Friday, August 7, 2015

Harper Gets Pummeled on the Economy and the Environment in the First Canadian Federal Election Debate

The ruling Conservatives were hit by a barrage of interrelated economic and environmentally focused attacks in the first debate of the federal election in Toronto. In addition to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the debate included Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. By most accounts Harper took a beating, even though his party tried to claim he won the debate. During the debate Harper's misrepresentations include his statement that emissions have gone down. He also lied when he said that the economy is growing.

Economy

The Canadian economy is in trouble and this is due largely to Harper's fossil fuel based economy.  Harper conceded that the economy is slowing and he even impugned himself when he attributed the slowdown to the energy sector.

The Conservative government has run seven consecutive budget deficits and is on track for another deficit in 2015. The national debt has risen by $150 billion and despite tax cuts, business investment is below expectations.

The country is moving towards recession. “Statistics from the Canadian government have shown that for five months in a row, the Canadian economy has shrunk,” Mulcair said. “We are one month away from a technical definition of recession, but according to a lot of observers, we are already in a recession.”

Harper indicated that the solution to the nation's economic problems is to stay the course of low taxes, the alternative according to Harper would end up creating the kind of economic problems we see in Greece.

Mulcair pointed to the loss of 400,000 full time manufacturing jobs. “Mr. Harper’s plan simply isn’t working,” Mulcair said. “Honestly, Mr. Harper, we really can’t afford another four years of you.” This sentiment was echoed by Trudeau who told Harper, “You haven’t been able to get it done on the environment, Mr. Harper and you haven’t got it done on the economy.”

Environment

Predictably May introduced the issue of global warming into the debate saying, "with all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, the only way you can take credit for the emissions drop, which only occurred in 2008 and ’09, is the global financial crisis. That’s the only thing that brought down our emissions...The cold, cruel reality is that under your watch, greenhouse gases have been rising, carbon pollution has been rising. As soon as our economy began to recover in 2009 — straight up line. Straight up."

Harper who appeared to ignore the substance of May's comment responded, “well, greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone down.” The truth is that Canada is greenhouse gases are on the rise and it is predicted they will keep rising thanks to Harper's support for fossil fuels and the tar sands in particular.  

Harper and the Conservatives cannot avoid the fact that they have a amassed a woeful environmental record. Independent observers have ranked Canada as one of the worst nations in the world in terms of combating climate change and dealing with environmental issues.

Harper's emissions reduction promises may appear to be in step with the US, but they should be taken with a grain of salt. According to their own reports, the government will not be able to meet any of their emissions reduction pledges.

May aptly referred to Harper’s record on climate change as a, “litany of broken promises . . . . There’s no credibility,”she said.

Despite his anemic attempts to defend himself and his party, Harper and his Conservative government were held responsible for Canada's dwindling economy and failed climate leadership.

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