Our Prime Minister, the economist?

Stephen Harper earned a Masters degree at the University of Calgary in economics in 1991. He claims himself to be an economist, although he has never been employed for any financial institution and spent the years before becoming an MP active in the Progressive Conservative and Reform Party and working as the head of the National Citizens Coalition. Since becoming Prime Minister of Canada in 2006, Harper has claimed a stake in premiership based on his economic credentials. Many pundits maintain that the 2008 election was largely fought over which leader could convince Canadians that having their hand on the economic tiller was best for the country.

But that is the thing about Stephen Harper, he is not an economist. He is a politician. And do not be fooled, not all politicians are actually politicians. But Mr. Harper is a politician and he is really good at his job as a politician. It was for this reason that the Conservative government’s first act was to shave two percent off of the GST which gutted billions from the federal coffers but saved Canadians pennies at the till. It was a massive success from a political standpoint because Harper had managed to tap into a silent rage which started back when Chretien was running for Prime Minister in 1993 and vowed to completely abolish the new GST. He didn’t, and he didn’t because in the end, after the rhetoric of politicians calmed, Jean Chretien saw that it made very little economic sense to change the GST. 

Stephen Harper is very good at crafting messages that voters want to hear. For example, the new Economic Action Plan 2013 promised to cut tariffs on imported sporting goods and baby clothes. The Finance Minister stands in the House of Commons and speaks of the millions this will save Canadians collectively (over 5 years). But read the budget and you see that in two years the Conservatives want to raise tariffs on several countries which will cost Canadians billions of dollars as literally the price of everything goes up. And why would something so odd happen in plain sight (really, all you had to do was read the budget)? Because the Harper government had no choice. Because of craft messaging, and not sound economic policy, the Minister of Finance has been going around telling people that he will not raise taxes to cut down his $24-billion deficit. He will claim that because it is not a structural deficit (despite many actual economists claiming it is), there is no reason to raise taxes. All they have to do is stimulate the economy, which means more pork for everyone!

Michael Ignatieff once told Canadians that the time had come where they had to decide whether they wanted a politician running things in Ottawa or  someone who would craft policy based in reason and science. Most did not heed to his word and as time moves on, Canadians are feeling the effects more and more.

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