Monday, July 14, 2008

High-flying hypocrisy: The Conservatives, Bombardier and corporate subsidies

I don’t have a huge issue with select corporate subsidies when they’re in the public interest, and my view on that doesn’t change no matter whom the party in power may be. Given this news though…

And, as soon aircraft maker Bombardier announced a new jet Sunday at an air show in England, Industry Minister Jim Prentice put out a news release reminding voters in Quebec that the federal government was giving the company $350 million to ensure it made those planes near Montreal.

…I thought it would be interesting to see what Stephen Harper and his MPs have had to say on the issue of Bombardier and corporate subsidies in the past.

*June 3, 2005, National Post column by John Ivison on a speech by Stephen Harper to the Toronto Board of Trade:

Harper promised that there would be a dividend down the road for businesses in the form of reduced business income tax and capital gains tax rates but that these cuts would be contingent on the Conservatives finding savings of around $4-billion from the $18- billion in corporate "welfare" spent annually by the government.

He issued a challenge to business: "If you want lower business taxes, you must be willing at the same time to stop receiving government subsidies. I won't lower one without lowering the other."

*March 19, 2005, National Post news article:

Conservative party members endorsed an economic agenda yesterday that highlights widespread tax relief and the eventual elimination of financial aid to corporations.

"I think what this shows is that small-c conservatives are in the party and they are making their voices heard," said Gerry Nicholls, vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition. "We've been urging them to do that -- and that's what they are doing. It's good for the party and it's good for Canada."

What earned the most bullish response from Mr. Williamson and Mr. Nicholls was a resolution calling for an eventual end to financial subsidies to corporations. The resolution was approved but not after heated debate among delegates -- particularly members from Quebec who warned that companies such as Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. needed federal aid.

"Giving handouts to business is not the answer," Mr. Nicholls said. "What Conservatives should be doing is coming up with a policy that creates a better environment for business with lower taxes and less regulation."

*June 26, 2004, Globe and Mail news article:

Mr. Harper argued Monday during the French-language debate that Bombardier doesn't need subsidies to succeed. Liberal Leader Paul Martin and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe responded that Mr. Harper's policies would hurt the economy and eliminate jobs.

*October 8, 2003, Burnaby Now, Letter to the editor:


Last week, in two separate speeches, Paul Martin, prime minister to be, and Paul Tellier, president and CEO of Bombardier, tried to defend the indefensible. They tried to defend corporate welfare.

Canadian taxpayers have poured billions of dollars into Bombardier over the past 20 years in the form of grants, contributions, loans and contracts. These funds would go a long way towards tax relief or health care for Canadians. Yet, Mr. Tellier tells us to stop whining.

With all due respect, Mr. Tellier, no, we won't. Canadians deserve to know exactly how much his company has received and how much it has paid back.

In the Canadian Alliance, we have consistently maintained corporate welfare must stop. It is time to put an end to grants, preferential loans and sole-source contracts.

In the past, our party has raised concerns about the amount of money given to Bombardier over a 15-year period. Canadians still don't know the exact amount of money given to Bombardier by our federal government or how much has ever been repaid. Indeed, we still don't know if Bombardier intends to pay back the $87-million "loan" Technology Partnerships Canada gave to his company in 1996.

The problem resides with Paul Martin and the Liberal government. Each year, the federal government transfers between $20 and $25 billion to companies, lobbyists and special interest groups for a variety of purposes. Most of the money is never repaid.

On numerous occasions, the Canadian Alliance has called for the federal government to account for this mess and wean companies such as Bombardier from the public purse. We are still waiting for an answer.

The Liberals keep digging deeper and deeper into a hole as they give money to Bombardier and others. It is time to stop digging.

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance MP, Edmonton Southwest

*Sept. 16. 2003, Montreal Gazette news article:

Most recently, for example, Charlie Penson, trade critic for the Canadian Alliance, blasted the federal government for freeing up $1.2 billion in loans to buyers of Bombardier's jets through the cabinet-controlled Canada Account.

"I'm always amazed at how quickly they react for their pet company," Penson said.


