Justin Trudeau did, indeed, say that “the budget will balance itself” (in a CPAC interview on 11 February 2014) and he repeated that (in a speech in Newmarket, ON, on 26 August 2015) when he said that a government he led would “grow the budget back into balance,” after running a few small deficits.
Now, it seems, according to an article in the Globe and Mail, that reports on a new Nanos survey, that “Canadians want the Finance Minister to deliver” on Justin Trudeau’s promises. “The survey found that a majority of Canadians say balancing the federal budget is more important than investing in government programs. It also found that most Canadians would like business tax rates to be the same or higher than the United States, with only 14-per-cent support for having lower business taxes than the United States.” I need to stress that I am one of the 14% … I believe that most business taxes are both:
- Inefficient, the vast majority of enterprises, large and small, just pass their corporate taxes along to consumers, hidden in the retail price of the goods and services they produce and sell, it would be less expensive, for the government an the taxpayer, to raise the HST/GST; and
- A tax on jobs; they actually provide an incentive for businesses to either automate (replace people with machines) or outsource to lower wage regions of the world.
The article says that “The Liberal Party campaigned in 2015 on a pledge to run short-term deficits of no more than $10-billion a year to pay for new spending in areas such as infrastructure and family benefits before balancing the books by 2019. However, in government, Liberal deficits have repeatedly exceeded that cap and Mr. Morneau no longer has a timeline for fiscal balance … [and] … Pollster Nik Nanos said the results suggest that the deficit message that worked for the Liberals in 2015 is unlikely to work again in 2019.” I think that the Conservative Party needs to build on this, promising to restore balanced budgets and explaining how they plan to do that … which might mean cutting some programme spending and capping other spending envelopes, like defence and some foreign aid.
“Running a deficit to invest in government programs,” the article says “– which is the current position of the federal Liberal government – had the support of 33 per cent of respondents. Balancing the budget had 58-per-cent support. A further 9 per cent said they were unsure.” That 33% is a little higher than what I would count as the Liberal Party’s core base; they got 30% of the vote in 2006, 26% in 2008, only 19% in 2011 and 39% in 2015; they are currently, polling at about 32-36%.
Canadians are more disposed to have the same or higher tax rates than the United States given that they feel that taxes pay for the government programmes (services) they use and value; only a small percentage want lower tax rates than those in the USA.
Polling over the past couple of years seems, to me, to indicate two important things:
- Canadians, most Canadians, like Justin Trudeau. They think he is a “nice” person, compassionate was the word used in one recent poll; it’s not a word we hear used about Conservatives; but
- Canadians trust Conservatives to do better with fiscal issues, and, it appears, that Canadians are worried that the Trudeau Liberals are not being fiscally responsible.
Both US Presidents George HW Bush (41) and George W Bush (43) preached a gospel of compassionate conservatism to Americans, President George HW Bush’s “thousand points of light” comments in his inaugural address comes to mind. It didn’t always make it into every policy but it was both inspiring and popular. That is something that Conservatives should get back to … principled conservatism is about helping the working class and the middle class to raise families who will do better than they have done. That was the common dream of most people in the working and middle classes in the West in the 1950s, 60s, ’70s and ’80s and into the 1990s, too; but somewhere, as Stephen Harper points out in his new book, ‘Right Here, Right Now,’ the dream fell apart and now too many people believe that they will leave their children worse off that they are, now, and that has driven them, in America and around the world, to vote for populist politicians like Donald Trump who offer easy answers to everything. I don’t think we want that in Canada, but people are more disposed to want to hear the comforting nonsense that Justin Trudeau spouts, even when they know, deep down, that it is rubbish, rather than listen to positions that are honest. But, somehow, Conservatives have to tell Canadians the truth in ways that make it less frightening. Conservatives need to take some heed of this meme:
Justin Trudeau is turning his back on too many of the constituencies that supported him in 2015. he may be compassionate, in fact I’m sure he is, in reality, but compassion is not just about throwing money at each problem that comes along. The kind of compassionate conservatism that Canada needs involves giving Canadians the tools they need to look after themselves and their families. It involves recognizing that many single, working mothers and First Nations families have brutally hard lives; compassionate conservatism isn’t about assigning blame, it is about providing help; it’s not about promising to guarantee equality of outcome, it is about actually providing less unequal opportunities.
Conservatives need to be free traders while recognizing and admitting that there are always some losers in every deal … and promising sensible, practical ways to ameliorate the situation for Canada’s losers when they, inevitably, appear. Too many Conservatives simply say, free trade is good for most people in the long run so we all have to pitch in … that’s cold comfort for a 50 years old factory worker who just lost his job. When Conservatives negotiate free(er) trade deals they need to admit, up front, that some Canadians will be hurt and promise to find ways to lessen the pain. That’s honest compassionate conservatism, and that, I think is what Canadians want.