The lies Harper told during 2015 election call, first leaders’ debate
Launching the 2015 federal election last Sunday, August 2, Stephen Harper define the 2015 federal election as “an election about leadership” on the state of the Canadians economy and national security. In his speech that day, and during last Thursday’s first national leaders debate, hosted by Maclean’s Magazine, the Conservative leader presented himself as the best alternative to… Stephen Harper.
On both occasions, Harper told a lot of lies. Let’s quote the man against available evidence. First, the budget.
During the campaign launch, the Conservative leader stated, “Our budget is balanced.” During the debate, he elaborated, saying, “We have a budget that is balanced now when other countries don’t… We have not only a balanced budget, we have the lowest debt levels in the G-7 by a country mile, by far.”
The facts: The Harper government claimed a $1.4 billion surplus in its April budget. Last month, the Parliamentary Budget Officer took a learned look at the latest economic forecast from the Bank of Canada and concluded that the country was on track to score a $1-billion deficit in 2015-16.
2015 federal election call
Harper: “It is important that these campaigns be funded by the parties themselves rather than taxpayers.”
The facts: According to the Toronto Star, Elections Canada, the agency responsible for conducting federal elections, estimates that a typical 37-day campaign costs Canadian taxpayers “roughly $375 million”. The 2015 campaign lasts 78 days, the longest in Canadian history. The Star adds that, “The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has estimated the tally could approach $500 million.” That’s not counting the money the parties will raise directly from taxpayers. The Harper government’s $3-billion Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), conveniently unleashed on the eve of the election, and described by critics as the biggest single political bribe in Canadian history, is funded by taxpayers.
Harper: “Our social programs have been preserved.”
The facts: In the last nine years, the Conservatives have decimated social programs that took generations to build and were at the heart Canada’s reputation as a compassionate and caring country. Canadians now wait two more years before receiving old age security. The government reduced spending on federal health-care. Fewer jobless Canadians are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Cuts to the budgets of dozens of aboriginal organizations and human rights groups fighting for the well-being of vulnerable Canadians.The Court Challenges Program, Status of Women Canada, and a whole bunch of veterans offices are gone! According to former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, the $783 million in cuts implemented through the 2012 federal budget targeted social programs.
Harper: “Now is not the time for the kinds of hazardous economic schemes that are doing so much damage elsewhere in the world.”
The facts: Back in 2006, Harper declared that Canada would be transformed into an “energy superpower”. Then the Conservatives shackled the country’s economic future to the costly and destructive Alberta tar sands. A report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Polaris Institute back in 2013 warned that our dependence on the Alberta Tar sands would hurt the Canadian economy. About a year ago, global oil prizes tumbled. Now the Canadian economy is (almost) screaming.
Harper: “The rise of the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East has done more than just create an urgent and horrific crisis in that part of the world… Our government has taken decisive action in response to these threats. We’ve strengthened our legislation to give our security and law enforcement agencies the modern tools necessary to keep us safe.”
The facts: In the wake of last year’s Ottawa terror shooting, and the rise of the Islamic State, the Harper government enacted Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. Experts and rights groups have argued that the new legislation transforms the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s key spy agency, into a dictatorship-style secret police force operating with neither oversight nor accountability. C-51 gives CSIS and “no less than 17 government agencies” the power to disrupt protests and other acts of legitimate dissent in the name of combating threats to Canada’s national security. It grants Canada’s spy and policing agencies the power to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Last month, Amnesty International Canada and other leading human rights groups took the challenge against C-51 to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) recently launched a Charter challenge against Bill C-51.
Maclean’s Magazine leaders’ debate
The debate, hosted by Paul Wells, Maclean’s political editor, discussed the state of Canada’s democracy, the faltering economy, energy , the environment, foreign policy and national security.
Harper: “Over the past 10 years, in a period of unprecedented economic instability, we have seen since the great global financial crisis Canada has the strongest economic growth, the strongest job creation record and the strongest income growth for the middle class among any of the major developed economies.”
The facts: In its July 2015 World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) placed Canada’s year-over-year growth rate for 2015 below that of Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States. On employment creation, the latest data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks Canada 3rd among G7 countries, and 10th in the OECD club. The Pew Researcher Centre’s Global Middle Class Report, released in July, reveals that the Canadian middle class is shrinking.
Harper: “… we have the strongest employment growth in the G-7.”
The facts: A chart in the government’s April budget ranked Canada second on employment growth, below the U.S. On “the employment rate”, data compiled using numbers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development places Canada fourth in the G7, behind Germany, the U.K. and Japan.
Harper: “Not only do we take both the economy and the environment seriously…”
The facts: The Harper government prioritizes tar sands expansions and pipelines over the environment. Last summer, Harper and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, created a “conservative climate deniers club” when they “suggested that economic growth is more important than tackling climate change.” Through Bill C-38, the so-called “Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act”, enacted in 2012, the Harper government gutted Canadian’s environmental protections.
Harper: “We are the first government in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also growing our economy… Well, greenhouse gas emission have actually gone down, and the economy has actually grown.”
The facts: According to Environment Canada, there was a drop in GHG emissions around 2008-09, credited to the the global financial crisis. Ontario’s shutting down of coal-fired power plants and British Columbia’s carbon tax also played a part. Then the economy recovered and the emissions started rising again.
Harper: “We have a scientific expert evaluation of every project before we decide to proceed.”
The facts: The National Energy Board (NEB) is responsible for evaluating major pipeline projects. Last year, Marc Eliesen, a former Suncor board member who withdrew from the NEB evaluation of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project, described the NEB as “a truly industry captured regulator“. Earlier this year, over 60 groups asked the NEB to suspend its review of TransCanada’s Energy East tar sands pipeline “until the broken federal regulatory process is fixed.”
Harper: “The government has in fact eliminated subsidies to the oil sands and to the oil sector.”
The facts: According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), every year, the Harper government doles out $1.4 billion in subsidizes to oil and gas companies, some of which are the “richest, dirtiest corporations in the world.”
A report recently released by Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. The report, Rhetoric and Reality: Evaluating Canada’s Economic Record Under the Harper Government (PDF), said Harper is Canada’s worst economic manager since World War II.
During the debate, Mulcair pressured Harper into admitting that Canada was hurtling towards a recession.
“Statistics from the Canadian government have shown that for five months in a row, the Canadian economy has shrunk,” Mulcair said. “We are one month away from a technical definition of recession, but according to a lot of observers, we are already in a recession.”
“Mr. Mulcair, I am not denying that,” Harper replied.
Harper has a “steady hand” on the wheel of the economy? Please!
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