Skip to comments.David Warren: Throw Them Out (The Canadian Liberal Party, that is)
Posted on 06/20/2004 3:39:14 PM PDT by quidnunc
There is an election happening in Canada my reader may have heard or more to the point, a little miracle seems to be happening up here in the far north of the continent. The miracle is the Liberal government's new leader, Paul Martin, who stepped into the capaciously dirty shoes of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien at the ideal moment, when one of his least defensible scandals was maturing.
Now, Mr. Chrétien could manage a government scandal (he had a great deal of experience) with feckless art and rat cunning. Inarticulate and probably illiterate in both national languages, he could bluster his way through questions in Parliament, and shamelessly use the long arms of the state to settle scores with anyone outside. He had a genius for pure, malicious incoherence. He had the ability to make you not want to deal with or think about him, even for a moment, and thus to make his enemies go away.
As I have long argued, Mr. Martin is, by contrast, among the very few politicians whose intelligence is actually overestimated. It is not that he is naïvely honest he couldn't help being more honest than his predecessor, and it's not impossible to be both honest and smart. Rather, he is lost in any game in which he does not have control over all the pieces. Winning the leadership of the Liberal Party was child's play. As finance minister over nearly a decade, he had wired the whole machine. But suddenly an election presents him with freely-moving objects that do not respond to the buttons on his remote.
He has put in a positively disastrous performance. (Can you feel my schadenfreude?) He looks old, sweaty, scared, desperate. He is trying to pump himself for the old Liberal ploy an all-channels attack on the person and supposed "secret agenda" of one Stephen Harper, prime minister in waiting but dimly realizes there are two things wrong. First, Mr. Harper has fully anticipated the ploy, and has already shown himself fairly adept at deflecting the tomatoes. Second, a wild attack is only going to make Mr. Martin himself look older, sweatier, and even more desperate than he does now.
(Excerpt) Read more at davidwarrenonline.com ...
I think this was a Freudian slip. ;-)
A few years back Chrétien was making his way towards a building with a large crowd obstructing his path. A man suddenly emerged from the crowd and began berating Chrétien about something, I can't remember what.
Here in the US, Secret Service would have been all over the guy. In Canada, Chrétien, think of him what you will, delivered a hard left hook to the guy's face. I respect that. I have to think it's a hockey thing.
My first experience of Canada:
While parking my car in a park's parking lot in Vancouver, a man came up to me. He asked me very politely, "Pardon me, do you have any spare change for a loony?"
Of course, I looked at him like he was crazy. Only later did I realize that "loony" is the Canadian slang term for their $1.00 coin.
Is there somewhere to go to be able to read a short political history of Canada since about 1960? I think I have lost track of the various shifting parties of the Great White North.
The Canadian political scene was pretty static from the 50s till the late 80s, with the never-winning NDP on the left, the usually-winning Liberals in the center, and the occasionally-winning Progressive Conservatives on the right.
Things changed when the Progressive Conservatives were decimated in the late 1980s under unpopular Brian Mulroney. In Quebec, former Mulroney cabinet minister Lucienne Bouchard split and formed the separatist Bloc Quebecios. In the West, the right wing fled the Progressive Conservatives for Preston Manning's new Reform Party. Thus the coalition Mulroney had constructed to win two of the largest majorities in Canadian history collapsed: The party went from 169 Members of Parliament to 2 Members of Parliament in its first election against Jean Chretien.
The right wing remained divided all through the 90s between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party. Realizing the electoral cost of being divided in a first-past-the-post system, the two parties tried a couple of times to get together, but mutual suspicions kept foiling the process. (There were still many Progressive Conservatives from the Mulroney years high in that party, and, after all, the Reform Party was founded in opposition to precisely those people.) The Reform Party was the first to bend, changing its name to the Canadian Alliance and inviting the Tories along; under the leadership of "Red Tory" Joe Clark, however, the Tories still weren't interested, and the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party) remained an alliance of one.
With Joe Clark's departure, the last hurdle was cleared, and the Canadian Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the new Conservative Party. Thus it stands today.
Fairly simple, to sum it up: Start with three parties, the NDP, the Liberals, and the Progressive Conservatives. Then, in the late 80s, two new parties form: The Bloc Quebecios and the Reform Party. After a decade, the Reform Party (now called the Canadian Alliance) and the Progressive Conservatives join up to form the Conservative Party.
It'll be interesting to see whether they get anywhere in this election. The Conservatives have a relationship with Quebec something like that which the Democrats have with the South; they can't win the country without stealing that region. John ("Dief the Chief") Diefenbaker and Mulroney both built solid Quebec bases, and it won them elections, just as Johnson, Carter and Clinton were able to parlay Southern support into Democratic presidencies. But with a separatist party now consistently winning most Quebec seats, making Quebec somewhat un-stealable by either major party, it'll be interesting to see what happens. (Imagine, if you will, the effect that the ensconcing of a Southern separatist party that pushed out the Democrats and Republicans would have on American politics.)
