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Guess what? Stephen Harper's a moderate
Monday, 17 August 2015 - 12:30pm
If you have ever heard someone repeat the claim that Stephen Harper is "extreme" in terms of how he governs, you need to show them this column.
Despite what some claim, irrefutable data show the prime minister has actually governed like a moderate.
It's easy to see why some people have been given the impression that Harper is a 'slash and burn' politician who cares not for the little guy - the Liberals and NDP have been trying to paint that picture for years.
Government employee unions have backed them up; they've spent millions this year spreading a lie that Stephen Harper has cut health spending.
Even some in media have let their feelings get in the way of big picture facts.
They claim Harper's Conservatives are ideologically driven, have no time for the 'less fortunate' in society and reject moderate conservatives.
Claims are one thing, but the data show the opposite.
Anyone in Canada can go on the federal government's website and review financial information that has been verified by an independent auditor.
The numbers show that federal spending on health care, education and social services, increased from $29 billion in 2006 (when Harper became prime minister) to $47 billion in 2015.
That's a 62% increase in just nine years. So much for health care 'cuts'.
If you look at total government spending you'll find that it has increased from $224 billion in 2006 to $289 billion in 2015; well above inflation.
During that period the number of federal government employees increased from 249,932 to 257,138.
Clearly, Harper has done anything but pursue an ideological crusade to erode government spending to bare bones levels.
The suggestion Harper is ideologically driven and refuses to compromise is also shattered when one considers how his government addressed the most significant issue it faced - the global recession in 2008.
Many right-of-centre conservatives urged the Harper government to restrain government spending and avoid racking up debt. They argued the economy would sort itself out, it just needed a bit of time.
Harper ignored that advice and proceeded with an economic strategy urged by conservative moderates, the NDP and Liberals.
He increased spending to "stimulate" the economy.
Certainly everyone in Canada can remember all those "Economic Action Plan" signs that dotted the landscape and highlighted projects that received federal stimulus funding.
The billions spent by the federal government on the auto sector bailout in 2008 is another example of Harper not fitting the ideological mold people claim.
If Harper had have followed a rigid conservative ideology, he would have refused to provide funding to GM and Chrysler.
He would have let the market determine which automakers survived and which ones perished. Obviously that didn't happen.
Make no mistake. This column isn't an endorsement of the auto bailout and all of Harper's other decisions.
It's just a shot across the bow to those who claim Harper is a hard, right-wing prime minister.
That's just not what the data shows.
Colin Craig is the Manning Centre's Director of Strategic Communications.
* This column appeared in Sun newspapers (Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto Sun) on August 17, 2015)