"This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of pubic opinion."
- Stephen Harper, Conservative Party
Prime Minister of Canada
Come Monday, Canada will decide if Stephen Harper will remain as Prime Minister, a role he's held since 2006. The controversial Conservative Party leader has had more than his share of scandals, yet with a bit more than an estimated one-third take of Canada's popular vote, Harper may remain as Prime Minister.
Not much has been reported in the mainstream American media about the Canadian Federal Election on Monday, Oct. 19, but in all respects - politically, economically, socially - it will affect all areas of American life. And for our neighbors to the north, the economy is one of the main concerns. How the top candidates view the country's economy and how they plan to make for a better way of life for Canadians, by way of the money belt, will most likely be what makes or breaks the Conservatives, Liberals, and the NDP, along with two more minor political contenders.
A little more than a week before Canada's Federal Election, Harper was supposedly leading by a slim margin over Liberal Party Prime Minister candidate Justin Trudeau. But not by much. The Election Almanac's Friday, Oct. 10, poll (conducted by EKOS) had Harper squeaking past Trudeau by a very slim margin - Harper had an estimated 35.5 percent of the popular vote with Trudeau coming in with 33.1 percent. The NDP came in with 19 percent while the Green Party took 7.4 percent. Meantime, the Bloc Québécois (BQ) Party slated 3.3 percent.
The polling numbers change like the wind in a close race, though. And with polls being taken by a number of firms for The Election Almanac, one must leave a wide swath for margin of error for all prognostications. On Wednesday, Oct. 13, for example, The Election Almanac posted a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid wherein Trudeau was predicted as leading with a 37 percent estimated take of the Canadian popular vote. Meantime, Harper had a 31 percent take, Mulcair had 24 percent, the Green Party took 2 percent and the Bloc Québécois (BQ) Party ramped up to 5 percent. The unbalanced and unpredictable nature of the polls can also be seen by looking at the two dark horse parties in this race. Just scanning the poll results for a month or two, the small take of both the Green Party and Bloc Québécois Party have gone back and forth in percentage. On some days, the BQ is ahead of the Green Party, and on other days, it's a vice-versa sort of scenario.
What a difference a month makes, as well. Throughout September's Election Almanac polling, Harper, Trudeau and NDP Prime Minister Candidate Tom Mulcair were all pretty much at a dead heat, with the Conservative, Liberal and NDP candidates polling estimates showing a one-third slice each.
If the polls being published by Election Almanac are any indication, a lot can happen in a few days and the Montreal Gazette predicts that in the end, the kingmaker will most likely be how Canadians view their country's economy. "While Prime Minister Stephen Harper is talking trade, with a new Trans-Pacific Partnership in his pocket, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (pictured below) is pushing ambitious plans for infrastructure investment, and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair wants corporations to pay more income tax," so says this Canadian major daily newspaper.
"For voters, there’s plenty to be concerned about. A slumping oil industry, volatile stock markets, a weak currency and a brush with recession mean that the economic backdrop is unsettled at best," the Montreal Gazette continues.
So what are the three main candidates concerned about, as far as the economy is concerned? The Conservatives primarily want to align themselves as the folks who will bring Canada low taxes and a balanced budget. "The Tories have already enacted family-friendly measures such as enhanced child tax benefit and income-splitting for families with children that could cut a household’s income tax bill by as much as $2,000 per year," according to an Oct. 9 article in the Montreal Gazette titled "The economy: What Canada's three main federal parties are promising".
And Harper and his Conservatives are saying they'll bring more gifts, like the permanent home-renovation tax credit that will allow for 15 per cent of a renovation between $1,000 and $5,000 to be written off. Other tax measures are targeted to shore up Conservative support. For example, there’s $30 million in tax credits promised for service club members, such as a Rotary Club, who could write off part of their membership costs, the article continues.
Many Canadians evidently view these "goodies" as garbage, though. During the nine years that Harper and the Conservatives have held the political reins, Deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale has urged federal Conservatives to abandon what he calls their "obsession with austerity".
