Stephen Harper’s fourth term, dressed up in a smile?

I cannot agree with everything that John Ibbitson says in a rather provocative column in the Globe and Mail; for example I do not agree, for example, that “It took real courage for Mr. Trudeau to approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.” But, I do agree with Mr Ibbitson that:

  • If, on the really big stuff – the stuff that shapes the direction of a country – the centre left and the centre right agree, the political culture is healthy. Canada’s political culture is healthy. America’s isn’t;”
  • Dollars to doughnuts, most Canadians support Mr. Trudeau’s decision. Canada thrives or suffers based on the health of its exports. That’s why the Harper government pushed hard for Pacific pipelines and that’s why the Trudeau government approved Trans Mountain;”
  • That’s why the Harper government launched free-trade negotiations with Europe and the Trudeau government successfully concluded them … [and] … That’s why the Conservatives helped negotiate and the Liberals tacitly support the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement;”
  • The Mulroney government created the instruments that made it possible for the Chrétien government to eliminate the deficit, giving the Harper government the fiscal room to combat the 2008-09 recession. The Conservatives then brought the budget back into balance, making it possible for the Liberals to invest heavily in infrastructure;”
  • Both Liberals and Conservatives support strict banking regulation … [and] … Both Liberals and Conservatives support sending troops to protect Latvia;
  • There are lots of things that Grits and Tories fight over: How best to combat climate change; how best to fund child care; the right retirement age; the right sentences for criminals; whether pot should be legal; which fighter jet to buy. But these are arguments on the margins;” and
  • A new government that dedicates itself to reversing the policies of the previous government is the product of a deeply polarized electorate, which can lead to policy paralysis, confusion in foreign policy, erosion of trust in democratic institutions and, ultimately, violence.

Mr Ibbitson is, primarily, concerned with comparing and contrasting the notion of a Mulroney ≈ Chrétien ≈ Harper ≈ Trudeau continuum …

… to the Bush ≠ Obama ≠ Trump study in policy contrasts. But in so doing he has to prove that the Canadian policy continuum actually existed and I think it is a valid case that Canadian policy from Mulroney through to Harper was highly centrist, in contrast to the “lurch to the left” that occurred under Pierre Trudeau. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not, yet, indicated that he plans to break sharply away from Prime Minister Mulroney / Chrétien / Harper model… time will tell. The question is: to what degree might President elect Trump force him away from his green agenda and force him towards e.g. increased defence spending?

But, to date, anyway, John Ibbiton’s point that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government looks a bit (a lot? too much for the political left?) like that of a warm, smiling Mr Harper in a fourth, minority, term has some validity. Those ships that are being built are the ones Prime Minister Harper ordered; there has been precious little new on the social programme/social justice front ~ Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chrétien and Harper differed very, very little on issues like same sex marriage, abortion and gay rights, and all were free(er) traders and all were afraid of budget deficits … Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be, generally, a moderate (just weak?) version of them all.

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