These are just a sampling too. Besides the letter from James Rajotte (who now chairs the committee on industry, science and technology, btw), I think my favourite line from these articles was from the story about the 2005 Conservative policy convention, about “the eventual elimination of financial aid to corporations.” By eventual, I take it just as soon as they win enough Quebec seats for a majority.

Finally, for those that will undoubtedly say ‘Liberals do it too’ yes, that’s true, but the Liberals also don’t have a record of strident opposition to doing this. It’s not the policy, it’s the hypocrisy.

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Anonymous said...

Should we go back about just over 1 year when Mr.Dion said that he doesn't favor a carbon tax? Not only he favors it but it will be his main campaign issue. Should I go back when the P.C's were in power,and the official opposition the Liberals were against let us see free trade and the gst remember it?

My point is are the Liberal's the only party that is allowed to change their minds hummm?

Jeff said...

You are allowed to go back. You are going back. You have been going back. And the ads you'll be running in the campaign, if not sooner, will be going back.

My point is are the Conservatives the only party that is allowed to point-out changes of mind hummm?

Oh, and Dion as offered his explanation for the evolution of his position on a carbon shift; the public will pass their judgement. What's Harper's explanation? Needing to pander to Quebec?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and Dion as offered his explanation for the evolution of his position on a carbon shift; the public will pass their judgement. What's Harper's explanation? Needing to pander to Quebec?"

You know I just wish you liberals would just get off the "pander to Quebec" story it really is getting old. It's no wonder why the liberals are struggling here in Quebec. Pandering to Quebec,Alberta etc..What should we say against the Liberals that they are pondering to Torontonians hey?

What explanation to you want? No matter what the Conservatives say in you're mind they are pondering to Quebec and nothing will change that.

RuralSandi said...

the right where it's at....ah, in an interview recently on Mike Duffy Live - Duffy asked Dion about his statement that he doesn't favour carbon tax - but, guess what - Dion admitted that and said he has changed his mind because he's found a way that they can balance the costs....that's called principled and admitting the truth - HUGE difference.

So, that argument is tired and, I see that the CPC supporters are trolling all over the blogosphere attacking Dion no matter what the subject is - tiresome and boring.

Have you people got ADD? This is about Harper and what he said/promised and his flip-flop not Dion's.

Jeff said...

So what you're saying right is the Conservatives have no explanation for the change in policy? OK then, good to know.

Anonymous said...

To abc

"So what you're saying right is the Conservatives have no explanation for the change in policy? OK then, good to know."

Is 3500 new direct jobs a good enough explanation I guess not. Not to mention the indirect economic fall out that usually occurs with a project this big. Again don't you think this is not a good enough project hummm?

Jeff said...

And apparently you have no reading comprehension the right is where it's not, as in the post I said quite clearly I have no problem with these programs. It was your party brethren that were vehemently against them, that termed them pandering, corporate welfare.

You mention 3500 jobs created. That's true. But they were creating jobs too when your party was on the pulpit against them. So what's the difference between then and now that caused them to change their minds?

Or are your Conservatives only in favour of jobs created under Conservative governments? Keep spinning, badly.

Red Tory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To abc

"Or are your Conservatives only in favour of jobs created under Conservative governments? Keep spinning, badly."

I'm in favor in job creation no matter who does it. Just to give you a little of my voting history. I know it has nothing to do with this post.

Do you know that the only time that I have voted Conservative was when Mr.Harper took over the party.

I have never voted P.C.before I have always voted liberals up until the new Conservative party was born. This is just to give you a little of my voting history. I don't think that I will ever vote liberal again. Some day you to will see the light the way I did.

Red Tory said...

This is a flip-flop long in the making. Remember that Harper sat on his hands and said nothing in 2005 when Paul Martin was doling out money to Bombardier.

When Harper realized that he needed to make electoral headway in Quebec his core neo-liberal ideology got thrown under the campaign bus. As always, votes are more important than principles. In this respect the Liberals and Conservatives turn out to be not much different from one another.

susansmith said...

Amen, Red Tory. Saying like it is.

Saskboy said...

The auto industry, the air industry, the oil industry. Is there any fat cat industry that the Conservatives (and Liberals) WON'T give hundreds of millions of dollars to?