MEASURED CRITICISM: A POLITICAL ARTFORM

With the budget handed down yesterday, the usual parties had the usual rhetoric. Such is politics no matter who is in power. Of course, politics is about public perception as much as substance. For example, the opposition gives the impression that they are adamantly opposed to the Harper-Flaherty fiscal plan for the next 12 months. They will harp and bicker, no doubt, as the Bloc has made it clear that they will support the budget. That gives the NDP and the Liberals plenty of whining room They can both, with impunity, vote against the budget and wave their party placards around claiming that they won’t take this lying down. As they know, their votes are meaningless without the Bloc onside.

I would love to see the Bloc hint that perhaps they weren’t going to support the Conservative budget. Anyone who understands politics knows that none of the opposition parties thinks this budget is anywhere near bad enough to trigger an election. Should Gilles Duceppe hint at a non-supportive role, we could sit back and watch with a smile as the mouths of Jack Layton and Bill Graham changed gears. They could no longer lambaste the budget knowing they had to support it to avoid going back to the polls.

With the Liberals at the low end of the polling charts, (their magic mirror), and their party in complete and utter disarray, not to mention the party’s bleak financial picture, there is not a snowball’s chance in Toronto in July that they are going to bring down Harper. As for the NDP, I don’t think that they would have much to lose, as they are still bottom feeders and have no real prospects to be otherwise.

The usual criticisms of this government with accusations of ‘hidden this’ and ‘extremist that’ have been greatly tempered, if for no other reason than the leader of the Conservatives keeping his MP’s on a short leash. As well, Canadians have come to realize that the dire warnings of the earth suddenly reversing direction once the Conservatives were in power were simply hyperbole. Now, the main talking points of the Liberals are reduced to Harper-Bush comparisons, daycare whining, and of course, the environment.

As we learned late last year as we were bashing the Americans for rejecting Kyoto, Paul Martin and the Liberals have made absolutely no ground on environmental issues. In fact, our American neighbours have. So much for being a signatory of Kyoto. For what it is worth, I salute Stephen Harper for having the political fortitude to stand up and say what many already acknowledge: Kyoto is flawed, and it is dead. At least for us, and that’s a good thing for Canada.

The Conservatives have been ridiculed by their opponents for calling the transit rider tax credit an environmental item. Perhaps it does take a stretch to connect the two, but if it encourages even one percent more people to use transit, it will have accomplished more than 13 years of international peacock walking at environmental summits on the part of the last government. Think about that number for a second. 13 years. That is a long time to make no progress.

The tax relief that was introduced today brings with it mixed emotions from this writer. While I applaud all efforts to lower the tax burden that we live under, I am still worried that the provincial and regional governments will find it easier to raise their own levels of taxation on us. We must not allow that to happen.

As far as corporate taxes being reduced, the NDP’s opposition to this is short-sighted. While they rally against corporate welfare, as they call it, they are the first to demand that government’s hand generous tax breaks and grants to corporations such as G.M. (happening in Oshawa and other Canadians cities as we speak), and Bombardier who, as a matter of fiscal policy continually threaten to shut plants and move jobs, leading to an all-out panic within government which in turn makes irresponsible promises with the full backing of Canada’s NDP Party.

I take it that the NDP realizes it is companies who provide most of the jobs for their members, unless of course they work for government. Yes, those evil greedy corporations. Perhaps for a moment they could consider the ramifications of Canada’s corporate tax burden shrinking. Could this perhaps entice more Canadian plants for North American corporations?

As for spending by government, it is still on the increase, albeit at a much slower pace. As a fiscal Conservative, I had hoped that the size of government would have shrunk. Spending must be reduced the next time around. While reducing government is next to impossible to do, Canadians must be trusted to take more of a proactive role in their own affairs, and they must be convinced and taught that the government is simply not a social Wal-Mart where one can go for everything. Without that step, the growth will remain.

After all is said and done, it is good to finally see some real tax relief. In future budgets, we will see Mr. Harper offer increases in the basic personal exemptions for all Canadians, and I would like to see Ottawa get back to the days of refundable tax credits, one’s that you can add up at the end of your income tax form, not simply use to lower your tax bill and then are unable to use the remainder.

Today’s budget score: 7.5 out of 10.