Top 10 howlers in Stephen Harper’s convention keynote

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered some head-scratchers in his speech to the party faithful on Friday night at the Conservative Party convention. Here are 10 of them, starting at the beginning of his speech and working down from there.

1. "In this party, we say what we will do, and then we do what we said."

Is it unfair to go all the way back to March 2004, when Harper said, "I will not name appointed people to the Senate"? For more recent history, how about not uttering a word about cutting public pensions during the 2011 election, then doing just that in the 2012 federal budget?

2. "Cutting the GST from 7, to 6, to 5%!"

For a person who likes to tout his economic credentials, surely Harper's read what key experts have had to say about this policy. A reduction in the GST is "among the worst possible tax cuts to boost productivity…. Worse still, even a one percentage point reduction in the GST, at a fiscal cost of a whopping $5.2 billion per year, gives up a lot of government revenue.''

3. "We took money out of the hands of the lobbyists, academics and bureaucrats, and we gave it to the real child-care experts. Their names are Mom and Dad."

Harper is talking about the government’s $100 monthly payment to parents for each child under the age of six. If you know anything about the cost of child care (and you don’t live in Quebec, where the provincial government stepped up to create a $7-a-day child-care program), you know $100 only pays for a few days of care every month, if you can find a spot. Mom and Dad also know the difference between a baby bonus cheque and a child-care program.

4. "Let’s never forget, that only this party takes to heart the debt owed to our brave men and women in uniform."

Tell that to the wounded Canadian soldiers who claim they’re being discharged from the military before they’re eligible to collect a pension. Or, better yet, read the latest report of Canada’s veterans ombudsman. It says the New Veterans Charter has “urgent shortcomings” that must be fixed.

5. "That it was this party that took action to clean up the mess the Liberals left behind."

Can’t quibble about the sponsorship mess, but it takes nerve to talk about clean government in the middle of a Senate ethics scandal involving allegations of extortion by the Prime Minister’s Office. 

6. "This is the only party that has tried to reform the Senate. We were blocked by the other parties in the minority parliaments, and now we are being blocked in the courts."

Blaming the courts is a familiar refrain for Harper, but this one doesn't cut it. After being in power for seven (!) years, the Conservative government finally referred six reference questions to the Supreme Court earlier this year on how to reform the upper chamber.

7. "[Conservative senators] have begun by demanding greater transparency in senate expenses, and what that has shown is that there are a few senators who have collected inappropriate expense reimbursements to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

No mention that these “few” senators at the centre of this ethics scandal were appointed by Harper himself. And he tapped two of them – Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin – because of their star power and ability to raise money for the Conservative Party while collecting a pay cheque from the public purse.

8. "And let me be very clear here tonight, as Conservatives we believe that actions have consequences."

Harper, staying with the Senate theme here, apparently doesn't believe there should be consequences for the person who appointed the senators now under investigation for disputed housing and residency claims and other alleged abuses. The cases of Duffy and Wallin are especially interesting, given Harper's appointees from Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan both lived in Ontario.

9. "Our government’s vision is about securing real prosperity, for real people."

Tell that to those struggling to get ahead. Inequality has been worsening in Canada where the top 1% of tax-filers now receives 14% of all income, up sharply from 8% in the early 1980s.  

10. "Canadian families work hard to balance their books. So do we."

The Harper government has clocked deficits every single year since coming to power. They've ranged in size from $5.8 billion to $55.6 billion a year.

Photo: pmwebphotos. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

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