01.26.2015 08:27 AM

In today’s Hill Times: where’s the plan?

What a difference a few weeks make.

Not so long ago, the federal government was counting on a structural surplus — and lots of largess to dispense at around the time of the final budget before the general election.

Not so long ago, the price of oil per barrel was going up. Not so long ago, the dollar was worth pretty close to a dollar (U.S.). Not so long ago, employment numbers seemed to be heading in the right direction. Not so long ago, the war against ISIS — which is a right and proper effort — was to be confined to air strikes, and a narrowly circumscribed mandate.

Now, of course, oil is on a dramatic downward slide, and so too is the Canadian dollar. Joblessness seems destined to get worse — with Target Canada alone dumping nearly 18,000 people on the sidewalk, how could it be otherwise? And the war against the genocidal forces that is ISIS — well, a few days ago it involved direct, face-to-face combat between Canadian troops and ISIS forces.

The Spring that the Harper government had been expecting is not the Spring Canada will be getting. Things look decidedly grim and are arguably getting grimmer.

It’s not entirely fair to do what some partisans (like NDP Leader Tom Mulcair) are now doing: that is, demanding to know why Harper didn’t foresee every one of these things happening. Nobody, including Mulcair, foresaw our circumstances getting this bad, this quickly.

But it is fair to do what other partisans like Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are now doing — that is, asking: “Where is the plan?” While Harper may not have known what was coming in early 2015, what does he plan to do now that it is indisputably here?

As Trudeau has said, abandon some of the government’s announced — and reckless — tax stunts, for starters, and end the tribal wars with select provincial governments, for another. Develop an economic strategy, and dispense with the short-term economic tactics. And, when it comes to ISIS, return to Parliament to seek input (and, if required, approval) for a military endeavour that now looks quite different from what it looked like at the start.

If Harper declines to do most or all of these things, then Trudeau should fill the void. He can, and should, provide some policy about how he would do things differently. Along with it providing an alternative to the government — which is Trudeau’s job, after all — it would address the chief criticism of Trudeau himself. Namely, that he lacks any serious ideas.

Will any of these things come to pass? Who knows.

But one thing is for sure: the 2015 that our political leaders had been counting on?

It’s not the 2015 we’ve got.


  1. Fair comments; but, frankly, it shines no good light on Justin “the-budget-will-balance-itself” Trudeau to prance about stating more childish invectives (such as that the government, which has successfully managed the economy for more years than Trudeau has barely managed any career at all, is “lurching about” and “making it up as they go along”) rather than showing that he and his party have solid policies. Instead, he says he’ll wait for the election be called (given us less than 2 months to assess whatever policies he finally trots out). Why? Likely because he hasn’t got a plan yet either. Or, rather, he likely has less of one. It is not likely that the economist-led Conservatives don’t have some plan or plans in mind already (regardless of whether we would agree with or like them). Trudeau also can stay silent on substance, because he doesn’t have to do otherwise. It is easy (and he does seem to like “easy”) to be the blustery critic when you’ve effectively got no say and no responsibility. His behaviour in this regard is simply, utterly unrespectable. At least Mulcair takes the leap and makes clear policy statements by which his worth and potential as prime minister can begin to be measured. Trudeau, on the other hand, poses carefully coiffed and in finely tailored suits, trying to tell us that he gets the common man’s cause and that he is the one to be trusted to take on the helm of a government and economy in trouble. Not likely, Mr. T. Not likely at all.

    • Yikes. Two typos in quick succession.

      “…he says he’ll wait for the election be called (given us less …”

      should read,

      “…he says he’ll wait for the election to be called (giving us less …”

    • Brian says:

      Well done, you’ve hit almost every Conservative talking point in the space of a single paragraph. Next you’ll explain to us that the Conservatives responsibly postponed the budget to April due to the fluctuation of a single commodity price, because we all know commodity prices won’t fluctuate after April.

      • Actually, Brian, I am not Conservative. I am, however, anti-Trudeau. If my talking points are in agreement with any Conservative ones, it’s simply because they and I agree about Mr. Trudeau. In fact, however, other than acknowledging the Cons likely have some sort of plan either on the go or emerging, I have said nothing about them, and I am certainly not making the least effort to quote them.

