Thanks to a link forwarded to me by a commenter, I would like to add further information to Canadian's confusion about just who their Prime Minister is and what he really thinks. Remember, this is the Stephen Harper without his political handlers, his talking points and his personal agenda. On May 24th, 1995, Stephen Harper, a newly minted Reform Party MP, gave this speech at a National Citizens' Coalition dinner at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario. The contents of the speech can be found on David Orchard's website where a .pdf copy of the NCC's Consensus newsletter from June 1995 can be found. At the end of the speech, the floor was opened to questions from the audience and while not recorded verbatim, Mr. Harper's answers to the questions posed are reported after the contents of the speech. In his speech, Mr. Harper makes quite a number of references to the "Quebec question" and to the role of "big government" and how they are interconnected. Before I post excerpts from Mr. Harper's speech, it is important that we understand that on May 24th, 1995 Mr. Harper was 36 years old. This is not a speech given from the "misguided passion of youth". This was not a Bill Clinton "I didn't inhale" moment. This was a passionate speech given by a man who was born in Toronto, Ontario, that most Upper Canadian of all of Ontario's cities, a man who was transplanted to Alberta during the "Eastern Creeps and Bums" era and a man that, during the elections of 2004 and 2006, reminded Canadians that he had deep roots in Atlantic Canada after insulting their "culture of defeatism" in 2002. Here is a direct quote from his speech:
"The National Citizens' Coalition speaks of "more freedom through less government" - that has been your slogan for some time. Let me bring this perspective, which may be unusual coming from a Member of Parliament. Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other king (sic) of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion. What matters and should matter to politicians and people who believe in the kind of values that I believe that National Citizens' Coalition and the Reform Party share is not whether the Canadian state prospers, but whether the Canadian people and the land we call Canada prosper. It's the people, and whether the people who live on the land remain free (that is important). And whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be." (my bold)
Let me repeat that.
"Stephen Harper answered a number of questions after his remarks. One sought his impression of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's programme for debt reduction: Although I can't speak of the details because it is not my area of expertise, what Mr. Klein is doing in Alberta is, in principle, what governments need to do. He is taking a look at a situation that is unsustainable financially and he is taking the steps necessary through expenditure reductions to eliminate that financial uncertainty on a permanent basis within the life of a single Parliament. That is the only way it ever gets done. Any politician who says he is going to do it over two Parliaments is never going to do it. That's the golden rule. That's something that you can learn from Ralph Klein."
Apparently, that's a lesson that has gone unlearned. Let's look at the fiscal record of Mr. Harper's Conservative governments. First, let's take a look back at the Liberal's tenure at the fiscal helm of Canada. Paul Martin, acting as Canada's Minister of Finance between 1993 and 2002 under the Chretien government, managed to bring in five consecutive budget surpluses and erased Canada's $42 billion deficit over a period of four years. Certainly, one can argue that the economy was booming, however, governments of all stripes seem to manage to overspend their revenues no matter how great the economy. From the Harper government's March 2010 Budget, they show estimated budget deficits ranging from $49.2 billion in 2010 - 2011 to $1.8 billion in 2014 - 2015. Here is are two charts showing the numbers: Since the last Canadian election was held in October of 2010, according to Canada's fixed election date legislation, Mr. Harper has to call an election by October 2012. Remember Stephen Harper's words
Stephen Harper's May 24th, 1995 speech to the National Citizens' Coalition is located here.