“Warren Kinsella's book, ‘Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse,’ is of vital importance for American conservatives and other right-leaning individuals to read, learn and understand.”

- The Washington Times

“One of the best books of the year.”

- The Hill Times

“Justin Trudeau’s speech followed Mr. Kinsella’s playbook on beating conservatives chapter and verse...[He followed] the central theme of the Kinsella narrative: “Take back values. That’s what progressives need to do.”

- National Post

“[Kinsella] is a master when it comes to spinning and political planning...”

- George Stroumboulopoulos, CBC TV

“Kinsella pulls no punches in Fight The Right...Fight the Right accomplishes what it sets out to do – provide readers with a glimpse into the kinds of strategies that have made Conservatives successful and lay out a credible roadmap for progressive forces to regain power.”

- Elizabeth Thompson, iPolitics

“[Kinsella] deserves credit for writing this book, period... he is absolutely on the money...[Fight The Right] is well worth picking up.”

- Huffington Post

“Run, don't walk, to get this amazing book.”

- Mike Duncan, Classical 96 radio

“Fight the Right is very interesting and - for conservatives - very provocative.”

- Former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory

“His new book is great! All of his books are great!”

- Tommy Schnurmacher, CJAD

“I absolutely recommend this book.”

- Paul Wells, Maclean’s

“Kinsella puts the Left on the right track with new book!”

- Calgary Herald


Are conservatives good fiscal managers? (updated twice)

No, they’re not. They suck, in fact. In the book-to-come, I discuss how progressives have let conservatives get away with claiming they’re better at managing dollars. Among other things, progressives need to tell that story, over and over.

UPDATE: Here’s a tweaked graphic, sent along by FB friend Carolyn Weatherson.  And one commenter, Joseph Angolano, writes: “The Canadian numbers add up to the same conclusion. Flaherty was the first Con Finance Minister to post a balanced budget since 1912. He then promptly started posting deficits since. Moreover, Canada maintained its AAA rating until Mulroney came to power. Conservatives suck with finances. Always have, always will.”

Anyone want to take stab at an all-Canadian version of this?

UPDATED: From sharp-eyed commenter Jennifer Smith:



130 Responses to “Are conservatives good fiscal managers? (updated twice)”

  1. Chris says:

    If somebody posts some numbers I could make a snappy canadian version of this graphic (I’m feeling lazy on the research part this morning)

  2. Gord Tulk says:

    Laughable.

    Let’s see a graph of each potus’ creation of entitlements and the unfunded liabilities they now have: just two examples: fdr – social security ; lbj – Medicare/Medicaid combined they have an unfunded liability north of 70 trillion.

    As for the Canadian version – be sure and quote it in terms of % of GDP. If more canadians saw what Trudeau did they would become the least popular pm in cdn history.

    • Ted H says:

      See what I mean, Conservatives/Republicans talk about “entitlements” as if they are intrinsically a negative factor in the economy. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, these so called “entitlements” are policies designed to make life better and more secure for ordinary Americans, but rather than trying to secure their continued viablility, Cons talke about eliminating them. Their policy is to reduce taxes (especially for the rich) until the government does not take in enough revenue to provide basic services, then raise a hue and cry about the necessity to eliminate these “entitlement” because the economy can no longer support them. Conservative economic policy isn’t dumb, only the people who vote for them are dumb, no, to the contrary, Con economic policy is cynical, treasonous, deceptive and downright evil. The sooner people wake up to the truth of the Conservative economic “Matrix” the sooner the economy will improve and in a way that will help ordinary people to live better.

      • Jason King says:

        Get Greasemonkey, get Plonk4wp and deTulk your life http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/62267.

        Best of both worlds actually. Tulk can have his freedom of expression and you can have your freedom not to read it.

      • Justin says:

        Which makes the adage, ‘there are only two types of conservative voters, millionaires and suckers’ much more relevant.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        Entitements are a negative in the long term – especially when they are not adequately funded. Has you been paying attention to what’s happening in Europe and elsewhere re entitlements? PIGS are now third world countries because of too lavish entitlements.

        • James Bow says:

          Uh, no. Ireland’s fiscal situation wasn’t that bad, until the government was called upon to bail out their foolish banks.

          On the other hand Iceland, which told its banks to take a hike, is doing much better.

          It’s not the entitlement programs that are the problem in and of themselves, it’s who gets the entitlement programs and what they’re used for. A decent health care system designed so that people don’t bankrupt themselves thanks to a surprise illness helps the economy. A social safety net that ensures that most people are kept out of abject poverty helps the economy. Taking away the consequences of bad bank loans seems to tank it.

          • Ted B says:

            Ireland’s problems were always also related to hyperinflated real estate prices and low tax zone chasers. Once the bubble burst, they left pretty quick, along with the jobs and money.

            Another lesson that the current government seems pretty deaf to.

        • David Hart Dyke says:

          Sweden, Denmark, Germany and several other countries with excellent “entitlements” are doing very well indeed. Only a liar or a fool would fail to understand that. The European countries that are suffering most are the ones who bought into the austerity myth, or ones like Greece, which should never have been allowed into the EU in the first place. Greece, by the way, is famous for allowing its richest residents to evade taxes.

      • Ted B says:

        Roads are entitlements and they are completely unfunded years into the future.

        Police and domestic security are entitlements and they are completely unfunded years into the future.

        F-35s are entitlements and they are very much completely unfunded now, let alone the future.

        Boy, this is fun.

        We could cut spending and destroy the country at the same time!

