The Week That Was - Oct 12, 2015 - an objective assessment of the Harper record shows increased national debt, higher unemployment and lower economic growth. By anyone’s measure that is a failure.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 11, 2015


Each week between now and the day we all vote, October 19th, Ray Rivers is going to give Gazette readers his take on how the election is going. The week that was will appear every Monday morning.

Next Monday, the 19th, is election day in Canada and the polls are showing the Liberals trending upwards as the NDP decline. As readers who follow me already have guessed, I won’t be voting for Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper made this election about the economy, claiming he is the best economic manager for Canada’s future. So what is his record?

Bennett buggy

They were called Bennett buggies – no one could afford gas and repairing a vehicle was out of the question. Canada was in the middle of a depression in the 1930’s

It turns out that since Harper became PM in 2006, Canada’s growth rate has averaged 1.77 percent, the lowest rate of growth since R. B. Bennett took us for a ride in his Bennett Buggy during the 1930’s great depression, three generations ago.

Mr. Harper has blamed the recent oil price drop for Canada’s current malaise. In fact, during the period when oil was high, this so called fiscal conservative ran six straight deficit budgets in a row, adding $150 billion to the country’s debt load.

As a result he increased Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio by almost a quarter, to over 85%, from where Paul Martin had left it in 2006. And in spite of this extra federal spending he was unable to get unemployment levels back to where it had been when he took over the reins of power. Today’s 7.1% unemployment rate is almost an entire percentage point higher than the 6.3% Paul Martin had bequeathed him in 2006.

Mr. Harper’s belief is that by cutting taxes the extra money in the taxpayers pockets will trickle-down and stimulate economic growth. But the tax revenues declined faster than expenditures, and with the economy stalled, that formula just rendered bigger deficits. The cuts to corporate taxes, rather than stimulating the economy, showed up in even fatter pay and bonus cheques for executives, or being hoarded. As a consequence, over the last decade of corporate tax cuts Canada’s manufacturing sector lost 400,000 jobs.

The country seemed to experience one clamaity after another.  Oil cars running along railway tracks totally out of control.

Railway tank cars that were not as strong as they should have been were transporting oil to the east coast. Human error result in the deaths of several dozen people when rail cars rolled into a town with the brakes basically shut off.

Mr. Harper put all of his faith and some healthy subsidies into oil exports, transitioning Canada into a Saudi Arabia of the north. And to get the oil to export markets, even before his government’s failed rail policies contributed to the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, pipelines were seen as the answer. Yet, despite having slashed historic environmental laws to expedite this goal, his government has failed to build even one pipeline.

Harper claims Canada’s economic future is tied to these so-called free-trade deals he’s been signing all over the world. Yet, the big one with the EU is stalled over the corporate right to sue governments – the ‘investor-state’ clause. And given recent protests in the UK and Germany against a similar agreement being negotiated with the Americans, there is reason to doubt an ultimate ratification.

In the USA, the leading Republican and Democrat presidential candidates have promised to kill the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which was initialed just last week. That may turn out to be a blessing. Mr. Harper has set aside over $5 billion to compensate Canadians for economic losses which will ensue, but has failed to identify any direct benefits for this mother of all trade pacts.

Muzzling public service

Scientists who were on the federal payroll found they were prevented from talking about their research – they risked losing their jobs if they protested.

There are many more reasons which would keep me from voting for Mr. Harper. Canada’s sullied place in the world of foreign affairs, as the PM has replaced principled foreign policy with shameless pandering to domestic ethnic communities, is an example. Canada’s failure to address our growing contribution to climate change is another one. The muzzling of the public service by a government which came into office promising more transparency is still another.

Mr. Harper’s social policies, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, prostitution, immigration and drug legalization are part of an ideology he shares with a number of other Canadians. And his government’s style inevitably reflects his own personality, which may explain his reluctance to meet with his provincial partners. Though one can hardly be blamed for their personality, and should be accorded respect for their ideology, these are considerations for an informed electorate.

And not everything he has done is wrong-headed in my view. There are some economic policies which I applauded, particularly in his early years as PM, such as reducing the GST, introducing income-splitting for seniors and closing the income-trust loophole.

Nevertheless, Stephen Harper is the incumbent PM, having been in control of our economy for the last decade. He has made this election about the economy and put his record up as the reason to vote for him. Yet an objective assessment of that record shows increased national debt, higher unemployment and lower economic growth. By anyone’s measure that is a failure.

