The Conservative Party of Canada just celebrated its 10th birthday by touting its "10 top achievements." Here's our take on their "achievements."
1. Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement
The Conservatives conducted the talks in secret and have still not shared the text of the agreement with Canadians. They've also made dubious claims about how many jobs will be created. This fall, the Conservatives, citing a five-year old study, claimed the agreement would create 80,000 new Canadians jobs. The problem? The study assumed full employment to estimate $12 billion of additional output, but didn't make any claims about jobs. The Conservatives "translated $12 billion into employment for communications purposes," explains Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers. Conservative wordsmiths are now backing away from the claim, saying the agreement "is the equivalent" of adding 80,000 new jobs. Weir contends that given Canada's trade deficit with Europe, CETA has the potential to displace more jobs than it creates.
2. One million net new jobs since the recession
The Conservatives use selective statistics and incomplete numbers to talk up their record on the economy. They calculate jobs since the depths of the recession, but if you look at the Conservative record since the beginning of the recession in September 2008 – instead of from the extreme low point – it shows how far we still are from a full recovery. Between September 2008 and September 2013, 653,400 jobs were added to the economy. But more than half of those new jobs (53.4%) were in sales and services, the lowest-paid occupational category. And these jobs pay an average of about $16.50 per hour, no substitute for the tens of thousands of middle-class manufacturing jobs that disappeared during the recession.
3. Cut the GST
Cutting the GST from 7% to 5% is "among the worst possible tax cuts to boost productivity," explains Dale Orr, senior economist with the Canadian think-tank Global Insight. "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.''
4. Strongest economy in the G7
It's more like, "We're #4 in the G7" and "We're #16 in the OECD." Using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks 11th in real GDP recovery since the trough of the recession in a ranking of the world's most developed economies, according to a new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. And when population growth and purchasing power are taken into account, CCPA shows that Canada falls to 16th spot in real GDP per capita growth, behind G-7 countries Germany, Japan and the United States.
5. Universal Child Care Benefit
Branding a $100 monthly payment to parents for each child under the age of six as support for child care is a stretch. Unless you benefit from Quebec's $7-a-day system, child-care costs run into the hundreds of a dollars each month for working parents, and often top $1,000 for infants. A taxable benefit of $100 covers just a few days of care every month.
6. Federal Accountability Act
The Conservatives packaged the new law as "turning a new leaf" in response to the Liberal sponsorship scandal. After eight years in power, the promise of cleaning up government doesn't quite hold up. Mirred in its own Senate scandal and a PMO cover-up, it's easy to overlook gaps in the Tory accountability legislation. The bill created the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but the Conservatives have done all they can to neuter the office. And remember the Public Appointments Commission to tackle cronyism? Stephen Harper personally announced its creation back in 2006 as a centrepiece of his government's accountability agenda. It was scrapped last year.
7. Balanced budget by 2015
After multiple deficit budgets that added $169 billion in new debt, the Conservatives are promising a surplus by election time to announce goodies on the campaign hustings. Angella MacEwen, a senior economist at the Canadian Labour Congress and a Broadbent Institute Fellow, is raising the spectre of the Conservatives using the Employment Insurance surplus to balance the budget. She notes that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty claims that "the increasing stinginess in the EI system, and corresponding rapid accumulation of funds, has nothing to do with balancing the federal books. It’s just a coincidence that the EI fund was able to pay back its accumulated deficit from the recession so quickly, and that helpfully, that amount is enough to bring a balanced budget a year early and in time to fight an election."
8. Scrapped the long gun registry
Calling it "wasteful and ineffective," the Conservative Party's position is at odds with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards. These groups lobbied unsuccesfully to save the registry. "The firearms registry represents a valuable tool in assisting police in doing their job. It is a valuable tool, which has significant preventative and investigative value in keeping our communities safe," Charles Momy said back in 2010, while serviing as president of the Canadian Police Association.
9. Keeping our communities safe
Putting aside the perspective of Canada's police associations on the gun registry, the Conservatives say they're the "only party that is tough on crime," citing "tougher penalties for violent criminals." The problem is the Conservatives are overeaching on mandatory minimum sentences, and the courts are beginning to challenge their constitutionality.
10. Marketing freedom for grain farmers
Refusing to hold a producer vote on the issue, the Conservatives pressed ahead in 2011 with legislation to dismantle the 69-year old Canadian Wheat Board. The move remains hugely controversial today, and the federal government is now facing class-action lawsuits by grain farmers. A certification hearing is set in a Saskatchewan court next March, while another suit filed in federal court is accusing the government of mismanging the board's dissolution.
Photo: richardgiles. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.