        Really, progressives, and Liberals in particular, do themselves and Trudeau a vast disservice by trying to discount every nay-sayer about their leader or his (often ill- or un-defined) policies as merely a Conservative partisan (the number of times I get accused of being a Conservative troll, even when clearly extolling Mulcair, is astounding). All it shows is an inability to countenance criticism seriously, which is an anti-democratic, anti-pluralist, and ultimately anti-progressive way to be.

    • chris douglas says:

      It is up to Harper to make his move. Release his budget and call an election until then you can shoot your mouth on zero grounds all you want. Mulcair is the leader of the opposition and has a duty to fulfill that responsibility while Justins responsibilities are one notch behind Mulcairs. Justin puts his views out and concerns and statements on the directions he would take. Harper and much harpercon media keep using the poke the bear tool trying to stir but again Harpers in charge and it’s his responsibility to set an election date and put forth his own platform and he’s only put forth bullshit and you know it. Show me a budget then I’ll talk other wise your just a drift

    • doconnor says:

      “It is not likely that the economist-led Conservatives don’t have some plan or plans in mind already”

      In the late 2008, Harper nearly drove his government into the ground over his bold and aggressive lack-of-a-plan in the face of one of the world’s worst economic crisis.

      This only plan he ever had, to promote the oil sands at the cost of manufacturing, is the primary cause of the current problems.

      • Al in Cranbrook says:

        That’s nonsense.

        From Solberg’s column, link posted below…

        Quote: “According to Statistics Canada, manufacturing makes up around 11% of Canada’s economy. Mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction combined make up about 8.5% of the economy. The biggest chunk of the economy is real estate, rental and leasing, weighing in at an impressive 13% of GDP.”

        Particularly when one factors in the tens of billions oil and gas contributes to the Canadian economy in taxes, royalties, employment, investment returns to savings and pension accounts, etc., etc., etc.

        Not to mention that the manufacturing industries in both Quebec and Ontario do billions worth of business in supplying the oil and gas industries.

        Canada enjoys one the highest standards of living on the entire planet, and oil and gas contribute mightily to this reality.

        Not the least means of which is AFFORDABLE energy for heating homes, transportation, agriculture production, lower manufacturing costs, etc., etc., all of which lends itself to making Joe Lunchbucket’s pay cheque go that much further every month towards feeding, clothing and housing his family.

        It’s called “economics”, something which remains a mystery to socialists everywhere to this day.

        • doconnor says:

          So both manufacturing and mining/oil are both significant contributors to the economy. The question is which one should the government be aggressively promoting one while actively undermining the other?

          “Not the least means of which is AFFORDABLE energy for heating homes, transportation, agriculture production, lower manufacturing costs, etc., etc.”

          Unlike most oil exporting counties, Canadians pay the world prices for oil, so that fact that we produce it doesn’t lower the cost of heating or transportation.

          Manufacturing benefits from lower electricity costs in provinces that don’t use much fossil fuels in generation because they don’t pay the world price for electricity.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            This government promotes both resource development and manufacturing. One means is by leaving income in their hands for expansion and R&D, as opposed to taxing it away.

            One of the greatest impediments to Ontario’s manufacturing industry has been the skyrocketing price of electricity, now the most expensive in N. America, and no end in sight. Sorry, D, but can’t blame the federal government for the idiocy that led to this.

            Yes, we pay world prices for oil and gas, as it should be. I’ll take markets over meddling socialist ideologues and their corrupt bureaucracies every time!

          • doconnor says:

            The government allowed the dollar to run up 20% higher then it should have been because of the oil bubble which causes our manufacturing exports to be 20% more expensive. That is a far more significant effect then variations in electricity prices or tax rates.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            Allowed??? How did they do that?

            In fact, the Canadian dollar reflected the weakness of the US economy as much as anything else, and had pulled back in spite of the price of oil for the same reason.

            All that said, arguing for a weak dollar in order to prop up Canadian industry is, if we are all honest, pretty lame.

          • Doconnor says:

            The Bank of Canada can do quite a lot about the dollar, if directed to start acting in the interest of Canadians, instead of obsesing about inflation to protect the savings of the 1%. Even just the Prime Minister saying he is concerned about the dollar would be enough to influence the market.

