Conservative leader Stephen Harper mocks Liberals' plan to run 'tiny little' $10 billion deficits during last year's election campaign. Latest estimate for the first one to be $20 billion or more.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper mocks Liberals' plan to run 'tiny little' $10 billion deficits during last year's election campaign. Latest estimate for the first one to be $20 billion or more.

Passages of 2015: Stephen Harper

Harper began his political career with the national media against him, and that intensified in the campaign that elected Justin Trudeau

I first met Stephen Harper when he was running for the Canadian Alliance leadership in 2002.

Speaking to a group of Fraser Valley party members concerned that the party had split over the leadership of Stockwell Day, Harper didn’t mince words just because a local reporter had showed up on a Saturday morning. He explained his prediction that no matter who leads the conservative movement started by Preston Manning, the national media would work against it.

“The press is owned by big-L liberals and staffed by small-L liberals,” Harper said. “Preston was too cerebral; Stock was not cerebral enough. I’m not sure where I will be, but the media will always be on the other side.”

Harper’s cold war with national media is a theme that runs through his decade as prime minister, peaking in 2015 with the most slanted election coverage I’ve ever witnessed. The celebration continues over Justin Trudeau’s victory, with the supposedly non-partisan federal bureaucracy cheering along with much of the national media.

Harper’s assessment of major newspaper ownership is no longer accurate, except for the Toronto Star. But the dying tradition of owners looking up from their accounting ledgers to endorse a political party continued, with the Postmedia chain and the Globe and Mail pointing out that Trudeau’s rash promises didn’t add up.

Endorsements were a brief interruption in the media assault on Harper’s record. His government’s plan to welcome 10,000 refugees, unveiled way back in January 2015, was portrayed as heartless and feeble, while Trudeau’s 25,000 by Christmas represented the generous character of the true Canada.

As it turns out, the Liberals backed off to a promised 10,000 by the end of 2015, and missed that by 75 per cent. But they’ve put out a rash new promise to make it 50,000 at some point in the future, so the media’s new-found message of sunshine, hope and change continues.

Those modest $10 billion annual deficits that Trudeau promised, and Harper warned against? Borrowing and spending will far exceed that, but we’re assured that’s because they were based on inflated Conservative financial forecasts.

In fact, independent private sector forecasts are now the key reference for government budgets at the federal and provincial level. None of them predicted the further slump in energy prices that continued through 2015.

And cooking the books before an election isn’t really possible any more, thanks to the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. That was a Harper innovation, along with scheduled elections.

And that Trudeau pledge to raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and use the proceeds to finance a tax cut for the middle class? That one didn’t add up either. For one thing, wealthy people have a variety of legal ways to reduce their taxable income.

Here’s an actual front-page headline from the Globe and Mail, reporting this unfortunate fact, well after the election: “The way Liberals gauged response to new tax rate explains gap.” So it was just an understandable oversight, you see.

Trudeau’s star turn in Paris, where he pronounced that “Canada is back” in the battle to control the world’s weather? The official submission from his bloated delegation to the UN climate meetings was actually the existing Conservative plan, which includes phasing out coal-fired electricity generation.

Harper generally represented a preference for the individual over the state, a concept that at one time was known as “liberalism.” This was illustrated by his preference for parents rather than a nanny state to administer child care.

He advocated free trade, small government and low taxes. We’ll see how that legacy survives the new government and its media cheering section.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

(Photo: pixabay.com)
Morning Start: More human twins are being born now than ever before

Your morning start for Friday, April 16, 2021

Twin sisters Kyla, left, and Jordyn Bear have accepted scholarships to play at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York for this upcoming fall. The 17-year-olds dream of playing together for Canada in the Olympics one day. (Jesse Johnston/CP photo)
Lake Country twins inspire Indigenous hockey players

Grade 12 George Elliot Secondary students Kyla and Jordyn Bear earn hockey scholarships at NCAA Division 1 school

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read