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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Stephen Harper’s political fate is in his own hands

I had just finished being interviewed by Canada AM when word came of Stephen Harper’s comment’s regarding gay marriage. When questioned by the media Harper replied that he would put the matter to “a true free vote in the house of Commons.”

This was followed moments later by the sounds of Tories pulling their hair out in frustration while Liberals and NDPers cheered. As one life long Conservative put it to me so succinctly, “If Harper ever wants to be Prime Minister he has to start realizing that he has to govern for all Canadians and not just those that attend his church.”

Rather than taking the bait that was offered to him by the reporter’s question, Harper should have simply put the issue to rest by stating, “the Supreme Court of Canada has already rendered a decision on that matter and it is not one I intend on revisiting.”

But then Harper recovered a few days later with an announcement that his government would immediately lower the GST to 6% and then to 5% within another five years. The timing was perfect in that it was made just as Canadians were storming the malls shopping for Christmas presents. At last some signs of political intelligence!

Of course there are economists who will tell you lowering income taxes is better than lowering sales taxes. I have a degree in economics and what I will tell you is we as Canadians pay too much in both income taxes and sales taxes so any reduction in either is good.

In addition to scoring some much needed positive political points with the Canadian electorate, Harper has also focused some attention back on the need for tax reform in this country.

The Liberals were quick to point out that they were in favour of lowering income taxes while of course the NDP remained deafeningly silent on the issue. If the NDP holds the balance of power in the next election they will likely veto any significant tax cuts and will instead increase government spending.

Which is a shame because the way the federal polling numbers are in BC right now 35% Liberal, 30% Conservative and 29% NDP it looks almost certain that the NDP will increase the number of MPs they send to Ottawa, the Conservatives will drop while the Liberals may or may not gain depending on whether their support holds up through to election day in January.

Unless the polling numbers change dramatically, what we are currently headed for is another Liberal minority government with the NDP holding the balance of power. Where things could get really interesting is if the Liberals and NDP combined do not have enough seats in the House of Commons to form a majority government. Then the Liberals and Conservatives may have to do what the Socialists and Conservatives did in Germany and form a coalition government.

If you think that is unlikely then consider the only other alternative under such circumstances. Since we know that the Bloc Quebecois would never support a Liberal government the default option would be some sort of Conservative, BQ, NDP coalition government. Quelle horror!

In the meantime Harper needs to learn from the first week of the campaign this simple lesson every time he says something that is socially conservative he increases support for the Liberals and NDP and every time he talks about an economic or tax policy that helps stressed out debt ridden voters he increases support for his own party.

In this regard Harper’s fate is very much in his own hands. If he does well on the campaign trail he may yet get to be Prime Minister as head of a Conservative minority government. If Harper does poorly then he will be gone.

1 comment:

BAZ said...

I would like to remind your readers that Micheal Wilson warned that a GST less than 9% would not be satisfactory when he ended the only indirect tax, a tool at his disposal, constitutionally exclusive, in his possession for fiscal management, because it was claimed, onerous to the public, being hidden.

Mr. Harper, as a conservative thinker, wants to reduce this tax further. If Canadians want to see what happens with fantastic surpluses, they need to look over the pond, in Europe, where a similar system of taxation has existed for a much longer time. Or, we can try to buttress our success, remembering that life revolves relentlessly, and conduct ourselves accordingly by paying down debt. Tinkering leads to more tinkering. In my opinion, conservative means stay the course, for most of the electorate. Stephen Harper risks alienating the very voters he needs in Ontario and Quebec if he continues to differentiate himself to Paul Martin in this manner.

We do not need more Tax Reform, rather, reformation of the Tax Regime requires a vision and the fortitude that politicians seem lacking these days. You may find my Blog on tax reform interesting.