In its length, in its cost and in its debate schedule, this election is unusual. The first and possibly only real debate of the campaign ended and here are the highlights of what happened.
Smiles for the cameras. Tight Conservative polos made just for the occasion. That’s right, it’s that time of year again. It’s “Christmas in July” – where the Conservatives read your ecstatic tweets about the extra bundles of cash you just received if you are part of a happy family with children. Retroactive to January, the $3 billion payout will mean the first bundle of cash will be big: six months of $160 per kid under 6 and an extra $60 if the kid is between 7 and 17 years old. The taxpayer funded ad campaign says it all, parents with children under 6 will receive nearly $2,000 per year per child and if the child is older than 7, that amount will be $720 per year per child. Everyone should rejoice, Harper’s Conservatives have pulled off a miracle for Canadian families and everyone will benefit from their improved Universal Child Care Benefit. Wait a minute. Cut the cameras, take off the polo and rewind the tape. Does that sound a bit rosy to you?
Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver delivered his first surplus budget to paint a rosy picture for the upcoming election. With a $1.4 billion surplus this year, and steadily growing over the next four, there is now room for new spending programs – or so it seems. The Conservatives have managed to create a budgetary illusion and with balanced budget legislation to take place in addition, it is time we look closer at the numbers. The surplus looks great on paper, but just how great is it?
With oil prices in free fall and oil companies scaling back production and a recession looking more and more imminent, the rosy $1.9 billion surplus the Conservatives wanted to campaign on has vanished and is now projected become a $2.3 billion deficit.
In the month of July, only 200 net jobs were created. Despite Conservative rhetoric putting the Canadian economy on top of the G7 pack, our job creation record lags behind and remains unstable. It is noteworthy that the majority of lost full-time jobs have at best been replaced with temporary part-time jobs. The Conservatives can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and tell Canadians their opponents can’t handle the economy.
The four-day Liberal convention closed yesterday setting the stage for 2015. Despite a leaked Conservative memo suggesting attempts to disrupt the convention, the events continued as though they weren’t there. The Conservatives and media did try to surface negative publicity, but recent polls show Liberal support is on the rise as the Tories and NDP prepare for the most negative campaign seen since 2006.
Keystone proponents have flooded the American airwaves with ads trying to convince Americans and President Barack Obama to either accept or turn down the Keystone pipeline. This ad, slotted to air during tomorrow’s State of the Union address, shows how heated the debate can get as the Keystone project has been framed as being of greater benefit to the Chinese than to average American consumers. The spot features a picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese ex-premier Wen Jiabao shaking hands to the narration of “a sucker’s deal for America.”
While the Conservatives would say the economy is “still strong,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warns “the economic recovery remains fragile ” amid 45,900 in job losses in December – the steepest since the 54,500 drop in March. When all months are considered, only 102,000 jobs were created in 2013 and the unemployment rate rose 0.3% to 7.2% – which is higher than that of the United States (6.7%) for the first time since 2008. In addition, the US registered a 74,000 net increase for December.
Who said Canadian politics is boring? This year has been a news-maker filled with controversy and action. From the battle that wages over the economy to the one being waged in the senate, Canadian political junkies had ample opportunities to gather popcorn or join the discussion over the issues that matter to them.