    • James Bow says:

      I covered this way back in 2003:

      The Myth of the Liberal Deficit – http://bowjamesbow.ca/2003/08/22/the-myth-of-the.shtml

      Basically, Trudeau gets nailed by Conservatives who talk up his deficit spending as if he was the only political leader in the world at the time engaging in the practice. But that’s completely inaccurate. Other political leaders of other political philosophies were in power or took power in the 70s and the eighties: Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Reagan, and so on. Every last one of them operated huge deficits. It didn’t matter if you were a socialist, a liberal or a conservative, in the 1970s and the 1980s, in North America and Europe, you ran a deficit. Other factors were clearly at play.

      Mind you, by the same token, Paul Martin gets credited from here to Sunday for turning Canada’s fiscal fortunes around and making a substantial dent in our debt. But so did Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan (NDP), alongside the conservative governments of Alberta and Ontario. Again, other factors were at play that would likely have rectified our fiscal situation regardless of who was in power. Which leads to the follow-up:

      The Myth of the Liberal Surplus: http://bowjamesbow.ca/2003/08/26/the-myth-of-the-1.shtml

      • The Mad Hatter says:

        I read both articles, and they were an interesting read.

        What do you make of the current economic situation? The tech industry in the Western world is also facing similar economic pressures from lower-priced emerging Third World markets.

        After the dotcom and housing bubbles have burst in the US, what bubble is there to create?

        Looking at the trends of the past 35 years, I see a lot of shifting of deck chairs on the Titanic.

  3. Ted H says:

    Despite Gord Tulk’s bafflegab to the contrary, Conservative economic policy is a consistent failure and the cause of America’s current financial woes. The way Conservatives tell it, there was no trouble at all before January 2009 then once Obama took office, the economy went for a dump. Current economic problems began with the Republican saint Ronald Regan. In reality he was an ignorant reptile.

    • The Mad Hatter says:

      There have been Democratic Presidents since “Saint Ronnie”. Have the industrial jobs that used to exist plenty in the 1970s come back since then?

      “If only the morons hadn’t voted for X, everything would be so heavenly”.

      I don’t buy it. Deindustrialization actually began well before RR, and the same thing would have happened under a speculative second Carter term.

  4. Joseph A. says:

    Hey Warren,

    The Canadian numbers add up to the same conclusion. Flaherty was the first Con Finance Minister to post a balanced budget since 1912. He then promptly started posting deficits since. Moreover, Canada maintained its AAA rating until – Mulroney came to power. Conservatives suck with finances. ALways have, always will.

  5. Ted says:

    ” progressives need to tell that story, over and over.”

    … and over and and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over .

    It takes a long, long, long and concerted and consistent and relentless effort to create the kind of undeserved brand that conservatives have for fiscal prudence. They got that by talking the good talk (regardless of how poorly they walked it) so it seems like a priority to them. Obviously, it is not.

    But we have to relentlessly talk about:

    1. the actual fiscal record of conservatives,

    2. highlight the specific examples of why they are so bad. This is kind of important. One of the ways they have accomplished this undeserved brand is that people don’t even see how they spend. They see the cuts to services and say ‘see, fiscal prudence’ and ignore the huge graft (look at Bush and Harper’s G8 slush fund) huge unnecessary and ideologically driven and wasteful and record spending on self-promotion, polling, policing (but not for reductions in crime), military (for stuff we don’t need), prisons (we need less of), developers (we don’t need no stinkin’ ferris wheel), security (restricting our freedoms), pageantry (how much has the silly and unnecessary Royal re-branding cost us?). The last one – pageantry – is a good example. Recently, the Conservatives claimed – and actually got from our compliant media – credit for spending $7.5 million instead of the planned $8.8 million on the Queen’s jubilee, and no one even asks ‘why are conservatives spending $7.5 million on this and claiming to be fiscally conservative?’.

    3. but also we have to be talking about fiscal prudence. This is key. They (cough cough) “earned” the brand by talking about it so people naturally assume it is a priority for them (it isn’t). We have to develop language and arguments that showcase how fiscal prudence does not mean just cuts, but balancing the books. Start saying stuff like ‘money for people not for banks’, ‘we would rather pay our way than borrow from China’, ask people if they like how conservatives are taxing Canadians so they can pay interest to big banks, repeat lines like ‘when the bank is threatening to foreclose, we shouldn’t ask for a cut in our income’, etc. Emphasize that there are actual consequences to being as fiscally irresponsible like conservatives.

  6. frazworth says:

    I love this graphic, If I could, I would tattoo it on my body. But then I’d have to explain to my kids why I thought that was a good idea……but anyways, I love the argument that because Conservative members tend to come from the business world that they are financial Zen masters. By love I mean I think it’s a terrible argument; it’s like saying a hockey player would be good at coaching football because they’ve worked in the sporting industry before. It’s based on assumption and not reality. So Sláinte to Flaherty and the financial ruins he will put our federal state in for the next government to fix (see: Ontario – track records don’t lie).

    • Pat says:

      The trouble with the CPC “we all come from business” narrative is that is isn’t really true and it totally negates the fact that many Liberals were very successful in business before being elected (including Paul Martin).

    • Cam says:

      Hey Warren, maybe you could make the graphic a downloadable file so some of us not so skilled computer types could use it to spread the word now and going forward.

  7. Neil says:

    It has been tried
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m65dDNrBjg8
    If I recall at the time Warren you did not like it, maybe I am wrong.

