7 Reasons Why the Conservatives are More Disappointing than the Toronto Maple Leafs

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Is it time to axe the coach?

Team Canada isn't winning like it used to. On every stat across the board, Canada is down -- the Bank of Canada just pegged economic growth at zero per cent and said the labour market hasn't improved in three years, full-time jobs are disappearing fast and the quality of the jobs that remain are at a 25-year record low.

Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminds us he's a student both of economics and  the 'great game' of hockey, his performance on the economy has been absolutely disappointing. Plus his own staff admit that for all his talk, he may not even know how to skate.

The Maple Leafs just cleaned house, so is the same solution needed in the House of Commons? It's looking like Team Canada needs to cut its losses and start planning for a rebuild.

Here's 7 more hockey analogies summing up the Conservatives' blooper-filled season:

1. Deking out Canadians on the economy with $7.5 million in taxpayer-funded ads

As this year's hockey playoffs kick off, the Conservatives will spend an unprecedented $7.5 million on a taxpayer-funded ad blitz promoting the Conservatives' economic policies in advance of this month's federal budget -- just in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This isn't a one-timer either. The Conservatives spent a whopping $75 million on ads last year (that's seventy-five, not seven point five) largely promoting their economic agenda using public funds. And what's worse? Some things advertised don't even exist.

2. Joe Oliver's spin-o-rama on the economy

And on that note, Canada's Finance Minister Joe Oliver keeps making demonstrably false statements about the strength of Canada's weakening economy.

Here's a quick rundown of some of Oliver's fibs:

  • Oliver recently claimed the economic "crisis is over," despite (a) the Governor of the Bank of Canada's prediction that the economy is headed in an "atrocious" direction; (b) mounting full-time job losses; (c) businesses indicating they do not plan to create more jobs this year; (d) Canadian banks like CIBC and BMO warning the worst is yet to come.
  • Oliver also recently claimed "the economy's growing," despite the fact the economy clearly shrank last month.
  • And Oliver rounded things off by declaring "the Canadian economy is the envy of the world," which, again, is only true if the world 'envies' a country whose economy the OECD says is performing even more poorly than most of the G7.

3. Trading in General Motors stocks for a couple of pylons and a bag of pucks

Worst trade ever?

In a desperate move to balance the budget and avoid embarassment, the Conservatives traded their remaining stock in General Motors last week, a premature move that amounted to a $3.5 billion loss for Canadian taxpayers (the government bought in to stabilize GM during the 2009 recession and prevent mass job losses).

And adding insult to injury, today we learned Canadian manufacturing sales have declined again -- the fourth time in five months. Sales of motor vehicles alone declined 14.9% in February. That can't be a good omen for what's ahead.

4. Peter MacKay can't shoot a law out of a paper bag 

Did you know Justice Minister Peter MacKay (Dalhousie Law, '91) has a law degree?

It's understandable if you didn't given how often the Supreme Court strikes down his laws as unconstitutional. You'd think he'd be better at writing laws? How much money is the government wasting defending their own badly written laws in court, anyway? This could all be easily avoided if MacKay spent five minutes listening to experts.

And while some may say MacKay should be benched for this, it seems the only ones getting benched these days are his friends, donors and wedding guests.

5. The Conservatives are boxing in health care with a neutral zone trap

How are the Conservatives like the 1990s New Jersey Devils?

Well, aside from boring everyone to death, the Conservatives use a very similar defensive strategy of obstructing health care by underfunding it -- effectively boxing medicare in even as Canada's aging baby boomers create new demands on the system.

In 2014, the Conservatives allowed a 10-year accord with provinces to expire, with no new funding to address the challenges of our aging population. Former Saskatchewan premier and head of the federal health care commission, Roy Romanow, recently warned the nation is headed for an "apocalyptic battle" over the fate of Canada's universal health care system, and pointed blame squarely at the Conservatives for being "missing in action":

"Ottawa's involvement has evaporated. The Minister of Health is missing in action. And medicare is threatened like it never has been before. It is as though the provinces and Ottawa live within two different universes." 


6. Wealthy Canadians keep scoring on taxes 

Close that five-hole, Canada Revenue Agency! Stack your pads!

It's bad enough wealthy Canadian hockey fans can write-off their playoff seats in a luxury box as a business entertainment expense -- these kinds of leisure activities alone amount for $400 million in tax breaks annually.  

But tax credits for corporate boxes at sporting events aren't the only way the Conservatives are helping wealthy Canadians save up for that new yacht:

  • Income splitting: The Conservatives' so-called "family tax cut" allows higher-earning spouses to transfer up to $50,000 to their lower-earning spouse for a total tax savings of $2,000. But one problem with that -- the way income splitting is structured, the benefits end up going primarily to wealthy Canadians (it doesn't hurt if one spouse earns over $100K while the other doesn't work. Plus, when you take into account the median incomes of typical families with a stay-at-home spouse, they see a meaningless $38 in estimated savings). The Parliamentary Budget Office calculates income splitting will cost $2.2 billion in lost revenue per year.
  • Stock options: In recent years, CEOs and corporate executives have increasingly been preferring compensation in the form of stock options over a regular salary. Why's that? Because Canada's complicated rules for taxing stock options create a loophole that allows half the earnings on stock options to be earned tax-free. It's estimated this loophole costs Canada $700 million in lost revenue each year.
  • Tax-Free Savings Accounts: The Conservatives are planning to increase the limits on TFSA's from $5,000 to $10,000. Great, right? Free cash? Well, not so fast. The TFSA increase will "cost billions in lost tax revenue while primarily lining the pockets of the wealthy." And the author of a recent Broadbent Institute report criticizing the Conservatives' TFSA increase was one of the architects of the TFSA in the first place -- if Wayne Gretzky criticizes how you're playing the game, you need to pay attention.
  • Offshore tax havens: Meanwhile, Canadians have sent a record $185 billion to tax havens around the world, an offshore fortune worth an estimated $7.8 billion in lost revenues for governments back home in Canada.

7. The oil and gas regulation toe drag

Even the NHL itself says climate change threatens the future of hockey.

So what are Conservatives doing? For nine years, the Conservatives said they wouldn't act on climate change until the United States brought in regulations. Then, after the U.S. and China signed a historic climate agreement last year, what did the Conservatives do? They blamed Mexico and claimed they needed a "continental response."

Well, Mexico already has a carbon tax. And the U.S. and Mexico signed a climate co-operation deal two weeks ago. So the Conservatives are finally going to act, right? Nope. They passed.

And ironically, just this week, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq complained that the provinces aren't doing enough to reduce carbon emissions. The next day, Ontario and Quebec signed a cap-and-trade deal that will effectively reduce carbon emissions. More stick handling ahead.

Photo: B. Storseth.

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