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

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Saanich parks staff will be applying a herbicide called Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park between Jan. 18 to 29 to control the invasive species English holly and hawthorn. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

Treatment applied to English holly, hawthorn stumps, in Sayward Hill Park

Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $10.25 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
Located at 9750 West Saanich Rd., this North Saanich mansion is on the market for $8.65 million. (Realtor.ca photo)
The five most expensive homes for sale in Greater Victoria

A roundup of luxury estates currently on the market

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely first in B.C. for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Most Read