Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s five main priorities miss the mark when it come to lining up with the priorities of Canadians.
Mr. Harper identified government accountability, reducing the GST, strengthening the justice system, a child care allowance, solving the “fiscal imbalance” and waiting times for patients as his key priorities in a speech on January 2.
A closer look shows that Mr. Harper’s approach to each of these issues misses the mark when it comes to what Canadians’ priorities.
Mr. Harper claims he wants improve government accountability, but his plan has huge loopholes. If he really cares about accountability:
- Why won’t he tell Canadians who bankrolled his 2002 leadership campaign?
- Why will he not support our government’s efforts to limit the influence of big-money lobby groups like the National Citizens’ Coalition on Canadian elections, and make these lobby groups reveal who is funding their campaigns?
Mr. Harper’s behaviour is clearly not that of a leader who truly values accountability.
On taxes, the Conservative leader claims his plan to cut the GST is progressive. However, unlike the Liberal government’s personal income tax cuts, the people who will benefit the most under the Conservative plan are those with large disposable incomes. Under Mr. Harper’s tax cut plan, you would save:
- four cents on a hamburger, but 10 times that if you can afford steak and lobster;
- less than a quarter on a Timex, but $50 on a Rolex;
- $250 on a new Grand Prix, but nearly $1,000 on a luxury Lexus.
On justice issues, the Conservative leader claims he wants to address gun crime, but his public record says something quite different. Mr. Harper has spent his entire career fighting gun control, including the 1991 restrictions brought in by the Mulroney government. He and his colleagues voted against every single gun control measure brought in by the Liberal government over the last 12 years.
Most recently, Mr. Harper helped precipitate an early election that derailed Bill C-82 which includes new gun crime offences and will double mandatory minimums. Now Mr. Harper is refusing to support the Liberal government’s proposed Canada Handgun Ban. He continues to be out of step with the priorities of Canadians when it comes to justice and community safety.
Mr. Harper says that child care is another one of his priorities. However, he has also said he will renege on the five-year child care agreements signed with the provinces. Mr. Harper’s proposal to give families less than $25 a week, or about $4 a day after taxes, will pay for only three days of child care a month in most provinces. Unlike the Liberal plan, Mr. Harper’s will do nothing to create new facilities that are safe and employ well-trained educators. What Mr. Harper doesn’t understand is that Canadians expect more from the government than a coupon for our kids.
Mr. Harper also promises “medically acceptable waiting times” for Canadians, but his plan allocates no money to improving the system – either in new transfers to the provinces or new direct federal spending. The Conservative leader has a record of supporting expanding private health care, not strengthening the public system. His efforts to bring down the government last spring nearly blocked implementation of the $41 billion federal-provincial heath care deal that Prime Minister Martin negotiated with the provinces and territories.
On solving the “fiscal imbalance,” Mr. Harper refuses to say what he plans to do or put a price tag on this promise which, at its core, is about reducing the role of the Government of Canada and transferring tax points to the provinces. Harper knows that a tax point transfer will mean much more to wealthier provinces than those with a smaller tax base, but he doesn’t seem to care that his plan will exacerbate regional disparities.
It was also interesting to note what priorities did not make Harper’s list: no mention of the economy, education, the environment, seniors, foreign policy, agriculture, softwood, regional development, support for cities and communities, national unity, or protection of minority rights.