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Will The Volatile Economy Help Or Hurt The Harper Campaign? The stock markets are plunging wildly, the Canadian dollar dropped below 75 cents U.S. for the first time since 2004 this week and the oil glut continues to batter Canada's economy. On the election trail, Stephen Harper wants voters to ignore the Mike Duffy bribery trial and focus on the economy instead. But are the wild market rides working for or against the Conservatives?  Richard Mahoney, John Capobianco and Marit Stiles delve in.


Richard Mahoney:

The backdrop of another international financial crisis and the attendant impact on the Canadian economy provides a welcome respite from the tawdry picture of Stephen Harper that has emerged from the trial of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy — another example in a long series of broken rules, broken laws and broken faith with Canadians that adds to the malaise in which this country now finds itself. All of this is happening while the economy is mired in recession (according to practically all experts, save our Prime Minister) — and is the only G7 country in recession.

And you know that China’s problems will further impact us, as our second largest trading partner, as well as likely causing slower growth in our largest trading partner, the U.S.

We are in a tough spot. Mr. Harper quickly seized on this, and tried to create political advantage, by … placing a phone call to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, and then telling us all he did so. That is the sum total of his program for growth.

You would think a political leader would then propose an economic program geared towards growth and take some dramatic action.  Rather, he has lost the advantage that an incumbent normally would have at this point by bringing us into recession and by failing to bring economic opportunity to most Canadians.

We need a program that will stimulate the economy and drive growth, as Justin Trudeau and Paul Martin proposed this week. Unless Stephen Harper responds with a growth agenda, it is hard to imagine this crisis helping him, much as I am sure he prefers talking about this to answering questions on the systematic misleading of Canadians that has been exposed at the Duffy trial.


John Capobianco:

We are in an election after all, and it is the job of the opposition parties to make every issue a potentially campaign-ending, never-to-recover type of crisis. The Duffy Senate trial is what it is —it is something the PM and the campaign would rather not have to deal with, but as the PM has been saying in the campaign, the person responsible is being dealt with in a court of law.

The media and opposition will try to play on this as much as possible, but Canadians are worried, rightly so, about the economy.  It is suffering and has been suffering for sometime due to various international instabilities, notwithstanding the Greece/Euro crisis and what we are seeing as a slumping Asia/China economy.

Funny how the Liberals and the NDP are quick to blame the P.M. for this, but when the deep recession hit and we were the only G7 country to come out of it relatively unscathed, then it was international forces that were the reasons.

Bottom-line here is that the P.M. has always maintained we are in a tentative economic climate, and risking getting into worse shape by bringing in someone with no experience and no concept of the economic challenges we face would be a significant mistake.


Marit Stiles:

Well, I have little doubt that Stephen Harper and the Conservative campaign FAR prefer us to be talking about the recession than the Duffy trial. They are hoping that the soft-conservative vote will hold its nose and vote for Harper, frightened by economic uncertainty. The Conservative mantra has been, from day one, that it's better “the devil you know.” Well, perhaps that’s not exactly what they've been saying but you get the gist.

I have two thoughts on this I’d like to share. First, the Duffy trial is going to sleep for the next few weeks anyway, and the question is whether any of the stench of that situation will stick to this Government. I happen to think it will. I think it has left those same soft-conservative voters (the ones that the Conservatives need to form a majority government) with a deep distrust of this government.

Harper was elected promising to clean up the mess of scandals left by the Liberals. Instead, we have the Prime Minister's most senior advisors plotting a cover up. A whiff of something nasty there. And I think it will linger throughout the campaign ... economic fears or not.

Second, despite Harper's protestations, the Conservative government's reputation as sound managers of the economy is turning out to be a complete mirage. Harper has the worst job creation record since the Second World War and the worst economic growth record since the Great Depression.

The NDP and Tom Mulcair are sharply focused on how we dig our way out of this mess. We need a plan to kick-start the manufacturing and small business sector to create jobs … and Canadians are clearly paying attention.