  8. reformatory says:

    it’s fitting that Martin is the picture being shown instead of Chretien. All kidding aside- to me it’s proof that both the Chretien and Martin forces in the LPC need to understand that they need eachother and need to work together. The LPC is stronger with both forces. One of the reasons for Chrestiens success is that he promoted and projected both forces in his gov’t. When Martin stopped doing that- the progressive forces were absent and he went down. If any leader of the LPC wants to go anywhere- they must bridge and unite those 2 forces again- only then will the media and the general public start to take us seriously again.

    • Ottawacon says:

      It is funny, I look at the graph and get a different take. As soon as Martin was PM, not Finance Minister, we were damn near in deficit again. The Martinistas made a lot of hay about the ‘best Finance Minister Canada ever had’, and maybe he was, but as soon as he did not have the protection of a determined PM, he was blowing money out the door.

  9. JKC says:

    True in general, on both sides of the border, but this chart specifically is fiction, and keeps coming back despite being debunked:
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/may/19/nancy-pelosi/nancy-pelosi-posts-questionable-chart-debt-accumul/

  10. Gord Tulk says:

    Quote your second graphic in terms of %of GDP and then fill in the data back to 1968 and get back to me.

    Then do the same graphic for each of the provinces – ESP Ontario. And be sure and look at the deficits the provinces had during Chretiens tenure.

    • Gord Tulk says:

      My mistake the second graph is in %gdp. But it doesn’t include the 56 billion that the Chretien govt was tried and convicted (unanimously by the scoc) of pilfering from the EI fund.

      • Ted H says:

        BAFFLEGAB

      • Ted says:

        Another outright lie, Gord? Do you ever know when to stop?

        The Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that the government was legally allowed to take money from one of its accounts and transfer it to another account, i.e. the $54 million.

        What they also said is that the manner in which the government set the rates was not legal.

        Do facts mean anything at all to you, Gord?

        • Gord Tulk says:

          Here is a summary of what the SC ruled that is pertinent to this discussion

          “However, the court said in the same decision that the former Liberal government illegally collected premiums for three years because it let the federal cabinet set the annual rate rather than Parliament.

          In the 7-0 ruling, the judges gave the government one year to fix its unconstitutional error of “taxation without representation” in 2002, 2003, and 2005.

          “According to that principle, a tax can be imposed only by Parliament or a clearly authorized delegate of Parliament,” wrote Justice Louis LeBel.

          The court did not suggest ways to make amends, nor did it order that any of the approximately $53 billion in illegal collections be repaid.”

          http://www.canada.com/mobile/iphone/story.html?id=1061964

      • Chris says:

        LOL GORD U SUCK

  11. MoeL says:

    A simple message is best! Lets just call them what they really are…. “The borrow and spend conservatives”

    • Ted says:

      Hey! That’s my line. Though I usually say “borrow and spend spend spend conservatives”.

      But this is exactly the kind of counter-branding that needs to be done.

      The conservatives are very good at it, perhaps the one thing they are truly great at. Not only branding themselves as fiscally prudent despite all evidence to the contrary, but branding all non-conservatives, those who actually spend less and balance the books more, as “tax and spend liberals” even though Chretien and Clinton cut more taxes than Bush and Harper and Reagan.

      • Chris P says:

        I have long said that we should be branding them the ‘tax-cut and spend conservativites’ but I like the borrow and spend conservatives very catchy and fitting.

      • MoeL says:

        Sorry for stealing you line! I too think the Liberals need some well thought out branding lines that can be constantly repeated in order to establish our or their (Cons and NDP) brand. I kind of like the “Smart on crime” slogan that I’ve heard bandied about. I think something like “Who needs facts when you’re a conservative” to convey the idea that their ideology trumps common sense. Maybe Warren can setup a contest of sorts where we could submit messages/brands that we would like to convey and slogans to get the point across. Just a thought.

      • Philip says:

        What about “create-a-crisis Conservatives”? Manufacture an issue, run around screaming about it, feed the talking points to your base and voila: instant crisis. Next solve the “crisis” through: more yelling, buying jets, program cuts or fast tracking 32 Canada Border Fund projects through your constituency office.

    • Ted H says:

      Which ever graph is true it still does not change the basic FACT that Republicans bear the greatest responsibility for the size of the US deficit.

    • Ted B says:

      As I noted up above, not quite “debunked” but adjusted. But the main point remains true.

      Obama doesn’t look good in those adjusted numbers, but the point remains very clear even with the adjusted numbers: conservatives are anything but fiscally prudent. Of those presidents who completed whole terms, none of them came close to balancing the books and all of them increased the deficit and the debt by huge numbers.

      Only a Democrat in the US and Liberals in Canada have balanced a national budget.

      Harper benefitted from the good fiscal prudence of Liberals for one budget and then he blew a hole in the floor.

      Obama inherited some already committed spending, which is why the chart did not calculate from his first minute. Good catch by Politifact, but hardly undermines the point.

      Certainly, Obama is spending like crazy and, because of Bush, he doesn’t have the fiscal room to be spending like he is. So it’s a good think he has been cutting and it’s too bad the Republicans block every effort to increase revenues.

      It is difficult to compare Harper and Obama to their predecessors because they are only midstream, though Harper has been there for the better part of a decade and he created a deficit out of a surplus in pre-recession times, whereas Obama inherited a deficit and committed spending.

      Harper made things worse and Obama is guilty of not making things better.

      Which also proves the main point about the fiscal irresponsibility of conservatives. They just can’t help themselves.

      • Mark McLaughlin says:

        Ted H has it completedly wrong (unless the point is to say that Republicans occupy the White House twice as often as Democrats). Ted B is only partly wrong.

