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Monday, April 13, 2009

Fate has not been kind to Tories who govern like Grits

[UPDATE: An edited version of this post was published in the National Post’s Web and newspaper editions on April 14, 2009 under the title, Keep the right united. You can read that version here.]

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)—the political party of my choice since it succeeded the Alliance/Reform party in 2003—has begun to show fault lines with, apparently, some murmurings about a new fiscally and socially conservative party. And, although it is true that the current version of the CPC shows few signs of being either fiscally or socially conservative, it would be a shame to see the right fracture once again.

Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of this century, a divided “right” handed the Grits majority after majority governments, leading to some of the most corrupt, irresponsible and inept regimes in  our history—with only a single, though significant, accomplishment to atone for a myriad of misdeeds culminating in the odious sponsorship scandal: they did balance the federal budget after decades of ruinous deficits.

I don’t relish a return to the years in the political wilderness, where all we had to keep us warm was our earnest belief that we knew best. As much as I believe in free markets, traditional social values and strong national defence—none of which seem to be part of the CPC’s current agenda—I can’t help feeling that a break with the party is not the answer.

According to most left-wing Canadians, especially those of the NDP, the Harper government is the most right-wing government in Canadian history. Yet for many of us conservatives, the government isn’t delivering anything like we had hoped.

As pointed out elsewhere, in November of 2005, the month the last Liberal government under Paul Martin was defeated, the fiscal year-to-date government expenses were $122.9 billion. Only three years later, federal government expenses have skyrocketed to an alarming $153.7 billion—a jump of 25 per cent. This, folks, is not fiscal conservatism.

Failure to rein in human rights commissions and curtail their assaults on free speech across our country, or to provide the most minimal of protections to unborn children or to provide any defence of the traditional form of marriage are clear signs that our CPC is not socially conservative.

As pointed out in an earlier post, Canada ranks 20th in defence expenditures among the 26 members of the NATO alliance, when military outlays are calculated as a percentage of our country’s gross domestic product. We are a nation of over 33 million people and our military is stretched to its limit to keep a paltry 2,800 fighters in the field in Afghanistan—about 5 per cent of allied forces there. Spending on our military has dropped from almost six per cent of the GDP in 1956 to 1.1 per cent in 2005. By contrast, Australia spends more than twice that at 2.4 per cent (2006). We are ranked 132 in the world in this regard. With current manpower and resources, our armed forces have not one chance in hell of ever protecting our arctic claims—should they come under attack. So much for strong national defence.

Notwithstanding the above—and as painful as it is to see our conservative principles ignored by most of the CPC’s caucus—I believe it is best to remain within the CPC tent and hope that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his advisers come to their political senses sooner than later.

The last Conservative prime minister to operate with a large fiscal deficit, no clear socially conservative agenda and a weak defense policy was Brian Mulroney. After the Canadian electorate had made their final assessment of his government in 1993, the combined number of conservative MPs in the House of Commons was reduced to a pathetic 54 (PC and Reform parties)—sadly, they could not even muster enough support from the people of Canada to claim official opposition party status. We can only pray that a similar legacy does not await Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

6 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. Could it be the perception that in order to get elected to a majority in Kanada...ya gotta be lefty.
    Maybe the reason the establishment "left" are all so simultaneously apoplectic these days is because the Harper 'conservatives' are stealing a bit of political turf that historically has been 'theirs'?

  2. I understand your frustrations but there is one main reason why the Conservatives are prevented from governing like Conservatives:


    On non-money bills, the Unelected Liberal Dominated SENATE can and does prevent the legislation, remember the crime, environmental, and senate reforms that were blocked in the last parliament, despite the fact it passed the House of Commons. So in theory we should be able to push Conservative legislation in a Minority, but the Senate Cock Blocks it.

    As for the Human Rights Commissions, prove to me that their is enough Senators that will pass those changes.

    Now I will agree with the spending, but the new infrastructure spending is really needed, have you been on the trans national highways outside of Southern Ontario, they need to be fully widened, and will be an excellent investment.

    But bottom line we must wait until we have a majority in the SENATE, which will be in 2011 to reasonably expect real legislation to pass through. Even in a minority that legislation can get through.

  3. NothernRaven, the $153.7 billion is April to Nov. 2008, i.e., before the so called stimulus package in the 2009 budget.

    I do agree that our infrastructure has been left shamelessly to decay to third-world status.

  4. NO NO NO. Steve Harper and Jason Kenney declared Canada to be a Conservative nation. And they are clearlythe smartest two peoplein the nation. The rest of us just play tiddly-winks.

    Clearly the problem is you. You don't recognize Conservative issues. Raising taxes, appointed Senators, fixed election date filp flop, income trust flip flop...these are all classic Conservative moves.

    Steven Harper is great...don't forget it.

  5. Yeah Russ, I agree that the spending was too high in the 1st parliament, again that is a tough call when the Conservatives had a really weak minority. Unfortunately I have not spent the time to analyze the spending fully, but here are a few pros and Cons:

    1) Increased (Essential) military spending, particularly purchasing the 4 C-17 Globmaster, and allocated the money for the Hercules J-Series.
    2) The Universal Child Care tax credit - brilliant tax break which killed the National Child Care debate.
    3) GST and minor Income Tax Reductions, although NOT agressive enough, incrementally this is a good thing.
    4) Afghanistan Spending - Well we are at war, I do question the money here, but assuming the US will finish the job, the investment will be worth it.

    The CONS:
    1) Growth of spending, and our usual complaints in not reducing the civil service.

    I have a premontition in this environment, that in the next budget, Harper will be agressive in reducing the Civil Service, another marginal income tax reduction, and potentially CBC spending reductions.

    Remember when Harper brough in that Conservative Fiscal Update (and God Damn I cheered the party funding reduction), they nearly lost power, and the consequences (ie. Western provence unity) could have been much worse than what they are doing now.

  6. You make good points, NorthernRaven, but I'll stand by the main premise of my post :-)