Before I get started on 2007, I thought I should clear the last remnants of 2006 out of the draft folder cupboards so here is a post which was mostly written a few months ago...
In a post
a while back, I asserted that, "The simplest summary of our current Conservative government's agenda is that they want Canada to be more like the U.S."
In response, Andrew
commented that my assertion was, "not grounded in reality" and a "silly meme".
But I'd thought about it for a while before making that assertion and I think that is pretty well grounded in reality. What I was trying to get at was, what is the best way to concisely summarize the Conservatives likely position or action on any given issue. i.e. What rule of thumb could we use to predict their behavior.
For example, if someone was a Christian, you might try and predict their behavior based on the rule of thumb, 'what would Jesus do', and for genuine Christians, this rule would work fairly well. Jesus spoke of compassion for the poor, and the church is a leader in fundraising for the poor and in calling for debt relief for poor nations. Jesus spoke against violently attacking your enemies, and the Pope was a strong opponent to the war in Iraq.
For an environmentalist, the rule of thumb might be 'what is best for the planet?'; For a socialist, it might be, 'how can government action solve this problem?', for a libertarian it might be, 'how can we minimize the role/power of government?' - you get the idea.
So let's take the rule of thumb, 'What is the U.S. like?' and see how it does at predicting the Conservative government's stance on the issues.
There is a whole separate point about whether the Conservatives are adopting U.S. style (and in particular Republican-style) politics, but I'm not going to get into that stuff in this post. Instead, let's look at the issues where it should be possible to tell with reasonable objetivity (at least for most issues) whether the Conservative position is to make Canada more or less like the United States. And so you don't think I'm just cherry-picking the issues which make my case, I'll use the list of issues
I generated (in a completely different context) prior to the last Federal election.
The list is long so I'm only going to comment on a few of them, but if there are any calls you disagree with (as I'm sure there will be), that's what the comments are for. In many cases where I didn't have sufficient knowledge to make a proper decision, I just stated 'not enough information.' Some points are a little tricky. For example, if Conservative bilateral policy is favourable to the U.S. at the expense of domestic interests and U.S. bilateral policy is favourable to the U.S. at the expense of foreign (Canadian) interests, does that make Conservative policy more or less like U.S. policy? Anyway.
--------------------Fiscal management - Fiscal Balance / Debt ReductionMore American
"The days of these big surprise surplus budgets which the Liberals were creating for over 13 years here are over, and we're budgeting much closer to what budgeting is about -- that is closer to the line."Global Issues - Peak Oil
More American - admittedly evidence is thin here, but the only relevant action so far has been to (marginally) reduce the tax on gas so that seems more American to me.Environment - Global Warming / Climate Change
- certainly the Conservative rhetoric and action so far has been anti-Kyoto and downplaying the seriouness of global warming to date. We'll see what ends up happening in terms of policy.Global Issues - Debt Relief
Not enough informationGlobal Issues - Use of Military
- Less emphasis on peacekeeping, more focus on aggression.
- Less emphasis on multi-lateral action, working with the UN.
- One sided appraoch favouring Israel vs. more balanced approach
- Increased military spending, especially spending on military hardware
- Increased emphasis on preserving territorial sovereigntySocial Issues - Health Care (enforcement of Canada Health Act, Size of
It seems reasonable to think that the Conservative government would prefer a
system more similar to the U.S. then what we have currentlyDomestic Security (War on Terror)
More AmericanGlobal Issues - Aids
Not enough informationImmigration
MixedEconomic Issues - Inequality (poverty, gini coefficient, social
More AmericanCrime - War on Drugs vs. Harm Reduction
More AmericanGlobal Issues - Amount/Nature of Foreign Aid
Less AmericanAboriginal Affairs - Social Issues
More AmericanFiscal management - Taxation Policy (not how much taxation, what kinds
(higher percentage of taxes paid by poor, middle class, lower sales tax, proliferation of deductions)Bilateral Issues - Trade: NAFTA, Chapter 11, Softwood Lumber Dispute,
Border Crossing Infrastructure, etc.
MixedAboriginal Affairs - Governance Issues
Not Enough InformationEnvironment - Air/Water Pollution More American
(good, in this case)
Environment - Other (sustainability, genetically modified food, dumping
of oil in shipping lanes, etc.)
Not enough information
Aboriginal Affairs - Spending Issues More AmericanBilateral Issues - Security (Coordination, Rendition, Passport
More AmericanDemocratic Reform - Electoral Reform
No Change (Our electoral system is already quite similar to the U.S. one)Crime - White Collar (national securities regulator, money laundering,
tax shelters etc.)
