Skip to comments.Harper's Conservatives Earn an A- (major Christian website rates Canada's Gov't)
Posted on 07/08/2006 9:27:03 AM PDT by GMMAC
Harper's Conservatives Earn an A- In five months the Harper Government has undertaken an array of important and necessary policy initiatives concerning what might be termed secondary issues. These include cancelling the "give away" sale of the Prince Rupert Coal Terminal, the revision of Supreme Court appointments and the appointment of Marshall Rothstein to that court, the establishment of a Public Appointments Commission although the opposition delayed its implementation by their churlish rejection of an outstanding director, the unequivocal apology to Chinese Canadians and the redress commitments, the listing of the Tamil Tigers as a banned terrorist organization, and the termination of having half-mast flags at the Peace Tower for deceased soldiers. Unfortunately there were also some highly questionable, if not outright lamentable, decisions involving secondary matters. These include the quarrel with the national media as if this would prevent the writing of presumably negative stories by those journalists, not letting the press question ministers after cabinet meetings, not announcing cabinet meetings, and not letting Environment Canada scientist Mark Tushingham speak at his own book-launching event.
A report card for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives who have been in office five months!
Here's how they've done in 13 areas.
by Dr. John H. Redekop
July 3, 2006
Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives have been in office five months.
How have they done?
Here is a report card covering 13 areas.
1. Cabinet development and performance
The cabinet appointed by Stephen Harper was balanced in all important respects. It has proven to be generally competent, focused, and well-disciplined. By and large the ministers have easily held their own ground against the criticisms of the supposedly clever and experienced Liberal opposition.
The appointment of David Emerson as the Trade Minister, while defensible on the basis of competence, was not handled well. It was done too quickly, only weeks after Emerson vehemently denounced Harper and the Conservatives and thus raised questions about credibility. Similarly, the appointment of Michael Fortier, first to the Senate and then as Minister of Public Works, while also defensible on political grounds, didn't sit well with many Canadians, given Harper's strong statements against such action.
2. Performance in the House of Commons
In this area the Conservatives have done amazingly well, especially in contrast to the Official Opposition which was often largely absent, disunited on several major policies, and preoccupied with the leadership race. Their own mostly mediocre record made them vulnerable to hard-hitting counter-criticism. All opposition parties revealed their relative ineffectiveness when they voted unanimously for the Conservative's $187 billion budget without realizing what they were doing. With rare exceptions the Conservatives, led by the prime minister, have been skilful and effective in handling the Question Period as well as the general debate. They clearly outperformed the Official Opposition.
3. Social policies
The $100 a month grant for children under six met with substantial approval. Its main weakness, none the less, is that a single mother working for a living will keep much less than a mother who stays at home while her husband earns $100,000 a year.
The rejection of the $5.1 billion Kelowna Accord was politically defensible, given the inadequate accountability and lack of funding built into that agreement. But the Conservative rejection was not explained well. As it happened, their quick provision of clean water for Aboriginals and their $450 million housing initiative indicated acceptance of at least some Accord goals.
Raising the age of consent for sexual intercourse from 14 to 16, with some exceptions, met with widespread support although not from most opposition members.
4. Economic policies
The one percent reduction in the GST was widely welcomed. Its weakness is that there is no way of ensuring that the reduction will actually be passed on in those situations where the tax is built into the selling price. Its strength is that, in contrast to the Liberal tax reduction policy, it will benefit the large segment of people who do not earn enough to pay income tax.
The budget included 29 tax reductions which, in total, brought more tax relief than the previous four budgets combined. Among its many excellent items was the lowering of the corporate tax rate, the elimination of the Federal Capital Tax, and the provision allowing the donation of equity shares to charities without any payment of tax. Unfortunately, the budget also rolled back half of the Liberal campaign promise which had lowered the basic income tax rate.
5. Foreign affairs
The Conservatives deserve high marks for re-establishing open and friendly relations with the US and for bringing Canada much closer to a softwood lumber pact than the Liberals managed to do. Unfortunately, they over-stated their success when the lumber deal was announced with much fanfare. It is, in fact, far from being a done deal.
the vote in the House of Commons committing the country to a two-year extension was too rushed
The Prime Minster's March 12-13 trip to Afghanistan was a great success. Unfortunately, the vote in the House of Commons committing the country to a two-year extension was too rushedon two counts. Insufficient time was allotted for Commons debate and the whole debate itself should have been held much closer to the end of the current commitment when the nature of the involvement would be much clearer. The Harper government may yet find that trying to bring order and democracy to Muslim Afghanistan is much less likely to be successful than has been assumed.
6. National unity policies
Here the Conservatives have had marked success. The more enlightened and conciliatory attitude toward Quebec has resulted in declining support for sovereignty. Giving a voice to Quebec in certain international organizations, as has been done for Scotland, Wales and other components of countries, is fully defensible.
Quebec voters now have a second federalist option. Harper may yet go down in history as a key leader who "saved the union." Unfortunately, in currying favour in Quebec he apparently promised more than he seems willing to deliver concerning the so-called fiscal imbalance. The recent backtracking, especially by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, has disappointed many Quebecers and antagonized virtually all provincial governments.
