Monday, April 28, 2008

Conservatives "tightening the screws on the federal government"

This is from straightgoods. Flanagan is one of Harper's key advisors on strategy and part of the "Calgary School". Part of the strategy is to make Harper look to be a moderate while skilfully introducing right wing policies by degrees. As this article shows Harper has made it difficult if not impossible to introduce new federal programs. Of course NAFTA also makes many new programs impossible if the involve nationalisation since investors would have to be compensated for lost profits. This makes new public auto insurance programs virtually impossible.

Harper's "nation of shopping centres"

Conservatives have re-engineered the budget to prevent any future government from introducing new national programs.

Dateline: Monday, April 21, 2008

by Frances Russell for the Winnipeg Free Press

Tom Flanagan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's longtime confidant and former chief of staff, is delighted at the Conservatives' success in "tightening the screws on the federal government" to dramatically reduce its significance in the daily lives of Canadians.

The Conservatives' three budgets have left Ottawa financially incapable of offering any new national social program like affordable housing, higher education or day care. Although overall spending went up, mostly on the military, measures were taken to deplete revenues to the point future governments' hands will be tied unless they raise taxes or run deficits, both prescriptions for political suicide.

By 2010, federal revenues as a share of GDP will fall to their lowest level since John Diefenbaker left office in 1963. Three years before national medicare, revenues were 14.9 per cent of GDP. They rose to a peak of 19.5 per cent in 1974-75 but are projected to drop to just 15.3 per cent in 2009-10.

In fact, the federal Finance Department's fiscal monitor, released at the end of March, shows that revenue growth came to a sudden halt in January, shrinking that month's surplus to a mere $600 million as the GST and personal income tax reductions started eating into Ottawa's tax take

"They've gradually re-engineered the system. I'm quite impressed with it," Flanagan told The Canadian Press in an interview last month. "They're boxing in the ability of the federal government to come up with new program ideas... The federal government is now more constrained, the provinces have more revenue and conservatives should be happy."

Harper "really didn't have the option of the cataclysmic approach because you can't do that without a majority," Flanagan continued. "So he's made the incremental approach work — all the time having the insecurity of a minority government. It's really quite a performance, I think... Over a period of a few years they've got all this in place and they never appeared to be making a radical shift. But the cumulative impact of all these together is creating a new profile."

Not only have the Conservatives boxed in the federal spending power in general, he said, but "they're also boxing in the Liberals from being able to campaign on expensive promises."

Flanagan is impressed that Harper managed to execute his stealthy revolution in Canadian public policy with barely a whimper from the public. But that, too, was the strategy according to the University of Calgary professor and Reform party founder....

For the whole story, please go to the related site below.

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg-based freelance journalist and author. She is a regular contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press and is the author of two books, Mistehay Sakahegan — The Great Lake, a historical "biography" of Lake Winnipeg which won her the 2000 Manitoba Historical Society's Margaret McWilliams Award for popular history, and The Canadian Crucible — Manitoba’s Role in Canada's Great Divide, an examination of how French-English relations in the "Keystone" province affected the course of Canadian history. It received the 2003 Manitoba Historical Society's Margaret McWilliams Award for popular history.

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