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Liberals attack Harper's math

(PoliticsWatch posted May 21, 2004) OTTAWA - After attacking things he has said in the past, the Liberals expanded their strategy against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper today questioning his arithmetic.

Veterans Affairs Minister John McCallum held a press conference in Ottawa where he criticized Harper's plan to cut taxes and increase military spending as being unattainable and something that would fundamentally change Canada as we know it.

"Stephen Harper is saying in numbers what he dares not say in words," said McCallum, who before entering politics was the chief economist at the Royal Bank.

"According to his numbers, Stephen Harper's vision of Canada involves tax cuts so deep and military spending increases so great that he will have no choice but to cut essential services to Canadians."

While the exact cost of Harper's tax cut and military spending figures are not available, McCallum based his estimates on comments Harper has made suggesting he wanted to make Canada the lowest taxing jurisdiction in the developed world and increasing military spending toward the NATO average.

According to McCallum, the cost of the Harper tax cut would be $30 billion based on reducing Canadian tax revenues to U.S. levels and military spending commitments would be $10 billion based on increasing our defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP to the NATO average of two per cent. That comes out to a total of $40 billion, according to McCallum's estimates. 

"It is obvious that to cut federal spending by $40 billion would require deep cuts in the amounts of (social services) cheques," said McCallum. 

"In a sense it does not matter whether Stephen Harper would enact these cuts today or in five years, or whether, he ultimately fail to achieve his objective," he added. "The point is that this is where he wants to take our country. These are his values. It is important for Canadians to understand the values of a man who wants to be prime minister." 

The Conservatives responded to McCallum's morning news conference early this afternoon in a news release

"He claims to know what is in the Conservative platform," the Tories said. "The fact is McCallum has never seen the Conservative platform. It hasn’t been released yet."

The Conservatives also noted that while McCallum "mongers fear" against the Conservatives suggesting low taxes would drastically alter Canada, he himself was recently an advocate of closing the gap between Canadian and U.S. tax rates when he was an economist.

In a September 1998 article for the Fraser Institute, McCallum wrote, “Canada has…higher income tax than the United States. This difference may be a source of problems for the Canadian economy and adds a further argument in favour of cuts in income taxes.” 

The Tories say McCallum and the Liberals are "bereft of ideas, and have nothing to offer the media but fear and lies."

McCallum denied that his use of rhetoric at his press conference was designed as a way to scare the public into not voting for the Conservatives. 

"It's not scaremongering," he said. "It's arithmetic." 

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