Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s director of communications, Cameron Ahmad, ignited controversy with a tweet containing several pieces of false information.
In response to an opinion piece by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in the Toronto Sun, Ahmad wrote: “When he was Prime Minister, Stephen Harper refused to meet with Premiers. His government froze funding for services like health care, childcare, & housing. He refused to work with provinces on climate change. His ministers disrespected Indigenous governments & communities.”
When he was Prime Minister, Stephen Harper refused to meet with Premiers. His government froze funding for services like health care, childcare, & housing. He refused to work with provinces on climate change. His ministers disrespected Indigenous governments & communities. https://t.co/G4n7V9kr0L— Cameron Ahmad (@CameronAhmad) July 9, 2019
Let’s dissect it line-by-line:
“Refused to meet with Premiers”
It’s true that Harper didn’t attend meetings with an assembly of Canada’s premiers for the last six years of his time in office. But he did meet with premiers individually during that time, including former Ontario Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne.
“Froze funding for services like health care, childcare, & housing”
The claim that Harper froze health-care spending is misleading. As Global News reported in a fact-check of an ad making a similar claim in 2015, that funding actually increased — however, Harper did change the method used to calculate the amount of federal money going to the provinces for health care, meaning that the amount would increase by less. The provinces estimated they would receive millions less under the new formula as opposed to the old one.
A recent tweet by Justin Trudeau's director of communications contained five pieces of false or misleading information about former prime minister Stephen Harper. Fact check by @EmmaMci #cdnpoli
Harper didn’t freeze child-care spending. Though he did cancel the previous government’s national child-care program, he also introduced the Universal Child Care Benefit, which gives Canadian families a monthly cheque. There’s some debate about whether Harper’s plan was as effective as the one he scrapped, but the current Liberal plan is a different version of the same general idea.
The Harper government didn't actually freeze spending on housing — but it did make cuts that resulted in protests. As reported by the Georgia Straight in 2012, the Harper government initially added billions of funding for social housing, then cut those programs.
“He refused to work with provinces on climate change.”
Though there are legitimate critiques of Harper’s work in the area of climate change, it’s not accurate to say that he didn’t work with the provinces on the file. His government consulted the provinces on a 2008 emissions reduction plan, among other moves.
“His ministers disrespected Indigenous governments & communities.”
Harper did come under fire for his relationships with Indigenous communities. Though he issued an apology to residential school survivors, Indigenous communities remained frustrated with several other aspects of his record — including the First Nations water crisis, which became a major election issue in 2015. Some were also frustrated after he said a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women wasn’t high on his radar.
Overall, that’s five out of six claims that were at least partially incorrect.
“I could have included more context,” Ahmad said in an email to National Observer, adding that he was “making the point” that Conservative politicians tend to cut the services outlined in his tweet.
“Just look at Doug Ford, who is slashing health and education services on a five-year cuts plan, the same timeline Andrew Scheer is promising.”