Richard Mahoney:

An interesting debate or campaign fault line on economic policy has emerged. Mr. Harper attacks Justin Trudeau as too willing to spend government resources on programs. Harper has promised to put his focus on where he has failed to thus far: balancing the budget. Where Trudeau has put his focus is on policies designed to promote growth, help the middle class and those working to join it, and stimulate the economy by taxing middle income Canadians less, and wealthier Canadians a little bit more.

By investing massively in infrastructure and education. By a new child benefit that will help Canadian families and take over 300,000 children out of poverty.

He also acknowledges that which Mr. Harper refuses to do: that we are still in deficit. But the purpose of bringing in a budget is to help Canadians. The balanced budgets that Paul Martin lead Canadians to achieve was done for a wider purpose — to get us to a sustainable point so we could prosper as a country.

Martin and Trudeau also have another strength — an incredibly strong team of candidates, many with impressive economic leadership credentials. I think this is the best crop of candidates the Liberals have recruited since either Lester Pearson’s new team in the sixties or Jean Chretien’s team of Paul Martin and many others in the nineties. You need good people to meet a challenge like this.

Now, just as we need investment to grow our economy, we have two politicians, Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair, insisting that they will balance the budget next year, as unlikely as that is. And one leader — Mr. Trudeau — saying the priority is on creating growth and that the date on which Canadians will balance the budget will depend upon exactly how big of a mess Mr. Harper leaves behind. So two politicians are saying some version of the status quo. And one is saying time for a new plan.

The added advantage Mr. Trudeau has is that most economists and experts in Canada and around the globe agree with his approach — the goal now should be to invest and help grow the

economy over the medium and long term, not to surrender and focus on the short-term goal of just balancing the budget:

Trudeau Breaks From Pack on Promptly Balancing Canada Budget - Bloomberg Business


John Capobianco:

Richard, your party's constant protestations that the P.M. has irresponsibly run consistent deficits are disingenuous. It also speaks to the reason your party leader is not equipped to lead this country, especially during economic hard times.

If you recall, the massive infrastructure spend that the late Jim Flaherty initiated during that period of time is what has been largely credited for helping us through that dark period of time. And it was your party and your leader who wanted more deficits and more spending.  At least Jim Flaherty and the Conservatives had a plan that got us back to a balanced budget, which is where we are today. That is sound fiscal management and that is what Canadians expect from their government.

No question, the economy remains tentative and will for some time, but this is precisely the time Canadians need to have a steady, experienced leader and team, who have the respect of international economic leaders, with the ability to plan and initiate sound policies to bring us through these challenges. Stephen Harper is just that person.


Marit Stiles:

Well, I don't disagree with John that what we need is an experienced leader AND team. I’ve been enjoying watching Liberal pundits, and Trudeau himself, pivot to the “We have a great team of people” line… It’s a popular tactic to divert attention away from the weakest link in a campaign. And there’s little question who the weakest link is in the Liberal campaign.

The problem is that the question at the ballot box for most Canadians is going to be “does Stephen Harper get another four years?” 

We know that a majority of Canadians would like to see his political career end right here and now, and they are going to be looking for a strong leader, with economic smarts of his own, to make the big decisions. The NDP has this in Tom Mulcair, and his leadership style is resonating with Canadians who are looking for change ... yes, real change.

I thought Stephen Lewis' introduction of Tom Mulcair yesterday (at another packed campaign event) really spoke to what Canadians are looking for when he said: "The yearning for change is in the air. And the NDP is the embodiment of that change." We need more than same-old-same-old to haul us out of the mess left by the Conservatives and Stephen Harper, and by years of Liberal mismanagement and scandal.

Speaking of scandal, and going back to my earlier point, the stench attaching itself to the Conservative Government will get worse, and stick ... It defies logic that senior staff would have “not seen the emails." If that's the calibre of staff Mr. Harper hires and maintains, we need a new P.M. Period.





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