Canadians will forever be indebted because of Jim Flaherty.
Regardless of what one thinks of the recently deceased man on a personal level, if one uses objective, non-emotional criteria, it is clear that he was probably the worst finance minister in Canadian history. Unfortunately for us, his replacement, Joe Oliver, will likely be much worse.
Almost immediately after Flaherty’s death became public, the fawning political praise and sickening historical revisionism flooded in like oil from an Enbridge pipeline spill. Over-the-top accolades for the small callous man have been stomach-churning, and are an insult to his many victims. It is too easy for comfortable politicians and pundits to overlook the damage he has caused to so many lives.
Crediting Flaherty for his supposed “steady hand on the tiller” during the recent recession (which still lingers today) is outrageous nonsense. The fact that Canada’s economy didn’t collapse as much as some of the other economies is in spite of Flaherty and the Conservatives, not because of them. The previous Liberal government left the Conservatives with a budget surplus, a somewhat-regulated banking sector, and certain protections for other economic sectors.
Before the worldwide financial meltdown hit, the Conservatives had been screaming for years to deregulate the financial sector and other key sectors. If they had gotten their way back then, the recent economic collapse in Canada would be much worse. With all the reckless and treasonous economic policies that Flaherty has helped bring in during his federal tenure, Canada will be hit much harder in the next big downturn. B-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Applauding Flaherty for gradually reining in his annual federal deficits and reversing some of his other misguided fiscal policies is like treating a child as a hero for slowly, yet only partially, cleaning up a mess he created in the first place!
Flaherty’s financial mismanagement started well before the 2008 recession hit. Then, when it became obvious to most that Canada was going into recession, Flaherty he kept insisting that the country would be magically spared, until he had no choice but to admit the truth (without admitting he had been wrong). A man with integrity would have resigned after being caught in lies so big. Later, Flaherty kept bragging that he would stay on as federal finance minister until he got the annual federal budget balanced again. Another Conservative promise broken.
Praising Flaherty for his years of “public service” is horseshit. He wasn’t an unpaid intern, minimum wage worker or a frontline soldier. The Canadian taxpayers paid him very well, and gave him a lifestyle of comfort and luxury beyond the wildest dreams of most working-class Canadians. No wonder he seemed happy-go-lucky much of the time. He got his. Flaherty had no loyalty to Canadians; he served his political party and the multinational corporations, not the general public.
As for the boldly dishonest Globe and Mail headline claiming that Flaherty “always fought for the little guy”, you have to be fucking kidding me! Flaherty was an enemy in the class war. He was a traitor to his family’s humble roots. He showed no sympathy for those who were down on their luck and couldn’t catch a break. Instead of helping the little guy up, he kicked that guy while he was down, spit in his face and added verbal insults to those injuries. Flaherty was no friend of the poor and disadvantaged. They were beneath him.
Here are some of the lowlights in Flaherty’s horrible political career:
● As the finance minister in Ontario’s Mike Harris government, he severely cut social assistance, housing, healthcare, education, water testing and other valuable programs, leading to increased homelessness, poverty, hopelessness, medical suffering and deaths.
● Also as the Ontario finance minister, Flaherty played a key role in rushing through the 99-year lease of Highway 407 (built with tax dollars) to a sleazy and/or incompetent Spanish corporation that has ripped off drivers, either by mistake or by design. That foreign corporation got an extremely generous deal and Ontarians got the shaft. Flaherty used that deal and other shady backroom sales of public assets to make his financial books look good. Short-term gain for long-term pain.
● Near the end of his provincial career – by then the Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation – Flaherty was complicit in the Progressive Conservatives’ fraudulent claim that they had of an annual budget surplus, which the incoming Ontario Liberal government later confirmed to be a $5.6 billion deficit. In a just world, there would have been criminal convictions.
● In his early days of being the federal finance minister, Flaherty irrationally and viciously declared to the world that businesses should not invest in Ontario. His treasonous dig was petty-minded revenge against Ontarians for voting Liberal in the 2003 provincial election.
