Debate night: who was right, almost right, and wrongPosted in Reality Check Posted on October 3, 2008 06:23 PM | Permalink
By Mark Gollom and John Gray
The facts, the stats, and the counter punches were flying during the English debate Thursday night in Ottawa. The Reality Check team investigated the claims coming from the mouths of the candidates. Here is what we found:
What was said
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Thursday night that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's Green Shift plan will raise $40 billion in carbon taxes, but only supply $26 billion in cuts, meaning it won't be revenue neutral.
"It's not true at all," Dion responded. "For every dollar that we will raise, you will have a tax cut and these tax cuts will be on your income."
When Harper refers to the $26 billion in tax cuts, he's only counting cuts to income tax and corporate taxes. But he's ignoring tax credits listed in the plan that include, for example, an $8,400 children's tax benefit.
But Dion isn't presenting the whole picture either. The plan calls for a Liberal government to return every dollar received from the carbon tax in the form of a tax break. But that doesn't mean that all individuals will come out even.
As TD chief economist Don Drummond observed, the plan is "never going to be revenue neutral for any individual or any corporation."
"Everybody's going to be able to do their own calculations to some degree, and there will be winners and there will be losers."
What was said
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe in both debates spoke about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's economic statement of October 2007. In the first debate, Duceppe said on Page 30 that Flaherty stated five of the manufacturing sectors have been technically in recession for three years.
The next night, Duceppe corrected the (Page 28) but repeated that "if we believe Jim Flaherty, the manufacturing sector has been in recession for the last three years."
The finance minister doesn't say anything about the sector. In fact, the page is a chart that shows how some industries in the sector have had negative real GDP growth since December 2005.
What was said
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton pointed to events in the small Ontario town of Goderich to reinforce his concern about the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. The Volvo plant that builds aerospace equipment is closing down, Layton said, and 500 jobs will be going elsewhere.
Layton is right that the plant is owned by Volvo, and he's right that the plant is closing and the jobs will go elsewhere. But the plant makes road graders, not aerospace equipment.
What was said
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Canada has "the weakest target of any country in the industrialized world and we have the shame of being the only country in the world that ratified Kyoto and has chosen to ignore its targets."
This is not quite right. The U.S., Australia and Japan don't have any targets at all for 2020, according to the Canadian environmental research group the Pembina Institute.
However, Canada's target is to reduce emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020 is one of the weakest targets in the industrialized world.
What was said
On the matter of budget deficits, Layton was in a mood to boast. He told the other leaders that even the Department of Finance had said the NDP had the best record in terms of balancing budgets while in power. Particularly there was a string of 17 balanced budgets brought in by Tommy Douglas's CCF government in Saskatchewan in the 1940s and 1950s. (The CCF was the forerunner of the New Democratic Party.)
There was a feeling that somebody around the debate table was going to mention the record of Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario between 1990 and 1995, when the deficits were large. Layton beat them to the punch. And then there was Rae, but he's someone else's problem now, said Layton while smiling broadly. Dion registered no emotion.
After the defeat of his government, Rae left the NDP and joined the Liberals, where he is now seen as one of those jostling for position to succeed Dion in the Liberal leadership, if Dion were to lose the election and step down. Some observers assume there is no chance that Rae would be named the Liberals' finance critic.
What was said
One of the favourite taunts of the opposition parties is that if Harper had been prime minister five years ago, Canada would have marched into Iraq alongside American troops. At the time, Harper was an enthusiastic supporter of President George W. Bush and his war on Iraq.
It's taken a while but during the English debate Harper admitted that his attitude on the Iraq question was wrong. In fact, not just wrong but "absolutely an error. Obviously."
Harper made the admission under prodding by Duceppe. The error was the American claim that Iraq had vast stores of weapons of mass destruction. It was that claim that became the justification for the American invasion.
But Harper is now prepared to acknowledge that claim was wrong: "It's obviously clear the evaluation of weapons of mass destruction proved not to be correct. That's absolutely true. That's why we're not sending anybody to Iraq."
What Harper did not acknowledge was that the decision not to join the American invasion was taken by then Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, against the opposition of most of Harper's Conservative supporters.
Harper's unexpected candour about Iraq came on the heels of the revelation that on the day of the Iraq invasion in March 2003 his speech on Iraq to the House of Commons had been substantially lifted from a speech by then Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
He told the Commons that, "We should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world's only superpower."
Harper indicated no doubts that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.
"That is the ultimate nightmare which the world must take decisive and effective steps to prevent. Possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by terrorists would constitute a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to the world, including to Canada and its people."
What was said
Dion suggested that his carbon tax has the support of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. He said the Liberal premier "accepts our plan as being a good one."
In fact, McGuinty has neither endorsed the Green Shift plan nor Dion himself, saying only he wants to "advance Ontario's interests."
But he did admit he will vote for his brother David, a Liberal who is running in Ottawa South.
But McGuinty's finance minister Dwight Duncan, while not commenting specifically on Dion's plan, said the timing for a carbon tax is not right for Ontario.
"One of the things that I think would be a mistake right now is massive shifts in tax burden at a time when there's uncertainty," Duncan said.
About the Authors
Ira Basen joined CBC Radio in 1984 and was senior producer at Sunday Morning and Quirks and Quarks. He was involved in the creation of three network programs The Inside Track (1985), This Morning (1997) and Workology (2001), and produced the award- winning radio documentary series Spin Cycles (2007). He has also written for Saturday Night, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus. He taught at the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson. He is a co-author of the Canadian edition of The Book of Lists (Knopf, 2005).
John Gray has worked for a number of Canadian newspapers, including most recently more than 20 years with the Globe and Mail, where he served as Ottawa bureau chief, national editor, foreign editor, foreign correspondent and national correspondent
Mark Gollom has been a news writer for CBCNews.ca since 2003. He's worked as a reporter at the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Sun. Mark has a degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario and a diploma in journalism from Centennial College in Toronto.