As I’m following the 2015 Federal Election, I can’t help but to be very concerned that some of my fellow citizens are still considering voting for Stephen Harper. I know telling other people who they should or shouldn’t vote for is an extremely delicate subject. It’s like telling someone: “you’re wrong!”. Nobody likes to be told that and I would perfectly understand some of your reactions as you will read this article. Therefore, in this article, I will not necessarily focus on who to tell you to vote for. I’ll just try to depict a picture of what is my perception of Stephen Harper and why I’m asking people to seriously think about it before they vote for him.
Therefore, here are some of the reasons why I’m asking people to be very cautious when voting for Harper.
- Stephen Harper is not necessarily working for all Canadians equally. What I mean by this is that Stephen Harper is mostly working for entrepreneurs and business owners. All the actions he’s taking are oriented in this sense. In a way, it’s not necessarily a bad policy in itself. However, he’s pushing it a bit far. For instance, he’ll tell you that he’s created thousands of jobs. What he won’t tell you however is the quality of those jobs. You see, Harper doesn’t like well paid jobs where employees enjoy benefits. To him, we should be paid for the work we do and just work whenever the employer tells us to do so at his conditions. We should also be prepared to be laid off at any time and therefore not make any financial commitment. He likes this kind of approach because it makes the country very competitive. No benefits means cheaper price to produce commodities and services which we can sell to other countries. Without any doubts, this means to him that we will then sustain jobs here because we will be competitive. So far so good. There is logic in this approach. Where there is a flaw is with the human factor. You see, human beings are not machines. They need to have something to look forward to when they work hard. They want families and want to enjoy good times. In Stephen Harper’s mind, this is where we get in the department of the luxury. To him, being able to have supper with your children and spend time with your families is the least of his concerns. It’s also the least of his concerns for you to own a house, own a decent vehicle or to have hobbies. To him, you’re just a part of a big system where you work, go to bed, don’t complain and eventually die. An if it’s possible for him to make you work as close as possible to your death, it’s all for the better. Therefore, when you listen to him talking about jobs, ask yourself about the quality of those jobs. Are those low paid jobs without any benefits with an indecent schedule or are those jobs with a fair salary and leaving you with some time for your family? I think we all know the answer to this one.
- He’s put all his eggs in one basket. Stephen Harper is far from being dumb. He’s managed to get elected as Prime Minister of Canada and it’s just not everybody who could do this, period. However, he has a tendency to over simplify the problems and this is where he gets to be dangerous. You see, to Stephen Harper, relying on oil only was good enough until it blew up in his face. Why spend the money and invest in other sectors when we were making good money with oil? Problem solved, let’s now focus on other elements such as depriving people of their freedom of speech. That wasn’t the best of strategies to start with. All good investors will tell you not to bet everything on one horse. You have to diversify so that other elements can pick up when one goes down. Stephen Harper just failed to do this. To him, manufacturing wasn’t even on the radar until the dip in oil prices. The country was doing good as a whole and that was good enough. Some regions were having a hard time but that wasn’t something he needed to be concerned about. The proof: they were no good jobs in the maritimes. His solution: move to Alberta, we’ve got plenty of jobs over here. However, what he failed to mention is that there is a cost for a family to do this. First of all, you have to sell a house that is basically worth nothing and then purchase a house that is worth a fortune in Alberta. Perhaps you have a good salary but it’s all going to pay for the house and in the end, you’re not better off than you were back home. You’re just working harder. Second, moving from one end of the country to the other has impacts on the family. Kids lose their friends, you see your relatives less frequently and you’re basically adapting to almost another culture. Now, imagine your reaction when oil prices blow up in your face and you lose your job. Where is Stephen Harper now? Where is he to help you? He is nowhere to be found. He’s refusing to create a program to assist Alberta in waiting out the storm. And most insulting, his new friends are now the manufacturing entrepreneurs in Ontario. I’m telling you, why Albertans still have faith in this man is mind bugling to me. I don’t understand as to why Albertans are not demanding more from this man. After all, they have supported the country financially, working countless hours with very little conditions in return, paying for overpriced houses. And he won’t lift a finger to help them out? This is just indecent.
