Thursday, September 25, 2008

An ABC Voting Strategy for Canadians

25 September 2008, 5 April 2011

In 2008 in Canada, "ABC" stands for "Anything But Conservative."

What is wrong with the Conservative Party of Canada?

Let me start on the other side of that question....

Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservatives, is a charismatic and articulate leader who has a knack for reading the public mind and saying just the right thing. Overall, I would judge him right in more areas than he is wrong. I admire his stands on Afghanistan, Canadian sovereignty, conventional energy development (still needed) and rebuilding our underfunded military. Mr. Harper understands that 14-year-olds are capable of heinous crimes, and recognizes that the public requires long-term protection from such individuals, who are no less dangerous than adults who behave in a similar manner. He also got the Aboriginal residential school apology right, and has done a pretty good job of not interfering with Canada's social, educational and health services infrastructure.Unlike his American conservative compatriots, he has demonstrated his ability to stay out of the bedrooms of the nation as well.

Mr. Harper is willing to act less conservatively than he believes in recognition of he fact that mainstream Canadians are also in most respects less conservative than he.

But the Conservatives have gone drastically wrong in two areas. In my judgement, despite Mr. Harper's considerable virtues, these two areas give evidence of a party that is seriously off-base, and therefore not yet ready to function as Canada's governing party.

Most importantly, the Conservative Party of Canada (unlike the predecessor Progressive Conservative Party exemplified by Mr. Joe Clark) has mounted an American-style negative advertising campaign featuring "attack ads" directed against the Liberal Party, in an effort to make the Liberal Party candidate, Stephane Dion, "the issue."

Mr. Harper, please allow me to remind you that Mr. Dion is not the issue. The issues are the issue. I will not cast my vote for any party that mounts a negative campaign. It demonstrates a lack of imagination and, more fundamentally, a lack of willingness to engage with the real issues due to a preference for demagoguery.

The Conservative Party will not get my vote so long as it persists in pushing forward with its negative campaign.

Issue number two: Mr. Harper has just reiterated that he will not back down from his party's reprehensible and socialistic tax grab of 31% on the Canadian Income Trusts. I have written extensively in previous blogs about what is wrong with this policy. In essence, the primary concern is that the Income Trusts were originally designed as an alternative funding vehicle for Canadian resource development, enabling Canadian resource companies to acquire capital through the small-scale unit purchases of (fiscally conservative) Canadian citizen investors (in return for generous tax-sheltered dividend payments) to promote resource development at home. The income trust program was a huge success, and it contributed immensely to the promotion of domestic Canadian savings and investment (which was also in dramatic and welcome contrast to the excesses of financial leverage and speculation that have dominated the investment scene south of the border).

The freeze on the income trusts creates three fundamental problems.

(1) The pool of small investor capital for resource development is drying up, and this is hurting resource companies across the board. Canada registers more energy and mining resource development companies on its exchanges than all the remaining countries of the world combined. The so-called "new" Conservative government is freezing out Canada's strongest economic resource in deference to assembling bail-out packages for sunset industries such as automobiles and forestry, which, though always an important part of Canada's infrastructure, will contribute far fewer future jobs to the economy than will energy and mining ventures.

(2) The regressive taxes on the resource income trusts have already begun to drive out small-scale Canadian Citizen investors, as cash-rich international holding companies buy out our resource assets at fire sale prices.

(3) The potential of the trusts to fund Canada's cash-strapped mining and resource development sector - certainly our primary source of new Canadian jobs for the next two decades or more - will now never be explored. As a result, far less development of our mineral resources, and with it the creation of far fewer jobs, will now be Canada's reality.

Personally, I have significant reservations about Mr. Dion's green Shift. It was certainly the wrong platform on which to base his campaign from a strategic perspective. The Green Shift over-emphasizes tax sanctions, and under-emphasizes incentives for behavioural change. However, Mr. Dion is campaigning with dignity, intelligence and patience on an issue-based platform against the misdirected personality-based Conservative campaign. Therefore, I hold Mr. Dion in far higher regard than Mr. Harper, as Mr. Dion is following the high road while Mr. Harper follows the low road. Additionally, Mr. Dion has pledged to hold taxation on income trusts at 10%, in contrast to Mr. Harper's punitive 31.5%. I had already decided to vote for the Liberals prior to their income trust announcement, but this stated policy certainly clinches my Liberal vote in 2008.

As for Jack Layton, the man is a weak leader of the NDP, Tommy Douglas' legacy party. Based on Mr. Layton's public statements, I must conclude that he is a populist rabble rouser, and not the man of ideas that Mr. Douglas was. He seems to be primarily concerned with punishing "big oil" (which in my view has been punished and exploited enough without acknowledgement that this sector has create hundreds of thousands of Canadian jobs and through taxes lavishly funded our government infrastructure, with which Mr. Layton is certainly deeply allied). Mr. Layton has no positive program that I can detect. He is focused on gouging the business sector, without insight that a healthy business sector offers an increased tax stream for the promotion of Canadian educational, cultural, social and health initiatives. Mr. Layton is lost, wandering in the darkness.

Now Elizabeth May of the Green party seems to be campaigning on principles, though I have not yet been convinced that the Green Party is in any way ready to govern at this time. But I credit Miss May, along with Mr. Dion, for steering her campaign on a principled and issue-governed course.

