Monday, November 17, 2008

Harper charts Canada's shift to the right.

This is from the Vancouver Sun.
As Yaffe mentions quite a few of the resolutions are actually mainstream but on crime the tendency is certainly to the right and one resolution echoes US three strike policy. Perhaps the Conservatives are united for now but I imagine there will be some pressure from the more ideological conservative base to get on with an even more right wing agenda. There is little for the pro-life movement to savor except the one resolution on killing a pregnant woman. Harper must be able to successfully weather the coming economic storm. Even at this stage he finds it necessary to swear off his anti-deficit policy and his rhetoric about leaving failing industries to the tender mercies of market forces and their creative destruction.

Monday » November 17 » 2008

Harper charts Canada's shift to the right

Barbara Yaffe
Vancouver Sun
Monday, November 17, 2008
If the Harper Conservatives were a person rather than a party, it could fairly be described as fat and happy.
Two thousand delegates attending a party convention in frosty Winnipeg this past weekend left for home Sunday with a warm feeling in their tummies.
The words of Conservative president Don Plett -- "We are in the best shape that any political party has been in the history of Canada" -- were clearly reassuring.
Having won two successive elections, Conservatives are sufficiently confident to assert, as their leader did at the start of the three-day gathering, that Conservatism has replaced Liberalism as the country's mainstream political force.
The party now owns 143 seats -- just 12 shy of a majority, and boasts respectable strength in every last region of the country. It increased seat strength in the last election in B.C., P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Party members -- once fractious and undisciplined -- have a new-found consciousness about what it's going to take to keep power.
"We must never believe we're entitled to be in government, or that certain groups owe us their vote," Stephen Harper warned the delegates, conjuring up memories of the insufferable snootiness that ultimately topped both Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien.
The Conservative government has indeed found its way with an inclusive approach to Quebec, a strategy to court the ethnic vote and a slick fundraising machine that blitzes donors by phone, mail, direct contact and the Internet.
The party's fundraising chairman Irving Gerstein got a standing ovation at the convention after advising that the party is running rings around Liberals on the financial front.
Liberals, in the first nine months of 2008, raised $3.6 million by way of 34,752 donations, compared to $14.8 million from 125,453 donations Conservatives collected.
Gerstein proudly declared: "We are ready to fight the next election whenever it may come."
The Conservative government, meanwhile, has done a good job of tempering its ideological biases, pursuing policies that are mostly mainstream.
That said, the right-leaning impulses of the membership were on display at the Winnipeg gathering through votes that approved a three-strikes provision for violent offenders, after which the party wants them designated dangerous offenders, and a measure that opens the door to legalizing fetal rights.
They also approved a policy that would eliminate the "faint hope" of parole for those sentenced to 25-year sentences. But of course such policy resolutions are not binding on the government.
For all their success as an organization, Conservatives cannot count on continued political domination. Inevitably they will suffer for presiding in fiscally fraught times.
They are likely the party that will reintroduce deficit financing to Canada. Policies they've suggested pursuing, such as limiting civil service pay hikes, putting a cap on equalization to provinces and selling off Crown assets, will all be controversial.
And, as the impact of climate change becomes more salient, Conservatives increasingly could be blamed for their lax approach on the green front.
While the government will likely become more activist in order to keep up with a proposed U.S. cap-and-trade scheme to control greenhouse gas emissions, its environmental outlook consistently has been less aggressive than the other parties in the Commons.
And Harper pledged again this past weekend that he either will move ahead with Senate elections or, failing necessary provincial cooperation, appoint Conservatives to fill a raft of existing vacancies in the upper chamber. This would look a lot like patronage and could turn off many voters.
Then there is the Liberal party. Since 2006, the Conservatives' main opposition has been hobbled, discredited by the sponsorship scandal, damaged by weak leadership and incapable of adapting to current party financing laws.
But if the Grits can revitalize themselves after a leader is chosen at their own party convention next May, the political dynamic could change awfully fast.
By the time of the next election, in two years or so, the Harperites will have been in power six or seven years and might start to look stale.
Conservatives were wise on the weekend to savour their good times.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008

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