The Commons: PM Harper explains why his 2008 platform was written in blue ink

(Hint: cap-and-trade)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, September 20, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Scene. The day’s prize for Inventiveness in Partisanship goes to Joyce Bateman, the Conservative MP for Winnipeg-South Centre, who, in standing to ask the Foreign Affairs Minister about the appointment of a new ambassador to China, somehow managed to accuse the NDP of proposing a “job-killing carbon tax.”

Any backbencher, having been duly awarded one of the highest honours a group of voting-age citizens can bestow on another, can stand and publicly proclaim the party line. But only the truly exceptional can do so in reference to something completely unrelated. Bravo Madame. You have established an impressive standard that will be difficult to match. Not that we should underestimate your colleagues. Especially when they might have three years to match or exceed your accomplishment.

For sure, you should probably settle in because this joke is probably going to take at least that long to tell (or, put another way, it will probably be for at least that long that the Conservatives will continue telling it).

“Mr. Speaker, with 300,000 more Canadians unemployed today than before the crash of 2008, a record $50-billion trade deficit and the highest household debt in Canadian history, the Conservatives’ solution is to send the Minister of Finance to lecture business leaders,” Thomas Mulcair reported this afternoon at the outset of Question Period, “but Canadian business leaders are voting with their wallets and holding off on new investment. They are sitting on over half a trillion dollars in dead money.”

Dead money and killed jobs. The world of finance is a gruesome one.

“When,” Mr. Mulcair wondered, “will the Conservatives stop lecturing Canadians on the economy and start listening?”

The Prime Minister was listening enough that he knew it was now his turn to stand.

“Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, we all know that there are great challenges in the world economy that affect this country,” he offered. “With that said, Canada’s economic performance continues to be far superior to that of most other developed countries. The number of jobs is up by more than three-quarters of a million, investment is up, exports are up and growth is up.”

Mr. Harper now waved his hand in the general direction of the New Democrats.

“We will make sure that we resist any ideas for carbon taxes, for tax increases, for shutting down industries and for blocking trade,” the Prime Minister declared. “This government is committed to the growth and prosperity of this country.”

The Conservatives stood to cheer this commitment.

Mr. Mulcair had a retort. “Mr. Speaker, our priority is jobs,” he clarified. “The Conservatives’ priority is making up stuff about the NDP.”

The New Democrats applauded, the Conservatives grumbled.

The NDP leader switched to French and the Prime Minister followed suit, only to return to English halfway through his response.

“Let me just say this,” he said. “I do not have to make up anything about the NDP. I have here, in black and white, black and white, its platform from the last election.”

He held in his hand a piece of white paper.

“There is a little table at the end,” he reported, “which states, “Cap and Trade Revenues By Year, $21 billion. Be a part of it.”

The Conservatives stood to cheer their man’s reading.

You would perhaps be tempted here to interject and point out that the Conservative party’s 2008 platform also included a commitment to cap-and-trade. But you would be interjecting too hastily. You see, the Conservative party’s 2008 platform is written in blue ink. And it is a widely accepted convention of civil law in this country that that which is written in blue isn’t binding. You might’ve thought the blue ink was simply a nod to the Conservative brand. But it was actually a way of ensuring that, should the Conservatives ever decide to completely repudiate a concept they once endorsed, they could not be held responsible for the previous commitment.

(One flaw in the plan: the 2004 election platform, this 2008 news release, the 2008 Throne Speech and this 2009 speech were all printed in black and white.)

Mr. Mulcair disregarded Mr. Harper’s evidence entirely. “Mr. Speaker, after seven years of Conservative corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives have nothing better to offer than more lectures to Canadian businesses, but despite their finger-wagging Canadian businesses are sitting on over half a trillion dollars in dead money,” he charged. “Even the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters have said that Conservative corporate tax cuts have had little observable impact on new investment in Canada.”

“Woah!” mocked the New Democrats.

“What,” Mr. Mulcair asked, “will it take for the Conservative government to finally change course?”

In response, Mr. Harper stood and demonstrated his own deference to manufacturers. “Mr. Speaker, under our government, our record of growth continues to be superior. Taxes are down not just for business, they are down for individuals, they are down for families. In every case, the NDP voted against those tax cuts. We have voted for them,” he first reviewed. “The manufacturing sector can speak for itself. Let me read what the president of Patriot Forge, a manufacturing company in southwestern Ontario, just said. He stated: ‘The higher taxes proposed by the NDP will make it much more difficult for our Canadian plants to compete….’ ”

The man from Patriot Forge having spoken, the matter should obviously be considered closed.

The Stats. Employment insurance, 11 questions. Foreign investment, five questions. The environment, four questions. The economy and food safety, three questions each. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, seniors and abortion, two questions each. Foreign affairs, pensions, prisons, Canadian Forces, privacy, foreign aid and the Quebec City armoury, one question each.

Diane Finley, 11 responses. Christian Paradis, six responses. Tony Clement, four responses. Stephen Harper, Gerry Ritz and Peter Kent, three responses each. Rob Nicholson, two responses. John Baird, Ted Menzies, Candice Bergen, Peter MacKay, Julian Fantino and Rona Ambrose, one response each.