Just FYI its called a loony because thats the bird engraved on the coin ... a Loon :)
Well we'll see what happens on the 28th, I already did my part in early voting :)
Canadian ruling party facing opposition's challenge
Let's hope Canada catches the "conservative bug" next week.
The Canadian Left now faces a situation exactly the mirror image of the one the Right faced in 1993: its vote is divided among three separate parties that don't like each other much to begin with and pursue different agendas. This is where it helps the Right, now that conservatives have unified under a single party.
If Gilles Duceppe's Bloc wins 60+ seats in Quebec, that will help the provincial separatists to recapture control of the Quebec Legislature later...
The French strike again.
If the Conservatives can win enough seats in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, they could form a majority government even while being shut out in Quebec. Stay tuned...
Well, they did come within a single percentage point of a win in the last referendum they held there... but who knows? They've been on and off about separation for years now.
Which they lost thanks to Liberal dirty tricks. Its soured the Province's francophone majority on Canada's ruling party and they're set to punish it heavily next week.
Just as in the US, conservatives have to become something other than conservative to win elections. It's no coincidence that Mulroney and Reagan both preached conservatism, but both ballooned government spending more than it had ever been ballooned before. And now Stephen Harper, the new Conservative leader, is proposing a budget billions larger than the Liberals are.
Remember, it was Paul Martin - as Liberal finance minister - who brought financial order to the Canadian fiscal house in the early 1990s, just as it was under Clinton - with a Republican House, to be sure - that the American government spending was brought into line. It's almost as if voters want either a government who'll be either conservative fiscally and liberal socially, or conservative socially and liberal fiscally, but not both one way. The message seems to be: Either let me have all the drugs and deviant sex I want but keep your spending under control, or try to run my moral life but spend lots of money on me to make up for it.
Thus the center holds, and things do not fall apart...
All I ever heard about was how the Liberals didn't do anything, and that's why the referendum was so close. (The separatists lost the previous referendum by a wide margin.) What dirty tricks did I miss?
Its soured the Province's francophone majority on Canada's ruling party and they're set to punish it heavily next week.
Quebecers have been soured on the Liberals for a long time, ever since Trudeau gave Quebec no special recognition in the repatriated Constitution. Chretien was central to that drama, with the famous/infamous "kitchen accord", and Quebecers never forgave him.
But by Australian standards the Liberal Party (Canada) corresponds to the Left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). None of the past two ALP Prime Ministers are leftists (Bob Hawke and even Paul Keating are both pro-American). On the right the Liberal Party and National Party are either as right or even more conservative than the Canadian Conservative Party.
On the side Australians consider as political fever swamp aka the Left of ALP, they have the Australian Democratic Party and Green Party. Both are equivalent to Canada's New Democratic Party and are nutty left-wing by Australian standards. Australians largely shun these two parties - they get around 4-5% of the vote. None of these two have never reached outright majorities alone st state level (the best result the Greens and Democrats could get is at the most left-wing Australian state Tasmania. But even there they could only get around 18% of vote)
I wonder what makes Canada's politics far to the left of Australia, let alone the United States's?
I guess the difficulty in comparing lies in there being so many different axes along which to measure conservatism. There's conservatism in amount of spending, conservatism in broadness of spending, conservatism in taxation (three different things); there's conservatism in moral terms and conservatism in racial terms and conservatism in doing-whatever-Bush-says terms. It's possible to be at a different place on all those scales.
Is Canada further to the left than Australia? Not knowing much about Australian politics, and going just on your description, probably somewhat. Through the 1990s, the Liberals were conservative spenders (pushed that way by the Reform Party), but didn't restrict the broad reach of Canada's social safety net. Nor were they conservative morally or do-whatever-Bush says conservative. The Tories of the 1980s, on the other hand, were not at all conservative spenders, but were definitely do-whatever-Reagan-says conservatives.
The Reform wing of the new Conservative Party is to the right on all scales (though certainly not as far right as some of the European nationalist parties on the racial scale). But how much power it'll have in the new Conservative Party is hard to say; certainly if the party wants to keep getting elected in Canada, it won't have much, just enough to keep Albertans and the interior of British Columbia happy.
(There is, however, a growing band of suburbs around Toronto - the "905 region" - that votes to the right. They drove Reagan-ite conservative Mike Harris to premiership in Ontario in much the same way that the growing suburbs (and growing suburban anger at high taxes) in California in the 1960s brought Reagan the governership there.)
Anyway, to your question: What makes our politics so far to the left?
Hells if I know. Maybe higher rates of urbanization versus suburbanization? City people tend to vote left. Maybe a much less visible underclass? Social programs are much less likely to be supported if the recipients are very different from the payers. Maybe the eloquence of Tommy Douglas and the savoire faire of Pierre Trudeau? Maybe because we were founded by alcoholics and bumblers instead of slaveowners or convicts?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.