Where's your evidence of tax leakage? Why can pension funds exempt themselves from Harper's 31.5% income trust tax, but RRSPs can not?
A year later, PM's promises not worth much
January 18, 2007
OTTAWA - For most of us, ethics begins with doing what's right and telling the truth. For Stephen Harper, they often end in a conundrum.
Even before wisely dropping the "Promise made, promise kept" mantra foolishly borrowed from Paul Martin, the Prime Minister misplaced his moral compass in a question. Stripped of particulars, Harper routinely, if indirectly, asks voters: Is it acceptable to break a promise to do what's needed?
In the Conservative universe of situational ethics, every breach of trust comes with an explanation.
Luring Liberal David Emerson to switch parties and putting Michael Fortier in the unaccountable Senate as well as in charge of historically corrupt public works was justified by the need to add big city cabinet representation.
Converting Wajid Khan into a Conservative is positioned as selflessly putting country ahead of partisan interest, even if his report on the Middle East is too sensitive to share with that country.
Those decisions are bookends on an ever-lengthening shelf.
An Accountability Act that in opposition promised dozens of specific measures shrunk precipitously in power. A trumpeted victory of merit over patronage was made hollow by more than 100 appointments.
Once an anathema, governing from the centre at the expense of an empowered Parliament is now the operational method of a singularly controlling administration.
If those examples are too arcane for citizens to storm the metaphorical barricades, two others are not.
One is the Halloween income trust reversal and the other is the still unfolding flip-flop on excluding non-renewable natural resources from the equation that keep taxes and services in rough national equilibrium.
Like accountability, merit and the democratic deficit, income trusts and equalization are all in the large print of the Conservative campaign manifesto. But unlike the first three, the last two are measured with money.
Along with being intensely personal, that makes them politically toxic.
Quarterly statements chart losses and counting the cost of including resources in the equalization formula is, for premiers, elementary math.
There are reasons for every course change. Too much accountability strangles efficient program delivery, some appointments can't wait for construction of a meritocracy and somewhere between being a party and becoming the government Harper's inner circle recognized that power is best held tightly.
If anything, the rationales for the income-trust backtrack and for this week's equalization trial balloon are even stronger.
Letting corporations off the tax hook is better for stakeholders than for the country and for the party in power, even one that at least theoretically believes that government becomes more beautiful as it shrinks.
Removing oil from the formula for, say, Saskatchewan, makes about as much sense as excluding vehicle manufacturing from the calculation of Ontario's prosperity.
So what's the problem? Understanding souls say there isn't one.
A neophyte Prime Minister is simply being shaped by the discipline of power. New realities, new information and new priorities – most of all the urgent need to cement and build on Conservative Quebec gains – render null and void good-faith projections made in the campaign hurly-burly.
That might be a fair assessment even without the issue of caveat emptor. After all, only the most naïve voters and taxpayers expect truth in advertising from politicians, parties or governments who flourish in the bait-and-switch environment of spin, fibs and small print.
Except this "new" government won the last election by rejecting old ways. It was going to be different and set out to prove it with an easy five-piece agenda designed to let Conservatives criss-cross the country in the next campaign saying, We did what we said we would.
That worked for fomer Ontario Premier Mike Harris and his neo-conservative revolution. But it's now beggar bowl empty for the Prime Minister.
A year into this government's life, Harper can't credibly claim take-it-to-the-bank honesty as a Conservative virtue.
Instead of "promise kept," it would be more candid to laugh off the record as "Just kidding."
Perversely, it's in the national interest to take this Prime Minister with a lump of salt.
What the last 12 months show is that Harper is an ideologue willing to make almost any short-term compromise to reach long-term objectives.
That's good to know.
Come the next campaign, voters can safely dismiss what Conservatives say to concentrate instead on what the Prime Minister wants to do.
The difference between the two is the distance separating truth from consequences.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Posted by Fillibluster at 8:53 AM