It is rather ironic that Travers could suggest that the Tories can be attacked on their runaway spending. The Tories are supposed to be the thrifty Scrooges of govt. spending and the Liberals are supposed to be the big government big time spenders! Of course Travers is right in that conservatives such as Bush and Harper turned their ideology upside down in order to rescue the system against the burst bubble caused by greed and unregulated capitalism. Harper has brought a huge debt one that he always manages to under-predict.
Ignatieff's problem is that he has not outlined or sold a clear idea about what he would do in the future. The Harper expenditures were arguably necessary to salvage the system from disaster but the problem will be how to ease out of the stimulus without the recovery turning into another dip and how to pay for the increased debt. As Travers point out Harper is in effect increasing EI payrol taxes while lambasting Ignatieff for being silly enough to tell the truth: probably increased taxes will be required to help payoff the debt. This is from the Star.
Travers: Michael Ignatieff must target Tory deficit
October 10, 2009
Conservatives want the coming election to be about Michael Ignatieff; Liberals want it to be a referendum on Stephen Harper. What both want is a forced day's march from what Canadians need.
It's been as dramatic to watch the Liberal boss learn what he doesn't know about politics as it was entertaining to watch the Prime Minister play the piano. But neither tells enough about how either would cope with the testing future now racing here at high speed.
Ignatieff's internal troubles and Harper's latest congeniality riff only hide the Ottawa rebirth of the Big Lie. Last fall Conservatives got away with saying there would be no recession or deficit because other parties feared voters couldn't take the truth. This fall, Harper is successfully selling the fantasy of a painless recovery because his main rival is still bruised from musing that raising taxes is a viable way to again balance the federal budget.
Two facts measure the depth of the current foolishness. One is that while noisily pointing fingers at Liberals, Conservatives are quietly moving to bolster federal revenues by hiking the EI payroll tax. The other is that, barring an economic miracle, the Canada that eventually climbs back into sunlight won't be the same one that slid into recession's dark hole.
Forming the lie's core is the illusion that a global economy just starting to grow will become so big and strong it will bravely slay giant deficits. But that ignores, among many other things, that the first "green shoots" are fertilized by full shovels of government stimulus and will be difficult to sustain.
What's entirely possible, and particularly worrying for this trading nation, is that the world economy is facing many dry seasons of weak investment, productivity and employment. Along with wrenching changes looming for the industrial heartland of Ontario and Quebec, the provinces that coincidentally decide federal elections, that new economic order comes with tough policy and political decisions.
Sometime between now and their next visit to polling stations, voters must choose who among federal leaders will make those decisions in the best interests of most Canadians. It's that context, not the current hyper-personal search for partisan advantage, that makes the comparison between Ignatieff and Harper so important. It also helps explain Harper's public opinion surge as well as the rising appetite for majority government.
Canadians are as hungry for stability as the rest of the world. Whatever his faults, whatever his government's failures in turning a $13 billion surplus into this year's $55 billion deficit, Harper offers the comfort of familiarity. Ignatieff, the patrician, home-from-away public intellectual, is as foreign as his extraordinary international success.
Beyond proving he can master the training job of Opposition leader, Ignatieff must now convince the country that a Prime Minister who now seems the lesser evil is the greater threat. He needs to shift the focus from himself and on to the Conservative record of runaway spending and an historic deficit. Most of all, he must remind voters that below the surface of this government's pragmatic, wind-blown policy shifts lurks a party waiting to apply its pre-packaged solutions to its preconceptions of reality.
Offering alternatives is no easy task for a stranger trying to make a better second impression. To get a chance to prove that he, like Harper before him, can grow into the top job, Ignatieff needs Canadians to conclude the next election is about them and that the referendum is on the country's future.
James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.