On March 11 I was the keynote speaker at the Institute of Marriage and Family CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s conference on family policy. I spoke about what we know today about the relationship between the health of the institution of the family and the transmission between the generations of values essential to democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Below is the text of that speech.
I was recently invited by the Federal-Provincial Relations Division of Finance Canada to participate in a panel discussion in Ottawa on the future of federal transfers to the provinces. Here is the text of my remarks.
In all the blather surrounding Red Ed Clark’s call for higher taxes, and the federal Tories response, most of the attention has been focused on either the issue of whether wealthy bankers should be volunteering other people to pay higher taxes OR whether the PM should be criticising private citizens for voicing their opinions about such matters.
Interesting as those questions are, they are not the most important matter. What really matters is whether raising taxes is the right way to fix the deficit. On this, history and human nature respond with a resounding “No”.
History first: the last time we wrestled successfully with the deficit, under Paul Martin’s stewardship at Finance, we did so chiefly by reducing the size of government. The most startling measure of our success: We went from spending a historic high of 53% of GDP on government in 1993 to roughly 40% in 2008, an unprecedented decline in our history. We were able to do so, by the way, while increasing spending on programmes AND cutting taxes because our fiscal discipline allowed us to stop spending so much on interest on our debt. And we ushered in an era of strong economic growth: we outperformed all the other G7 nations for over a decade after Paul Martin tabled the first balanced budget in the late nineties.
Remember that all other attempts to deal with the budget, including the gig tax reform that led to the creation of the GST, did not bring the budget into balance. It was *only* when we got our *spending* under control that that happened.
And that brings us to the human nature side of the equation. The fact of the matter is that politicians are human beings and subject to many pressures and incentives. When a dollar gets in their hands, it does not come with an endorsement saying “May only be used to reduce the deficit”. Instead it becomes the prize in a tug of war between various interests all wanting to get something out of government. Many and perhaps most politicians regard a dollar in the consolidated revenue fund as a reason to spend that dollar on their favourite programme.
That may be one reason why a recent poll in the US shows Americans deeply sceptical about using tax increases to bring their own public finances into balance. They told Rasmussen pollsters by a margin of 58% that politicians “are more likely to spend the money on new government programs.”
The reality is that if we want to balance the budget, the strategy that has proven itself without a doubt is to control spending. Raising taxes too often just gives politicians comfort that they can continue in the bad old habits. And it is those habits that have to be broken.
The video of my Jan. 27 appearance on Squeezeplay is available here. Topics of conversation included whether corporations should be able to give money to charitable causes (or if that money belongs to shareholders) as well as the opportunities created for Canadian financial institutions by Washington’s increasingly erratic and autocratic attitude toward US banks.
Fearful Symmetry in the Halifax Herald
This review first appeared in the Halifax Herald on January 3. It is no longer available online so I’m reproducing it here.
Socialist policies will be history, Crowley predicts
By JEFFREY SIMPSON
BRIAN Lee Crowley predicts that Canada is on the cusp of a profound economic and cultural change that will take the country back to its ideological roots, even if they are unfamiliar to many citizens.
Crowley, the well-known conservative thinker who founded the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, makes a compelling argument in his recently published book, Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Founding Values, that the last five decades spent as a nation with socialist leanings has been merely an aberration. Read more
Some readers of this blog will have noticed that the Globe’s front page story yesterday concerned the yet-to-be announced plans of the federal government to add roughly 30 seats to the House of Commons, taking it to approximately 340 seats from the current 308. Those same readers may have also noticed that this was immediately followed by nationalist sabre-rattling in Quebec and craven commentary by so-called “experts” to the effect that Canada might well not survive an attempt to guarantee that the votes of all Canadians might have roughly equal weight in the election of the Commons and therefore the government of Canada. Check this out from the Montreal Gazette:
Bloc House leader Pierre Paquette noted that Quebec’s National Assembly had adopted a motion unanimously denouncing the federal government’s previous attempt to redraw the electoral map. He said the issue would give Quebecers an additional reason to turn away from the Conservatives in the next election.
“I’m convinced there will be a public outcry in Quebec over the Conservative proposal,” said Paquette. “For us this is a major issue, and I think it shows once again that the Conservatives have crossed out (appealing to voters in) Quebec.”
Even Michael Ignatieff succumbed to this shameful pandering, trying to make an attempt by the government to level the electoral playing field appear to be a Tory plan to do down Quebec, a province that, like 6 others, will receive no new MPs.
Only the growing provinces that have remained closest to Canada’s founding values, BC, Alberta, and Ontario, will get new seats. And they’ll do so not as a result of some mean-spirited political plot, but because those are the successful dynamic parts of the country where more and more Canadians live. That’s what believing in lower taxes, smaller government, a strong work ethic, well designed social programmes, economic growth, openness to immigration and so on will do for you.
For my take in this issue, have a look at the op-ed I wrote in today’s Globe (26/9/09), in which I draw on research in Fearful Symmetry to show that Quebec’s loss of demographic, economic and political weight is the direct outcome of the bidding war for the loyalty of Quebeckers, and that this loss of power and influence cannot be ignored in our political institutions. Indeed I point out that this is just the beginning of the coming shift in political power. By 2031, on current trends, Quebec should expect to have only 75 seats out of 375, with virtually all of the oncrease going to the new power coalition of BC, Alberta and Ontario. They have the people — they get the votes.
The nerve and hypocrisy of the extreme elements of the nationalist movement in Quebec never ceases to amaze me. Here are Gilles Duceppe and his colleagues saying that Quebec’s weight in parliament must not fall; they promise to do everything they can to frustrate the new seat distribution. These are the same people who, in the name of sacred and inviolable democracy, say that any vote by Quebeckers to leave Confederation is final and unquestionable. Apparently, however, they have no problem with waving democracy (in the form of one person, one vote) aside when its application may be inconvenient to them. Have they no shame?