Wednesday, 04 May 2011

Harper Victory Half a Loaf

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The Conservative Party of Canada won a hefty mandate in Monday’s general election.

In 2006 and in 2008, the Conservative Party won significantly more seats in Parliament than any of the other three major parties — Liberal Party, New Democratic Party, or Bloc Quebec (the French separatist party — but the Conservatives fell short in both elections of winning a majority of the seats. Stephen Harper stayed in power by steering a course that prevented the three other parties from combining to bring his government down. 

Now, however, Harper and his party have just what they asked for: a comfortable majority of 167 seats out of the 308 seats in Parliament. That allows Conservatives to do whatever they wish. Moreover, because Conservatives only need 155 seats to prevail on any issue, Harper can tolerate some Conservative MPs voting with the opposition on some very controversial measures.

In some important ways, the Conservative Party victory is good news.  Harper has reaffirmed that his party will support increasing Canada’s energy production, particularly in petroleum-rich Alberta. The Prime Minister said after the victory: "There were a lot of policies being quoted by the other parties, whether it’s on West Coast transportation or the energy sector, that simply did not reflect the needs and concerns of this part of the country. I actually argued during the campaign that the policies of our opponents seemed almost targeted to do damage to Western Canada.”

The good news for America is that the Conservative Party commitment to extracting tar-sands oil in Alberta and shipping it to Asia (another promise of Harper’s party) will contain energy costs in our nation. The Conservatives are also committed to opposing environmental zealots who would make it difficult to extract oil and other natural resources from Canada’s rich supplies of those resources. 

He has avoided climate-change legislation, which is better than any of his rival opposition party leaders would have done.  Harper and his party are also committed to reducing sales tax rates and corporate rates and to reducing the national deficit.  He has also promised a tax break for couples with children, after the deficit is reduced. The Conservative Party will also, in all likelihood, abolish the Canadian Wheat Board, a state monopoly that controls the export of wheat and barley from the fertile Prairie provinces. That should lead to greater production of grains and it should help contain the price of food in Canada and in America. 

As Stephen Wood, chief investment analyst at Russell Investments put it: “By getting a clear majority in the Parliament, markets are able to handicap investment opportunities better. The outcome of this election gives certainty for policy continuity and it allows fundamentals to drive investments more.” The Canadian Dollar rose higher after the general election, indicating that private investors agree that Harper’s victory is also a victory for free-market forces

Harper also has said that he will end public support for political parties in Canada, which will knock out one prop that was artificially supporting politicians in Canada. The general election saw the repudiation of Bloc Quebec, a surly separatist party that has demanded, and received, special favors from the national government for several decades in Canada. The Bloc lost almost every seat in Parliament, including the seat of the Bloc’s party leader. Quebec, however, did not embrace the Conservative Party, which lost seats in the general election. Instead, the New Democratic Party (really, the “Old Marxist Party”) won more that half its seats in Parliament in Quebec. If the Conservatives do end public support for political parties, then the rise of the New Democratic Party in Quebec (and across the rest of Canada), may produce a two-party system in Canada. The separatist movement in Quebec, also, may shrink into triviality. If that means Canadians have embraced the notion that provinces do not really have the right to secede or assert sovereignty, then the principle of decentralized government, one of the great strengths of our Constitution — the clear articulation of states’ rights over federal rights in most areas — may have suffered a blow. The impact of the election on provincial rights is not clear. After years of whining by Quebecers, some of the western provinces, especially Harper’s home province of Alberta, had been pushing for something akin to independence. A confederation of several of these provinces, along, perhaps, with western Ontario, could have created a dynamic and much more socially conservative nation. The election quashes that independence movement, probably permanently. 

The election results reaffirm wrong-headed thinking in some areas. Almost as soon as his party won, Harper stated that he would not try to privatize Canada’s system of state-run medical services: "I think we've made it very clear that we support Canada's system of universal public health insurance" the Prime Minister said after the election. State supplied healthcare is an anchor of socialism, and it is now clear that no “Conservative” government, in Britain or Canada, will ever try to restore freedom to this huge chunk of the economy.

Harper has also made it clear that the Right to Life will not be helped by the “Conservative” Party, and that those areas of morality that are often called “social conservatism” will not be pushed by his government. The Prime Minister has said he would block anyone who tried to regulate abortion in Canada. Stephen Harper is as close to a “social conservative” as any Prime Minister in modern history, yet he is going out of his way to quell fears that he will try to change policies in areas like gay “rights,” abortion, hate crimes, and other issues that relate to support for Judeo-Christian values. 

Although religious himself and coming from the most religious of the 10 provinces, Harper seems leery of embracing social conservatism.  He has endorsed private-school tax credits, stronger parental rights, and raising the age of consent for minors, but the big issues — Marxist domination of public education, the mass murder of the unborn, the march of secularist forces on moral issues — seem not to interest Harper much.

The victory of his party will certainly help those who embrace free-market economic forces and Harper is certainly as good as the leaders of the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, or Bloc Quebec would have been on social issues. As an advocate of Judeo-Christian values, though, he is weak broth indeed. America, more and more, seems to be the single nation that seriously accepts the precept: “In God we trust.”




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