Canada: What the Leaving Left Behind

3 years ago ccwa 0

Flaherty and Redford

This past week has seen resignations from two of Canada’s most prominent Conservative leaders. The Honorable Jim Flaherty unexpectedly resigned on March 18th, citing health concerns and a desire to return to the private sector. His resignation came after serving as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Minister of Finance since 2006. The very next day, Alberta Premier Alison Redford resigned as well. Elected in April, 2012, Redford was the first female Premier in Alberta’s history. Though they resigned in succession, the legacy left by each of them will be vastly different.

As Minister of Finance, Flaherty saw Canada through the bulk of the Great Recession while maintaining a robust economy. Though many of his policies were controversial at the time, most notably the ‘Halloween Massacre’ wherein he imposed a tax on income trusts, he is generally given credit for ensuring that Canada’s economy remained strong while the rest of the world was mired in the global financial crisis. Enacting policies that were described by former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as “masterful”, Flaherty was able to safeguard the Canadian economy from most of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world.

The former Minister of Finance maintained positive relations with the United States through two presidencies. He promoted cooperation with President Bush, and despite his steadfast support of the Keystone XL project, promoted cooperation with President Obama as well. In his statement of resignation, he talked about his most proud accomplishments. The former minister “reduced Canada’s business taxes to the lowest level in the G-7, reduced other taxes 160 times, introduced the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) and the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), took action on four separate occasions to protect Canada’s housing market, and took historical steps to strengthen Canada’s securities regulation regime.”

On the other side, Premier Redford largely resigned in disgrace. Following a personal job approval rating of 18% and a party approval rating of 19%, Redford made the decision to step down. Though the Albertan public is known for being fickle (Redford is the second Alberta premier to resign), Redford’s reputation as a reckless spender rendered her resignation inevitable.

Alberta has a reputation for being the “Texas of Canada” insomuch as their two main parties are the moderate Progressive Conservatives and the far right Wildrose faction. As a provincial voting bloc, Albertans even more so than the rest of the country, are strongly opposed to what is perceived as unnecessary spending. Premier Redford’s chief of staff had a higher salary than any federal aide, including those working for the Prime Minister, and she was known for using taxpayer funds to pay for first class plane tickets. Beyond her extravagant personal expenditures, Redford’s party enacted what were seen as superfluous programs that would cause Alberta to be $21 billion in debt by the end of 2017.

Both Flaherty and Redford will be remembered beyond their respective terms, though leaving vastly different legacies. Joe Oliver will be replacing Flaherty as Minister of Finance and Dave Hancock will be taking over as the interim Alberta Premier until the election in 2016.

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by Miranda Onnen

(photo credit: G20 Breakdown/National Post)