The Conservatives’ economic stability message becoming a myth

Posted on September 13, 2013 in Governance Debates – news/Canada – A struggling middle class in this country needs help and the politician who throws the lifeline will win the next election.
Sep 13 2013.    By: Tim Harper

Stephen Harper won a majority in 2011 on a simple message of economic stability and he has left no doubt he wants that to be the ballot question again in 2015.

But a flurry of inconvenient numbers released this week is muddling that message.

They have provided us an early glimpse of where the next campaign will be fought.

In Harper’s Canada, more than four in 10 of uslive paycheque to paycheque.

Almost half of us over 50 have barely one-quarter of what we will need for our retirement.

In Harper’s Canada, wealth is the domain of middle-aged white men,but if you are a visible minority or an aboriginal working full time you are earning well below the national median income.

We’re working longer — four in 10 of us are still working at age 66.

One in four of us who own homes are paying more than 30 per cent of our income to keep them, a debt level that many will find unsustainable.

In the absence of a national post-secondary education strategy, university tuitions will triple in a generation, soaring to new levels, saddling our graduates with more debt and forcing Ottawa to forgive more student loans.

This is not the economic stability message the Conservatives want to take to Canadians.

Voters who feel secure in their jobs, who believe they can continue to pay down their mortgage, who believe the future looks good for their children, are less likely to switch governments.

If the sense in the country is “I’m all right, Jack,’’ frustrated opposition parties have found that everything else — Senate reform, government ethics, marijuana laws — is just noise to the voter.

But that sense of comfort and stability is becoming more elusive to our middle class and that is where our federal leaders will be mining for votes in 2015.

Many of the above numbers come from this week’s National Household Survey and they might be problematic. Because this snapshot comes after the Conservatives killed the mandatory long-form census, it does not provide reliable trends and because it is voluntary it likely under-represents those living in poverty in this country.

But this is what the Conservatives wanted and these are the numbers they must live with.

The Canadian Payroll Association provided the numbers of Canadians living payday to payday and those numbers are actually marginally better than the previous survey.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives studied the tuition question and found the average Canadian student graduates $37,000 in debt. This year Ottawa wrote off $500 million in unpaid student loans, bringing the total to nearly $500 million in recent years.

The Conservatives under Harper have introduced a child-care benefit and a Working Income Tax Benefit to boost the working poor, but they are eager to put other measures aimed at the middle class in the window in 2015.

If the budget is balanced by then, the Conservatives are committed to doubling a children’s fitness tax credit, allowing income-splitting on family tax returns, introducing an adult fitness tax credit and doubling the limit on its Tax Free Savings Accounts to $10,000 annually.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has made the stagnant economic dilemma of the middle class the centre piece of an economic plan he has yet to sketch out.

He has accused the Conservatives of slapping a hidden tax on the middle class because of tariffs slapped on items such as tricycles and children’s clothing by the Conservatives.

But in Saskatoon this week, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair made it clear that he will try to take the issue away from the neophyte Liberal, and will target levels of “income inequality not seen since the Great Depression.’’

Mulcair said middle-class wages are on a steep decline and said under successive Liberal and Conservative governments over the past 35 years, income has grown for the top 20 per cent of income earners in this country, but declined for the other 80 per cent.

“All summer long I’ve met with young people struggling to find the sort of jobs that my generation took for granted,’’ Mulcair said.

He would provide tax incentives to companies that create jobs and train young workers in this country and roll back the Conservatives’ corporate tax cuts.

Get ready for what Mark Twain liked to call, “lies, damned lies and statistics.’’ The winner in 2015 will not be the leader who can recite statistics, but recite solutions.

< >

Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Friday, September 13th, 2013 at 2:26 pm and is filed under Governance Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply