While Conservatives still try to salvage Mr. Harper’s reputation as a competent Prime Minister, it might be useful to remind everyone just how bad an economist he was. Mr Harper went on about the “job-killing carbon tax” that the Liberals would bring in. This was bad economics on every level.
In the area of carbon taxation his advice went against the views of the vast majority of trained economists. He was expressing flaky views analogous to the flat-earthers or the creationists.
The real crime was that he pretended to be a competent economist. Like a quack doctor, he was issuing prescriptions in a field that he was not qualified to work in. It is true that Mr Harper had an MA in economics, and that this impressed many in his party. I have hired people with MAs in economics as research assistants. The fact is that it takes more than a year and a half to make a competent economist.
One result was that a minister in his cabinet stated on Quirks and Quarks just before the election that a carbon tax will not reduce CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to saying that the law of demand doesn’t apply. Raising a price will not reduce the amount purchased. Demand curves do not slope down. It is a complete dismissal of economic theory. Mr Harper was responsible for choosing this man and for encouraging his nutty views.
We do know what competent economists are saying: finance ministers need to think about reforms to fiscal systems in order to raise more revenue from taxes on carbon-intensive fuels and less revenue from other taxes that are detrimental to economic performance, such as taxes on labor and capital. We do know that the world is swinging toward carbon taxes.
It may seem ungenerous to attack a man when he has just been humiliated in an general election, but it is important to think clearly about how loony Canadian policy has been on the issue of climate change. To see where the rest of the world is going, consider what World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said recently: “There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison. It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low-carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity.”
Canada has also reached a turning point. Our new Prime Minister is promising some action on climate change – vague action, it is true, but action. It may be that we are moving beyond Harper’s crank economic theories.
And if the remaining members of the Conservative Party want to be even remotely relevant in the future they are going to have to abandon more than Mr Harper’s nasty style of doing politics – they will have to give up on his delusional economics.