Not enough informationSocial Issues - Child Care
Mixed - On the one hand, the introduction of more funding for children makes Canada less like the U.S. On the other hand, a number of Conservatives support raising Canada's birth rate to be more like the American one, so a baby bonus like the one the Conservatives brought in could be seen as a way to help make that happen. Many also consider this a grudging action which went against what the Conservatives really wanted to do, which was nothing.Democratic Reform - General (anti-corruption policies, whistleblower
Less American - at least at first. There's seems to be much less emphasis on accountability by the Conservatives now that they are in power.Intergovernmental Relations - Equalization
Not Enough InformationSocial Issues - Gay marriage
More AmericanEnvironment - Toxic Site Cleanup
Not enough informationGlobal Issues - International Organization(s)
More AmericanSpending Programs - Granting Councils
More AmericanGlobal Issues - Trade Agreements
More AmericanSpending Programs - EI
More AmericanCrime - Violent (mandatory sentences, etc.)
More American`(if only 'crime' didn't rhyme with 'time')Cultural Issues - Communication (CRTC, media concentration, etc.)
More AmericanSpending Programs - Infrastructure
More AmericanEconomic Issues - Size of Government
Environment - Health Issues (trans-fats, recreation, food supply
Not enough informationNational Unity
Not Enough Information - Not really an issue in the U.S.Intergovernmental Relations - Division of Powers, Federal vs.
Less American - Not sure about this one, because I'm not sure how powerful individual states are, but my impression is that provinces are already stronger than states vis-a-vis the federal government, so it seems like the Conservative plan to make the federal government weaker and the provinces stronger would make us less American. Spending Programs - OAS
Not Enough Information. I don't even know if the U.S. has a comparable program.Spending Programs - CPP/Social Security
No Change - while there are parts of the right wing in both countries that want to do away with public pension plans, policy change seems unlikely at the moment.Intergovernmental Issues - Municipal Affairs
Not Enough InformationEconomic Issues - Corporate Subsidies
No Change - Both Canada and the U.S. give out a significant amount of corporate subsidies. The Conservatives don't seem keen to change this.Cultural Issues - CBC
More American - Based on their rhetoric, it appears that the Conservatives would prefer a weaker public broadcaster which receives less public funding, as in the U.S.Education - Postsecondary
Not Enough InformationSocial Issues - Animal Rights / Cruelty to Animals
Not Enough InformationEconomic Issues - Intellectual Property
More American - I'd be surprised if copyright-industry funded Minister of Heritage Bev Oda
wasn't intending to make Canada's intellectual property laws more favourable to large corporations, as they are in the States.Social Issues - Abortion
More American - Not that they are likely to act on it, but I think most Conservatives would prefer that it be more difficult to get an abortion in Canada, as in much of the U.S.Spending Programs - Regional Development Programs
Not enough informationEconomic Issues - Housing Policy (affordable housing, role of CMHC,
Not enough informationEconomic Issues - Fisheries
Mixed - So far the biggest Conservative action on fisheries has been to oppose a ban on bottom trawling
in international waters, a ban which the U.S. supported.Economic Issues - Productivity
Not enough informationEconomic Issues - Labour Relations
More American - haven't seen any policy evidence on this, but I've never seen or heard anything to make me think the Conservatives are any friend of labour or unions. The attempted dismantling of the Wheat Board probably speaks to this point somewhat.Democratic Reform - Senate
More American. The U.S. Senate is equal, elected and effective. The Conservatives want to change the Canadian Senate to be equal, elected and effective.Education - Elementary and Secondary
Not enough information
So out of (by my rough count) 56 issues, there are 29 where the Conservatives want to change Canada to be more like the U.S., 24 with not enough information for me to judge or a mixed record, and 3 where they want Canada to be less like the U.S. The assessment that making Canada more like the U.S. is a main goal of the Conservatives seems pretty solid to me. Can anyone suggest a better rule of thumb we could use?
'Make government smaller' would do OK, but then what about the military, the courts, gay marriage, the war on drugs, the tax laws, etc?
Perhaps we could use, 'In cases where government is inflicting physical punishment or passing (Christian) moral judgement, make government larger and in cases where government is trying to help people, make government smaller' but that's a bit long for a campaign slogan. Besides, doesn't 'make Canada more like the U.S.' pretty much mean the same thing?
As a post-script, here's a great post
by Ian Welsh which may answer anyone whose reaction to this post is 'So? Why not make Canada more like the U.S.?'.