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Ralph Goodale, MP

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Dear friends,

Thank you for visiting my website. I hope this offers you useful information on the work I am doing as Wascana’s Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the House of Commons.

If you have any questions or comments about any federal program or service, or need help dealing with any department or agency of the Government of Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact my Constituency Office. It is an honour to serve our community.

Ralph

Bank of Canada contradicts Harper Government

Posted on January 26, 2015

Silhouette of oil field with sunsetStephen Harper’s vaunted “management” of the Canadian economy is bedevilled by serious contradictions and mediocre results.

Mr. Harper once spoke enthusiastically, at home and abroad, about the central importance of Canada’s energy sector. We are a global superpower in oil and gas, he said. And he looked to that one sector to be the prime driver of national economic well-being. That singular focus also shaped his fiscal policies, his views on the environment and his relationship with our biggest trading partner in the United States.

When oil was priced at more than $100/barrel, Mr. Harper’s unidimensional economic plan escaped scrutiny. But with market values now chopped in half, many people are asking why he put the country in such a vulnerable position. Why did he bet so much on just one commodity? And where is plan “B”?

Amazingly, Mr. Harper argues there’s no need for any other plan. Swallowing himself whole, he is now dismissing the petroleum industry (and by implication, producing provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta) as just minor players whose impact and current troubles are no big deal.

If that’s true, why did he suddenly delay the federal budget to some unspecified date beyond the end of this entire fiscal year?

Ten days ago, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said low oil price were entirely manageable and had, in fact, been fully factored into his economic projections. But just 24 hours later, Mr. Oliver announced the exact opposite. The budget suddenly had to be delayed, he said, because markets were destabilized.

But wait a minute, low oil prices were no last minute surprise. They’ve been falling since last summer. Prominent industry leaders last autumn were predicting a tumble to as low as $30/barrel. The flip-flop from sanguine to panicky made the Finance Minister look inadequate and confused.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada wasn’t confused. He reported last week on the consequences of a weakened energy sector – declining growth rates, thousands of lost jobs, billions of dollars in cancelled investment and a ballooning Canadian trade deficit. He said current oil prices are “unambiguously negative” for Canada.

As a consequence, the Bank of Canada chopped its prime lending rate. That action and the Governor’s strong language are signals of real concern about a stalling economy.

It’s strange indeed to see the federal government and the central bank headed in opposite and contradictory directions.

The Bank of Canada is moving to stimulate greater growth, while Mr. Harper pushes more austerity – with the net effect of reducing aggregate demand. His only discernible goal is protecting his ill-conceived Income Splitting scheme (which the late Jim Flaherty rightly depicted as too expensive and decidedly unfair). It also does nothing for growth.

The facts are inescapable facts. Income Splitting will cost $10-billion over the government’s planning cycle. Only 14% of households will benefit – 86% cannot even qualify. And of those who do, the biggest gains go to wealthier folks, like Mr. Harper himself.

Federal budget delay exposes fear, incompetence

Posted on January 19, 2015

debtSharply dropping oil prices and a weakened Canadian energy sector are revealing the limited, ineffectual nature of Stephen Harper’s economic policies. Those policies, focused almost exclusively on that one sector, are too narrow. They have rendered Canadians more vulnerable and less resilient. And his government seems out of gas.

Unable to cope with adverse economic developments, Mr. Harper is now retreating to a bunker. Instead of reaching out to Canadians to show leadership and build confidence, he has punted the federal budget, normally delivered in February or March, into April or later. That means Canada will go without a budget for more than this entire fiscal year.

With business and consumer confidence already on shaky ground, failing to produce a budget on time sends a message of further uncertainty and incompetence. Maybe the late Jim Flaherty could have pulled it off, but not the hapless Joe Oliver. One day last week Mr. Oliver was proclaiming low oil prices had already been fully factored into all his calculations, only to swallow himself whole the next day to confess they were not. Making the Finance Minister look foolish is not good government strategy.

Make no mistake, this jiggery-pokery to keep Canadians in the dark about the budget while the books are being cooked – all to salvage Mr. Harper’s Income Splitting scheme for wealthier taxpayers – is dictated straight out of the Prime Minister’s Office. It follows a pattern of economic ineptitude that has coloured Mr. Harper’s career.

In Opposition, his most noteworthy policy ideas were the elimination of the Canada Pension Plan and giving Canada a banking system like the one that failed so spectacularly in the United States.

To get elected, he solemnly pledged never to diminish Canada’s Old Age Security system and never to tax retirement savings in Income Trusts. Once in office, he did both.

At the start of his tenure in 2006, Mr. Harper inherited (from Liberals) a decade of balanced budgets, an annual surplus of $13-billion, declining debt and taxes, an economy growing at 3% or better every year, 3.5-million net new jobs, strong banks, a sound and secure CPP, and the most robust fiscal position in the western world. In barely two years, Mr. Harper squandered it.

Through reckless spending and bad management, he burned through Canada’s fiscal strength in barely two years, putting this country back into deficit again in 2008. That was BEFORE, not because of, the global recession that arrived in Canada that autumn.

Mr. Harper failed to anticipate the storm that was brewing. He denied any deficit. He denied there was a recession. He depicted it as just “a good buying opportunity”, prescribed austerity as his only policy, and predicted five more surplus budgets. He was wrong on every count.

