Conservative leader Stephen Harper mocks Liberals' plan to run 'tiny little' $10 billion deficits during last year's election campaign. Latest estimate for the first one to be $20 billion or more.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper mocks Liberals' plan to run 'tiny little' $10 billion deficits during last year's election campaign. Latest estimate for the first one to be $20 billion or more.

Passages of 2015: Stephen Harper

Harper began his political career with the national media against him, and that intensified in the campaign that elected Justin Trudeau

I first met Stephen Harper when he was running for the Canadian Alliance leadership in 2002.

Speaking to a group of Fraser Valley party members concerned that the party had split over the leadership of Stockwell Day, Harper didn’t mince words just because a local reporter had showed up on a Saturday morning. He explained his prediction that no matter who leads the conservative movement started by Preston Manning, the national media would work against it.

“The press is owned by big-L liberals and staffed by small-L liberals,” Harper said. “Preston was too cerebral; Stock was not cerebral enough. I’m not sure where I will be, but the media will always be on the other side.”

Harper’s cold war with national media is a theme that runs through his decade as prime minister, peaking in 2015 with the most slanted election coverage I’ve ever witnessed. The celebration continues over Justin Trudeau’s victory, with the supposedly non-partisan federal bureaucracy cheering along with much of the national media.

Harper’s assessment of major newspaper ownership is no longer accurate, except for the Toronto Star. But the dying tradition of owners looking up from their accounting ledgers to endorse a political party continued, with the Postmedia chain and the Globe and Mail pointing out that Trudeau’s rash promises didn’t add up.

Endorsements were a brief interruption in the media assault on Harper’s record. His government’s plan to welcome 10,000 refugees, unveiled way back in January 2015, was portrayed as heartless and feeble, while Trudeau’s 25,000 by Christmas represented the generous character of the true Canada.

As it turns out, the Liberals backed off to a promised 10,000 by the end of 2015, and missed that by 75 per cent. But they’ve put out a rash new promise to make it 50,000 at some point in the future, so the media’s new-found message of sunshine, hope and change continues.

Those modest $10 billion annual deficits that Trudeau promised, and Harper warned against? Borrowing and spending will far exceed that, but we’re assured that’s because they were based on inflated Conservative financial forecasts.

In fact, independent private sector forecasts are now the key reference for government budgets at the federal and provincial level. None of them predicted the further slump in energy prices that continued through 2015.

And cooking the books before an election isn’t really possible any more, thanks to the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. That was a Harper innovation, along with scheduled elections.

And that Trudeau pledge to raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and use the proceeds to finance a tax cut for the middle class? That one didn’t add up either. For one thing, wealthy people have a variety of legal ways to reduce their taxable income.

Here’s an actual front-page headline from the Globe and Mail, reporting this unfortunate fact, well after the election: “The way Liberals gauged response to new tax rate explains gap.” So it was just an understandable oversight, you see.

Trudeau’s star turn in Paris, where he pronounced that “Canada is back” in the battle to control the world’s weather? The official submission from his bloated delegation to the UN climate meetings was actually the existing Conservative plan, which includes phasing out coal-fired electricity generation.

Harper generally represented a preference for the individual over the state, a concept that at one time was known as “liberalism.” This was illustrated by his preference for parents rather than a nanny state to administer child care.

He advocated free trade, small government and low taxes. We’ll see how that legacy survives the new government and its media cheering section.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read