Let the demonization continue

The campaign by the Laurentian Elites to demonize Conservatives, in general, and Stephen Harper in particular, continues with a report by federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson that finds that Nigel Wright “broke two sections of the Conflict of Interest Act when he personally gave Duffy $90,000 to repay the Senate for questionable living expense claims … [because] … By giving Duffy the money as part of an agreement in which the senator was to reimburse the Senate and acknowledge the error of his ways, Dawson says, “Mr. Wright was improperly furthering Sen. Duffy’s private interests,” sparing him the need to use his own funds. That’s a violation of conflict of interest rules … [further] … she says Wright broke another section of the act when he used his position as Harper’s right-hand man to try to influence Conservative bagman Sen. Irving Gerstein and the Conservative Fund Canada to dip into party coffers to reimburse Duffy’s expenses.

Another charter member of the Laurentian Consensus, Democracy, Watch is pretty non-partisan and often a very helpful organization, but, as Christie Blatchford says, in commenting on Mary Dawson’s findings, “Partisanship is considered A-OK if it means partiality to the right Canadian values, those dearly held by those of big and small L views. Wright was a partisan Conservative and a Harper loyalist. He might as well have been working for the devil.” Democracy watch plans “to initiate a private criminal prosecution of Wright for “corruptly” making the payment to Duffy.” What’s the point? It can only be to keep the Duffy scandal alive and to further demonize Western Canadian Conservatism, exemplified by Stephen Harper. Why? Because Prime Minister Harper is a “monster” who threatened to break the Liberal’s entrenched position as Canada’s “natural governing party.”

In 2003 it looked, to many, as though Paul Martin Jr had, finally, brought an end to a civil war in the Liberal Party that had lasted for 40 years, ever since Lester Pearson came to power. Mike Pearson was very close to his mentor, Louis St Laurent, but he, and the country, were buffeted by winds of change that had not, really, disturbed St Laurent. (John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives were buffeted by their own winds hurricanes of “The Chief’s” own making.) Quebec Premier Jean Lesage had brought about the révolution tranquille (quiet revolution) which secularized, Quebec, making la laïcité the norm, created the Quebec version of the welfare state and a Quebec model of a statist economy, all under the slogan of “Maîtres chez nous.” But the “revolution” didn’t stay quiet and French speaking Quebecers began to demand more and more from the Canadian state. Pearson was inclined to meet Quebec’s demands and as part of a very large process ~ think bilingualism and biculturalism ~ he brought new Quebec blood into his Party and government, especially in the person of Pierre Trudeau.

Pierre Trudeau was a free spending, poorly informed silk-stocking socialist who was, largely, disinterested in economic issues. He, like his son, was a “trust fund kid.” (His father, Charlie Trudeau was a tough old entrepreneur with grease under his fingernails but he wanted and provided a “softer” life for his descendants … Pierre Trudeau wasn’t physically soft but he wasn’t mentally tough, either.) Trudeau’s ignorance and disinterest in fiscal and economic matters, coupled with some concern amongst some Liberals about the “undue” influence of Quebec in Canada, precipitated the civil war which began before Trudeau took power and pitted fiscal and social moderates, led by John Turner against the left leaning, free spending, isolationist, social justice warriors led by Trudeau. Trudeau won handily.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives healed the wounds of the Diefenbaker era and Brian Mulroney did what few Canadians have ever done: won an election with 50%+ of the popular vote and seats in all regions … then his efforts to appease Quebec almost destroyed his party and the country.

Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were, actually, kindred political spirits on most issues: both wanted to restore some fiscal common sense to Canada. Jean Chrétien was, on fiscal matters, a very old fashioned Liberal, but on most other issues, including governance, he was a “son” of Pierre Trudeau. Paul Martin’s father, who wanted to succeed Mike Pearson as Liberal leader, was the “father” of many of Canada’s social programmes, but he disapproved of the “culture of entitlement” that he, and many others, believed Pierre Trudeau created. After they had wrestled the deficit into submission ~ largely by offloading social programme costs on to three provinces: BC, AB and ON ~ Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien found much about which to disagree, including governance (honesty in government) and many policy issues. Paul Martin thought, circa 1999, it was time for Prime Minister Chrétien to step aside and let him “have a go.” The internal war, which many described as a civil war between the  Chrétienistas and the Martinis was bitter and public and, in some cases, was fought on principle. Jean Chrétien finally gave way and then Paul Martin opened a festering sore which led to his party’s defeat by ordering a public enquiry into the so-called sponsorship affair.

That opened the way for Stephen Harper because Canadians were, very rightfully, shocked and dismayed at the depths of corruption into which the Liberal Party had sunk. It was, almost all of it, a result of one of Pierre Trudeau’s policies: fiscal federalism. Fiscal federalism was Trudeau’s only way to persuade Quebec to remain in Canada. He, Pierre Trudeau, could not, it seemed, make a good “case” for Canada, or, at least he would not, because, I think, he really didn’t believe, himself, in Canada as a nation ~ he saw it as an artificial construct in which Quebec was always a second rate, second class, conquered junior partner. Since he couldn’t persuade himself, much less Quebecers, that Canada was worth his and their loyalty and affection, he proposed to buy a bit, enough, of each by pouring money into Quebec ~ “fiscal federalism,” he called it. It was damaging, insulting and, ultimately, led the Liberal Party down the path of corruption.

But the Liberal civil war wasn’t that simple. It wasn’t just the Chrétienistas versus the Martinis; there was another faction: the Manley Liberals. Paul Martin may have felt entitled, perhaps on his father’s behalf, to be prime minister but many, many Liberals thought, circa 2000, that it was time for both Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin to leave and that the best Liberal in a generation was John Manley. He has a big brain (I briefed him a couple, maybe three times and I can attest to that) and a pleasant personality and good French. But he had one group of implacable enemies: the Laurentian Elites who would do anything to preserve the Pierre Trudeau legacy and the culture of entitlement. The Laurentian Elites feared John Manley because they knew that he would tear down the Trudeau legacy and restore sound fiscal management and a broad, internationalist (St Laurent style) foreign policy to Canada. They need not have feared; I have it on good authority that Mr Manley would have accepted a draft to be Party leader but he would not contest the leadership against Paul Martin and divide the anti-Chrétien vote, leaving the way clear for another Trudeau acolyte to take over.

If the Liberals had turned their backs on the Laurentian Consensus and voted with their heads, then John Manley would have been prime minister for 10 years, I suspect, until about 2013, and I expect that Marc Garneau would be PM today. But … <shrug>

Anyway, that was the Canada that Stephen Harper inherited in 2006 … sent down the wrong path by Pierre Trudeau, the downward spiral accelerated by Jean Chrétien. Then came the Great Recession of 2008.

Stephen Harper had a plan in 2006, pretty much, in many respects, the same plan Justin Trudeau ran on less than ten years later: to help the middle class. The difference, of course, was that Stephen Harper, unlike Justin Trudeau, actually knew some middle class Canadians. But, as Harold Macmillan said, “events, dear boy, events” transpired and Jean Chrétien’s war in Afghanistan and Bill Clinton’s Great Recession and Canadian minority governments diverted him. But the Laurentian Elites hated and feared Stephen Harper’s brand of socially moderate, fiscally responsible, smaller government Conservatism, because they knew it would appeal to Canadians, so they set about demonizing both the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper, and they’ll continue doing it if the Conservatives elect a moderate leader, like Erin O’Toole, because they know that the Conservatives do have good, popular, workable, principled ideas that Canadians will support.

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