Saturday, December 03, 2005

The problem with conservatives

Conservative commentators are never happy.

They don't like the governing party -- not what they've done, not what they plan to do -- but they seem to like the Conservative Party even less.

Greg Weston of the SUN and Don Martin of the National Post, write twin columns today, suggesting that Harper's health care plan was ripped from the pages from the Liberal policy book. Their columns drip with contempt for Harper and his un-Conservative vision. They dismiss any positive reaction to Harper's announcement, and overlook the fact that even Harper-haters like Adam Vaughn of CITY TV (Toronto) are beginning to see the Conservatives as legitimate contenders in this election race.

Also in the National Post today, Andrew Coyne takes aim at Harper's plan to reduce the GST. He chastises Harper for committing to cut a consumption tax, because income tax reductions promote investment, blah, blah, blah.

It might be news to these fellows, but Harper had no choice with health care. He didn't remove the concept of private delivery -- he simply said that either the public system puts up, or people can go elsewhere and have it paid for by the public system. This works as both a safe-guard for those who need timely care, and an incentive to the public system to work to reduce wait times. In a country like Canada, where public health care is sacrosanct -- what else can he do? If it is similar to the current Liberal plan, so what? I believe that the Conservatives will work to get things moving. Shooting him down is the typical conservative media reaction to any positive step Harper makes. It's like they put their hate for the man ahead of their hopes for the future of the country. Disagree with the policy if you like -- but right now, in this country, Harper has chosen a compromise that is bound to please voters -- and isn't that the point?

As for Coyne and the GST -- First -- Harper didn't reject income tax cuts. It isn't a case of 'either this or that'. A cut in the GST in conjunction with income tax reductions is unlikely to break the bank -- not when we have massive surplusses that end up enabling the government to behave as though public money is their personal piggy-bank.

Coyne, like many of those who come from comfortable backgrounds, forgets that many of us will never be able to 'save' let alone invest. Our 'disposable income' is not disposable at all. It goes to pay our bills and to buy our kids Christmas presents and put them to lessons, or sports.

For the vast majority of us, there is nothing left to save at the end of the month, let alone to invest. Our investments, if we are fortunate enough, come in the form of buying a home for our family -- and 2% off the price of a big-ticket item like a home, or the furnishing to put in the home, or a new(er) car that won't fail emissions tests (on which we pay GST) -- that 2% is a big difference.

When you have money, it's difficult to envision being one of the lowly masses who lives paycheque to paycheque. But people like Coyne would do well to remember that there are many of us for whom a reduction of income tax really doesn't mean anything -- but a drop in the price of gas, or in the cost of a new hockey stick, or in any of the number of things that aren't exactly 'necessities' but which make life liveable -- that 2% makes a big difference to us.

When conservative commentators start to realise that it isn't just about them and their class of people -- the investor class -- the professional class -- the governing class -- then maybe they'll see that Harper seems to realise that if he wants to be the Prime Minister -- he will be the PM to all of us -- the working class, the working poor, people on welfare -- all of these people are citizens and voters too; for us, these two announcements are good news. These conservative commentators seem to be trying to take the wind out of the sails of a positive start to this campaign for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party and it's beyond me why they'd want to do that.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Hey, Paul! I can't hear you!

Martin says Harper is silent on the the issues.

Okay -- truth is, I've been too busy to be following much election news. I've scarcely read a paper, barely scanned a few blogs, and I've hardly been around a television.

But -- since the election call, I have heard:

Harper re-stated his intention to call a free-vote on SSM
(in my opinion to prevent the 'hidden agenda' nonsense had
someone had to ask the question -- and let's be realistic here -- he's
always said he'd do this)

Harper is lowering the GST to 5% over two years. (Economically sound or not, lowering a consumer tax near Christmas is very appealing to consumers).

Harper would allow publically funded, private delivery of health services if timely treatment wasn't available. (Thank God he's finally said it.)
From Paul Martin I've heard:
That Stephen Harper is silent on the issues.
Oh, there was some other stuff about giving money to people in Cornwall to train for jobs that don't exist. Same old, same old.

Paul Martin seems more interested in talking about Stephen Harper than about any vision he has for Canada (of course, I realise the implications of that). His newest plan, rather than talking substance and policy, is to help NDPers to vote strategically to keep the Conservatives out of government.

I hope Martin continues his slams against Harper. The more Martin talks, the more obvious it becomes that this is all about power for him. He's in politics for one reason -- to be and stay PM. He has no plans, no ideas -- all he can talk about is not having a Conservative government and ways to prevent it.

In my neighbourhood (Scarborough-Guildwood) I've seen a ton of Conservative signs, but not one Liberal or NDP. I know it's early days, but it is a far different sight than 2004.
The other night, I was in a Mr. Sub and another customer was talking with the proprietor and both were counting the days till we get rid of the Liberals. These two men were vastly different ages, two different races, and very different walks of life -- but both were emphatic that they will be voting for Harper.

Martin is convinced that if he keeps saying that Harper is silent on the issues, people will believe him in the same way they chanted his 'let Gomery do his work' and 'Canadians don't want an election' mantras last spring.

Martin didn't count on Harper giving people reasons to vote for him.

No wonder Paul is pretending he can't hear.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

The 2% solution?

Funny, I thought everyone hated the GST. They hated it when the Progressive Conservatives proposed it under Mulroney. They hated it when Chretien promised not to implement it. They hated it when Martin proved the Liberals liars and imposed it.

It was accepted, grudgingly -- but everyone hated it.

I'm amazed at how many people say reducing the GST by 2% is sound politics, but bad policy. I've read where people are disputing the $400/year savings Harper says would benefit the average family and suggesting that it's a negligible, so why care.

To me, $400 is definitely not a pittance, but I'm wondering if it wouldn't be higher that $400/ family.

For example:

Every raw material that goes into building a product is GST-able. If a builder buys $100 worth of wood, it costs $107. Won't he recover the 7% he's paid in GST (on each product and service used to build the house) by incorporating it into the price of the house?

Wouldn't this 2% reduction also decrease costs for hospitals and schools--- or are they already GST exempt?

Who could find fault with an idea that would give Ottawa less of our money?