A government's claims of economic competence must surely depend upon a sound record in certain crucial areas -- such as economic growth, debt reduction, balanced budgets and management of the tax burden.
On all four counts, the Harper regime is a serious disappointment.
Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record since R.B Bennett. During Bennett's years, the Canadian economy barely grew at all, averaging just 0.16 per cent. Mackenzie-King's average was 5.54 per cent. St. Laurent maintained growth at 5.28 per cent.
Diefenbaker got 3.67 per cent. Pearson achieved 5.97 per cent. Trudeau's average was 3.92 per cent. For Mulroney, it was 2.33 per cent. Chrétien came in at 3.39 per cent. Paul Martin recorded 3.20 per cent.
Under Harper, Canadian growth has averaged a paltry 1.54 per cent and his trend is negative. Economic growth in each year since 2010 has been worse than the year before. Another reflection of these sorry results is stock market values which have stalled for eight year -- today they're only fractionally above where they were when the Harper years began in 2006.
With respect to debt reduction, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio is also about where it was in 2006 (around 34 per cent).
Mr. Harper has no progress to report. Indeed, his government is adding $169-billion in new Conservative debt -- driving the accumulated total to an all-time record high at $627-billion. His earlier target for significantly reducing his debt-ratio has been postponed for eight years, until 2021.
On the issue of balanced budgets, the Harper record is laughable.
He inherited a decade of surpluses from his Liberal predecessors and surfed on that momentum for a couple of years, while over-spending by three-times the rate of inflation and undermining safeguards in the budget-making process designed to protect against adverse events. By 2008, Mr. Harper had squandered Canada's hard-earned fiscal security, creating a deficit again BEFORE the recession that arrived later that year.
The last six Harper budgets have all been deficits, continuing a long-standing Conservative tradition of red-ink. Before Mr. Harper, the last Conservative to balance a budget for Canada was Robert Borden in 1912 -- more than 100 years ago. He too inherited a surplus from a Liberal predecessor (Wilfrid Laurier) and blew it in just one year.
As for taxes, that's where Mr. Harper brags the most. But check reality!
While claiming they never raise taxes, the Harper Conservatives have in fact increased the net tax burden on Canadians in each of their last four budgets. It happens in dozens of nefarious ways which they hope you won't notice -- like taxing parking fees at hospitals and dinging Credit Unions for an extra $75-million in income tax.
One of their biggest cash-grabs has been constantly escalating Employment Insurance payroll taxes. Starting in 2011, EI premiums have been going up every year by more than $600 million. So to date, Mr. Harper has raked in an additional $3.6 billion. He says he won't force EI rates up any further, but neither will he roll them back to where they were before he imposed these job-killing Conservative payroll tax hikes.
Two other Conservative tax increases are also netting Mr. Harper big revenues.
He has hoisted a broad range of tariff-taxes on imported consumer goods -- everything from tricycles to cosmetic wigs for cancer patients -- which will extract some $333 million more per year from the buyers of such products. And small business owners are going to be paying Mr. Harper some $550 million more, thanks to new Conservative taxes imposed on them.
At the bottom line, it's Canada's middle-class that bears the biggest burden from the incompetence and grinding mediocrity that characterize Mr. Harper's economic record.