In conclusion, regardless of all his other policies which have mostly divided Canadians, Mr. Harper has shown himself to be an incompetent manager of our economy. For that reason alone, people in this election should vote for anyone but Harper.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran as a Liberal against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. Rivers is no longer active with any political party.

Background links:

Jobs    Economic Growth    Debt to GDP     Unemployment

Corporate Hoarding     Oil Subsidies

TPP Clinton Opposed       More Clinton opposed to TPP

US-EU Trade Protests



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6 comments to The Week That Was – Oct 12, 2015 – an objective assessment of the Harper record shows increased national debt, higher unemployment and lower economic growth. By anyone’s measure that is a failure.

  • I’ve been keeping political files over the ten years of the Harper government and I agree with Ray Rivers about Harper’s record on the economy. He certainly failed Ec. 101
    when he failed to ‘diversify, diversify’ his investments in Canada’s economy.

    I have written a blog which has only one article on it right now. It has been written especially for those who have not had time to follow the political scene and includes pages of references so that readers can check all the facts with a click of the mouse.
    Loosely built around the Accountability Act, it shows a pattern of obfuscation, muzzling, secrecy and character assassination which has characterized Harper and his team as well as Harper’s determination to hold onto power until he has incrementally changed Canada to a default position of neo-conservatism and a complete destruction of the Liberal party.
    If the reader has read Harper’s Team by Tom Flanagan or The Longer I’m Prime Minister by Paul Wells, you will understand Harper’s intentions but if, not, I’ve tried to cover a number of issues on my blog which will bring truth to light in an abbreviated
    article, i.e. not a whole book – just chapter length!
    Please go to:

    Marg. Gardner

  • Ray Rivers

    Bob, Thanks for your comments. The GST/HST is very regressive compared to personal income taxes, meaning it hurts the lower income classes disproportionately. Moreover, money left in the hands of lower income folks will go further to increase economic growth than in the hands of the wealthiest Canadians. As the economic record showed, the 2% reduction in the GST was good for those most in need and good for the economy.


  • John

    By now I’ve realized that Mr. Rivers edits his own material, but did any of you actually read the article through?
    “Mr. Harper’s social policies, such as mandatory minimum sentencing, prostitution, immigration and drug legalization are part of an ideology he shares with a number of other Canadians.” What on earth does this paragraph mean?

  • Fred Pritchard FCPA, FCGA

    Ray – I completely agree. On the surface, things may seem great, but when you poke into the details, you see the failure of the Harper Government.

    On Saturday, I was in Waterdown canvassing for a candidate. Nice town, friendly people. However, when you get close to some of the houses, you can see the state of disrepair that you can’t see from the road. Window frames that are need painting or replacing, front door’s that have seem better days, uneven steps, really old windows and peeling paint on the porch.

    The point is these folks are hard working, honest people who just have not benefited from 10 years of Harper. They just don’t have the extra funds to put into curb appeal. While some have exceptional homes, some need help.

    It is clear we need a change in economic policy, and given the NDP are in a free fall in support, only the Liberals are able to defeat Harper.

    In fact, I was just saying at dinner Saturday night, the built up anger towards Harper at the door when talking with people is real. People really hate the guy, so hopefully Waterdown and the rest of us will get a Government who can move the country in a new direction, forward and up.

    Today is Monday – the advance polls are open – beat the rush and vote today.

  • Bob Zarichansky

    Did the 2 cent reduction in GST really cure the nation? No. It was just false advertising to seduce the public. The money could have been usefully spent on infrastructure or Medicare, although we now know that we were foolish to trust Harper to have spent our money wisely.

    Similarly, income-splitting is another wilful misrepresentation. It will have zero impact on an estimated 86 per cent of Canadian households and would benefit the rich the most. Harper’s true legacy to seniors was to attack the foundation of Medicare, increase the eligibility of both the Old Age Security pension and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 67 as well as persist in his battle to prevent the CPP from modernizing. In fact, Harper’s attack on almost every facet of Canadian life has diminished our expectations of government by all Canadians, not only seniors.

    Spandau Prison was kept open to house Rudolph Hess and we should be doing the same with the Kingston Penitentiary for Stephen Harper, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and their ilk.

  • The photo of the muzzled scientists reminded me of the periods of Republican control during my career at the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The Reagan/Bush years were bad, but the worst years were under George W. Bush. During G.W.’s tenure we saw a record number of Center Directors (of the coordinated Centers), top level administrators, and chief scientists resign, retire, or move to academic or private institutions rather than have their names forever besmirched by association with the “scientific findings” determined by the Bush administration. The loss of Institutional Memory is still a lasting legacy.