        Read the debunking all the way through and the chart is total nonsense. Using percentages is statistical malfeasance by Pelosi’s office (original source). You make the adjustment based on NEW debt as a percentage of GDP and you get the proper picture. It straightens out all the inflation mess. The biggest reason it is crap is that it compares 2 term (8 year) presidents against Obama at the time of the data (2 years). Absurd at best, blatent misrepresentation at worst.

        Ted B seems to give all the credit for the fall on Harper, but Obama a pass because he inherited a mess. Either the leader of a country CAN dictate the direction of their economies or they CAN’T. If they can, as he suggests with Harper, then Obama has had the opportunity to fix his listing ship and chose not to.

        • Ted B says:

          Not so.

          I give Harper a bit of a pass and Obama a bit of a pass, and damn them both for not trying. I pretty clear state that it is hard to judge either of them mid-term and that Obama’s problem is that he is making the problem worse not better.

          But the situations of Harper and Obama can be distinguished on objective grounds:

          - Obama started with Bush’s huge deficit so he was already behind the 8 ball and he inherited recession stimulus programs committed to under Bush but paid for under Obama; Obama has added to the stimulus spending but you have to parse the numbers a bit and the Politifacts site refused to do that. By contrast, Harper started with a surplus and his cutting of revenue was a specific decision of his that caused a deficit even before the recession. Then the stimulus spending was entirely his decision.

          - Also, Obama has been there for only 3 years whereas Harper has been in charge for twice that. I don’t think you can fully judge these two yet because there is still a recession and they are only mid-stream in their terms (Harper has another 4 years minimum and Obama has another … 5 years.). But Harper has been around for long enough to have passed 7 budgets now. The more time passes the more responsibility for the fiscal finances the current regime must take.

        • Cam says:

          Hey Mark, debt is debt. GDP means nothing to me.

          • Marc L says:

            You are wrong. The dollar amount of debt is a misleading figure. Economies grow. There is inflation. You cannot compare over time or across economies unless you take account of their relative size. A billion dollars is not the same for Ontario as for Canada and a billion for Canada is not the same as a billion for the U.S. You can’t ignore the size of the economy, the budget and the tax base. Comparing in dollar terms is completely meaningless, for exactly the same reason as comparing the price of a car in 1955 and today is meaningless.

          • Cam says:

            Marc, if I take your argument that I should use the size of the economy and inflation over time then doesn’t that mean that in today’s dollars Mulroney’s deficits and Martin’s surpluses are even bigger in comparison to Harper’s deficits?

          • Marc L says:

            Yes exactly. For example, the 2009-10 Harper deficit was $55.6 billion, the last Conservative deficit in 1993-94 was $38.5 billion, and the Liberal deficit in 1983-84 was $32.3 billion. That makes it look like the 09-10 deficit was the biggest in history as the press often reports it. But that’s incorrect. the 09-10 deficit was in comparable terms relatively modest at 3.6% of GDP. The 93-94 one was much bigger at 5.3%. And the 83-84 one was in fact the biggest in Canadian history (post ww2)at 8.3%. The 2000-01 surplus was 1.8% of GDP, which is pretty sizeable for a surplus.

          • mark mclaughlin says:

            And that is why the only economic opinion you’ll ever give will be the unsolicited kind. At least you’re honest about being ignorant.

  12. Ottawacon says:

    It is not ‘bafflegab’ to state that any such graphic has to include Trudeau as a Liberal PM. Mulroney’s government brought government spending on everything except debt serving to a point below revenue collected – which was not nearly good enough. It took Chretien’s government to finsih the job and actually start reducing the debt. Harper’s government has indeed seemed to forget that, and presided over the largest percentage increase in program spending …since the Trudeau era.

    In that sense, maybe ‘Who Increased the Debt?’ is fair caption for that photo. But ‘The Debt’ was created by Trudeau’s Liberals – if we ever want to call something Mount Trudeau, it should be a graph of Canadian public debt. Up until 1975, it had never grown by more than 10% per year except for wartime spending – which still did not push the average over 10%. Over the next 12 years, it never grew by less than 17% and averaged 20%.

    Plenty of blame to spread around, anything else is partisan hooey.

    • Ted H says:

      Probably because around that time “tax cuts” became a political football for all parties and the gradual decline of the corporate tax rate and comensurate shift of the burden onto individuals began in earnest.

  13. Philippe says:

    One word:

    BUSTED.

  14. Glen says:

    It’s almost troll-like to even post about this subject Warren! You know as many of your readers are Cons as not. You’ve got them all worked up now.

    Anyways, nobody mentioned EI yet. Just wanted to throw that out there. There’s a rule that says it has to be mentioned whenever this discussion comes up.