            I’m not calling for a weak dollar. Just purchase price parody.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            I’m pretty sure you mean, “parity”. 😉

            Pay close attention to what’s happening in Greece right now. I think we’re about to see a vivid demonstration of what happens when socialism runs out of other peoples’ money to spend.

          • Doconnor says:

            We will see the leanders take the 50% haircut, otherwise Greece will leave the Euro, they will take a 70% haircut, Greece will boast thier economy but making imports more expensive and thier exports cheaper and other countries will start following thier example.

  2. Tired of it All says:

    Does this play into the whole “it’s not a time for change…” (said with ominous, gravelly voice) canard?

    • Michael says:

      Regardless of what is happening the CPC will take the “it’s not time for a change” narrative. Good economy, we don’t want to change the guy who is responsible. Bad economy, we need the steady hand of experience. So so economy, we need a steady hand on the tiller in these uncertain times.

  3. Tim says:

    Actually, Mulcair did warn us this would happen. He said we were suffering from Dutch-Disease economically and that we needed to diversify away from oil and gas. Everyone said he was crazy and trying to tear the country apart, oil could never go down in price they said. Well, we all saw this coming and it is extremely disingenuous to say otherwise. The goose needed a break from laying its golden eggs.

  4. Kre8tv says:

    The future is never what we think it’s going to be: one of the big reasons why I ignore most political forecasts and its accompanying conventional wisdom. Even though these events have thrown a spanner into PMO’s plans, it’s not necessary a bad thing for them. People look for competency and confidence in uncertain times. While we can debate whether it’s deserved, those themes auger well for the Cons.

      • JH says:

        Sometime WK I’d like to know more about those folks who make up Trudeau’s inner circle and are calling the shots, developing strategies etc. You’ve referred to them and the guy who calls himself the Liberal Party’s CEO on occasion, but never told us much about them. And of course we peons are mushroomed (kept in the dark and covered in shite) more often than not. Some enlightenment please?

  5. Lance says:

    I guess it’s just like a battle-plan, which often becomes obsolete the second the fighting starts.

    But you’re right; what is happening might not have been much forrseen, but the operative question becomes what is to be done about it? With a budget coming up, in an election year, if Trudeau is going to set himself apart, there is no better time then now. If he doesn’t do it now when it’s his best chance, then he never will. If Harper cannot, then he’ll be swept aside. Its do or die for both.

  6. Brachina says:

    He also pointed out that resource secter is cyclical, that a bust who come after the boom was in fact predicted.

    And Mulcair also predicted mission creep.

    And lets come on here it was entirely predictable both the mission creep in general and the fact that if you put Canadian Soldiers on the front lines training the people who are trying to kill the soldiers of IS,that IS would fire upon them, and that the Canadian soldiers would fire back, this wasn’t an accident or a surprise, this was preplanned.

    And if Mulcair could foreSee this there is no excuse for Justin and Steven not to.


  7. smelter rat says:

    Harper has been a one trick pony, shilling for Big oil since he first entered politics. He’s an empty suit. There was never a plan B.

  8. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Nothing quite like being on the skids headed down the perennially slippery slope.

    Destination: quagmire.

  9. Ryan M says:

    Boy…if only there were a way to create an entirely new revenue stream to help alleviate the budget pressure….maybe something that could help drive tourism given the dollar is low…something two thirds of Canadians could get behind….

  10. Brachina says:

    Harper doesn’t have a plan B and Trudeau doesn’t even have a plan A, thank the gods for Mulcair.

  11. Joe says:

    Three leaders set off on a hike one day. Each knew the path they were to walk was fraught with peril. Leader One said, “The path is dangerous but we must press on the most dangerous thing we can do is stop”. Leader Two said, “The path is too dangerous to continue, we must stop”. Leader Three said, “Things will just work out in the end”. Which leader had the best vision for the hike?

    • Scotian says:

      Doesn’t it also depend on whether the hike is for say recreation versus to achieve a specific goal, and if the latter, the importance and/or urgebcy of that goal? I would say you did not tightly enough establish parameters for this question of yours to have any meaningful answer

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