Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons, Sept. 17, 2012.
OTTAWA - After 87 days of peace and quiet here in the nation's capital, our members of Parliament returned to their benches in the House of Commons Monday and promptly took up just about where they left off last June.
The Conservatives hammered away that their "steady-as-she-goes" approach to the economy has saved Canada's bacon.
"Canada is one of the few islands of stability in the developed world," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the fall's first question period when challenged by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
"The reason we are is because the minister of finance has created one of the broadest and most sweeping action plans in the history of this country ... and also because Canadians and people across the globe know we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20 billion carbon tax."
That last bit is the latest Conservative dig designed to scare you away from even thinking about the phrase "Prime Minister Mulcair."
For this dig, the Conservatives are drawing on a commitment Jack Layton's NDP made in the 2011 election campaign to introduce a "cap-and-trade" system to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. The NDP estimated in their 2011 campaign documents that their cap-and-trade system would result in new federal revenue of $21.5 billion over four years.
This, a seemingly endless parade of Conservatives were only too happy to say, would be a terrible, awful thing.
"That is why we try to increase trade, not try to shut it down," Harper said. "That is why we try to keep industries open, not try to shut them down. That is why we lower taxes. We do not raise them as the leader of the NDP proposes."
Conservatives though were going to do that exact same thing - bring in a carbon tax - back in 2009. Then environment minister Jim Prentice boasted that his "offset system," as he called it, would be one of the best in the world.
"It does so by establishing a price for carbon in Canada - something that has never been done before in this country. I don't need to tell you what happens when you put a price on something that used to be free. Suddenly, your (company's chief financial officer) becomes very interested in carbon!"
So now that we know that both the NDP and the Conservatives would "tax" carbon, let's get back to the economy.
"Does the prime minister have anything to say to the 1.4 million Canadians who are still unemployed? Can he name one specific thing he has done for them other than cut off their employment insurance?" Mulcair snarled at the PM.
That gave Harper the opening for a little boasting.
"What we have seen in Canada since the end of the recession is the creation of over three-quarters of a million net new jobs. That is one of the best job-creation records in the developed world. That is why people have such confidence in the Canadian economy in spite of the incredible uncertainty. But we have more work to do."
That's true and so look this fall for some tiny tax breaks for small businesses that are hiring and the implementation of the rest of the measures announced in last spring's budget. There is also an ambitious international trade agenda.
The Conservatives are keen to prove that Canadians are right to trust them as the best stewards of the economy. That trust will be more easily earned with less false fear-mongering about carbon pricing.