  15. Marc L says:

    My my my, how convenient. The graph starts in 1986. History starts with Mulroney. Well, the biggest deficit as a share of GDP in Canadian history was in 1984 — the last budget before Mulroney — at a whopping 8.3% of GDP. As far as I’m concerned, ANY government that systematically runs deficits in good times is a poor fiscal manager. That includes Liberals and Conservatives. The Liberals were not exactly disciplined managers before the Chrétien years. If you want to go through history, at least look at ALL of history, and not just the part that suits you. Also, before pounding your chests, consider the following:
    1) Mulroney was elected on a platform of repairing Canada`s public finances after the disastrous accumulation of deficits during the Trudeau years. He did manage to get Canada`s primary balance (the budget balance net of interest payments) into a surplus position before the recession of the early 1990s hit. What were the Liberals doing during those years? Screaming and wailing against every single measure the Mulroney government tried to take to limit government spending and bring the deficit under control. For the Liberals, controlling the deficit was some kind of right-wing plot — they saw nothing wrong with systematic deficits to the end of time. Remember the rat-pack? Pure hysterics AGAINST deficit reduction.
    2) For all the talk about the great job the Chretien and Martin operation in eliminating Canada’s deficit (and I agree, Kudos on that one — they deserve mountains of praise for what they did), the plan in the Liberal Red Book was NOT to eliminate the deficit but merely to keep it at 3% of GDP — forever. There was never a plan to eliminate the shortfall and at that time the Liberals STILL did not have a problem sith systematic deficits. They shrugged off suggestions from Finance officials that something more serious needed to be done. Paul Martin personally came over to give me shit, literally yelling at me in a pre-red-book conference where I had been invited to give my opinion on economic issues because I suggested they eliminate the deficit as soon as possible. They only decided to go down that road in their second budget because of the Mexican Peso crisis, Canada’s debt downgrade, and the pretty obvious fact that Canada was about to hit a debt wall under their stewardship. THAT is what caused them to act, not some virtous concern for the health of Canada’s public finances.
    That too is part of history. If you go back, Liberals are no more at fault than any conservative government, and no better managers than them either.

    • dave says:

      You mention that a gvt that runs a deficit in good times is not a sound fiscal manager, kind of a keynesian idea, I think. And you mention 1984 as a year of very high gvt expenditure. It seems to me that 1984 and the years preceding were years of tough economic times, not just in Canada, but in many places, going back ot the OPEC oil shocks in the mid 1970′s. Wouldn’t any gvt following a keynesian course have had deficits because of spending so as to keep things going economically during a down turn in the economy?

      • Marc L says:

        The recession was in 1981-82. The recovery was V-shaped. 1984 was a boom year. Government revenues were up more than 10% that year.
        No, this was a pre-election budget. No cyclical deficit would amount to 8.3% of GDP. The Harper government’s 2009-10 recession deficit was 3.6% of GDP as a comparison — less than half of what the Liberals produced in 84. The Liberals were during that period much much worse than today’s Conservatives.
        Tere is a lot of blame to dish around. The Liberals have not always been prudent fiscal managers, very very far from it.

    • Ted B says:

      Talk about missing the point.

      Arguing about Trudeau? You do realize that he was PM over THREE DECADES AGO!!

      The point of the graph is not convenience, but to show that conservatives are anything but fiscally prudent. Which is absolutely true.

      Liberals and Democrats, on the whole, are not all that much better but they are clearly better. Liberals and Democrats have, at times, spent money like conservatives, but they have also BALANCED THE BUDGET, something no modern conservative President or Prime Minister has done.

      • Bill says:

        Not missing the point at all. You are. Trudeau was the start of the colossal debt we see today. The Chretien liberals basically just transferred the debt to the provinces. Your about to get what you ask, a very fiscal conservative budget coming in the very near future. Can hardly wait, you?

      • Marc L says:

        No, historically Liberals are not better. That was exactly my point. You are talking history here. Trudeau was 3 decades ago. Yup. Mulroney was 2-3 decades ago. What, is 3 some magic number where you draw the line? If you want to make historical statements, tell the whole story. And, in any event, Liberals OPPOSED deficit elimination until 1995.
        I agree that the Harper Conservatives are anything but fiscally prudent. That in my view is a big negative and a key reason that I am not a Conservative. But I have not exactly heard the Liberals clamouring for big budget cuts. On the contrary — and you are already raising a fuss about the next round of cuts.
        In any event, as far as history goes, the conservatives do not bear all the responsability — there is a lot of that to go around. Both parties bear some responsibility. Remember, Mulroney was left with massive interest payments to deal with — that was the Liberal legacy at that time.

        • Ted B says:

          The point is this: conservatives claim to be fiscally responsible and history shows that they are clearly not. Period.

          The fact that a Liberal government here or there – you want to go back to Trudeau, why not go back to Pearson then when it was all paid for or King – does not disprove that conservatives are fiscally irresponsible or prove that they are fiscally responsible. It only shows that some Liberals were not fiscally responsible and no one is denying that. In fact, I wrote just that up above.

          But if you were to look at history, and ask whose actual actions while in government were more fiscally responsible, the conclusion can only be: Liberals in Canada and Democrats in the US.

          (And it is completely false that Chretien balanced the books on the provinces. He downloaded, he cut actual spending (not just spending increases) and about a dozen other things. Which only shows even more his fiscal prudence: good finances are not simply or simplistically a matter of cuts and taxes. It is hard. And that is why, I think, conservatives are not very good at it.)

          • Bill says:

            I think we are about to see how good the Harper conservatives are at balancing the books. Harpers legacy is now in motion (majority government). I hope we see cuts more drastic than the chretien era and fundamental change in how a few departments currently operate.

          • Ottawacon says:

            I thought the point being made was that Liberals are historically better than Conservatives – which is absurd given that only one PM in Canadian history conducted himself with reckless disregard for the stability of the public purse, and he is a Liberal icon.

            I would trust another Chretien government with the purse strings, but probably not another Liberal government – especially germane if indeed Bob Rae is the leader.

          • Gord Tulk says:

            There has not been a conservative majority govt since before ww2. Until now. (and even now the bleating from the left is that only 40% of canadians gave yhe that mandate so thy should be less conservative than they may want to be) Let’s see what the upcoming budget reveals.

