Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's the difference?

There seems to be a stigma about Conservatives and Liberals - that Conservatives cut taxes and Liberals do not.

Speaking federally, historically this is not the case.

Liberals do cut taxes, but only when it's politically expedient - when taxes are high, budget surpluses are the norm, Canadians are overwhelmingly of the opinion that they're over taxed, and all that fun stuff. Jim Flaherty could aspire to introduce budgets similar to some of Paul Martin's in the 1990s.

I don't think that the Conservative Party is trying to out-Liberal the Liberals so hard that they're going to refuse to cut taxes - in fact I think that there will probably be another GST cut as well as personal and corporate income tax, and at this point, quite frankly I'd be surprised if the income tax cuts weren't substantial.

But at this point, it's politically expedient to cut taxes. We'd get them almost as easily from the Liberals as we are from the Conservatives - maybe even easier, since they wouldn't be fighting the hidden agenda impression that Canadians have of the Conservative Party.

There isn't some kind of higher priority for tax cuts (other than the GST cut, which received high-priority status as a campaign promise, but was coupled with reversing a previous income tax cut) over other government policy because we have a Conservative government, it's simply that Canadians think they're over-taxed, businesses think they're over-taxed and, quite frankly, the fiscally conservative Conservative base is going to be hoppin' mad (if they're not already) if an income tax cut is thrown down the chute soon.

There have been some good steps made by this Conservative government - the proliferation of free trade agreements is going to help people in Canada and in those countries with whom the agreements were made, the limiting of spending power by the feds in provincial jurisdictions, if it's given teeth, is a good step, and these are things we probably wouldn't have gotten as quickly under a Liberal government (though depending on the leader and which voters they were courting, we might have).

There have also been some very bad steps made by this Conservative government. Their intensified drug war does nothing but fund violent criminals and diverts resources from catching them, their targeted spending programs are in no way different in spirit than the subsidizing by Liberals of Liberal-friendly businesses and constituencies, and there are all sorts of silly, petty little fights you'd only expect only from a nanny state concerning everything from light bulbs to ATM fees.

If your main issues are shrinking government, reducing spending and increasing accountability for MPs (the Accountability Act was designed to castrate the Liberals, not to actually improve accountability of politicians in Canada - Conservative MPs are as bad for pork as any other party), there isn't much of a difference between this Conservative minority and what we would have under a Liberal minority.

After the Tom Flanagan/Gerry Nicholls debate on Tuesday night, a friend of mine posed a question: How many years of Conservative majority government would we need before spending and government intervention levels would return to what they were when Harper was elected in 2006?
It's a good question.

cross-posted to The Natural Society

1 comment:

John M Reynolds said...

Hi Janet

I think I am overtaxed because tax free day is in mid to late June.

I am a middle income earner. The last 3 rounds of liberal personal income tax cuts saved me very little. Only one had me keeping about 20 bucks a month. That changed by tax free day by a couple of days until the province took that and more for the Health Premium. The rest of the Liberal tax cuts were a suffle where the tax cut was eaten by either a rise in cpp/ei rates, or a change in the K constant. My pay was affected by around 25 cents.

I don't understand your "thrown down the chute" analogy. Is that a laundry (taking care of business) or garbage (deciding to give a small or non-existant (read Liberal) tax cut) chute?