Friday, February 25, 2011

Note to Gerry Nicholls, Relax...Harper will deliver if given time

A blog I visit frequently is that of Gerry Nicholls, the cleverly branded Making Sense With Nicholls.

Apart from intelligent and witty writing, Mr. Nicholls adds something very valuable to the political discourse that takes place in this country, be it on Parliament Hill or here in the blogosphere.  That precious commodity is honesty. 

Anyone familiar with Gerry's blog and my little soapbox will know that we hold divergently opposing views as to the role governments should play.  While I favour an active government in promoting progress, Mr. Nicholls is very much the Libertarian and thus sees government as an  impediment to progress. 

Do note that our ultimate goal is the same, progress...its simply a matter of opinion as to the best way to achieve it.

So why do I enjoy reading a blog written by someone whose ideas I disagree with?  Because on MSWN (hope you don't mind the acronym Gerry) the author doesn't chain himself to a party or a person., just to a vision and set of ideals. When Stephen Harper and Gerry Nicholls were both with the National Citizens Coalition, they were singing from the same hymn book.  Less is more, let individuals and private enterprise employ the capital they earn as they see fit to make Canada a better and more progressive society. 

Eliminate  the overbearing 'Big Brother' force that is government in this country and shrink it to something more manageable. Rather than handing over basically half of every dollar we earn  to various levels of government, leave it with the individuals and businesses that earned it.  Call it dollar democracy if you want.  People can vote with their wallets by the economic decisions they make in the marketplace.

Quite frankly, from a distance and viewed in the abstract it does make....errrr, sense.  The problem though is that it is an altruistic ideology, and I for one lack Gerry's faith in the altruism of my fellow citizens and in the corporations that operate in this country.  I do think most people WANT to be altruistic, but away from prying eyes studies by economists have shown that when left to our own devices..the vast majority look after number one and we're anything but Altruistic.  For reference I'd suggest reading Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics.   

Besides, Canadians don't want a less active government. 

The majority of Canadians expect politicians to play an active role in managing both society and our economy.  Sure we may argue over the degree and extent to which our elected officials tax us and the decisions they make in spending the money we give them.  But we like our social programs, our health care system, the social safety net.  No, not everyone, just a significant majority. 

Don't believe me?  Let's look at the Mike Harris example.

Ontarians elected Mike Harris' Progressive Conservatives to two consecutive majority terms.  The pendulum had swung too far and Ontario was ready for smaller government and a lower tax burden.  The NDP government of Bob Rae had its hands all over the economy and in doing so rang up a very large debt.    Harris reduced the size and scope of government, he cut  taxes and handed out rebates, I myself applauded the 'Fewer Politicians Act'. 

A problem however ensued, a large deficit left by the outgoing provincial Tories, the result of not enough revenue to cover the services the province provides....Sound familiar?  Dalton McGuinty's Liberals came in and had to break a key election promise to balance the books, bringing in a health care levy meant breaking their no new taxes pledge.

Did Ontarians vote them out of office at the first opportunity?  No, they returned the Libs to Queen's Park with a second majority in the subsequent election.

So what's my point?

Canadians of course want to pay less in taxes, we want value for the money we  turn over to various levels of government.  But we also understand that the government services upon which so many rely cost money. 

Back after the October 2008 election, we saw the real Harper when the newly minted Conservative minority delivered its first economic statement.  With the global economy reeling in the early days of the global financial meltdown, the Conservative response're on your own. 

Faced with near certain defeat in the house Harper was looking at fighting another election on a do nothing platform of non-government intervention.  Libertarians would have applauded it, but there aren't enough  of that ilk in this country to form a government.  Harper made the wise political choice, he caved on his ideals and gave Canadians what they want, a government that takes an active role...and thus the Economic Action Plan was born.

But he did stick to his agenda of lower taxes, which has given us bloated deficits that future generations will have to pay for. 

And that Gerry Nicholls, is where Stephen Harper will finally be able to deliver on his less government pledge that he was so adamant about in his days with the NCC....that is if he can form the next government with a majority mandate.

The record breaking debt he is saddling us with is going to hamstring Ottawa's ability to take an active role in the future.  Another five years of increased spending and decreasing taxation will leave the feds incapable of funding programs like Health Care.  We'll be spending so much on debt  service as interest rates climb that Canadians will be forced to turn to the private sector for health insurance.  That's where the NCC has always maintained,  it belongs. 

Mike Harris used this method often during his tenure, its called 'inventing a crisis', an  Ontario PC government minister (Snobleton if I recall correctly) even admitted to it.

If you want programs kicked back to the private sector, you have to create a crisis in order to do it.  Canadians would severely punish any party which advocated what the NCC does in terms of health care.  But if you go to Canadians with a choice of massive tax increases to maintain services, versus the option of buying a tailored private insurance plan..the argument shifts dramatically.

If that happens Mr. Nicholls both you and Harper will once again be in sync and your's will be the loudest voices in the Libertarian choir.  So cut your former colleague some slack, sure he's not acting like a Libertarian now, but to effect true change he needs to dramatically alter the Canadian landscape to get the rest of the country singing in tune.

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