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Harper's Lost Majority
by; Glen Breaks
When Stephen Harper and his Conservatives failed yet again to win a majority Government last fall, no one seemed to understand how this could have happened. Here was an incumbent Prime Minister running against an exciteable and oft times unitelligible (in English) opponent. On top of that the Tories had all but destroyed Stehpane Dion's reputation well in advance of the actual election campaign by running a massive attack ad campaign fueled by the seemingly endless Tory war chest.
Though on the brink of a recession, the full force of the world's economic maelstrom had not yet gripped Canada, so both Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty could make claims that with them at the helm, Canada would be almost immune to recession and deficit Government Budget financing would never occur.
With Flaherty admitting last week that the deficit in 2009 likely hit 50 billion or more, we now know how incorrect the Tory version of Canada's near future turned out to be. Nonetheless, at election time, Harper managed to sidestep the issue of recession in Canada, instead pointing to his party as prudent fiscal managers with a long term outlook to 5 years ahead of solid surplus Federal budgets.
Given all of these conditions, and given the huge advantage in campaign financing, how was it possible that the Tories did not win a majority? If not against the weak Dion then when could Harper ever win a majority?
The answer is never and the reason is very simple, in fact it is basic arithmetic. When Harper took office in 2006 he did so after running his campaign with an often repeated promise of preserving income trusts. When he broke this promise and brought in a tax which would end the existence of income trusts in 2011, he angered 2.5 million income trust investors. These investors were mostly older people, savers, and it is safe to say the great majority of them had been part of the Conservative voter base in 2006, especially after hearing Harper's promise.
In the 2008 election the Conservatives received a grand total of something just over 5 million votes. Had they not angered the income trust investors so, they would have received a very large percentage of votes from this group of 2.5 million investor/voters, easily pushing them into a majority Government. It is really that simple.
I witnessed a small segment of this group in action at a recent 65th wedding anninversary for my Aunt and Uncle. A large number of senior citizens were in attendance and the topic of Harper's income trust betrayal came up. The anger at Harper and Flaherty in that room was very palpable as many of my retired relatives vented. Over and over I heard the same sort of comment, "I've voted Conservative all of my life, but never again!" Fortunately for Stephen Harper many of these people didn't vote at all as they did not consider Stephane Dion to be someone they could vote for. With Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader, Harper will not be so lucky next time.
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Monday, June 1, 2009
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