Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conservative government may smell a bit, but alternative stinks

There is a debate among conservative bloggers regarding the appropriateness of the recent Tory budget: whether or not it is too liberal and not conservative enough.Ottawa On the one hand, there are those like Stephen Taylor who’s defence of the government includes these comments:

quote-left-red-beige-bgA political party’s first and last job is to get elected. … A political party, in practice, is not much more than a marketing machine to sell ideas to an electorate looking to buy them. … If a Conservative party does form government—especially a minority government—the long term goal is the same: keep the upper hand, survive when strategically beneficial, and win elections.quote-right-red-beige-bg

On the other hand, the Canadian Republic blog writes:

quote-left-red-beige-bg… a political party's first and last job is to do what is right. What benefit is there in the Conservative Party forming government if their primary concern will always be retaining power at the expense of representing the values that they were elected to defend?quote-right-red-beige-bg

Very polarized positions, don’t you think? Isn’t there room for some middle ground?

A political party with no ideological grounding—an ideological compass, so to speak—must surely have difficulty plotting a path for its members to follow. Pure pragmatism seems so crass and grasping—so devoid of idealism. And yet, there is the hard fact that if one has none of the levers of power, then one’s ideas will likely be ignored. However, it’s one thing to place ideology ahead of pragmatism and quite another to ignore common sense in favour of political dogma.

I like the idea of a political party that is well grounded in ideology, but with a well-balanced moral compass and a firm sense of where to draw its line in the sand. Room to maneuver politically is imperative. After all, a government is supposed to represent all the people and not just those who vote for them.

I want a government that will govern conservatively within reasonable bounds, deviating from time to time but, for the most part, keeping on the “right” side of things.

If I could have, I certainly would have voted against George Bush in 2004 and with Barack Obama in 2008. Yet I have voted PC, Reform/Canadian Alliance or CPC in every election, federal or provincial, since the late 1960s. I voted for Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives in 1979, but left the federal PC party in CANADA-POLITICS/HARPER1998 (in favour of the Reform party) when Clark made his comeback as leader.

The current Stephen Harper government is perhaps on the very edge of the sort of government I’m comfortable supporting. But I cannot help wondering how much more of a mess we’d be in if someone like Jack Layton ever got his hands on any one of the levers of government [shudder]. And as to Michael Ignatieff: it’s no time for training wheels. Ignatieff and his group keep reminding us of the fiscal conservatism of Paul Martin, and I don’t disagree that Martin did a good job. But Martin is long gone and now we’d get Scott Brison, Ralph Goodale and John McCallum [triple shudder].

My reading of our Conservative leadership in Ottawa is that the backroom unelected politicos have too much influence on party policy, strategy and tactics. Oftentimes, they’re too cute by far, choosing television ad campaigns instead of honest political debate. We have too many advisors and not enough wisdom—too much spin and not enough truth. Too often we skirt the borders of what is appropriate behaviour for a government that gives a damn about our country and its citizens.

Rather than our elected representatives sticking to a pure conservative agenda—whatever that would look like—I’d settle for more consistency, more promises kept and more frankness with party members and the general public.

As for the budget, there is nothing there that we cannot afford or that is truly harmful in the long-term.

  • Our “AAA” government bond rating remains intact.
  • The projected deficit is $34 billion, about two per cent of Canada’s GDP, which sounds reasonable under the unusual circumstances we face—and will fulfill Canada’s commitments at the recent G20 leaders’ summit.
  • The growth in Debt-to-GDP Ratios still leaves Canada in an envious position compared to the other G7 nations.

Oh, there is plenty to nitpick in the budget document, but then there always is. It seems fairly conservative with several nods to our more liberal fellow citizens. So, notwithstanding my own biases, I believe this is as good a budget as we could expect at this time.

And, as to the alternatives: another election or a Bloc-supported Liberal-NDP coalition government? Far better the devils we know. I’ll keep rooting for the PM and his team.smleaf


  1. "So, notwithstanding my own biases, I believe this is as good a budget as we could expect at this time."

    Russ, I read your blog alot and I think you are a very reasonable person.
    Unfortunately you will regret the statement above.
    Tell me how we are going to justify a $80 billion+ deficit to our grandchildren? I needed a new deck at the cabin.
    This budget is something I would expect from Jack Layton or the bleeding heart Liberals but from Harper and those Saskatchewan Reformers that I've voted for religiously the past decade? Principles have apparently become inconvenient for this government.
    This honestly makes me sick to my stomach.
    I'm convinced the only alternative is to get rid of the Chief. Harper's lost all sense of purpose except to save his own political hide.
    Until this control freak is gone, I will no longer vote for the CPC nor will they be receiving my monthly donation cheque.

  2. Years ago I had a friend, who as a young teenager was sent off to Holland for a proper education.

    Unfortunately his parents chose to do this in 1939.

    For 6 years he saw a lot of bad things being done by the nazis. Now a lot of people might say if he was true to his principles he would have stood up and spoken out at every attrocity.

    Instead, he spent 5 years fighting behind the scenes with the resistance. Had he done the "right" thing he would have been dead by 1940.

    A bit of an extreme example, but the point is that sometimes you need to suck it up and look at how best to achieve the long term goal.

    Had the conservatives produced a budget more akin to what many here wanted to see, we would instead have been looking at a very different, and much worse budget a month from now authored by a power hungry liberal party with a dipper sword of damocles hovering over their head.

  3. So, Stooner, we cut costs and balance the budget throwing the country into a deep recession/depression like we did in the 1930s.

    Our minority government would certainly then be defeated and our grandchildren will be saddled with Liberal-NDP deficits and government policies that will not resemble anything conservative.

    Nope, I prefer what we have.