Last evening, the Conservative Party of Canada won their first majority government since 1988 – a welcome accomplishment. But as the jubilation surrounding the newly granted four year mandate dies down, one must pause to consider whether the Party’s agenda is sufficiently ambitious.
“Our agenda is the same agenda with a majority government or a minority government,” Harper told reporters during the campaign.
This is a disappointing sentiment to many of the conservative activists who helped him build a conservative political infrastructure in Canada: blogs, radio shows, the newly-launched SUNTV news network – all the way down to the massively efficient Get Out the Vote machine that helped him dramatically over-perform expectations on election night.
This is not to mention that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. An insufficiently aspirational agenda means not only the disappointment of ideological backers, but the potential for wrongdoing and corruption. If Harper’s agenda isn’t aggressive enough to keep his caucus busy over the next few years, they will wander – and scandal will begin to creep up on him and his fellow MPs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has argued – and rightly so – that he is the best of the party leaders to lead the country on a path out of the recession. The Conservatives have also pledged to the hold the line on regulations, pass tough-on-crime legislation and provide some small amount of tax relief for families.
But what they propose besides that is largely disappointing: a pledge to increase health care transfers to the provinces by 6% annually, the complication of the tax code with things like credits for going to the gym, and the continued funding of the arts.
The Canadian parliamentary system allows a majority government to pass aggressive legislation while minimizing the tools that the opposition has to block it, which is any principled conservative’s dream. But the Conservative Party’s vision has been sadly parochial – appropriate in a minority government situation, but unsatisfactory given the breadth of the mandate granted to them last night.
Where is the transition into a public-private health care system? Will they actually cut significant amounts of spending as opposed to ‘waste and mismanagement’? Could we scrap the election gag law and dismantle the speech-impeding ‘Human Rights Commissions’? Instead of holding the line on regulations, actually cutting some red tape?
The time to aggressively pursue conservative goals is now. In a set term of power, the key is to get the assertive, ideological items accomplished first – so you have time to clean up if it’s unpopular. Consider Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who took the unpopular step of confronting public unions on collective bargaining without delay after being elected. Conservative. Ambitious. Immediate.
Big-C Conservatives have told small-c conservatives since 2006 that their every misstep and compromise on principle was because they were in a minority government. This would all change, we were told, when the Conservatives got their coveted majority. As a partisan activist in Montreal, I got used to hearing this line over and over again – probably even used it myself a couple times.
Well, now they have one. Let’s see if they’ll form a government that is worthy of the activists who helped bring them there.
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