The Conservatives' Disingenuous Calls For Tax Cuts
March 25, 2008 by Paul McKeever
A three word phrase best describes the words of Canadian federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and those of Ontario provincial Progressive Conservative Party leader John Tory, concerning the absence of tax cuts in Ontario’s 2008 budget (released today): Blah blah blah. To say more would be a waste of oxygen, for the simple reason that: neither man means what he has said.
Consider, as exhibit A, today’s Toronto Star editorial, which provided some criticism utterly lacking in papers that boost the federal Tories (notably, today, the National Post and the various SunMedia papers):
Flaherty was free with his advice on the revenue side of the ledger – cut corporate taxes – but not at all forthcoming on how to make up for the lost revenue, which would run in the billions of dollars.
At first, Flaherty retreated to the supply-side mantra that “tax cuts pay for themselves.” When a reporter suggested his recommended tax cuts would lead to lower revenues, Flaherty said: “Of course, that’s not so.” He predicted revenues would rise as the rates were cut.
But in response to a more direct question about where he would reduce spending to offset the tax cuts and keep the budget balanced, Flaherty simply ducked: “I’m not going to substitute my opinion for his (McGuinty’s) opinion,” he said. “That’s why (he’s) premier.”
When a government with a more-or-less balanced budget cuts taxes but does not cut spending, it runs a deficit (i.e., it adds to the debt), which is just another way of saying that it doesn’t cut taxes at all. Instead, it merely shifts them onto the shoulders of future taxpayers. To advocate tax cuts without also advocating spending cuts is tantamount to demanding not a tax cut, but a tax delay (at the cost of increased borrowing).
Even more compelling evidence of the disingenuousness of conservatives’ calls for tax cuts are the words of Mr. Tory. In response to the budget today, he gave a four-page speech in which he concluded, in part:
Ontario has all the right stuff to be on top, to be a leader again. All that’s lacking is a government which gets it. A Premier who understands that you need a strong private sector job creation to pay for public services. (emphasis added)
This isn’t a comment taken out of context. Tory has gone on the record again, and again, and again, making it clear that maintaining Ontario’s “social programs” – i.e., the big three: government monopoly on health care (which represents 46% of program spending), tax-funded government-owned schools, and welfare – is his top priority. Using the socialist conservatives’ favourite weasel-words, “free enterprise” (words carefully chosen not to imply “free markets”), Tory has also explained on TV Ontario’s “The Agenda” program, and elsewhere, that his philosophy – and that of the Progressive Conservative Party – is that the purpose of “free enterprise” is to pay for government’s social programs. Well, look: if his first priority is to preserve spending levels, he cannot possibly want a tax cut. This is just posturing.
If there be any doubt left in your mind, consider this bit of hypocrisy: Tory is on the record as refusing to promise not to raise taxes, especially where raising taxes is necessary to preserve social programs (see, for example, the same episode of “The Agenda”, in which he made these remarks).
None of this has stopped Tory from exhuming this old nut:
…the Liberals are “locked in a tax-and-spend” spiral.
Tory neglected to add that he really has no objection of substance to said spiral.
All of this begs the exhumation of yet another nugget. All together now: “Liberal, Tory, same old story”.