Saturday, September 12, 2009

Stephen Harper - Running Canada like a Nortel CEO

A common analogy favoured by conservative business types is to compare the job of a Prime Minister to that of a corporate CEO. In this scenario the leader of Canada's governing party is equated to the head of a major business concern, with voters representing shareholders.

As analogies go its not without merit, Canadians are stakeholders after all, no different from shareholders in a company like Nortel. In the market a CEO's performance is reflected in a myriad of ways including: growth, share price, dividends and the balance sheet. A CEO who delivers increasing returns, a strong balance sheet, a robust share price and increasing dividends...that CEO can be expected to have the support of shareholders.

Likewise a Prime Minister who delivers on election pledges, lowers or holds the line on taxes and balances the books...or better yet delivers a surplus, that PM should expect to have the backing of the electorate.

So how is our Conservative Prime Minister performing?

Well...that depends. Are we looking at job performance or polling results? If we look at the polls the verdict could be seen as tentative approval. If we look at the actual results though, the picture is anything but pretty.

Just three and a half years ago Mr. Harper lead the Conservatives to a minority victory in Canada's parliament. Part of his campaign platform was to never tax income trusts, and he did it with panache. Even for those of us skeptical of political promises, this Calgary MP's conviction seemed truly genuine. Watch for yourself.

Notice how convincingly Harper lied back in that campaign, its absolutely masterful. I'd rate it right up there with Jean Chretien's repeated promises to scrap the GST.

Fast forward to our last election in October of 2008. With the same unwavering and reassuring tone, Harper pledged that Canada would avoid recession, and that there would never be a need for deficit financing under his watch. Again, if you missed it or forgot, here's the video:

I could cram this blog with more videos I guess...I could include pledges made by our Prime Minister not to stack the Senate with partisan cronies and about all the failed budget forecasts. I could include Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's laughingly absurd assertion that "nobody" saw this recession coming. Oh, what the's our forecasting challenged Finance Minister making a fool of himself in front of Canada's Senate...although it probably doesn't matter.

Polls right now show that a sizable number of Canadians either aren't paying attention, or they don't care.

There's much truth to the political axiom that voters prefer a tasty lie to an unsavoury truth. That's something Stephen Harper seems to understand very well. But like a CEO who keeps making rosy promises amid declining returns, eventually reality slams stakeholders in the face.

I just hope Canadians realize it before this country turns into the Nortel nation state, a one time corporate champion reduced to penny stock status...then sold off in a foreign takeover.

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