- Stephen Harper just about destroyed every possible mechanism to properly govern the country. He’s muzzled scientists, muzzled departments such as Statistics Canada and Environment Canada, cut on different programs to help out the most vulnerable people and cut many important sources of revenue for the government (GST, corporate taxes). All of this makes it so that today, he’s basically flying blind, entirely guided by ideology and with almost no capacity whatsoever to help jump start the economy. But hey, all of this was worth it right? You can now split your income and hope to get peanuts in most of the cases, put money in a TFSA (if you have that money to start with) and you get a nice check in the mail for your kids (but wait, you have to give it back at the end of the year and you lost an important deduction in the process). In other words, that did you get in return? I’ll tell you: you got nothing. The money he’s put back in your pockets is peanuts and you have less services that you used to have (remember all those nice cuts to public service back in 2012). But the most troubling part is that he’s basically slashed and diced all the tools that could have helped him out in making your lives easier. He’s left with no money to invest to help out the economy in those times of needs and he doesn’t have information as to where to start. To him, keeping taxes low will just solve everything magically. How ignorant does he think we are to believe that? This is like saying: “the car is working badly right now because the oil level is low. Therefore, let’s not put any oil in the car and I’m sure that at the next curve, it will get better.” I mean, obviously it won’t work. The same goes for the economy. It’s down right now because we’ve relied on the good will of rich people to invest back (totally not naïve) and they’re not doing so. The tax break companies enjoyed is just gone. Flaherty knew it back then so did Mark Carney. Flaherty tried to get it back in 2013 with the elimination of some tax loopholes but to no avail. It was too late, the money was just gone. Companies took the tax break, put it in their pocket and were far too happy not to invest it back. It’s easy to understand: if you invest back, you will most likely create good jobs in the process. If you do so, your employees will either leave for those good jobs or demand better conditions. Do you think it was in their interest to do so? Asking the question is answering it. You see, the government has to be a referee. In other to do it’s job, from time to time, it has to intervene. I grant you that there is a balance to be obtained here. However, Harper is clearly at to other end of the spectrum. Try to play a hockey game against an NHL team. You try to start your own little team and try to go on the ice against them. You don’t stand a chance unless the referee or someone with two cents of judgment comes along as says: “stop! This doesn’t make sense. Let’s come up with something so that the team of buddies stand a chance.” You see, we’re the team of buddies and the corporation and the rich are the NHL team. Harper is in the crowd right now enjoying the show and drinking a beer that we’ve paid him. You get the picture? If you have money (when I say money I mean if you could stop working tomorrow morning and still enjoy a decent life), voting for Harper makes sense . For the rest of us, voting Harper is just making sure that we will eventually just lose whatever we were able to accumulate working like crazy. Little government is good, no government is just singing your death warrant. Look elsewhere and try to see where governments just don’t exist if people enjoy good conditions (Sri Lanka, India, Africa). I don’t know about you but I’d just love to live there right?
- Stephen Harper is just obsessed with numbers. Stephen Harper cares about one thing only: a balanced budget. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is far from being dumb. We all do it. We all try to set out a budget and respect it. If we don’t do so, we will just lose everything in the end. However, there are nuances to be made here. Let me give you an example. I could if I wanted draw a budget that would make sure that I enjoy going fishing every week. Sure, the wife or the kids would have to stay at home doing nothing while I go fishing but my budget would be balanced at the end. The roof of the house could leak, there could be water infiltration in the basement but my budget could be balanced. If I’m clever enough, all I have to do is to scare my family with balancing the budget and impose a regime of austerity at home. Of course, I don’t do that. What I do instead is consider everybody’s needs and at least consult my wife as to where we will invest our money. And whatever austerity we will have to come up with will be self-imposed and not dictated by one dictator in the house. And if we get a hard hit (leaking roof for example), I will not go out and tell the kids to stop eating because we need to pay for the new roof. What I will do instead is to go out to the bank and borrow the money. Now, I have to pay pack that loan. What I will do is perhaps stop going fishing and not get a new car this year until we’ve paid a good part of the loan. I’ll try to make sacrifices but in the end, I’ll make sure everybody can eat, get dressed and go to school. I’ll even try to keep a little money for some fun. Harper is not doing this. He is quite clever. He’s scaring all of you with balancing the budget but he’s not telling you what he is sacrificing in the process. I’ll tell you what he’s sacrificing: well paid jobs. He’s cutting on public service jobs (we need to cut there but there are better ways to do it). He’s also cutting on contracts (jobs again) and he’s cutting on investments (look, jobs again). He’s slashing on culture, health just about everything that doesn’t involve either digging a whole to pump oil or to bake donuts at Tim Horton. He’s even putting back more money in the pockets of the rich (so they can go fishing more) at the expense of the more vulnerable of the society. You see, with Stephen Harper, it’s not so much what he does but how he does it. We all agree on what he’s trying to accomplish. It’s in everyone’s interest to have good solid public finances. But ask yourself who is he favoring in his choices? Ask yourself if it’s the right time to balance books. By imposing too much austerity, Stephen Harper could do just the opposite of what he’s pretending he’s trying to do. He could just go out and harm the economy. On the other end, in the current situation, making modest deficits might be the right thing to do. Many economists have come forward right now and said that this is the way to go. This is just not the idea of one contender to the job of Prime Minister. The roof is leaking right now Stephen. If you don’t fix it, in the end, it’s going to be much more expensive for fix your mess. But wait, you will most likely not be there by the time we get to fix your mess.
