Pierre Poilievre is a six-term Member of Parliament, former Minister of Employment and the current Conservative Shadow Minister of Finance.
Lots of advice is pouring in for Conservatives these days.
Much of it from people who have never or will never vote for the party. They have concluded that the Conservative Party, which won the most votes in the election, is so unpopular that it must abandon its entire platform and the 6.1 million people who voted for it. The Globe and Mail, for example, has called for the party to drop its weird obsession with fiscal responsibility and low taxes.
Likewise, this headline recently blazed the pages of the Toronto Star: “Conservatives will pay for Andrew Scheer’s anti-tax stance.” Low taxes are not compatible with “a big-tent party in 2019 Canada, and we know from the past few weeks of federal election campaigning that voters are not won over by the concept,” wrote the paper’s federal finance columnist Heather Scoffield. “It’s an anti-tax, small-government dogma that hearkens back to Stephen Harper and channels Jason Kenney and Doug Ford,” she wrote, referring to three leaders who won majorities on tax-fighting platforms.
Premiers Kenney and Ford won victories in the last 18 months, with many seats in urban centres. But never mind, we’re told that their low-tax messages are unelectable or out-of-date. As for Mr. Harper, the Parliamentary Budget Officer calculated that he “reduced federal tax revenue by $30 billion, or 12 per cent. These changes have been progressive, overall. Low and middle income earners have benefited more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.” The policy helped win Harper three elections (including a majority) and become the longest-serving Conservative Prime Minister since John A. MacDonald. (We wouldn’t want to repeat that track record, would we?)
Canada already has four parties—the New Democrats, Liberals, Greens and Bloc—clamoring for bigger and more powerful government. The media believes Conservatives should become the fifth. It would not be without precedent. Past “conservative” leaders have embraced higher taxes. How did that work out for them?
When Prime Minister Joe Clark’s budget hiked gas taxes, he lost a confidence vote and an election after only nine months in office. When President, George Herbert Walker Bush, broke his “read my lips: no new taxes” pledge, he lost to Bill Clinton. Alberta Premier, Ed Stelmach, raised taxes on the energy sector by jacking up royalty rates and was gone as Premier within ten months. Ernie Eves raised taxes soon after becoming Ontario Premier and promptly lost an election, reversing the back-to-back majorities of taxfighter, Mike Harris. In the early 1990s, the federal Progressive Conservative government introduced the GST and went from a majority government to merely two seats. New Brunswick Premier David Alward’s 2013/14 budget raised taxes by $200 million and in the following year’s election he lost his government and half his caucus. Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government announced hikes to income, gas and alcohol taxes in the 2015 budget and two months later lost to the NDP, finished third place and ended their 44-year dynasty, the longest of any party in Canada’s history.
It is true that there are many factors that lead to parties or leaders losing office. But is it just an extraordinary coincidence that voters have promptly driven out of office every federal or provincial conservative leader who raised taxes in the last three decades?
No. It is no coincidence. When conservative parties support tax increases, they get crushed.
The reasons are clear.
First, how can a conservative candidate who supports tax hikes criticize the socialist parties for doing the same? If all parties are going to cost taxpayers more, the election becomes a bidding war where parties compete to offer the most generous government-funded goodies—a bidding war left-wing parties with no fiscal responsibility will win every time.
What we can believably offer is a chance for hardworking and ambitious people to build better lives for themselves, by keeping more of their earnings.
That is who we are. Without our best product (low taxes), we lose our customers. We become a baker without bread or a logger without lumber.
“How boring,” groans the left. Ms. Scoffield, for example, laments that low taxes leave no “room for big thinking on how to confront the next economic downturn, or how to take care of an aging society, or how to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing unless the private sector takes front and centre.” Confront the next downturn through tax hikes? Care for an aging society by raising taxes on retirement savings? Make housing more affordable by taxing the business that builds homes, or the worker saving to buy one? These ideas fulfil the socialist fantasy of making people helplessly dependent on government, but betray people’s desire to fulfil their own potential and chart their own destinies.
Low taxes are not a “gimmick”, like 30 cents off paper towels. Rather, they allow free workers and entrepreneurs to choose what to do with the fruits of their labour and enterprise. Costing people less is just the means. Empowering them to do more is the end.
A dollar can only be in one place at a time. Who decides where it goes?
The person who earned it or the politician who taxed it; the entrepreneur whose investments produced it or the politician who faces no real consequence for squandering it?
Whose dreams are fulfilled in the end, the family saving to start a business, buy a home or afford to make lasting memories taking the kids somewhere special; or the politician who dreams of buying himself a legacy with that family’s money?
Conservatives must be the party of human aspiration and free choice. That means ignoring the big-government cabal and always standing with the hardworking taxpayer.