For months, pundits have accused Stephen Harper of bringing no new ideas to the campaign trail. Harper was caught in a loop, mindlessly repeating the mantra “stay the course…stay the course…stay the course…” Last Friday, Harper bucked that trend. Issuing a big F-YOU to his enemies in the liberal media, Harper put a new idea on the table. It’s called the “tax lock,” and yes, you guessed it, it’s extremely stupid.
The basic idea of the tax lock is that the government won’t be able to raise taxes for 4 years. That’s quite a commitment! According to Harper, “[the other parties] won’t want to pass [the lock], they won’t pass it themselves; if they get the chance they would break it.” That’s right, his is the only government with the boulder-sized nuts to handicap itself by putting the lock in place. It’s a all-star game move for an all-time lame prime minister, but boy does it ever take confidence to pull it off. It’s like that one time Prince Fielder stole second base.
The tax lock is for the government what a pay freeze would be for the single parent in a crunch. The bills keep piling up, the assets have been sold, and there isn’t any more money coming in to balance the accounts. Keep the salary in line with inflation? No thanks, this dad prefers hubris. If we follow the analogy, Harper, the single parent, could expect a call from child services.
Once (if) re-elected, Harper’s government would enforce the tax lock by passing it in legislation. So there would be no way around it! Wait, actually, there would be no penalty for breaking the lock. All a government would have to do to raise taxes is repeal the law.
But does requiring that a government repeal a law really make any difference? Harper’s Conservatives repealed legislation as often as Goldmember peeled his skin. They hid so much legislative activity in lengthy omnibus bills that, left to their own devices, the vast majority of Canadian readers wouldn’t have been able to assess the damage before the next election. Does that make this promise a gimmick? Is the Pope releasing a progressive rock album?
Harper admits that the gesture is symbolic, that it is a way to “enshrine the Conservative commitment to not raise taxes.” Considering that description, is it fair to call this a new idea? Probably not. The tax lock is a new policy idea in the same way that the French language debate offered refreshing dialogue. If you pay no attention to content and just listen to the words, you might think you’re hearing this stuff for the first time.