Goodale emphasizes this is the wrong road to take when most Canadian households possess record levels of debt, the country is running a chronic trade deficit, and businesses aren't thriving, but are instead, stagnating or falling short in their financial wherewithal.
According to HuffPost Politics Canada, Goodale says the government should earmark more money for infrastructure and access to post-secondary education, while eliminating tariffs on consumer goods and reducing the burden of higher employment insurance payroll taxes. He says the Tories should also stop spending millions of taxpayer dollars on advertising unless there's some accountability on how that money is spent.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has spent $750 million of taxpayers’ money on government advertising since 2006, according to The Huffington Post. This staggering figure - as quoted by Liberal Party leaders - includes a totality of government advertising in the past eight years, and covers controversial ads and non-controversial ones like public service announcements on elder abuse.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is no Santa Claus. For nearly a decade, he's shown every sign of being a ruthless, strong-armed, diabolical tyrant, as far as working people and families who have their backs against the wall are concerned. Judging Harper purely on his political actions, he's been on the side of Big Oil & Gas, the mining and heavy industry conglomerates, and has little interest in the working people of Canada other than the fact that they are required to keep the wheels of big industry humming along. But now it's election time, and so, of course, the Conservative Party is touting all the nice things they have in store for the good people of Canada.
An iPolitics opinion writer, Michael Harris, paints a portrait of a tyrant with a devil's mustache in his opinion piece, "Stephen Harper’s Canada: The legacy of tyrants" -
The year 2015 will be a Rubicon election for Canada. That is the year that Canadians will have to choose between a national security state run by an autocratic cheerleader of the oil industry, and any semblance of a healthy, inclusive democracy — provided, of course, the opposition parties present that option.
It’s a matter of serious debate whether the Harper government’s work can be undone, or whether he has created a new normal in the country’s public life.
Stephen Harper will have been prime minister for almost 10 years, with three electoral victories under his belt, assuming he stays to face the people yet one more time. Only once has he won a majority, in the May 2011 general election. Just as when his nude portrait caused a minor sensation — the reclining emperor attended by minions bearing his Tim’s — after 2011, Canadians finally got to see Stephen Harper in the political buff.
It was revealing. Unlike his minority governments, where a murder of political crows flapped overhead waiting for the fatal misstep, after 2011 there was no vote Harper could not win, no cabal in the Opposition ranks that could topple him.
A portion of the press became, if not Lyndon Johnson’s geese, then amiable stenographers. The public became less skeptical about a hidden agenda and, until recently, his own caucus became more submissive than in the first two “Harper” governments. The real Stephen Harper could finally stand up, unbound and all but unopposed.
When he did, there was more than a little of the tyrant on display. Which is not to use that word the way historians do to describe figures like the Roman despot Caligula. Caligula made his horse a senator; Harper merely handed an ambassadorship to the head of his RCMP security detail. No, I use the word “tyrant” the way the Greeks originally did — a simple descriptor of a style of governance that is essentially undemocratic or authoritarian, a claim I argue that the record indelibly and irrefutably bears out.
To many Canadians leaning to the left, with centrist-to-progressive/liberal views on Canadian politics and the Canadian economy, Harper is a manipulative monster who will win at any cost. Like the barbarous American football coach who will sacrifice his star quarterback's knees at the blast of a rushing blitz defense of gargantuan linemen, so the conference title can be his and his alone, Stephen Harper will pull out all the stops to get another term as Prime Minister.
Canadian Indians total 1,400,685 people, or 4.3% of the national population, and are spread over 600 recognized First Nations governments. The First Nation People's culture of honoring the land, putting spirituality, their families and the interests of their tribes, along with an overall kindness of humanity above the quest for money, will not be in Harper's favor come Monday. In addition, Canada's tribal Indian populace's inherent liberal and progressive thinking, will not help Harper and the Conservatives, either.
