All signs are pointing to the end of Stephen Harper's conservative brand
I still remember a time in my life when conservatives in Canada were considered more liberal than Democrats in the United States. Unfortunately Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s conservative revolution eventually took a foothold within Canada, it just took an extra twenty years for it to happen.
Before the merger of right-wing and moderate conservatives at the federal level in 2003, the Conservative Party of Canada was actually known as the “progressive conservatives (PC).”
Hardcore conservatism has never really taken hold in our country. In fact since World War II, conservative parties have only managed to receive 50% of the vote three times, and they were all the “progressive” kind.
Enter Steven Harper. Easily the most conservative Prime Minister we’ve had in a century. Harper and his Conservative Party have won three straight elections (the last one being a majority) without ever reaching the 40% vote plateau.
Still, Harper’s brand of new conservatism has been ruling the country for the better part of a decade. His foreign policy is extremely pro-Israel and polarizing, his environmental record is the shame of the nation to say the least and his love for corporations is matched only by his hate for organized labor.
He muzzles our federal scientists to keep them from speaking out, he dismantled the federal long-gun registry and many of the laws his party has tried to pass have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada. I’m only getting started, but for Americans reading this, they’re probably thinking we elected the Tea Party of Canada, and they wouldn’t be far off.
Luckily, things are starting to change as people who didn’t know any better at the time are beginning to open their eyes. And it isn’t taking place solely at the federal level, conservatives are getting shunned, province by province. It appears Harper’s new conservatism is rubbing everyone the wrong way.
The most recent example came last week during Ontario’s provincial election, perhaps from a sense of guilt. Ontario is the prime reason why Harper’s Conservatives gained majority status in the first place,
The Ontario election saw Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne lead her scandal plagued party to a majority win over her Progressive Conservative rival Tim Hudak. The win made her the first openly gay premier to be elected in the country’s history.
Even a party overwhelmed with multiple scandals seemed to be a better choice than the conservative alternative of Hudak who promised to create a million jobs while cutting 100,000 public service jobs. All this in a province with a workforce of 7.4 million people and 7.3% unemployment. Conservatives have never been good at math…
In Quebec’s election back in April, the Separatist Parti-Quebecois were supposed to run away with a victory. Instead they made the fatal mistake of naming anti-labor millionaire Pierre Karl Peladeau as a contender for the riding of St. Jerome. By nominating Peladeau, the Parti-Quebecois essentially took their progressive/liberal party far to the right. Peladeau was elected to the Quebec parliament, but the Liberal Party won a Majority victory in the province.
Everyone knows that Alberta is the heartland of conservatism in the country. It’s the only province in the country where Harper polls over 50%. It is essentially the Texas of Canada. But even there, conservatives have rejected the more extreme versions of themselves.
Back in 2012, the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta was facing the greatest threat to its forty year rule. The Wildrose Party, which is made up largely of libertarian climate change deniers, led in opinion polls right up to Election Day. Fearful of what the Wildrose brought to the table, Albertans decided at the last minute to give the Progressive Conservatives its twelfth straight majority victory.
Back to national politics. Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party has been polling around 30% for the last year or so. If an election were to be held tomorrow, they would certainly lose power for the first time since 2006. People are fed up and desperate for change. It’s particularly frustrating when you realize the majority of people didn’t vote for them. Alas we have one more year to wait for the opportunity to kick em’ out.
It’s a shame Canada’s electoral system uses the “first past the post” system. Otherwise Harper would have never come into office in the first place. But things being the way they are, at least my fellow Canadians are waking up to the new conservatism that has inundated the country for far too long now.