One should try to recall, however, the pre-Liberal era. The Mulroney government had its fair share of scandals. Some of Mr. Mulroney's closest friends were apparently the main beneficiaries of the BRE-X scam. The Airbus scandal. "Free" Trade. The Conservative government also implemented the much-hated GST, after explicitly promising not to raise taxes. Without the GST, sales tax in Canada would be pretty close to most of the States.
There is always going to be some amount of waste and corruption in government. You see the same type of problems in large corporations. It is simply the nature of a large, bureaucratic organization. Certain types of people will always use their situation take advantage of others. I don't think that it is fair to say that one party has any more or less of this problem than another. I think it is much more important to look at that party's platform and the major issues.
Conservative Platform Issue #1:
The first "issue" listed in the Conservative platform (found at Letter from the Leader is "Better Accountability" where they claim they will "End waste, mismanagement, and corruption in Ottawa." This is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the recent scandals. Government, by its very nature, can be huge, inefficient, wasteful and cumbersome. It is, however, still necessary. Note that their "solution" to the problem includes, among other things, creating more bureaucracy and departments. They want to "Direct the Auditor General to audit all federal granting programs and recommend changes to reduce waste and fraud" and "Create an independent Ethics Commissioner appointed by Parliament, not by the Prime Minister." So the solution to a large, wasteful government is to create more large wasteful government audits, agencies and commissions.
A few more key points of their proposed solution show their true colours. "Set federal elections on a fixed date every four years and examine other democratic reforms." "Hold elections to fill vacancies in the Senate." It sounds like they want to make things more like the American system. How exactly would this prevent corruption? "Give Parliament, not the Courts, the final decision on issues like marriage." What does this even remotely have to do with government waste? This just sounds like a weak attempt to capitalize on a recent, controversial issue.
Conservative Platform Issue #2:
The next section in the Conservative platform is "Demand a Better Economy." Unfortunately, this section doesn't really talk about the economy. That is because Canada's economy is actually doing quite well. It is certainly better than the economy in the United States, and it is good as or better than most European countries. So, in this section they talk about taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes, so they promise to "Reduce the federal tax rate on middle-income Canadians by more than 25 percent." What they don't say is that this proposed tax cut, which would be spread across four or five years, would reduce government income by $16 billion. This is a lot of money to take out of the government. To balance this out, the Conservatives have forecast extremely large surpluses over the next five years. What will happen if they fall short of the estimates? The money will have to be cut from social programs, of course.
One question to ask, however, is why they are focusing so much attention on tax rates. Perhaps because is commonly believed that income taxes in Canada are much higher than in the United States. Let's compare 2003 rates:
Someone with an income of CDN$30,000 in Canada paid 11.9%, or CDN$3559 federal income tax. Someone in the United States, making USD$30,000 ended up paying USD$4310 federal tax, or about 14.4%.
An individual making CDN$60,000 paid CDN$10,028 or about 16.7%. The U.S. amount for USD$60,000 is USD$13,810 or about 23%. That is probably shocking to most Canadians. Please note this comparison does not include State or Provincial taxes -- which could add between 0% to 10%, depending on where you live. It also does not factor in tax deductions, which can vary greatly on an individual basis.
Futhermore, the average Canadian income in $CAD is higher than the average U.S. income in $USD. In 2001, the average family income in Canada was $60,300CAD. In that same year, the US average was $42,228USD (or roughly $57,000CAD at a 1.35 exchange rate). This contradicts another popular myth that the average American makes more money.
Once you start looking at the actual numbers, you find that Canadian tax rates are very much in line with those in the United States, on average. Our economy, trade deficit and federal budgets have been much better for years. It really makes you wonder why the Conservatives think this is their #2 issue.
Conservative Platform Issue #3:
The third issue in their platform is health care. This is not surprising since polls show that health care is a top concern for all Canadians. They say that "Waiting lists are unacceptably long." Compared to what? It is in fact true that Canadians do have to wait longer for certain treatments than Americans with good health insurance. Stating a problem, however, is not a platform. They present no solution. They are cutting $16 billion from the budget when there is supposedly not enough money for health care to begin with. Under "The Plan" section of "Demand Better Health Care" they don't mention anything about reducing wait times. It makes one wonder what their real plan is.
I think what they might want to do is introduce some form of private health care. It has been clearly shown that the best way to replace a public system with a privately-funded one is to de-fund the public system so it becomes so bad that people will agree to any alternative. This is probably a long-term goal of the Conservatives.
Would this be so bad? Well, let's take a look at private health care in the United States. A recent joint Canada-US study (available at Statistics Canada) shows some of the differences. 42% of Americans rated their health care system as "excellent" whereas only 39% of Canadians gave the same grade. However, it turns out that Americans spend $4,270 per capita on health care versus $2,250 per capita in Canada (about 90% more money for 3% more satisfaction).
Another difference between the two countries is the difference between the best and worst care. In Canada, everyone receives fairly equal treatment. In the States, 43 million people have absolutely no health insurance. If they get critically injured or sick, they have two options - pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, lose their house and go bankrupt, or... don't get health care at all. For most Canadians, this choice would be unthinkable. For 43 million Americans, it is an unfortunate reality.
The Real Conservatives:
You need to remember that the new Conservative party is actually a coalition between the old Progressive Conservatives (an oxymoron to begin with) and the Canadian Alliance party. Furthermore, the Alliance was born from the Reform party of old. These parties were well-known for their neo-conservative, right-wing extremist views. Note how the word "progressive" is no longer part of their name. They are more or less equivalent to the Republican Party in the United States. I believe it would be very unfortunate for the future of Canada to have them in power.
However, don't take my word for it. Get informed. Read the political sections of the major Canadian news sources.
Try not to make a voting decision based on which party you hate less. After reading the platforms and seeing what each party really stands for, you will be in an excellent position to make an informed choice and decide what type of Canada you would like to live in for the next 4 years.
(The preceeding data was obtained from TaxTips.ca, IRS, StatsCan and the United States Census.)
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