Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/6/2009 (3952 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
According to their ubiquitous political attack ads, however, the Conservatives believe the nation's most pressing issue is who is the most patriotic Canadian — Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
The government blames the deficit's sudden leap on employment insurance and the automotive industry bailout.
What it doesn't tell you is that it deliberately created a structural deficit to tie the hands of future governments.
This year alone, the Conservatives' GST, corporate and personal income tax cuts will carve $33.9 billion out of federal revenues, federal budget documents show.
That's $11.5 billion lost from the two-point cut in the GST Canadians hardly noticed; another $7.5 billion gone to corporate income tax cuts most economists agree is the least stimulative fiscal tool (unless demand is present, business doesn't spend); and a further $15.3 billion drained through personal income tax cuts, including the tax credit for sports equipment, primarily benefiting top income earners.
Meanwhile, due to the meanness of its availability and stingy wage replacement, EI will cost the federal treasury, at most, $12 billion. And the $11 billion auto bailout is a loan and doesn't have to be all written off this year.
The Conservatives' attack ads seek to "frame" Ignatieff before he has a chance to do so himself. They're claiming he's unpatriotic because he repeatedly led people to believe he was an American during his years at Harvard University teaching, writing and broadcasting.
Toronto author and columnist Rick Salutin says Ignatieff owes Canadians an explanation, and he's right. If Ignatieff is smart, he'll provide one. Salutin suggests he admit "it was immature and dishonest but I thought it would help me get ahead in the U.S."
But the ads are almost as risky for the Harper Conservatives. Canadians may well ask themselves who is more unpatriotic: Ignatieff, for passing himself off as a American citizen while living and working in a country that doesn't much like or listen to foreigners; or Harper, for his determination to jettison Canada's societal, political and governmental institutions and adopt those of the U.S.?
That, surely, is the great irony — and hypocrisy — of the Ignatieff attack ads. The very fact they are running now, outside a formal election campaign, is as American as apple pie.
With a system of government that has fixed elections every two (Congress), four (White House) and six (Senate) years, the U.S. invented the perpetual election campaign and its ugly offspring, perpetual attack ads.
Animated by their Reform party base, Harper's "Republican" Conservatives have never hidden their contempt for Canada's parliamentary democracy or stopped trying to twist its institutions beyond recognition to fit American forms: fixed election dates; elected senators; state (provincial) rights; perpetual campaigns: personal attack ads rather than debates on issues; the embrace, during last winter's parliamentary crisis, of American populist ideas about direct democracy with a strong (presidential) leader orchestrating and responding to spasms of popular will; the adoption of the American right's agenda of law and order, guns, social and religious conservatism, militarism.
University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan has been the prime minister's friend, confidant and campaign strategist through two leadership campaigns and two elections. His columns in The Globe and Mail chart the Conservatives' policy and strategy roadmap.
Last January, Flanagan made his party's scorn for the parliamentary system manifest.
"Canada has inherited the antiquated machinery of responsible government from the pre-democratic age of the early 19th century, when most people couldn't vote and political parties were only parliamentary cliques," he wrote. "But a lot has happened since Benjamin Disraeli last took tea with Queen Victoria...
"The most important decision in modern politics is choosing the executive of the national government, and democracy in the 21st century means the voters must have a meaningful voice in that decision."
Flanagan's American roots are showing. The frequent gridlock between president and Congress, even when of the same party, provides far less "meaningful voice" to voters than the ability of all the people's representatives, all the time, to choose who sits at the cabinet table.
The Harper Conservatives have nothing to teach Canadians about patriotism.