- He just doesn’t know how to control spending. I mean, clearly he’s controlled spending because the books are practically balanced. However, he’s done it by asking a part of the population to stop eating. He’s cut good public service jobs (jobs that could set a standard for other employers) that were important to Canadians, he’s cut on health transfer (provinces now have to chose between education and health to balance their books) and he has cut on several investments. Like I said before, it’s all in the way he does things. Instead, here is what he should have done. First of all, cut public service hours from 37.5 to 35 hours (with the salary adjusted). This will save money right away. Put a freeze on public service hiring. When you have close to 3% attrition rate a year, it doesn’t take long that it counts. Close public service in the Holidays, except for critical services (passports, inspections, critical stats). Finally, cut on some conditions such as excessive sick leave and the health plan that is completely paid for. Over all, we’re talking a cut of roughly 17% over the course of two years. All of this without a single loss of job and with a small impact on the lives of public servants. This just aligns public service jobs more with private sector jobs. There are roughly 260,000 public servants costing an average of 85,000$ each for a grant total of around 22 billions dollars. Cutting 17% means 3.75 billions dollars without a single loss of job. Last time he’s cut in 2012, he’s basically cut 20,000 jobs over 280,000 for a grand total of 1.7 billions. But in the process, we have lost 20,000 jobs and created uncertainty. Now, losing jobs is part of life some of you will say. Some of you will say it happens all the time in the private sector so why not in the public sector? I agree. However, should we work towards making sure no one enjoys conditions or should we otherwise work at preserving the jobs where we can have some control? Where we can avoid layoffs, we should avoid them. We should even take the 3.7 billions we have saved and invest it back in some form of programs that would allow every worker to put aside some money for difficult times. I haven’t seen Harper come up with this. Instead, he’s just making sure no one can enjoy job security. Even worse, he’s putting more pressure on the private sector by eliminating 20,000 clients and creating 20,000 new competitors. This is just making it worse for everybody. No one wins. And I won’t even talk about the Senate and the generous conditions MPs and ministers get to enjoy. Tell me that there isn’t any room to cut there? In all the cuts he’s done, he never suggested a single time to cut on the conditions of the members of parliament. This is just indecent.
- He’s attacking basic freedoms and the very basics of democracy. He’s prevented public servants from talking freely. He also tried several times to muzzle the supreme court or to intervene in an inappropriate way. He’s tried to muzzle the budget officer, one of his own creation that just became inconvenient. He has cut on political parties funding as based from the election results which makes it unfair. Finally, he’s directly attacked the CBC, Statistics Canada, Environment Canada, reporters and unions, all entities that at some point in time have embarrassed him. In order for democracy to exist, you need to have independent entities that act as watchdogs. By suppressing funding for these entities or putting in place laws and rules and regulations, he’s basically making sure Canadians only have his side of the story. This is extremely dangerous. Throughout history, each dictatorship that was capable of establishing itself was able to do so with the control of information. How else could you do it? People fundamentally don’t want to be controlled. Therefore, you have to make them believe that whatever measures you put in place are in their own interest. It’s just impossible to do so without absolute control of the information. He also suspended parliament a few times to avoid being overturned.
- He is a one man show. Just look at all the MPs and important ministers that have decided not to run again. Need I say more?
- He is giving a bad image of Canada. He’s picking fights with Russia (like this is the idea of the century), aligning unconditionally with Israel, pushing for war, not respecting the UN or the environmental agreements. He’s tied foreign help to economic interests only. The loss of the UN seat on the Security Council was major hit for our international image. He’s done very little for our international image. Not that is most important but in the end, it will affect how we are perceived and affect our capacity to establish commercial agreements with other countries and partners. If he had managed to score well on the other points I wouldn’t even be mentioning this but this just adds up to a very long list. And I’m not even mentioning how he dealt (or lack to deal with) with the Syrians refuges crisis. I agree with him not to let in just about anyone. But when a family is fostered by someone already in Canada, there must be a way to meet in the middle here. Nope, that wasn’t a preoccupation and there was no money to be made there. Who cares about the faith of poor families? Well, I did and this is why I wrote this article.
When I look at forums right now, I see people saying that Stephen Harper is not perfect but he did good things for the country. He’s done good thing but only for a part of the country. Are you in that part? The other guys aren’t perfect either. Now the question you have to ask yourself is that if they are worse then Stephen Harper. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think do because I believe that they are well intentioned while I don’t think it is the case for Stephen Harper. When voting on October 19, all that I ask is that you consider this question: how much Stephen Harper is well intentioned towards you? Good thinking.