NELSON: Harper gets a D, and is failing economics

FACE TO FACE: What interim grade does Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserve?

With Justin Trudeau all but anointed the federal Liberal leader and the Tories halfway through their majority mandate, my colleague and I felt it a good time to offer an interim report card for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Like most interim reports, this one is based on subjective personal observations, often too brief and sparsely substantiated.

• The Economy — D: Mr. Harper’s only economic strategy, corporate and personal tax cuts, both inordinately benefit the rich. As a result, wealth has been upwardly redistributed and the economic disparity between rich and poor is wider than it has ever been.

His government is overtly anti-union. Under Mr. Harper, Canada’s union membership is at its lowest level ever and Canada’s wage earners have not benefitted from increasing corporate profits.

The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer as a result of Mr. Harper’s trickle down policies.

• Social Programs — C–: This somewhat inflated mark reflects the fact that Mr. Harper’s government has not yet abolished or defunded pensions, medical care, abortion or gay marriage. But each of these major programs has been threatened by either cabinet ministers or renegade Conservative MPs.

The government has defunded 87 previously funded service organizations and removed $45 million from arts funding. Support for scientific research has been severely cut, including funding for world-renowned environmental research.

• International Relations — F: Foreign policy is Mr. Harper’s biggest and least reversible failure. The Office of Religious Freedom, the F35 bomber fiasco, stridently taking sides in the Middle East dispute, calling Palestinians names and talking about the “War on Terror” — in half a term, Harper’s government has taken Canada from an internationally respected force for peace to an outspoken partisan satellite of the U.S.

• Leadership — B: Just because he is leading in the wrong direction doesn’t mean Mr. Harper is not a good leader. He presents as calm and pleasant, slow to anger or spit harsh rhetoric. Mr. Harper tightly controls a government that could never be accused of transparency; nevertheless, he has muzzled the difficult-to-muzzle remnants of Reform Party and Canadian Alliance social conservatives.

He is a good leader — of a government whose ideas are insensitive, ineffective and tired.

Thus, Stephen Harper’s overall interim performance mark is a D — for depressing.

Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.

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