces were given the incentive of existing equalization payments for X number of years, after that  let the chips fall as they may, could give the provincial governments the kick in the pants they need to get things in order.

Cheers

I just want to elaborate on a couple of key items because I'm not blaming individuals - I'm blaming systems that exist in specific regions.

Systemic Problem #1:  The Equalization Calculation because it measures dollars only, as opposed to the dollars required to deliver an equal basket of goods in each province is inherently flawed and because of it, it's not equal at all.  Ontario and Alberta actually get worse services than those provinces they send billions of dollars to.

Systemic Problem #2:  If you want someone or some group to do something positive, the last thing you should do is provide supports for them to do nothing.  If you look at any example of welfare systems (and in this case long-term EI) for the able-bodied, it invariably leads to people taking advantage.  Remove that set of overly generous supports, and people will make work because they have to

Systemic Problem #3:  In any entity other than government, there's a requirement to measure your return on investment with money.  Until we begin doing that at the Provincial Level there can be ZERO accountability.


Matthew's Solutions to the above:
1)  Immediately transition the "Equalization" calculation from a flat dollar rate to a "cost of providing a set basket of services" model and then publish the numbers so it's 100% transparent.
2)  Federally make an announcement that EI payments will be scaled back over the next 24-months reducing maximum benefits duration by 50%.
3)  Create a Federal Measurement model for delivery of social services.  Any province providing data will get a top-up and any province not providing data will be penalized.  Again, all data must be published.  The fact all the provinces now use the same old scapegoat and blame Ottawa for the lack of services when they don't even themselves know what's going on is beyond negligent.

Additional Solutions:
1)  I put China, South Korea and Japan (amongst others) on notice that unless reciprocity in trade access, investment access and currency manipulation (China-specific - Minimum exchange rate should be 5 Yuan:$1 CAD) ceases within 12-months, that duties will begin to be applied to all goods as of August 1, 2008.
2)  I would immediately put an all-out push on membership into the EU.  Based on comparative social nets, it's where we'd compete best.  If we bring the United States with us, great.  If not, it's their loss....
3)  Federally, I'd continue increasing the working tax credit year-over-year as the cost of earning income is much higher than sitting at home waiting for a cheque to arrive in the mail.  There's people's commutes to/from work.  Eating at work.  Etc.  Again, this goes back to incentivizing work, and disincentivizing benefits and watching TV on the couch.
4)  I would immediately merge all the Federally-funded Regional Investment Entities and create one single National Strategic Investment Board. The number of bureaucrats would be brought almost to zero (which [gasp] mean lots of layoffs in the Federal Government which is horribly bloated). The strategic council would be manned primarily by businessmen like retired CEO's etc.  Specifically, I'm thinking of guys like Gwynn Morgan who retired from Encana and Jim Buckey who is retiring from Talisman, as well as targeting some guys from the Mining, Manufacturing and Tourism Sectors.  Their role would be to provide tax and education recommendations for nation-wide economic growth.  Their prioritization would be on building blue prints one province at a time from the province with the highest unemployment, to the one with the lowest.  A strategic score card would be provided for each province based on a 10-year plan.  Federal incentives would be indirect and instead of direct support for areas of provincial responsibility (such as higher education or resource royalties), the Feds would provide debt elimination based on meeting the targets specified, as well as guaranteeing low interest loans on infrastructure projects as required to meet that plan. 

Bottom Line:  We have failed systems, and we need to be doing a lot more than keeping the status quo and hoping for the best.

Hope that helps....


Cheers Smitty,  Matthew.    :salute:
IMPORTANT - 'Blackshirt' is a reference to Nebraska Cornhuskers Football and not naziism.   National Champions '70, '71, '94, '95 and '97.    Go Huskers!!!!

niceasdrhuxtable

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2007, 14:54:40 »
Your ideas are outstanding and remarkably thought out. It's rare that someone offers such comprehensive and well-thought out solutions in a public forum. Kudos to you!

Offline smitty66

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Re: A Midterm Report Card: Grading the Conservative Government
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2007, 16:24:02 »
Matthew,
Some very well thought out ideas. I have to agree with you that the provinces need to have some form of accountability. And the reduction to the bureaucratic overhead would certainly streamline some of the processes involved in economic revitalization. Employing former CEO's in key positions is not a bad idea either.
 

Some of the ideas smack of "gasp" Federalism!!!!!   ;D
Cheers 
Smitty