James Carville once said "It's the economy, (stupid)!" when strategizing for Democrats for the 1992 U.S. presidential election. As someone who studied economics for four years, I know it's the area that affects us all and to the greatest degree. And you don't need a post-secondary degree to understand it.
The Canadian contracted to begin 2015. Canada's GDP shrank by 0.1 per cent in January and shrank by 0.2 per cent in November 2014. These were the first dips since February 2014.
With all the talk on Parliament Hill about Canada's extension of military intervention in Syria, where have Stephen Harper and the Conservatives been on the economy?
Remember the Economic Action Plan? Well, I hope you do because Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have spent $500 million since 2009 on simply promoting the plan.
Here in Richmond, we've seen major retailer after major retailer close up shop. Some of you might be affected. Whether it's your shopping or it's your job, there's a void. These retailers were given millions and billions in endless corporate tax cuts from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.
How did those tax cuts work out for us? Well those tax cuts led to cuts in areas like health care transfer payments, benefits for our veterans and many other places. At the end of the day, with these supposed magical tax cuts, the economy is struggling. Badly.
When I ask Conservatives I know about the economy and what Harper's plan is, they respond saying that a government can't control an economy. That could very well be true but that's not what we've been led to believe. The Conservatives have lauded themselves over the last nine years for being strong on the economy and great at managing money. Yet, they've run seven straight budget deficits while increasing the national debt and cutting billions of dollars in services to families across the country.
Harper and the Conservatives say that you can claim up to $2,000 per year with their income splitting scheme. But they won't tell you that you have to earn at least $221,000 per year to make that claim.
A young person coming out of university and into the workplace with a $30,000-$43,000 a year salary -- what can they get? $74 a year. That's it. But by definition, to take advantage of income splitting, you need to be married. So that removes a lot of people from eligibility.
If you're looking for more on how Harper's Conservatives will help the struggling Canadian economy they've overseen, well, that's about it. It's not much of a plan and we all deserve better.
So what is Harper's plan to revive this struggling economy? What about other important issues like soaring inequality, increasing poverty, and rising homelessness? How are we going to help young people coming out of university? The young people I know who are coming out of post-secondary education aren't complaining about being slammed by taxes -- they're looking for opportunity and work at a respectable wage. They're looking for the chance to live in an affordable home and neighbourhood.
Endless tax cuts skewed to people who don't need them aren't going to solve our woes. We need bottom-up, middle class-out policy alternatives for growth in a new economy. And for this, it requires at the very least, a discussion. Harper has avoided questions about the economy in favour of making the upcoming federal election about terrorism and foreign policy. Is that because the economy is tanking and the Conservatives can't win the economic argument?
Again, it's the economy that affects us all and if the economy is not going to be discussed by the feds, perhaps we need a new direction. You've got a chance to decide that this Fall.