Worst of all, Harper has said some horrible things concerning his country's first residents, including saying that he simply didn't care about more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women who've suffered tragically over the past few decades. Nobody knows what happened to these poor victims. Strange cryptic deaths and disappearances haunt Canada and the families of the women and girls are distraught and want answers. And action, which the Conservatives are obviously insouciant about - they can care less.
Harper's own words about this tragedy and travesty of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls: "… it isn't really high on our radar, to be honest;" will definitely haunt him come Monday. I think he would have been wiser not to be so cruel with First Nations people in his tenure as Prime Minister and right now, Harper could definitely use over 4 percent of the overall Canadian vote that tribal Canadian Indians make up. Any political analyst or insider would surely agree that a 4.3 percent rise in voting number would be high on the radar of any candidate vying to take the reigns as Canadian Prime Minister.
It's hard to predict which candidate most Canadian Indians will vote for in the voting booths on Oct. 19, but no poll needs to be taken that virtually all of them will vote for someone other than Stephen Harper. With four centrist-to-liberal/progressive parties splitting the rest of the vote, placing so many candidates to the left of one candidate on the far right will most likely not bid well for Canada's First Nation people, or others who have centrist-to-liberal/progressive leanings. It's hard to say which candidate Canada's aboriginal populace favors, but a prediction of voting logic points to a conclusion that Trudeau and Mulcair will most likely get the lion's share of their vote, with a sparse leftover going to the Green and BQ party candidates.
Bearing down on the race to election day, on Tuesday (Oct. 13) both Harper and Trudeau told Canadians how they would handle their country's economy. Bottom line was how each candidate would see that more cash was to be shoved into their fellow countrymen's wallets and bank accounts.
Speaking in front of a crowd at a film equipment rental company, the seated Prime Minister made his points blunt, with sound effects added. Harper had an owner of a pizza shop in the Toronto area slap down a dollar bill with every statement `Hustlin' Harper' made about making the Canadian economy stronger and better. Quite a dog and pony show, without the animals but with cold, hard cash - and Harper used a similar way of getting his points across while talking bottom-dollar issues the day before at another speaking engagement. Will resorting to carnival tricks work? Judging from his history of histrionics, Steve will try just about anything to get his way....
Meantime, Trudeau, on Tuesday, gave a speech that included references to a Toronto-area family who, he said, "are working to pay down debt while saving for their children's education." The Liberal leader said his economic plan, which includes a tax cut for the middle class, would put $5,100 back into the family's pocket," according to an Oct. 13 report in CBC News/Politics.
With such a close vote prognosticated by the polls between the Conservatives, Liberals and the NDP, Trudeau has been viewed by some political observers as aggressively going after voters who might have qualms about voting for either Harper or Mulcair. It's a good way of tub-thumping coming down the last few feet of the last furlong of a long, hard race and Trudeau, the eldest son of long-standing Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, knows that cherry picking for votes in this fashion may be the difference between him being the new PM or planning for a later political battle. Judging from the polls - and Trudeau, unlike his adversary in the Conservative camp, does pay close attention to the polls - showed that his jump up to 37 percent by midweek on election-week eve, contrasted to Harper's 31 percent, might just be proof that seeking after the questioning and questionable might just be the ticket to Canada's most important job.
"It's clear that Tom Mulcair's NDP isn't offering real change. He would rather balance Stephen Harper's budget than invest in our communities and give families the help they need right now," Trudeau said in Toronto Tuesday.
Trudeau touted his plan for a middle-class tax cut, promising his fellow countrymen gathered at his speaking engagement in Toronto Tuesday that this would be the first legislation the Liberal government would put before Parliament. Trudeau and his Liberal Party say they will reduce income taxes for middle-income earners, which they feel will allow nine out of 10 families to have more money at their disposal.