● Flaherty financially screwed over retirees by suddenly taxing income trusts after explicitly promising not to.
● He and the Conservatives massively increased the federal debt, which one source says is almost $620 billion and another source says is almost $680 billion (as of April 12, 2014). That is up from $481.5 billion in 2006, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took over from the Paul Martin Liberals. That means approximately 22 to 29 per cent of Canada’s federal debt was racked up under Flaherty’s watch. That’s right; between 20 and 30 per cent of Canada’s entire federal debt, spanning almost 150 years of government, was racked up in just eight years. The federal debt would be even bigger if the federal government had not downloaded many of its financial liabilities to the lower levels of government. Note that the federal Liberals were guilty of downloading too, but the Harper Conservatives never reversed that.
● Flaherty implemented a “starve the beast” strategy:
1)Waste money on non-priorities such as pork-barrel projects, irresponsible tax cuts, luxuries for his fellow politicians, the useless G20 and G8 conferences, the aggressive occupation of Afghanistan, expensive political propaganda, and no-strings-attached subsidies for big corporations (especially tarsands corporations).
2) Claim that we can no longer afford the services and regulations that Canadians depend on.
3) Slash those cherished services and regulations under the guise of balancing the budget.
● He enacted policies that resulted in increased unemployment and underemployment (especially for younger Canadians), lower wage rates, less stability, reduced benefits, shrunk pensions, intensified economic inequality and the race to the bottom.
● Flaherty increased payroll taxes, which disproportionately hurts people who acquire most of their income by working for wages, instead of living off investments.
● He and his Conservative colleagues actively contributed to the preventable crisis of jobs being sent out of the country while submissive “temporary” foreign workers are imported to replace qualified Canadian workers. This is a recipe for disaster.
● Flaherty enabled wealthy insiders to evade taxes and refused to give Canada Revenue Agency the resources needed to crack down on major tax cheats.
● He pushed the HST (Harper Sales Tax) onto Ontario and British Columbia (with the cooperation of their provincial governments). In Ontario, the provincial Liberals and federal Conservatives promised that the HST – which added sales tax to many basic goods and services that were tax-free before – would create thousands of jobs and cause businesses to lower their prices. Neither has happened.
● Flaherty allowed Harper to transform federal budget bills into gigantic omnibus bills with more non-budget items than actual budget items. Their size (hundreds of pages) and purpose (to sneak through extreme changes without proper examination or debate) have been unprecedented in Canada.
● He added to the problem of the overheated Canadian housing market, which has led to insanely high prices for houses and condos, especially in major urban areas. This has mostly benefitted the banksters and those who work in the real estate industry, at the expense of everyone else.
● He used his influence and connections to help the Ford crime family get elected to Toronto city council, and he hurled insults at those who dared criticize Rob the crackhead mayor.
This is the stuff of his legacy. Oh, but he smiled a lot and he was friendly to opposition politicians.
One could argue that Flaherty wasn’t all to blame, and that he was merely a puppet of Harris, Harper and their corporate masters. That theory does not make Flaherty look any better. It makes him look spineless, opportunistic and selfish. Blaming his failed federal record on the global recession is also a cop-out, an excuse that his fellow Cons would never accept if it came from another political party
Politics isn’t an abstract game or a debating club. This is real life, and real people have been harmed (and continue to be harmed) by Flaherty’s actions and inactions. People have actually died because of his punitive policies. Canada is worse off because of what Flaherty did in office, and the nation may never recover, even if the NDP or Liberals win the next election.
I understand it’s an emotional time for some and it’s hard to not empathize with Flaherty’s family and friends, but please show at least a minimum level of human decency and think about his victims. Grieve the fact that Flaherty spent his adult life on the wrong side of righteousness and he lost his opportunity to right his wrongs. Above all else, please restrain the urge to re-write history. The lies and distortions are too much to bear, so spare us.