  16. Dave B says:

    I’ll play devil’s advocate. How much of this is the result of world economics, and regional economics? Our surplus/deficit trends are similar to America’s (not the same, but similar).
    But, taking it a step further, and completely bastardizing causation and correlation, which comes first – conservative fiscal policies or economic downturn?
    I’m neither an economist or a political scientist, so could someone wiser than me please enlighten me?

    • Gord Tulk says:

      If I was pm what I would focus on is not deficit/GDP relative to the US. As a commodity producing and exporting nation their prices mask productivity inefficiencies. Take commodity windfalls and Canadians have been falling further and further behind relative to the us. Unless that trend is reversed we will hit an economic wall where the reckoning will be very painful indeed with those of limited means and fixed incomes suffering the most. Getting productivity to improve is largely a function of improving risk/reward signals to increase the incentive to not only work more and harder, but more efficiently. Tax rate reductions, more accountability in entitlement programs, less and better designed government regulations are the path to higher productivity and thus a wealthier more financially strong Canada.

  17. bza says:

    I think this is mostly true due to the theortical arugment from conservatives that tax cuts increase tax revenue. No, they don’t, not ever. They starve the treasury of revenue which then begins the cycle of justifying the reduction of expenditures on social programs.

    Prorgessives have certainly ran deficits as well, such as Trudeau in the 70′s and Bob Rae in the 90′s in Ontario. Those were due to historical forces though. With Trudeau it was stagflation, low economic growth + high inflation + high interest rates = deficits. For Bob Rae it was the ratification of free trade combined with an international recession that reduced exports for Ontario.

    The difference between progressive and conservative deficits are that progressive government deficits are from historical forces. Conservatives always make it a choice, and it always ends badly.

    • Mark McLaughlin says:

      So when your guys mess it up it’s out of their control, when it’s the other guys, they did it to themselves. Partisan nonsense. Trudeau didn’t HAVE to ramp spending up to historical proportions. It makes the decision even stupider when you consider he knew the interest on that spending would be astronomical.

      If all progressive politicians are simply leaves in the wind, blowing around this way and that with the weather why would we ever vote them in? We pick the people we want to DIRECT change, not those who are powerless in the face of it.

      Takes the cake for most blindingly partisan comment on this thread so far.

      • Cam says:

        Harper, and Eves/Harris didn’t have to cut taxes.

      • bza says:

        I don’t see my argument as blindingly partisan when I back them up with clear rationale. When a government reduces taxes it also reduces government revenue. Harper has done that with reducing the GST, income tax, corporate taxes, and capital gains taxes. Harris did that with income taxes. George Bush cut taxes while financing two wars at the same time. In Canada, when a government takes this approach they deprieve the treasury of billions of dollars, In the states when this was done it was well over a trillion.

        There is a clearly different approach there. Progressive governments tend to not recklessly cut taxes while running a deficit at the same time.

        Stagflation was an actual event as well. Most governments had this problem in the western world. Out of fairness, it did continue into the 80′s and early 90′s which explains why the deficits of Regean and Mulroney were so high as well. All of my examples are from the last 20 years when conservative governments pursued a more reckless approach of cutting taxes while running significant deficits at the same time.

        • Marc L says:

          Your whole line of argument is farcical and indeed blindly partisan.
          1) “There is a clearly different approach there. Progressive governments tend to not recklessly cut taxes while running a deficit at the same time. ” No, they recklessly increase spending while running a deficit at the same time. That has to be the funniest argument I have heard in a long time.
          2) “Stagflation was an actual event”. So was the 2008-09 global recession. That’s a poor argument — the Trudeau deficits had nothing to do with “stagflation”. Spending was not just left on autopilot. These were conscious decisions to spend, spend, spend. There was no revenue problem when the Liberals posted the biggest deficit ever in Canadian history in the 1984-85 budget.

          one last thing: I don’t recall the Liberals arguing against those tax cuts. The only argument was against the cut in the GST, and what they were opposed to was not the act of cutting taxes per se, but the fact that the GST was being cut rather than income taxes (and they were right on that one).

    • Gord Tulk says:

      When the tax rate is zero – revenues are zero. When tax rates are 100% revenue is also zero.

      Somewhere in the middle an equilibrium exists where either an increase or decrease in tax rates means less – not more revenue.

      Leftists believe that we are below that inflection point. Those on the right think it is above that point.

      I say cut the rate severely on capital gains and see what happens… Then slowly raise it IF revenues are reduced.

  18. Brad Young says:

    Often I see Steven Harper described as an Economist. I can’t find any source that says he actually held that position in private industry. I understand he took it in university.

    But that does not make him an Economist. So why he he even be remotely qualified to manage the Canadian economy?

    • SF Thomas says:

      Bingo. He took economics in University but never actually worked as an economist. I don’t get why anyone especially those in the media refer to him as such.

      • Michael Bussiere says:

        He is not an economist. He came to Ottawa with an MA (from UCalgary no less) when he was 28 to get Debra Grey her morning Ovaltine. His one foray outside of Ottawa was a 4-year stint running the National Citizens Coalition, a 3-person office with the easiest job in the world: bitching about taxes. He returned as an MP to undermine Stockwell Day and claim the credit for uniting the Right which he had earlier split up as a Reformer. The man is a walking falsehood and it is stunning that no one has ever taken the myth apart.

        If someone claimed to be a lawyer because they had an MA in law, it would be deconstructed as fraud.

  19. Anyong says:

    Just a simple question Warren, when has any government been good fiscal Managers? We pay the government to look after the country and simply put, they do not. That is it in a nut shell.