Also fanning the flames of some burning embers of a long campaign, intent on drumming up final support, the NDP's Tom Mulcair (pictured above) spent Tuesday in Oshawa, where he warned party faithful about the impact of the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership on the manufacturing sector and the broader economy. The trade deal will cost the city some 1,200 manufacturing jobs, said Mulcair, who criticized what he described as Harper's over-emphasis on the oil and gas sector, according to the CBC News/Politics article.
"Stephen Harper put all his eggs in one basket … and then he dropped the basket," he said.
“After so many years of Conservative and Liberal failures, after so many years of Conservative and Liberal scandals, Canadians are ready for change,” Mulcair said during a stop in Maple Ridge, B.C. earlier this week.
“There is only one way to make it happen. The NDP needs just 35 more seats to defeat the Conservatives,” Mulcair said. The Liberals simply can’t do it. They need over 100 seats.”
The NDP has hopes of stealing 35 Conservative-held seats in Parliament. This would put them at the helm in the Canadian legislature if either Harper or Trudeau take power. The only catch is that the NDP must take all the seats they currently hold.
Meanwhile Harper was also dismissive of polls that have the Conservatives in second place. “Polls don’t decide the election. Voters do. Do voters really want to replace benefits they have with a bunch of deficits?” he said.
One telephone call, in February of 2012, was devastating to Harper's economic schemes. The call came from U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama informed Harper that the Keystone XL Pipeline's plans to cut through the American Midwest to its final destination in the Gulf of Mexico would be delayed. Harper's Folly ensued, in which the Canadian "Petrolero" has been blamed for losing $30 billion a year on his pipe dream of pipelining the filthiest crude oil on the planet from the northern Alberta oilsands south to the Gulf of Mexico, where many critics and analysts claim none of the oil will be used in North American engines, but in faraway lands, like the Far East.
Consider the following dynamics of Harper's Folly, as described in the Sprott*Money blog:
Then we have Canada. Under the Harper regime; Canada has rapidly/recklessly ramped-up production of tar sands oil (vying with U.S. shale-oil production for the title of “world’s dirtiest oil”).
In less than 20 years; tar sands production has increased by a factor of ten, from less than 200,000 barrels per day to over 2 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2014. This amounts to annual tar sands production of roughly 750 million barrels to this reckless over-production; Canadian tar sands oil production has created three ultra-expensive/ultra-inefficient bottlenecks for itself:
a) Insufficient refining capacity
b) Insufficient shipping/pipeline infrastructure
c) Insufficient skilled labour
Because of (a) and (b); Canada’s tar sands oil has been sold at “discounts” of up to $40/barrel. Because of (c) and other factors; production costs for tar sands oil (which was already the world’s most-expensive) continue to soar.
Legions of workers must be flown in, housed and fed, adding to costs. Competition for labour is so fierce that some companies now subsidize mortgage payments on $600,000 houses to entice workers to stick around.
The combination of a grossly insufficient labour force, and grossly insufficient infrastructure to support this production is that while it is “the lowest priced oil in the world”, currently trading at a pathetic $36.02 per barrel, it is the most-expensive oil in the world to produce.
In a recent study, CERI [Canadian Energy Research Institute] put the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) break-even price for a steam-driven oil sands project at $84.99 per barrel…For a new mine it is $105.54.
To say that Harper hasn't suffered from a laundry list
of scandals is an understatement. Harper's near-decade at the helm is almost legendary in the plethora of scandals that have plagued him. Even a cursory listing of these in this article would be futile and books will be written on Harper's scabrous record of deceitful, clandestine, strong-armed politicking by throngs of historians over time. Sad to say, entire sections of some of Canada's larger public libraries will warehouse all this corruption and government guilt. But if anything bigger than scandal causes Stephen Harper to be unseated come Monday, it will be the Canadian economy. And by any measuring stick available, the Harper government has failed miserably in this area and this ruthless and reckless leader has caused so much environmental devastation that indeed, under Harper's reign, Canada finishes dead last
in the area of environmental protection.
