Jim Flaherty is being remembered by Canadians across the country as a kind, decent person and dedicated public servant.
But some pundits are taking things too far. In a shallow attempt to promote the Conservatives’ agenda, some are claiming he was one of the best finance ministers in our country’s history.
If one looks into the facts, however, it becomes clear he was anything but.
Starve the beast
Flaherty implemented a neo-conservative “starve the beast” agenda with massive, reckless tax cuts that primarily benefited the rich. That blew a whopping $44-billion hole in the budget. The purpose of this “tax relief” was to cripple future governments and bankrupt the social safety net.
He brought in phone-book-sized omnibus budgets that amended dozens of pieces of legislation to bypass scrutiny and neuter the democratic process. He withheld public budget documents from the Budget Office his government created.
Cuts, cuts, cuts
He unilaterally gutted health transfers by $36-billion; slashed EI benefits after raiding a $54-billion EI surplus; he dismantled social programs built over generations. According to the Budget Office, he balanced a budget mess — he created — on the backs of the provinces.
Then there was his mortgage deregulation scheme that caused the Canadian housing bubble. He nationalized over $150-billion of banks’ mortgage debt by deregulating the CMHC. So if the housing bubble bursts, taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars.
After doing all that, he had the gall to say the CMHC — whose original mandate was to help first-time home buyers — should be dismantled.
Flaherty is given a lot of credit for his handling of the 2008 financial crisis. But this is really a case of being born on third base saying he hit a triple.
As The Economist pointed out in 2010, “Much of the country’s resilience stems from policies—such as bank regulation and sound public finances—which predate” Flaherty.
In the fall of 2008, Flaherty planned austerity measures that would’ve made the recession worse. He was forced to adopt a stimulus package by opposition parties who nearly voted his government down.
The destruction Flaherty caused with his neo-con wrecking-ball agenda shows Canada desperately needs a democratic voting system.
If we had government that represented an actual majority of voters — instead of a dictatorship controlled by a 40% minority party — none of this would’ve happened.