Two items in the Globe and Mail caught my eye:
- In the first, Gary Mason asks “Does Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government really dislike Alberta and the West or is this just a convenient narrative, peddled by conservative politicians who have nothing but their own self-interest in mind?” He goes on to discuss the equalization issue and, especially, the fact that many Western Canadians perceive that Quebec can rig the system to its advantage: Quebec can reduce its own fiscal capacity (which is used to measure the need for equalization) by restricting oil and gas exploration and then get equalization money collected from oil produces like Alberta and Saskatchewan; and
- In the second, business and finance reporter Rita Trichur says that “The federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion for a whopping $4.5 billion is shaping up to be a do-it-yourself disaster of epic proportions.” She goes on to explain that “For years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to the energy sector. Just last year he enraged Albertans by suggesting Canada “phase out” the oil sands. He later walked back those comments, but the damage was already done. He’s prioritized environmental posturing over pipelines from the get-go, and now Canadians are being cheated on this deal.” Now, she says, “There can’t be a green future without a profitable present. To improve the odds of finding a buyer for Trans Mountain, Ottawa must undertake a wholesale rewrite of its energy policy. It can start by reviving the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipeline projects. The political uncertainty looming over the oil patch makes Canada look like a basket case on the world stage, proving that common sense is not so common –especially in politics.“
I have asked, several times, if the Trudeau Liberals are tone deaf or if they have just made a few “rookie mistakes.” I think it is now clear that the Liberal Party of Canada is, in fact, the party of what historian Michael Bliss called “Old Canada,” (which consists of the five provinces East of the Ottawa River) while, increasingly, New Canada, outside of the Vancouver and Toronto urban centres, is conservative ~ at least fiscally conservative and socially moderate. The so called Laurentian Elites have doubled down on a green, feminist, progressive, anti-American and, seemingly anti-western Canada suite of policies that ignore the harsh realities of Canadian and global economics. I find this “fault line” to be disturbing and, I think, dangerous for Canada in the long term.
Canada needs two moderate, national political parties … there is room, as I have said before, for a Green Party and for a left wing party and even for a hard right wing, socially conservative party, but what Canada needs is moderately progressive moderately fiscally prudent and moderately smaller government but we need two parties, one governing and one ready to govern who command the moderate middle ground. The Liberal Party of Canada seems, to me, to have abandoned too much of that ground as it tries to battle the NDP for the progressive vote. The progressive, feminist, First Nations and anti-growth factions can NEVER be appeased ~ they will always want more and more and more and the NDP will always promise them that … the Liberals are on a fool’s errand if they think they can out-promise the NDP and survive as a centrist party. In fact they will leave the political ‘middle ground’ vacant and the Conservatives will move in but, unless the Liberals change their ways, there will be no one to keep them honest and focused.
Canada needs a socially moderate, fiscally prudent, principled government ~ one that puts ‘Canada First’ but that understands that putting Canada First means that Canada must be out front, in the world, playing a global leadership role or it will slide out of the second tier and into the third or even fourth tiers … liked, perhaps but not respected. Canada needs to grow in population, as the Trudeau Liberals suggest ~ but the growth needs to be managed. Canada isn’t “back” ~ in fact it has retreated from the world since Justin Trudeau replaced Stephen Harper as prime minister; it is time to acknowledge that being “back” means having and being ready and able to use both soft and hard power. Canada’s economy was booming, thanks, mainly, to optimism and opportunities created by Stephen Harper’s government, now it is stagnating because of Team Trudeau’s policies and priorities. The Conservatives can, and should, move steadily into the socio-political “middle ground” vacated by the Liberals, even if that means driving a few Conservatives [ardent libertarians and hard core social conservatives] out of the ranks of the leadership and, perhaps, even out of the party, itself. There is room on the political spectrum for one or two conservative movements that espouse values and ideas that are too far out of the mainstream to be part of a moderate party’s platform.
The symptoms pointed out in the two linked articles with which opened this essay are just that: symptoms. The disease is putting popularity ahead of principle. It is not a uniquely Liberal disease; the Conservatives are equally guilty. Andrew Scheer has a year to enunciate a set of principles that will be attractive to most Canadians, to enough, anyway, to secure two, back-to-back Conservative majority governments which will be enough time to accomplish two really important things:
- First: to put Canada back on the socio-economic and political/policy right track; and
- Second: to give the Liberals time to rethink their direction and look back to Laurier and St Laurent for inspiration.