"Canada `has the dubious honor of being the only (Commitment to Development - or CDI) country with an environment score which has gone down since we first calculated the CDI [in 2003],' the report (by the Washington-based Center for Global Development) reported. “This reflects rising fossil fuel production and its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only treaty governing the emissions of heat-trapping gasses. Canada has dropped below the U.S. into bottom place on the environment component,” according to an article published in The Globe And Mail nearly two years ago.
Owen Barder, a senior fellow at the centre who prepared the index, said in an interview that the environment category has become one of the bright spots in the survey. “Environment is the one part of our index that has really seen improvement and Canada has been the only country that’s fallen,” he said. “My expectation would have been that Canada is environmentally friendly, Canadians all seem to take the environment seriously,” The Globe And Mail article reports.
"The major reasons for Canada’s poor showing, he said, were pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and having one of the highest levels of greenhouse gas production per capita. Canada also has low gasoline taxes, which don’t encourage conservation, and high subsidies for fishing, which impacts fish stocks. Slovakia and Hungary came first and second in the environment category mainly because both have some of the highest gas taxes among the 27 nations and the lowest greenhouse gas emissions," the article reads.
Harper's draconian economic schemes built around a petroleum-driven Canada have caused such horrific and horrid consequences for Canada - in the decade Harper's been its PM - that much of the Canadian landscape has turned into some surreal lunar nightmare. Harper's fixation and seeming political fetish with petroleum, mining, and heavy industry, has much of his countrymen thrusting - for water - fresh water lakes are fine, they shout, but those pools filled with toxic chemicals, like methane, are deadly. There's no need to fish in these large bodies of water and drinking out of them will surely prove deadly. Moreover, the destruction of Alberta's boreal rain forest will see stark consequences for all of humanity in times to come and tearing down so much virgin forest lands just to harvest the greasy and grimy tar sands crude is suffocating the earth. Killing large forest lands don't allow the earth to "breath" properly and the depletion of oxygen in the atmosphere will surely result in higher global warming levels. Harper and the Conservatives arguably have been allies with the unnatural forces of climate change.
If there is a dark horse candidate Monday that could tip the polls and create a major upset, a true contender who has not been given enough credit is Green Party Prime Minister Candidate Elizabeth May (pictured at right). Like its name suggests, a big part of what Canada's Green Party is focused on are environment and ecological concerns. But that's not all this party is concerned about. In May's own words, on the Green Party's official webpage, she says,
"I know many may think of the Green Party as a single issue party – yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, you know me as someone who for the past forty years has stood firm to protect the air we all breathe, the water we drink, and the land that sustains us. But you also know me as a staunch defender of democracy, of economic policies that make sense, of fairness and openness, of justice and equity."
"Have a look at what we are proposing to build a Canada that works together, but don’t stop there. Ask the tough questions of how we will work in the next parliament in collaboration with all parties to do what’s best for Canadians and our country. Then ask the other leaders those same tough questions. You deserve answers – promises are just not good enough," May says on the Green Party's webpage.
"Our platform is organized around four key issue areas: economy, communities, government, and climate. The policies within have been developed democratically, by people from all walks of Canadian life, from every province, territory, and traditional land," she adds.
But now for that "green" word in the party's name. It's a big word not only for Canadian politics, but for the world, as well. "Our plan is to move to the virtual elimination of fossil fuel use in Canada by mid-century. Our short-term target is 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, while we are calling for 80 percent reductions below 1990 levels by 2050. These are ambitious targets, yet the scale and urgency of this challenge demands nothing less. As Canadians, we will rise to this challenge and, in doing so, create a strong, stable, and prosperous economy today and for our children and grandchildren tomorrow," May says on the Green Party's official webpage.
"For Canadians to benefit from this transition, we need to elect Green Members of Parliament. Only Green MPs will stand up to defend our coastlines from increased tanker traffic, our rivers and parks from reckless pipeline projects, and our economy from further pursuit of high-risk extractive schemes that threaten Canada’s long-term prosperity. Only Green MPs will position our economy to reap the full benefits of the inevitable global shift to a fossil-fuel free economy. It is time for Canada to take bold climate action," May adds.