  20. MC says:

    You’re right. Liberals have let Conservatives own the ‘good fiscal managers’ message for too long. So has the media. Get on it. Always. All the time. Every opportunity.

  21. Gord Tulk says:

    It is heart-warming to see liberals so emphatically in support of sound fiscal management. Shortly we will see the first budget ever from the CPC when it has a majority mandate. It will be nothing if not fiscally sound – large funding and workforce cuts etc. thus we can expect these very same liberals to applaud wholeheartedly and unreservedly these measures.

    • Marc L says:

      Dream on man! I would LOVE to see that. No, they’ll complain that Harper-the-spawn-of-Satan is slashing spending. Then they’ll complain that the deficit is not coming down fast enough. Asking for consistency is a bit much — the ultra-partisan mind can’t handle it.

    • Ted B says:

      Cuts are not the only display of good fiscal management. That’s where borrow and spend conservatives keep getting it wrong.

    • Cam says:

      Gord, Gord, Gord. The Finance Ministry is Jim Flaherty – one of the conservative the finance ministers in Ontario when the conservatives were building a defict which they hide from the public. Flaherty and Harper have been riding the benefits of the regulatory framework and fiscal management which was in place before they arrived. The majority just means Harper and Flahery can stiffle debate and hid the truth. But that appears to be their style.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        Do please lay down some parameters that you think should be met – how many layoffs. How Many dept cuts. How much of a surplus. That we can use to say whether or not flaherty has met your expectations.

        • Cam says:

          Why layoffs? Why department cuts? You suggest these are the parameters to judge Flaherty.

          We lived through the conservative con game here in Ontario. Create a crisis and then say you have to cut to address the crisis. So, cut taxes, mismanage the government’s finances, distort the truth and/or mislead, and then say the solution is cut, cut, cut. Nonsense, but keep drinking the Kool-ad. Flaherty resigning would meet my expectations.

          So, if I’m looking for expectations, how about raising revenue to address the shortfall, stop mismanaging the finances, tell the truth and stand–up and be accountable in the house by allowing full debate and openness. How about a surplus equal to paying off the debt within 25 years, but not at the expense of cuts to address a false crisis?

          • Marc L says:

            So you are for tax hikes.

          • Bill says:

            Are you serious Cam…….You think the conservatives have created a crisis……Have you heard about the Europe thing or US debt thing????? Lay offs and department cuts are exactly what is required. You sound like a government employee drinking taxpayer funded Kool-Aid.

          • Jason King says:

            Bill, the stale kool aid point sounds silly coming from a comment rife with talking points like yours

    • Bill says:

      I agree with you completely Gird. The good old liberals are about to see just how good Harper is. Majority mandate and the budget is just around the corner. Harper is about to shine and show his genius.

      • Michael Bussiere says:

        GENIUS? The man who blew the surplus before the recession even hit? GENIUS??

        • Bill says:

          The recession was in full force and the liberals / NDP were all for spending every bit of that surplus. Majority rules and Harper can finally reset a few issues that have long plagued Canada (fat cat pensions, to many public servants, crime, military). I’m very excited about the next 3- 4 years.

  22. Philip says:

    As you well know Mr. Tulk, it has been the Liberal Party which has always been emphatically in support of sound fiscal management. It what we do. Your Conservative Party can only talk a good game about good fiscal management but has never been able to get the job done. I’m sure you have a number of excuses at hand to justify your party’s lack of financial competence: it’s too hard, somebody else made us do it or we don’t really understand numbers at all, that sort of thing. I understand that it may be hard for Conservatives to admit that they are out of their depth on this file but the quicker you come to terms with that, the better Canada will be.

    • Gord Tulk says:

      Trudeau couldn’t spell “sound fiscal management” let alone practice it. And I guess that leaves dalton mcginty and jean charest out in the cold too.

    • Philip says:

      I disagree Mr. Tulk but is nice to see you continue in your efforts to keep current. While we shall disagree on Trudeau’s ability to spell: “sound fiscal management”, I’m sure we will both agree that he could spell both: “competent” and “leader” quite well. Unlike your poor Mr. Harper, who was forced to flee to a fortified compound in Davos, in order to announce changes to the OAS.

  23. Gord Tulk says:

    Your martin math is flawed: 18 billion – 56 billion from EI; less 50 billion (est) in transfers to provinces cut = 88 billion deficit

    Also the LPC voted in support of every budget that Flaherty put forward during the minority phase – it wasn’t as if you guys didn’t know they would create deficits. (and the john turner “I had no option” defense doesn’t work – never did)

  24. Marc L says:

    By the way, about Liberals being such great fiscal managers — anybody take a look at McGuinty in Ontario? Once again, funny how the partisan mind works. Harper runs deficits and he’s an incompetent. McGuinty runs deficits, and there is no problem. Funny that.

    • Justin says:

      I’ll give you that one but if you look at the entire picture over a period of time, history is not on your side.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        If you look at the entire picture over a period of time you have to include the massive entitlement commitments of FDR, lbj, JFK (he allows public sector employees to unionize) PET, bourassa etc. mcginty isnt a one- off and martins numbers do not show the confiscation and deficit downloading.

        • smelter rat says:

          I see “entitlements” is the new dog whistle.

          • Philip says:

            But only “entitlements” for poor and/or elderly Canadian citizens are evil to Conservatives, smelter rat. Long range unfunded entitlements, such as the ridiculous F-35 jets, are OK because they funnel money to giant American aerospace corporations. Or American prison contractor companies.