7. Environment policies
The much-ballyhooed rejection of the Kyoto Accord is really of little consequence. The previous Liberal government had already rejected it in substance when, for 13 years, it did virtually nothing to rein in green house gas emissions and had opted to spend billions to buy so-called pollution credits from other countries which had been allowed more pollution than they actually produced. This policy would not have reduced any pollution, it would only raise the permissible ceiling for Canada and do so at great cost to the taxpayers. The Liberal commitment was meaningless, a miserable and total failure.
The Conservatives are, however, vulnerable because they are taking a long time to develop their alternate program. Only time will tell whether a truly worthwhile set of proposals will be forthcoming. While the axing of the EnerGuide program can be justified on the grounds that half of the expenditure went for administration, the Conservatives would have done better to reform it rather than to abolish it. Its intent was very commendable.
8. Crime and justice policies
Killing the long-gun registry was long overdue. Apparently when Marc Lapine murdered the 14 young women in Montreal in 1990, he used a registered semi-automatic long gun. Registration does not prevent crime. Besides, why would criminals register their guns? Registering gun-owners, the new Conservative policy, makes more sense. Retaining the licensing of handguns, in force since the 1930s, is commendable but probably does very little to reduce crime.
The legislation against street-racing, the introduction of tougher minimum sentences, the arming of border guards, and the expansion of the RCMP by 1,000 members all make a lot of sense. Particularly praiseworthy is the ending of the practice of sentencing some criminals, even when major crime is involved, to house arrest (with many exceptions) so that they can spend their time watching TV and playing games. While the $26 million for victims and the $20 million for crime prevention are rather modest sums, they constitute important steps.
9. Defence and military policies
For 13 years the Liberal funding of Canada's defence establishment was little more than a joke. Canada acquired cast-off submarines that don't work and was forced to hire Russian planes to ferry Canadian peacekeepers to the Baltics. This peacekeeping country had hardly any people or equipment with which to keep the peace! At last the country has a government which understands what defence procurement means and is willing to adopt responsible policies.
10. Parliamentary reform
The Federal Accountability Act, if passed by the Senate without significant revision, will mark the greatest step forward in this area that the country has ever seen. It contains some weaknesses, including the elimination of accountability to the Canadian taxpayers for the billions given to the 600 Aboriginal bands, a deletion forced by the opposition parties. Canadian taxpayers shall, it appears, willingly pay heavily but not ask the tough questions. On balance, this legislation is very impressive.
The eight-year term for senators is a significant reform
The eight-year term for senators is a significant reform as is the appointment of senators who have been previously elected in their provinces. Unfortunately, if these key reforms are fully implemented without a reallocation of seats to the provinces, the result could be a greater constitutional crisis than is posed by the Senate now!
11. Specific initiatives
12. Keeping electoral promises
The Harper team has done very well in this area. Four of the five key priorities have been enacted. The fifth, dealing with health-care waiting times, requires provincial co-operation and will presumably be addressed shortly. Where the Paul Martin regime largely dithered, the Stephen Harper team has mostly acted, at times, as with the Afghanistan vote, perhaps even a bit hastily. The overall record of accomplishment is impressive.
13. The overall leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Of the Rt. Hon. John George Diefenbaker it was rightly said that he was much more successful as opposition leader than as prime minister. For the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper the opposite is true. He has been much more impressive as prime minister than he was as opposition leader. He has been decisive and focused.
Granted, he has made some errors in his relationship with the media, in his handling of press coverage of military caskets, and with his flippant comment when informed that some Muslim extremists wanted to behead him but, by and large, he has handled himself with dignity, aplomb and even with distinction. Many voters do not support Harper's policies and some see him as too domineering in the cabinet but no one can fault him for being less than a strong, articulate, energetic, bold, disciplined and visionary leader.
The overall mark after five months: A-
John H. Redekop is adjunct professor of political science at Trinity Western University, Langley, BC.
Previously, he lectured for 26 years at Wilfrid Laurier University.
He welcomes comments at: email@example.com
Originally published in The Record, July 3, 2006.
Used with permission of author. Copyright © 2006 Christianity.ca.
In five months the Harper Government has undertaken an array of important and necessary policy initiatives concerning what might be termed secondary issues. These include cancelling the "give away" sale of the Prince Rupert Coal Terminal, the revision of Supreme Court appointments and the appointment of Marshall Rothstein to that court, the establishment of a Public Appointments Commission although the opposition delayed its implementation by their churlish rejection of an outstanding director, the unequivocal apology to Chinese Canadians and the redress commitments, the listing of the Tamil Tigers as a banned terrorist organization, and the termination of having half-mast flags at the Peace Tower for deceased soldiers. Unfortunately there were also some highly questionable, if not outright lamentable, decisions involving secondary matters. These include the quarrel with the national media as if this would prevent the writing of presumably negative stories by those journalists, not letting the press question ministers after cabinet meetings, not announcing cabinet meetings, and not letting Environment Canada scientist Mark Tushingham speak at his own book-launching event.
I'm glad to see you guys finally have some good leadership after all these years.
I'm thrilled with Stephen Harper to date, and expect to be even more pleased in the future!
(The Palestinian terrorist regime is the crisis and Israel's fist is the answer.)
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