Any of the three parties leading the polls need to be sensitive to the popularity of May and her Green Party. It's evident through May's messages about the environment and ecological matters, in particular, that many Canadians want a greener Canada. The pristine wilderness many who live in foreign countries think of, when they think of Canada, has all but gone up in smoke and cinders, as far as many Canadians are concerned. The fact that May and her Green Party have stayed in the race so long, and have always taken a small slice of the polling pie, says a lot. No, it actually shouts at Canada's political elites through the blasting of a political and economic megaphone.
Bloc Québécois (French pronunciation: [blɔk kebekwa]) is led by their candidate for PM Gilles Duceppe (pictured at left). The BQ describes itself as a social-democratic and separatist political entity devoted to the protection of Quebec's interests in the House of Commons of Canada, and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty.
The Bloc was formed by Members of Parliament who defected from the federal Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party. BQ founder Lucien Bouchard, a cabinet minister in the federal Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, founded the BQ primarily to create the conditions necessary for the political secession of Quebec from Canada and the BQ Party campaigns actively only within the Quebec province during federal election years.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica: "The party’s support in federal elections subsequently began to decline after Bouchard left federal politics to become premier of Quebec and the intensity of support for separatism waned. In March 1997 Gilles Duceppe took over as leader of the party, and in that year’s federal election the party relinquished its status as the official opposition, winning only 44 seats in the House of Commons; its federal representation dropped again in 2000, to 38 seats. In 2004 and 2006 the party’s support rebounded, however, with the Bloc Québécois winning more than 50 seats in the House of Commons at each election. In the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the Bloc was courted as a coalition partner, most notably with the 2006 motion that recognized the people of Quebec as a nation “within a united Canada.” After capturing 49 seats in the 2008 election, the party struggled at the next federal election as many of its supporters turned to the surging New Democratic Party. In the 2011 election the Bloc’s support collapsed, and it won only 4 seats and was stripped of its official party status. Duceppe subsequently resigned as party leader."
The BQ believes that employment insurance should be given to people who work seasonal jobs, such as in the tourism, fishery and agricultural industries. But limits must be set for workers with above average seasonal earnings. The NDP, Liberal, and Green parties have similar views on this topic. The Bloc also are in favor of Canada pursuing trade deals with other countries, but only if strong protections are set down for the country's resources and labor mandates for Canadians are deemed fair and just. The Liberals, New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois Party also believe this, but they also adhere to limiting trade deals to nations that adhere to strict human rights policies. The Conservatives are also in favor of trade deals with foreign nations and have displayed a wide-open rubber-stamping of such negotiations. Sanctioning this trade does not seem to matter much with Harper and the Conservative Party. Should the Canadian government use economic stimulus to aid the country during times of recession? A resounding yes, say the Bloc Québécois; and the Liberals and the Green Party have similar views. The NDP also agree that the government should intervene to boost a recovery. As far as increasing tax rates for large multinational corporations while lowering taxes for small businesses, the Bloc-Quebecois are in favor of this across-the-board method of taxation and the Liberal, NDP and Green parties have about the same views. And of course, the Conservatives don't care much about the little guys in business. The bigger the better, it's clear through their example, and if a business comes with the Big Oil dollars, that's all the better.
And of course, the fact that the BQ is a popular alternative party not only in Quebec, but being that the Bloc-Quebecois also enjoys some support country-wide, should give whoever wins Monday's election enough fire under his or her feet to realize that the fact Quebec's top political leadership desires secession to be a very bad omen, perhaps even a harbinger of things to come. Whomever takes charge better listen intently to Quebec's top leadership and concern himself with Quebec's leadership's concerns.
So it will most likely be the Canadian economy that creates enough crawl space for a candidate to become Canada's PM come Monday. Money talks and BS walks, after all....