The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine today published an article on Harper’s economic plan with the title ‘Harper’s economic plan: spin to win”.
The lengthy article delves in the the micromanagement by Harper of every political stance, event, or announcement by the Conservatives. The purpose? Promote Stephen Harper and his personal agenda. Harper is the first Prime Minister of Canada to be found in contempt of parliament.
Ralph Goodale, finance minister under Paul Martin, is quoted in the article as saying of the Conservatives “Spin is the number one priority, policy secondary. It’s been clear all along.”
Clear all along?
“Look at the record. Not since the 1930s have Canadian economic growth numbers been so bad as this last decade under Harper.” And no, Goodale argued, you couldn’t blame it on “global conditions,” as the Prime Minister liked to do. The downturn from the financial crisis ended several years ago.
Now, in 2015, as an election approached, there was a new downturn. The Tories’ economic narrative turned sour. Where once Canada was doing better than all the G7 countries, now it was the only country among them with an economy sputtering out recession-like numbers.
The bad news kept rolling in. Oil prices had plunged. Growth numbers fell. Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz called the country’s economic performance in the first quarter “atrocious.” Uncertainty prompted a delay in the budget delivery date. The country’s merchandise trade deficit reached an all-time high. A balanced budget, the much-ballyhooed promise of the government, looked less and less likely, given revenue shortfalls. Labour union economists Jim Stanford and Jordan Brennan did a statistical analysis in which they examined 16 indicators of economic progress for all Canadian governments since the Second World War. Their conclusion: The Harper Tories ranked last.
It wasn’t just labour economists who were doubting the Conservatives’ record, but the Harper team blew off such studies as being biased.
The dogs barked, the caravan moved on. Through the run of bad news, Finance Minister Joe Oliver showed little concern, maintaining a low profile. When the 75-year-old did appear for Question Period in the House of Commons, pitbull Pierre Poilievre, 36, often stood in his place. The young enforcer had been named the new employment minister.
Poilievre, with scant life experience outside politics, had frequently been the subject of unflattering press reports. But he was regarded as one of the party’s best pitchmen by the Prime Minister. Poilievre was not in the job long before it was revealed that he had used a team of public servants, who weren’t supposed to engage in partisan activity, for overtime work on a Sunday. They were called in to film Poilievre glad-handing constituents and promoting the government’s Universal Child Care Benefit plan. Not one to brook criticism, Poilievre then took things a step further, wearing a shirt with a Conservative logo on another round of promotion. His government, a Globe and Mail analysis found, funnelled 83% of the projects under its signature infrastructure fund to Conservative-held ridings.
While one wag suggested the Tories should be hit with a “crass-action” suit, they plunged ahead, eyes firmly fixed on the Oct. 19 rendezvous with voters. Their opponents could gripe all they wanted. They weren’t going to change their ways. They would pound the airwaves with the message that they were doing great things for Canadians. If the experts were saying their balanced budget was not achievable, it didn’t matter; they clung to the boast.
Economic performance, as Goodale noted, was highly susceptible to spin. Harper may never have worked as an economist, but his two degrees in the field taught him an important political truth: Statistics could be found to prove or disprove most any theory one wanted. It was all about who had the biggest megaphones.
Read the whole Report on Business magazine article from the Globe and Mail at this link.