The 2015 Tory Playbook

Step 1: Inherit igloo in good order Step 2: Break roof Step 3: Create compelling narrative about how you fixed igloo
Step 1: Inherit igloo in working order
Step 2: Break roof
Step 3: Write compelling narrative about how you fixed igloo

We got a good reminder today of why it would be foolish to write off the Conservatives in 2015:

Conservatives’ new surplus forecast: $3.7-billion for election year

Ottawa’s fall economic update shows the government is counting on a surplus of at least $3.7-billion in 2015-16, the year of the next federal election.

A mix of spending cuts, public sector wage control and the sale of government assets are behind the latest government numbers, which show a better bottom line than the $800-million 2015-16 surplus forecast in the March budget. There are also several conservative assumptions in the numbers, meaning the surplus could easily come in higher than currently planned.

You’ll remember the 2011 election featured a swarm of promises by the Conservatives that would only come into being once the budget got back in black. As ridiculous as the “4-year IOU” was at the time, it now looks more and more like Flaherty’s pre-election budget will be one of the most voter-friendly in Canada’s history. Income splitting! An adult fitness tax credit! Double your TFSA space!

Which means the spring and summer of 2015 will feature a barrage of commercials (courtesy of the Government of Canada and taxpayers everywhere) touting these new initiatives, while Conservative Cabinet Ministers fan across the country to remind us it would not have been possible without Stephen Harper’s strong and steady leadership during this turbulent period. And, oh yeah, it could all be for naught if we take a risk on that pothead.

I would argue the narrative that Harper successfully guided Canada through the recession is mostly fiction – he inherited a surplus, became the largest spending Prime Minister in Canada’s history, and recent cuts make up only a very small percentage of the expected surplus. But fiction is what sells (Harper himself will realize this once the minuscule royalty cheques from his hockey book start trickling in). And fiction or not, the story Flaherty read today will be a lot more relevant to voters in 2015 than whatever happened with a few senators all the way back in 2013.

What’s interesting is that this story is largely cribbed from the Jean Chretien’s 2000 election playbook. Yes, the Liberals were dealing with scandals, voters were tiring of them, and the “succession question” loomed over everything. But Paul Martin’s budget and economic update offered what he dubbed in his usual understated manner as “the largest tax cuts in Canadian history”. The Liberals ran on their economic record, all the while painting Stockwell Day as a lightweight who wasn’t ready for prime time. The result was a crushing majority. Sound familiar?

Every election is unique, and voters have been known to turf leaders who led them through dark periods. Just look at Churchill after World War 2. But as bad a year as he’s had, Harper is quietly laying the groundwork for what figures to be a compelling election narrative in 2015.

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8 responses to “The 2015 Tory Playbook”

  1. Only problem for the CPC is: Its Flaherty making the claims about having a surplus. Those who follow know how wrong he’s been with predictions before. While Finance Minister.. and know his hocus-pocus he pulled while Finance Minister in Ontario. The narrative only has a chance of working if true.

    • If anything, most people agree Flaherty is under-estimating the size of the surplus.

      And if the other parties think Flaherty is lying and the surplus will actually be smaller, then that just cuts into how much money they have in their own budget/spending projections.

  2. Harper and his senior cabinet are arguably the most corrupt politician in Canadian history (worse even than the Mulroney crowd). Funded by U.S. neocons, U.S. corporations, and U.S. religious groups they are at heart followers of Strauss and Ayn Rand – i.e. all that matters is themselves. Lying, cheating, stealing, sending troops to help U.S. slaughters abroad, robbing the treasury, … amorality personified. All beneath a thin vernier of culture and civilization. Chomskey had it right – the dreck rises to the top in non-representative pseudo democracies. Depressing.

  3. Promises kept!
    And Trudeau will keep Dion/Ignatieff promises of a carbon tax and repeal of Harper’s law and order agenda… leaving the Canadian vision thing up to the ‘experts’.

  4. I presume the rising business taxes that are putting Canada in a good position will benefit the provincial Liberal government in Ontario as well. Or is Ontario lagging behind the west that much?
    The projected tax cuts will not only help the Conservatives, but will place restraints on any othe party that might succeed them.
    Another thing the Conservatives have going for them is to compare the deficit to GDP ratio of their government to the Trudeau Liberal government. If Grit hacks start usig the dollar amount of the Harper deficit as an attack, they set themselves up for a lesson in economics.

  5. Your comparison of 2015 to 2000 looks good on the surface but if you look deeper it does not hold water.

    First, 2000 marked the middle of what would be a 15 year economic expansion. People were feeling it. The optimism in the country, for the economy and just in general, was palpable and not even the popping of the dot-com bubble put a dent in that.

    The same cannot be said of the mood of Canadians now. Although most Canadians cannot put their finger on it there is a general pessimism in the country at the moment. They know something just is not quite right and that feeling is probably not going to change significantly in the next 18 months.

    Second, Mr. Chretien was popular despite the problems that his government had encountered the previous years. The same cannot be said for Mr. Harper.

    Third, Mr. Day and his Party never lead the Chretien Liberals at any time. Not during any election and certainly not in between elections. The same cannot be said for Mr. Trudeau. His personal popularity has exceeded that of Mr. Harper and his party’s popularity has exceeded the Conservatives for much longer than would be expected from your typical political honeymoon.

    Fourth, the man who brought in the tax cuts, Mr. Martin, was widely known and trusted in the country. I would doubt that most Canadians would be able to pick Mr. Flaherty out of a police line-up.

    Finally, if the 2015 budget announces surpluses for that year and into the future that just allows the other parties to be able to make competing promises to what would be in the budget. The advantage would largely be negated.

    I think several commentators said it best that the recent economic update has less to do with the 2015 election and more to do with the Conservatives’ desire to move past the Harper Senate Scandal. It might work for the short-term but in the medium to long-term Mr. Harper might be dealing with revelations regarding the scandal as court appearances begin to happen.

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