Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Conservative policies

Bruce Anderson summarizes:
The Conservative platform, even if not documented in a special booklet, is clearly articulated, and highly consistent with the themes expounded by Stephen Harper for years. While some Conservative voters may have experienced discomfort with a drift to deficits, or efforts to appease Quebec nationalists, in this election the Conservatives are dancing with the political ideas they have long favoured: lower taxes, stronger military, more law and order.

Beyond the spending they deem vital on the military and for prisons, almost all roads lead otherwise to lower taxes. For businesses, for families, for piano lessons, for fitness. A tax cut for every occasion. Voters who crave tax cuts can’t possibly be confused about who to vote for.
The Conservative platform.

1. Tax cuts

To me, cutting taxes seems unwise (no matter how much income-splitting would benefit me personally), for two reasons. First, we currently have a structural deficit of $10-$20 billion, due to past tax cuts; and even if we're able to balance the budget at some point in the future, we'll still have a mountain of debt to pay off. The priority should be debt reduction, not tax cuts.

Second, as the Canadian population ages and health costs increase, we're going to need to be spending more, and therefore paying more taxes rather than less.

Why not cut taxes now and raise them again later? Because it's much, much harder to raise taxes than to cut them, just as pushing a boulder uphill is much harder than letting it roll downhill. If you try to raise taxes, you'll face a tremendous amount of resistance.

(A current example: according to economist Stephen Gordon, there's not much evidence that corporate tax rates affect employment--the argument for lowering corporate tax rates is that it will increase output and wages, not employment. That hasn't stopped the Conservatives from claiming in their platform that increasing the federal corporate tax rate from 16.5% to 18%--i.e. the same rate as last year--will kill 200,000 jobs.)


The federal deficit and the GST

Waiting for a budgetary surplus to implement a costly new program is a recipe for fiscal disaster

'Tax break' conceals low benefit

How TFSA expansion will hit future tax revenues

2. Crime

The Conservative "tough-on-crime" plan doesn't make much sense, either. Crime rates have been declining for several years now. Criminologists note that longer sentences have minimal effect on crime rates. The US has much higher incarceration rates--the US population is about 10 times the size of Canada's, but the US has about 50 times as many inmates as Canada--and its crime rates are much higher than Canada's.

Keeping more people in jail will cost a tremendous amount of money, of course. It's unclear how much: the Conservative government refused to release their cost estimates, saying that they were secret! This is what triggered the contempt ruling and the current election.


Why would a government that claims to be fiscally conservative spend billions of dollars on projects that have no demonstrable influence on our rates of crime, or the safety of our communities?

3. F-35 procurement

Then there's the Conservative decision to buy F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin, without considering alternatives such as the Boeing Super Hornet. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that the cost will be $30 billion, about 70% more than the government says. (The full report is worth reading.)

David McDonough:
First, despite the alarmism that is often generated by Russian nuclear-armed bombers, this threat is only actualized in the event that Russia threatens a significant nuclear attack on North America. And the primary means of dealing with this possibility is not by robust air defence systems, in which the more advanced F-35s would offer definite advantage, but rather by early detection and warning - this helps to ensure a survivable American nuclear arsenal capable of retaliating, and thereby deterring, such aggression.

Second, while Russia might still violate and infringe upon Canadian airspace, one should not overlook the crucial role played by our superpower ally. Russia would be forced to deal not only with the Canadian air force, but also the much more sizable American fleet. Simply put, it would matter little to the Russians whether Canada was armed with Super Hornets or the F-35. It is also unlikely to matter much to the Americans either. Indeed, US North Command is now advocating for slower and lighter fighters - a telling sign that the Americans themselves are not necessarily convinced on the threat posed by advanced Russian aircraft.
The larger question is whether Canada needs to preserve its overseas aerial combat capability--considering the tremendous expense involved--or whether we would get more benefit from improving our ability to deploy naval and ground forces. Bruce Rolston.


Canada needs to start over on fighter jets

4. Alternatives

So if the Conservative platform doesn't make any sense, what are the Liberals and NDP offering? Judge for yourself:

Liberal platform

NDP platform

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