  25. Ted H says:

    News this morning, Harper is going after Old Age Pensions. Elderly white males have been a reliable demographic for the Conservatives so I am curious to see how he sells this. I am approaching pension age myself and I have always told my cohorts that they were stupid to vote Conservative, that they would be voting against their own interests, that the pensions and healthcare they rely on were regarded as a burden, as “entitlements” by the Conservative mind. So you made your beds you stupid old farts, enjoy sleeping in it.

    • The Mad Hatter says:

      Do you propose raising taxes to support the old age security system?

      May you live in interesting times.

      • Ted H says:

        Yes I do, taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. We accept price increases for all of the goods and services we purchase, we see it as part of doing business. Taxes are the price we pay for the services the government provides, of course they should be expected to increase at times. In the US context, the government takes in less revenue (adjusting for inflation) than it did in the 1950′s. There is a revenue problem, not a spending problem.

    • Gord Tulk says:

      The new age limit wont affect anyone under the age of fifty (I think that’s the proposed line).

      Had we actuarily escalated the age of 65 when FDR brought in social security in the fifties the pensionable age would be north of eighty now. 67 is just the first step towards creatIng a sustainable public pension plan.

  26. GPAlta says:

    Here is an interesting pair of charts, apologies if someone else has already posted this and I missed it,
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/03/21/graphic-50-years-of-canadian-debt/ .
    There are no easy conclusions from them, but in general the conservative years seem to show worse management than the liberal years, although the opposite interpretation is possible too. There are many factors that other commenters have raised that can not be shown in a simple bar graph that you’ll need to look into. I think that the influence of interest rates on the growth of the total debt is an important factor to consider.

    I think the more telling thing to look into, Warren, is what Harper and Mr.F-minus have said to Canadians about the economy in election campaigns. I don’t have time to seek out quotes, but my memory (possibly flawed), is that Flaherty failed to predict the global economic collapse until it was upon us, (even though Krugman and many others, including a Macleans cover story if I’m not mistaken, did warn of it for several years) and that he outright lied about his slip into deficit and Canada’s developing recession until after the 2008 election. I think we all remember the lies in the last election campaign about how deficit reduction would occur, now that we see that they had neither hope nor intent to fulfill any of their promises on deficit reduction.

    The disaster for government revenue that they created by cutting the GST when they did seems to show a near total lack of engagement with the real world of deficit and debt and a strictly political and dogmatic decision making process.

    In general, conservatives claim that they want to run government like a business, but no business can run without revenue, and they don’t seem to understand that.

    • dave says:

      Sometimes I think that whichever group of job seekers is in power, the fiscal crap gets out of control in almost direct proportion to the secrecy of that government. we have in power now a clutch of paranoid secret keepers who, each month of their majority, are adding ways of keeping info away from the general public. (“Oh no!” they squeal, “we passed an accountibility act that…blah blah,…”) the money screw ups come to light later on. If we could figure out a way to keep it as open as possible ‘while’ the analysis, discussion and decisions are happening, I think that we would be in better shape, no matter who is in power. The way our elections work, and the way our legislatures and parliament work, we see less and less transparency, and the increasing secrecy is increased with impunity.

  27. Lew says:

    It was pretty easy for the Liberals to present a ‘surplus’ situation when they were busy stealing $57 billion dollars from the EI system while they were in power.

    Break the deficit on the backs of the unemployed and steal insurance premiums from working Canadians and their business owners. And the Liberals take credit for this?

    http://www.canada.com/need+refund+surplus+court/1061964/story.html

  28. Attack! says:

    Check out Stephen Maher’s column; here’s the, er, money shot:

    “In September 2007, ..Canada had a surplus of $13.8 billion.. [and] federal debt down to $467 billion.

    Harper cut the GST by two points, reduced corporate taxes, bailed out the auto makers, invested billions in the military and infrastructure, taking exquisite care to get credit for every dollar as it went out the door.

    As a result, this year, the deficit will be about $30 billion and the debt is up to $570 billion.”

    And a big part of that (extra 100 BILLION dollars in extra debt in just 5 years – a fifth of what the entire country had accumulated over the past, er, 140 years?)?

    To cover their ass for relaxing the mortgage rules so much that our banks were at risk of failing, too, even though they lie that there was no bailout here:

    “In 2006, on the other hand, Flaherty eased mortgage rules, allowing CMHC to back risky, zero-down-payment, 40-year mortgages. When the crunch came, the government helped out lenders by buying $69.35 billion worth of insured mortgages with our tax dollars.”

    http://www.canada.com/business/Maher+Tories+have+Canadians+hole/6064224/story.html

  29. Gord Tulk says:

    The boomers have accumulated a massive unfunded entitlement that someone else is going to have to pay. Trudeau expanded programs and thus expanded spending. Your logic fails re the boomers because pet did not just maintain program spending per cap.

  30. smelter rat says:

    Bingo!

  31. Cam says:

    Hey Gord, how many of the Trudeau entitlements have you indulged in?

  32. Michael Bussiere says:

    Thank you Ratboy for yet another well-researched, salient, and insightful contribution to the discussion. Thanks to you, I no longer have to read the New York Times.

  33. smelter rat says:

    No problem. It must have been hard for you to read all those big words anyway.

  34. Marc L says:

    No, you are wrong. The $ amount is what is irrelevant. If you are going to compare across countries or over time, no need to compare relative to the size of the economy. Otherwise, you are comparing apples and oranges. Do you really think a billion dollars is the same for Canada as for the US? Or that a billion is the same in 2011 and 1950. So, no, it’s not “bull”

  35. Marc L says:

    typo above, in second sentence should read should read “you need to compare” not “no need to compare”

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