Given my reservations regarding all of the candidates and parties, I will not fault you, the reader, for any vote you may choose to make - even for Mr. Layton - so long as you adhere to the single most critical principle in the present campaign.


Vote Anything But Conservative in the October 2008 Canadian Federal Election!

April 5, 2011: Anything but Conservative again in May 2011? You betcha. The same problems apply. Honestly, I would bring back Paul Martin if I could. He has certainly so far been our most effective leader of the new millennium. But I'm willing to give Michael Ignatieff a chance. I believe Mr. Ignatieff listens to and thinks about what others say to him. A thinking leader would be to our advantage in an ever more complex world!


  1. One must remember the history of Flaherty and the income trust lie came about.

    Steven Harper campaigned in the last election on the issue of the income trusts. He promised Canadians, specifically senior citizens that he would not change the structure of the income trusts. Seniors were heavily invested in the income trusts and voted for Steven Harper based on this promise. Their life savings were invested in income trusts because they were such a good investment for Canadians.

    Within less than two months of the election Steven Harper changed the structure of income trusts and senior citizens who trusted him and voted for him, because of his PROMISE, lost substantial amounts of their savings.

    Steven Harper now says that they have recovered much of their value. Implying that given time they would be as good an investment as they were.

    The thing Steven Harper doesn't acknowledge is that for many of those seniors investing in income trusts, time is not on their side.

    But I suppose he really doesn't have to worry too much because those that don't live to see a return on their investment also DON'T LIVE TO VOTE AGAINST HIM IN THE NEXT ELECTION.

    Bottom line, he may be able to talk a good talk, but if his words are all lies to get elected, then how an we trust him to lead the country for 4 years.

  2. I'm surprised that Stephen Harper's campaign ads don't end with appropriate "Nya nya nya nya nya". They are childish and a behaviour that is discouraged in playgrounds of the schools of this country.

    I, and many other Canadian voters agree with you Laurence, ABC.

    Grow up Conservatives!

  3. Hmmm, today is October 5th and I just watched the Liberal's new attack ad. No doubt they will heat things up as the election draws nearer. So much for his issue based campaign - if you can't beat them and your polls are dropping - join them.

    ABC - sure - but...

    I am military - previous Liberal govts starved us and cut us. People on a first name basis with me are dead because of the previous Liberal crowd.

    Remember how they got the name fiberals?

    Read a couple of articles by non-partisan commentators lately - according to some govt watch folks - the Harper govt has kept more election promises than any other previous govt for many years - and a minority at that.

    If Harper gets a majority - hopefully the long gun registry will disappear. Apparently the cost is now about to top $2 billion. If you can think back to the first time the Auditor general took aim at the registry - the known and proven cost was close to $1 billion - but it "could be as high as $5 billion". Of course the Fiberals were smiling. The other $4 billion could not be traced. If it was effective I would not have a problem - but the registry cannot ever work. The AG told them there were no measuring systems in place to see if it was effective - so they tried to build some yardsticks - and now they like to show off some stats - problem is the way the stats are gathered is smoke and mirros - the long gun registry searches also cover several other types of computer searches - but the registry supporters refuse to break the searches down by type.

    The Income Trust thing - maybe it is bad (was bad) but I don't really care - why not - because it does not affect me. Affects very few of the people I know. Affects even fewer of the seniors I know. Most of us are just trying to work and put food on our tables. No extra to be trying to invest on that level. Perhaps I should get upset over the fact that the majority of folks in the military pay full shot EI premiums - but are not eligible to collect. Don't see anyone crying for us with that one. There is alittle loophole on that one now - but it means having a baby.

    As for the resource sector drying up - I just came back from out west - their biggest problems passed to me were the inability to hire and train workers fast enough and the environmental hurdles in place (in my view rightfully so) which slow down both exploration and exploitation.

    Used to canoe with a UNB Forestry prof. He had some interesting info for me. Our forestry industry is dead beacause we as a country have not invested money in forestry research. The South Americans invest govt funds quite heavily in research and as a result they are able to bring trees from planting to harvest in approx seven years. Previously it was much closer to Canada's time to grow. As a result of their research - they have usurped our world standing in production. Of course part of the problem has been modernization reducing the amount of labour required.

    Mr Dion pledges to hold the tax on income trusts at 10% - small comfort coming from the party with the lowest number of election promises kept.

    Recently spent an evening with our local CHP candidate - he said a lot of things that made sense. Actually going to have to make a decision now - Helena or Peter.

  4. Thanks to anonymous for many points, all of which appear more or less valid to me.

    I hope I was able to make clear that I admire the conservatives for many virtues, as well as (in my view) critical weaknesses.

    My concern about the income trust policy is not just the broken promises and the widely dispersed group of mostly ordinary Canadians who were hurt by the Conservatives' about-face....

    There is the deeper issue, which is that Canadians need to invest in Canada, and the Conservative government is punishing us for doing so. That in my view is dangerous to Canada's future health - and also makes our resources vulnerable to lowball international bids as Canadians are forced out of the investment market.

    Re attack ads - I'm at a great disadvantage, as I don't have access to network television. All I have caught so far are the CBC Radio ads. And as of last week, the Conservative ads were beneath the dignity of the Conservative party, due to their emphasis on personalities versus issues.

    It is on this limited basis that I determined the Conservative ads were Americanized and unbefitting an issues-based election campaign.