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The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - John Capobianco, Marit Stiles and Bernie Farber - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.

The economies of Ontario and much of the rest of Canada are in the doldrums, with predictions we could face this for another decade.  Farber, Capobianco and Stiles weigh in on what the government could be doing, and how all this will effect the upcoming federal election.


Bernie Farber:

It’s the economy, stupid! Yes, despite the Duffy trial, Senate scandals, and a Prime Minister who demands that Muslim women dress according to his wishes. These are all interesting  and tawdry, but in the end it will all come down to how many dollars and cents the average Canadian will have in his or her pocket.

With Canada experiencing one of the worst rates of economic growth in more than 80 years, the Harper government will be put to the test. The sad news for the PM, and truly all parties, is that there is little Canada can do to stem this decline. We are neighbours to the most powerful economic giant on earth, so when they hiccup we are the ones that feel the reverberations.

In the end, the voters will not base their votes necessarily on the mess this government is in from scandals to bigotry. It will see less spending power and a government that doesn’t have a plan to do much about it.


John Capobianco:

Well, I do agree with Bernie in that the economy is always ranked as the most important election issue with voters, whether it is a provincial or federal election. This election in October will be no different.

Where I disagree with Bernie is his desire to blame the PM for all things. In fact, given the severe economic challenges of the last few years globally, it was Canada that led the G7 countries out of the great recession. It was the solid economic policies by the late Jim Flaherty and this government.

Ontario's economy is sluggish, but one needs to look no further than the last 10 years of Liberal governments in Ontario to see where the problem has been. The McGuinty terms of office, and now Premier Wynne's terms, have yet to get this province out of economic trouble. Where we were the economic engine of this country, we are now a have-not province — all under the Liberal watch.

Unfortunately, I don't see anything coming from the provincial Liberals and, more importantly, I don't see — nor have Canadians — anything coming from their federal cousins and Mr. Trudeau.

Marit Stiles:

There's no question that the economy will be a major concern for Canadians heading into the federal election. We have the oil industry in a slump, and it's no coincidence that in the last six months we've seen the Prime Minister appearing in Ontario, heralding the importance of the manufacturing industry.

Suddenly, he can't get enough of Ontario ... the opportunities! A low dollar, and all eyes shift to a province and region that was once the manufacturing engine of the country.

Sadly, it's not necessarily the case that, despite those plentiful photo ops featuring both Premier Wynne and PM Harper, the sector can be built back up. This isn't the short road to salvation that the Conservatives need heading into the next election.

As the Bank of Canada governor himself noted: "capacity in these subsectors has simply disappeared."

That's laid out quite nicely in this recent article that talks about the makings of the current economic situation:

The problem the Prime Minister has, shared by the Ontario Liberal government, is that the current situation is years in the making. Years of Liberal and Conservative mismanaging our resource and manufacturing sectors, years of robbing from Peter to pay Paul. Years of spectacular lack of strategy — short term economic gains in one sector at the expense of another, one region pitted against another. A sad state of affairs and that's where so many Canadians find themselves as we set our sights on the possibility of changing that direction, and electing a new government.


Bernie Farber:

Actually John, I don’t at all blame the PM for the economic mess we are in. I do blame his government for having no clear vision to get us out of a mess that stagnated under his watch, as did the world economy in general. And yes, Marit and John, blaming the provinces, especially Ontario, that in fact did see limited growth, is the easy way out.

And frankly Jim Flaherty, whom I knew and respected, was not so respected by his boss. So much so that there were visible tensions and disagreements on many fiscal policies while he was the Finance Minister; need I say “income splitting?”

As for the federal Liberals, I do agree that there has to be more meat on the bone but I feel that is coming. In speeches and policy statements given over the last few months Justin Trudeau has in fact outlined his vision to get economically back on track.

Trudeau advocates keeping taxes to a minimum, spend the surplus the Tories are talking about to target specific industries to create more jobs, and strong support for resource development.

With an election just around the corner, watch for Trudeau, Mulcair and Harper to all put meat on the bone. For Harper though, he must also win back the confidence of the electorate, which may be a very tall order indeed.


John Capobianco:

Marit, the challenge the NDP has is that Canadians do not have confidence that your party has any idea on how to deal with the economy. Quite frankly, I am not sure that the Ontario NDP leader helped during the last Ontario election campaign, and she likely exasperated many voters further.

Mr. Mulcair has yet to really spell out what he and his party want to do with the economy other than vote against every economic measure this government has proposed — which helped get Canada and Canadians through the great recession.

I get that — he is far better at fighting this PM and the Conservatives on international issues which speak to his base in Quebec and makes him look like a statesman — and it also seems to be working as his numbers continue to climb whilst Mr. Trudeau's decline.

As for Mr. Trudeau, sorry Bernie, there is NO excuse for your leader not to have an economic plan or even some suggestions since he has been leader for well over a year and we are just months from an election.

It’s not good enough just to criticize and not have ideas or a plan. Canadians deserve to know, especially as our economy remains fragile.

This election will be about safety/dealing with internal and external national security issues and the economy — and in both cases the only leader who has a track record and a plan for the future is PM Stephen Harper.


Marit Stiles:

Well since we're listing our commitments to the economy, I refer you to Mr. Mulcair's plan to trigger manufacturing investment by extending for an additional two years the accelerated capital cost allowance, scheduled to expire later this year.

Mr. Mulcair will also boost innovation, research, and development by introducing a new Innovation Tax Credit to encourage manufacturers and businesses in other industries to invest in machinery, equipment and property to further innovation and increase productivity.

Mr. Mulcair is the only leader who has effectively challenged the direction that this government has taken and their absolute and utter mismanagement of the resource and manufacturing sectors.

He had the guts to call it what it was: Dutch Disease. And the response he got back from the Conservative government was to heckle and snicker and accuse him of calling the industry "diseased".

As we get closer to election time, Canadians will be turning their attention, increasingly, to the big questions and concerns that they face. They'll be looking for strong leadership, and a leader with the guts to make the tough calls and the smarts to make the good calls. I wouldn't count Mr. Mulcair out just yet. 

About The Salon

John Capobianco is a former CPC candidate and long-time party activist in both the federal and Ontario Conservative parties; Marit Stiles is a federal and Ontario NDP strategist; Bernie Farber is a former Ontario Liberal candidate and one of Canada's leading human rights experts.
Posted date : April 15, 2015

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