Harper government demonstrates its competency
// Samantha Thompson

Since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister six years ago, I have hated him. A lot of my friends, too, find him irritable and hard to deal with. Yet, for the last three elections, Harper has gotten his party elected – and with increasing success. In 2011 he formed Canada’s first majority government since the election in 2000. With a majority government a party has a lot of power – a fact of which Harper is acutely aware. It seems that although my personal feelings toward the guy are less than favourable, he must be doing something right in the eyes of some Canadians, because he keeps getting re-elected.

Although the economy has been in his favour (people are more likely to vote Conservative in uncertain economic times), Harper is also a very good politician. There are a number of things that he has done because they appealed to enough people that they would win him more votes than he would lose. On top of that, anything that was controversial would be forgotten by the next election, anyway (Think people are going to remember robocalls? Think again.).
Economic Action Plan

Although the Economic Action Plan has undergone considerable criticism for being too flashy (huge signs marked every site of the plan, which allegedly were not actually made in Canada but imported from the U.S.), it did benefit Canadians in many ways. It provided funding to projects that may not have occurred otherwise, including Capilano’s own new film building.

While supporting projects, it simultaneously worked to stimulate the suffering economy by generating jobs in multiple sectors. According to a press release from Jan. 2011, the EAP had 26,000 projects underway or completed. In its second year, it was aiming to deliver $28 billion in stimulus.

In a release from Feb. 2012, Minister of Industry Christian Paradis said, "The Harper Government is focusing on what matters to Canadians – job creation and economic growth.” The EAP is a strong initiative because it ensures that the government is taking on responsibility for getting the economy out of the recession as quickly as possible.

More money for you

Under the banner of the Economic Action Plan, the Harper Government has also introduced a number of new tax credits for Canadians. In the budgets of 2009 and 2010, Harper introduced a tax credit for first-time home buyers and home renovation. In 2011, they added an arts tax credit for children, which is a 15 per cent non-refundable credit to “help better recognize the costs associated with children’s artistic, cultural, recreational, and developmental activities.” They also added a tax credit for volunteer firefighters.

The arts tax credits are beneficial because they assist, in particular, lower-income families in potentially enrolling their children in programs outside of school. Although direct government funding for these programs would be better, a little assistance is better than none at all.

In 2006 the Conservatives lowered the GST to six per cent (from seven per cent) and in 2008 they lowered again to five per cent. Although the government is now collecting less taxes that could potentially be recycled into social programs, the average consumer has to pay less tax initially to the federal government when they purchase products or services.

Changes to Parliament

During their time in government the Conservatives have also made several changes to the House of Commons. On Dec. 16, 2011, the Fair Representation Act passed, raising the number of seats in the House from 308 to 338. Fifteen seats will be added to Ontario’s representation, three to Quebec, and six to both B.C. and Alberta.

With this Act, the government worked to increase representation to provinces whose populations are increasing at a rapid rate. It helps to ensure representation of Canadians is more proportional to the population in that province, which is a good thing.

In 2011, the Conservatives also introduced a bill that proposed legislation that would make significant changes to the Senate. The bill suggests an implementation of term limits for all Senators, whereas currently Senators are in their position until age 75, at which time they are forced to retire. It also proposes that Senators become an elected position, whereas currently they are appointed by the current Prime Minister whenever a vacancy comes up (this is part of the reason why the Conservatives have so much sway presently; they have a majority in both the House and the Senate). The bill has been on the table since last May though, so it’s not moving anywhere quickly. Although the bill may not be proposing the best changes to the Senate, the Senate is in desperate need for reform, so this is a step in the right direction.

Fantastic PR

In addition to his more “serious” governmental endeavours, Stephen Harper has other things going for him. He is one of the few elected officials who has perfect hair, all the time (almost LEGO-like, really). He also has an affinity for cats, and he and Laureen Harper foster cats at 24 Sussex, advocating for the SPCA and Humane Society.

The Conservative website has an entire section dedicated to “10 things you might not know about Prime Minister Stephen Harper”, which details his affinity for movies, curling, karaoke, and the Beatles. He is currently writing a book about the history of professional hockey and learning to speak Spanish.

Besides Harper himself, the Conservatives really know how to sell a brand. They are the only political party to include a “shopping” section on their party page, where you can buy apparel, a Harper bobblehead, an apron mocking the Liberals, and a Family Party Pack which gives you everything you need to campaign for the Tories with your whole family. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives know how to make their party known, and present their leader as a down-to-earth average guy – something that is invaluable in a world where many people are instantly assumed to be sleazy and untrustworthy.

While this compilation is by no means inclusive, it has demonstrated the importance of perception through politics. Stephen Harper has done many things lately that I have a more and more difficult time dealing with, but it would appear that in his time as Prime Minister, he has done some good things for Canada. Although I will not turn around and start endorsing his every move, I will give him one thing – Harper sure knows how to get elected.

//Samantha Thompson, editor-in-chief
//Graphics by Stefan Tosheff

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