CONSERVATIVE POLITICS ARE CHANGING CANADA
The Harper government appears to believe a majority government through winning thirty five percent of the vote more or less is sufficient to enact laws destined to change many traditional programs and projects. Much of the legislation facing change or elimination was put in place by minority governments where negotiating compromise was often the reason it was enacted. Other programs were passed by a majority government unopposed to appease supporters in some instances. Changes demanded by the opposition when the Conservative party is in power are often deemed corporate unfriendly from a profit standpoint and rejected without explanation.
With a myriad of social programs sometimes enacted by unions for their membership and adopted by governments the stage is set for dramatic change. After decades of prosperous social services, universal healthcare and pensions each program is a natural target to keep corporate profits at a level conducive to investment. With all levels of government in deficit and both company and government pension plans oversubscribed the fact lifespan is increasing means traditional government programs are slated for rapid change by the Harper Conservative government. Liberals on the other hand increasingly acknowledge the problem while suggesting the change should be less severe and phased in while searching for a solution. The New Democrats will be hard pressed supporting any changes while satisfying their labour union base and having to acknowledge new programs are needed due to the seriousness of deficit situations.
The Harper Conservatives have a monumental task ahead with an election scheduled in less than two years. It is noteworthy to find some Stephen Harper top ministers experienced a similar crisis as Ontario ministers in power under then Conservative Premier Mike Harris. The Harris government eliminated many mostly union won social programs during seven years in power. Ontario voters reacted by electing a Liberal majority after Harris successor Conservative Ernie Eves held the Premier’s post for a little over half a year. John Baird, Tony Clement and Jim Flaherty to mention three high profile Harper Conservatives have used similar methods to those being touted by the Harper Conservatives to strip Ontarians of social programs accumulated through years of balanced budgets and manufacturing prosperity.
Aside from eliminating traditional programs Harper has changed the way Canadian’s were treated by most past prime ministers. He apparently disagrees more or less with an American style state of the country address every year. Most political leaders use the media to advantage unafraid of offering a chance to criticize their programs. Harper rarely meets the media to explain his government’s actions. He reportedly bans reporters at meetings important to the electorate and often tries unsuccessfully to orchestrate press conferences. The party uses American style Republican attack ads in an effort, sometimes successfully in the past, to discredit opposition leaders. Again history indicates hurtful methods such as the ads will eventually come back to haunt those using them for short term gain.
Indications are Harper is the person responsible for all the new direction mostly new to Canadians. Most of his major foreign affairs announcements regarding funding and other initiates are made in other countries as if Canadians will either agree with the direction of the commitments or completely trust his inner circle to make the best decisions. There is a great deal of indication that Harper appointed Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) employees often make decisions even the inner circle of ministers including others in cabinet and possibly even Harper seems unaware of as attested to by the Duffy-Wright Senate fiasco.
Justin Trudeau’s election as leader of the Liberal Party has so far created several problems for the aging Harper Conservatives. Attracting a cross section of young voters and recently doing some campaigning reminiscent of his father Pierre’s unexpected actions has changed polling numbers previously held by both the Conservatives and New Democrats. Most observers probably wonder how closely the son will follow the father’s sometime unorthodox or at least unexpected actions.
Tom Mulcair is so far an anomaly. Apparently not a sweetheart of organized labour or the traditional base of the party, the leader ascended only after a difficult campaign. A strong Quebecker many appear to believe his Liberal provincial minister background might be a deterrent to acquiring full party solidarity. Although a strong force in Quebec, an excellent orator with the ability to hold Harper’s Conservatives to account during daily question period in the House of Commons, New Democrat poll numbers returned to traditional levels. Voters apparently feel it was Jack Layton’s charisma not the New Democratic Party platform that brought the party to opposition status.
The next two years will be interesting for political watchers since the entire Harper situation and failing poll numbers could reverse if American President Barack Obama approves the Keystone pipeline bringing Alberta Oilsand crude to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. On the other side of the issue it is possible the anti transporting oil south of the border could gain momentum turning Canadian protests more like those observed in other parts of the world creating another new dynamic. The scenario is especially possible if the New Democrat Mulcair suggestion of a west to east oil pipeline using current pipeline capacity to refine Canadian crude oil in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces gains momentum.