After three months in office, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has ramped up federal spending by $40 billion over its Liberal predecessor.
That’s a 25 per cent increase in the cost of government.
Is Canada better off today?
A global recession is certainly sapping the nation’s momentum, but the increased spending combined with billions in tax cuts hinders the national government’s ability to respond to the deepening crisis.
Two cents shaved off the GST did little to bolster spending during the red-hot consumer binge, but has now deprived Ottawa of billions that could come in handy in the face of the recession.
Rather than pursue a cap-in-trade system, Harper pandered to the oil industry’s preference for a cap-in-hand strategy. He transferred billions in tax exemptions to that industry.
Today, these and other fiscal choices Harper has made seem questionable.
When Harper took office, the government boasted a $12-billion surplus.
Now it’s gone.
As well, Harper eliminated Ottawa’s $3-billion contingency reserve.
Now, with the national economy faltering, Harper is talking about running a deficit, something he suggested was ridiculous while on the campaign trail less than a month ago.
Canadians paid a heavy cost to reverse the previous national deficit.
That effort led to a national government with strong finances that was able to respond to crises, while maintaining existing services and benefits.
After just three years, during a time of unprecedented growth, Harper’s dual strategy of excessive government spending and tax cuts has landed Canada on the cusp of yet another deficit.
It is beyond time that Canadians began questioning the national tax-cut strategy.
The choice is this: During times such as these, is it more prudent to give an individual or a corporation another tax break?
Or should the nation hold the money and use the tools at its disposal to bolster services in regions hammered by the financial crisis, perhaps staving off a deeper financial mess?
It is the choice of the individual over the collective.
And throughout history, people have handled crises better when working together than when standing alone.