In the midst of wealth, we worry

Canada has neither suffered a three-year banking crisis such as Ireland’s, nor required a $150-billion rescue package as Greece has. And we are not trying to stare down a $1.4-trillion federal deficit, as projected for the U.S. this year.

Canada has neither suffered a three-year banking crisis such as Ireland’s, nor required a $150-billion rescue package as Greece has. And we are not trying to stare down a $1.4-trillion federal deficit, as projected for the U.S. this year.

Regardless, 48 per cent of Canadian voters surveyed last month ranked the economy as their highest priority during this election campaign — by a two-to-one margin over second-place health care.

Canadians are very worried — about finding a job and keeping it, about encouraging foreign investment while adequately protecting jobs in Canada, about having enough to live on when we have retired.

Prices — of gas, food, housing, appliances, clothing — continue to rise at alarming rates. How do we make ends meet?

And how do we sift through the wealth of political rhetoric and relative lack of detail in the platforms of the three major parties to determine which one will best steer the Canadian economy for the benefit of us all?

It is disingenuous, for example, for the Liberals and the NDP to hit so hard on the increased deficit under Stephen Harper’s Tories. That deficit is largely the result of stimulus spending initiated by the Conservatives at the start of the recession — in response to an aggressive full-court press by the Liberals and the NDP.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, overplay the credit due them for bringing Canada through the recession in relatively decent shape.

It was, after all, generations of banking regulations — built up by both Conservative and Liberal governments — that provided protection for the Canadian economy that was lacking in other nations, such as the United States.

Canada needs a fiscally conservative approach to our national economy. The top priority is jobs. Our government needs to encourage growth in the private sector. Foreign investment is critical, but must come with enforceable regulations to keep jobs in Canada. Corporate taxes must be competitive. Pensions must be secure. Government spending must be controlled. The deficit must be reduced.

The Conservative platform addresses most of these issues and the track record of Harper’s government is reasonably good. Continuing a corporate tax cut program is in keeping with the economic stimulus plans of Ontario’s Liberal government and will help job creation and increase investment, both foreign and domestic. The Conservative focus on skills training is critical to helping Canadians find jobs. The plan for deficit reduction is aggressive.

The Tories would do well, though, to pull some elements from the playbooks of both the Liberals and the NDP. Government spending has not stopped increasing under the Conservatives; the Liberal proposal to review all federal program spending and implement sustainable savings is a good one.

There are competing studies on the efficacy of corporate tax cuts as job creators; the NDP’s plan to introduce a job creation tax credit may be what’s needed to get more Canadians employed.

All three major parties favour infrastructure renewal; the Tories would do well to consider Liberal concerns about the existing federal infrastructure program with a view to improving it and, as the NDP suggests, strengthening it.

Both the Liberals and the NDP have failed to adequately and specifically define the costs of their proposals. Given the Tories’ track record, that is a huge mistake on the part of these two opposition parties.

From the Hamilton Spectator.