Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Canadian Myths

Stephen Harper has changed... mellowed... become less stridently right wing.
David Orchard expressed it well: "The masters of spin around Harper knew that right-wing leaders don't win federal elections in Canada. And voilĂ , virtually overnight he ceased to be one – and the media appeared to swallow it all." Harper has stopped talking about some of his more radical views, but he hasn't repudiated them. You want to know what he really thinks? Read this.

The Conservatives and Liberals are similar.
Actually, the NDP and Liberals are very similar. The Liberals and Harper Conservatives are miles apart. The differences are both at the individual policy level and the level of their basic vision of Canada. I don't know how to argue this one in less than 10,000 words; see the Harper speech I link to just above, and compare it to the record of Chretien and Martin.

Bob Rae was a failure as Ontario premier.
Bob Rae had a learning curve, for sure. Nobody, including anyone in the NDP, expected him to win the 1990 provincial election. In fact, the expectation was that the NDP would lose seats and that Rae would resign following the election. When Rae won, he had a party with no governing experience and a lot of rookie MPPs. He had no experience. Plus, in the first few months of his government it was discovered that the previous government had been hiding a massive deficit. Nevertheless, Rae was a strong premier with a progressive vision, and had approval ratings as high as 70% in his first 6 months as premier. But by 1991 North America had fallen into the worst recession since the Great Depression, the Ontario deficit started to spiral out of control, and nobody is happy with a government forced to make cutbacks. Contrary to popular myth, Rae did not impose "Rae days" (unpaid holidays) on the civil service. He initiated a social contract process in which the civil service was able to decide how to impose cutbacks, and that process resulted in the concept of unpaid holidays. It was the civil service union that destroyed Rae. Never before or since have they mobilized so strongly. For a while it seemed that every lamppost in Toronto had "Wanted" posters with pictures of all NDP MPPs who supported Rae. The civil service was able to ensure that the NDP got only 6% of the popular vote in the 1995 election. They were responsible for the election of Conservative Mike Harris, and were strangely quiet as he gutted Rae's pro-Labor legislation and imposed mass layoffs of civil servants. Read more here.

Michael Ignatieff is a right winger, as shown by his support for the Iraq invasion.
Ignatieff is center-left. He didn't support the invasion so much as support the concept of military intervention to improve human rights. Go to the source. I don't always agree with Ignatieff, but I find his non-partisan approach to issues very refreshing. He is open to misinterpretation because his vision is complex and multifaceted. As to his vision as leader, he has stated it clearly: "As I see it, the Liberal party has three essential purposes. The first, to protect and to enhance the national unity of our country. Secondly, to preserve and to defend our national independence and sovereignty. And third, most fundamental perhaps, to advance the cause of social justice for all Canadians." and "Exporting peace, order, and good government has to be the core of a Canadian foreign policy."

Ed Broadbent was a great NDP leader.
I used to believe this, until I read James Laxer's article in the May 2006 issue of The Walrus, which inspired me to do further research and thinking on Broadbent's legacy. Laxer points out that it was Broadbent who was most responsible for moving the NDP from being a party of progressive ideas to being all about winning seats. In the 1988 federal election he opted to not campaign against Brian Mulroney and the free trade accord and instead attack the Liberals, a strategy that got him a big increase in the number of MPs but that helped the Conservatives win and helped bring in the free trade agreement - a policy that his base was completely against. Broadbent returned to parliament recently, and he seems to have exerted his influence on NDP leader Jack Layton to repeat the 1988 strategy. Broadbent was at the forefront; for example: "The NDP campaign began with Ed Broadbent declaring that Stephen Harper was no longer so scary.”

I disagree with everything the new Conservative government does.
Not so... I'm glad they voted against the UN resolution to force Israel to take back all Palestinians; it's a very delicate national security issue that cannot be dictated from outside Israel: in fact, with Hamas in power (Hamas still calls for the destruction of Israel), Israel can't do it, so we shouldn't be forcing them to ignore another UN resolution. I sort of agree with the cut in GST, or at least a cut in GST instead of a cut in income tax. In addition, I agree with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that the special deals given to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to exclude their oil and gas revenue from equalization payment calculations was unfortunate and should be reconsidered.


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