Conservative leader Stephen Harper mocks Liberals' plan to run 'tiny little' $10 billion deficits during last year's election campaign. Latest estimate for the first one to be $20 billion or more.

Passages of 2015: Stephen Harper

Harper began his political career with the national media against him, and that intensified in the campaign that elected Justin Trudeau

I first met Stephen Harper when he was running for the Canadian Alliance leadership in 2002.

Speaking to a group of Fraser Valley party members concerned that the party had split over the leadership of Stockwell Day, Harper didn’t mince words just because a local reporter had showed up on a Saturday morning. He explained his prediction that no matter who leads the conservative movement started by Preston Manning, the national media would work against it.

“The press is owned by big-L liberals and staffed by small-L liberals,” Harper said. “Preston was too cerebral; Stock was not cerebral enough. I’m not sure where I will be, but the media will always be on the other side.”

Harper’s cold war with national media is a theme that runs through his decade as prime minister, peaking in 2015 with the most slanted election coverage I’ve ever witnessed. The celebration continues over Justin Trudeau’s victory, with the supposedly non-partisan federal bureaucracy cheering along with much of the national media.

Harper’s assessment of major newspaper ownership is no longer accurate, except for the Toronto Star. But the dying tradition of owners looking up from their accounting ledgers to endorse a political party continued, with the Postmedia chain and the Globe and Mail pointing out that Trudeau’s rash promises didn’t add up.

Endorsements were a brief interruption in the media assault on Harper’s record. His government’s plan to welcome 10,000 refugees, unveiled way back in January 2015, was portrayed as heartless and feeble, while Trudeau’s 25,000 by Christmas represented the generous character of the true Canada.

As it turns out, the Liberals backed off to a promised 10,000 by the end of 2015, and missed that by 75 per cent. But they’ve put out a rash new promise to make it 50,000 at some point in the future, so the media’s new-found message of sunshine, hope and change continues.

Those modest $10 billion annual deficits that Trudeau promised, and Harper warned against? Borrowing and spending will far exceed that, but we’re assured that’s because they were based on inflated Conservative financial forecasts.

In fact, independent private sector forecasts are now the key reference for government budgets at the federal and provincial level. None of them predicted the further slump in energy prices that continued through 2015.

And cooking the books before an election isn’t really possible any more, thanks to the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. That was a Harper innovation, along with scheduled elections.

And that Trudeau pledge to raise taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and use the proceeds to finance a tax cut for the middle class? That one didn’t add up either. For one thing, wealthy people have a variety of legal ways to reduce their taxable income.

Here’s an actual front-page headline from the Globe and Mail, reporting this unfortunate fact, well after the election: “The way Liberals gauged response to new tax rate explains gap.” So it was just an understandable oversight, you see.

Trudeau’s star turn in Paris, where he pronounced that “Canada is back” in the battle to control the world’s weather? The official submission from his bloated delegation to the UN climate meetings was actually the existing Conservative plan, which includes phasing out coal-fired electricity generation.

Harper generally represented a preference for the individual over the state, a concept that at one time was known as “liberalism.” This was illustrated by his preference for parents rather than a nanny state to administer child care.

He advocated free trade, small government and low taxes. We’ll see how that legacy survives the new government and its media cheering section.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Custom motorcycle and wood cutter stolen from Sooke motorcycle shop

2006 Husqvarna motorcycle and 2-ton log splitter taken from outbuilding

Remember Spunky? Santa came out to Sidney to check on him

Red-tailed Hawk made headlines last year after being stolen, raised by eagles

MISSING: 59-year-old Pamela Fletcher

Fletcher was last seen in the area near Royal Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 10

Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to keep them in the loop

Call the hotlines for concerns on local provincial highways

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Most Read