At the beginning of 2009, he flip-flopped into a belated stimulus program that was so burdened by his craving for “political credit” that it was largely delivered only AFTER the recession was over. His legacy is $160-billion in new Harper debt – that’s an INCREASE in federal debt of nearly $20,000 for every Canadian family – and Canada still hasn’t recovered from the recession, now more than five years since it ended.

Economic growth under Mr. Harper has averaged a meagre 1.7%. No other Prime Minister has done worse since R.B. Bennett in the 1930’s. The job market remains sluggish and inconsistent. Young Canadians especially face recession-like conditions.

In the meantime, led by the F-35 fighter jet fiasco (which the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer characterized as incompetent and deceitful), the Harper regime has botched a long list of military procurements. They have neglected returning soldiers and veterans. They have undermined public safety and security. They have jeopardized environmental standards. They have failed to get Canadian resources (both grain and oil) to market. They have made a mess of Temporary Foreign Workers. The list goes on and it doesn’t inspire confidence.

With compounding trouble now in the resources sector – big job losses, collapsing investment plans, a ballooning trade deficit – this government’s “budget-in-hiding” is yet another Harper travesty. But no one should be surprised.

Mr. Harper’s economic policies fail Canada

Posted on January 15, 2015

oil wellTo satisfy his political ego, Stephen Harper is obsessed with pushing the notion of “income splitting” for wealthier taxpayers. And he’s doing the country a serious disservice.

Mr. Harper made the ill-considered commitment to implement this scheme four years ago, during the 2011 election. It was conditional on having a balanced budget.

The former Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty, tried twice to steer the government away from the idea. First, he noted there was no compelling economic necessity to obtain a balanced budget before the 2015 election. Mr. Harper quickly contradicted him and insisted on claiming a balance this year no matter what. The reasons are political, not economic.

Secondly, just after his last budget, Mr. Flaherty warned that income splitting would be expensive and unfair because the vast majority of Canadians could never qualify. He was right. Over the government’s 5-year fiscal planning horizon, Mr. Harper’s scheme will cost more than $10-billion, barely 14% of households will be eligible and among those that are, the biggest gains go to the most wealthy.

But still, since 2011, Mr. Harper has been focused on little else. To concoct the appearance of a balanced budget, and thus meet his income splitting pre-condition, a great deal has been compromised:

  • veterans have been seriously short-changed and mistreated;
  • public safety and security have been neglected;
  • major military equipment has been delayed;
  • a gaping 5-year hole has been torn in federal funding for municipal infrastructure;
  • important federal assets like community pastures and an historic tree nursery have been dumped;
  • job-killing employment insurance payroll taxes have been hiked and then frozen at levels that are $5-billion too high;
  • indeed, the net federal tax load was increased four years in a row.

Besides victimizing a large number of ordinary Canadians, all these measures have one other characteristic in common with the faulty notion of income splitting — they all do nothing for economic growth.

Growth is Canada’s most compelling economic priority — to lift the middle-class and balance the books. But Stephen Harper has the worst record on economic growth since R.B. Bennett in the Dirty Thirties.

Falling oil prices are now making Canada’s problem even worse. The Conference Board is saying Alberta may actually fall into recession. Saskatchewan is certainly on the cusp of tougher times. Oilpatch jobs, investment plans and export values are all slumping. The Bank of Canada is warning of a serious slowdown. Government revenues will decline. The risk of deficits is looming once again.

And still Mr. Harper goes whistling past the graveyard. He still doesn’t get the need for growth and the federal government’s strategic role in helping to drive it.

To start with, he should take Jim Flaherty’s advice and shelve his discredited income splitting scheme. He should also slash the massive amounts of money he wastes on government advertising and a bloated Cabinet.

Instead, he could make a truly transformational investment in community infrastructure, higher learning and skills, research and innovation, more effective trade and marketing, and smart energy sustainability.

These things drive growth, bolster the middle class and help balance the federal books. Income splitting does not.

The economy, silk purses and sow’s ears

Posted on January 10, 2015

Jason Kenney squandered millions to advertise a non-existent Jobs Grant. He relied on Kijiji for labour market data and orchestrated the Conservatives’ Temporary Foreign Workers debacle. […]

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Will Erin O’Toole Be More Like Robert Borden or Stephen Harper?

Posted on January 6, 2015

It’s good that Julian Fantino has been fired from the Veterans Affairs post in the federal Cabinet. His toxic mix of incompetence and insensitivity were a […]

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Canadians Can Have a Stronger, Better Parliament

Posted on January 5, 2015

I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions to a blog I wrote last week about democratic and parliamentary reform. There seems to be some public appetite […]

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Rebuilding Parliament’s credibility

Posted on December 29, 2014

Saskatchewan Youth Parliament (SYP) is meeting in Regina this week, as it does every year during the Christmas holidays. Young people come from across the province […]

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Infrastructure expansion critical for growth

Posted on December 22, 2014

Except for the Harper government, there seems to be complete consensus about the leading importance of municipal infrastructure in building a more prosperous Canadian economy. Globally, […]

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Canadians look for some hope & ambition

Posted on December 15, 2014

Since his campaign promise in 2011 to benefit primarily wealthier Canadians through an Income Splitting scheme “just as soon as the federal budget is balanced”, Stephen […]

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Shameful mistreatment of Canada’s veterans

Posted on December 8, 2014

Yes, Julian Fantino’s shambolic performance as Minister of Veterans Affairs has earned condemnation from coast to coast, and he should resign. But he is not the […]

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