peter jamesWho is Stephen Harper and where did his party come from: The re of Canadian conservatism

Brian Mulroneys success in leading the Progressive Conservative Party to a second majority victory in the general election of 1988 was the last hurrah of the old Conservative Party, the party whose lineage extended back to the great days of the Liberal Conservatives of the 19th century, under the leadership of Sir John A. Macdonald. It is ironic that the partys final electoral victory was in aid of the implementation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that had been negotiated between the Mulroney government and the Reagan Administration. The last great fight of Macdonalds life had been to sustain the National Policy and to block the Liberal partys drive for a renewal of reciprocity or commercial union with the United States.

Campbell called an election for October 1993. The result was a transformation of Canadian politics.

James Laxer is regularly asked to comment on current national and global issues by the Canadian media and frequently writes columns in major newss and periodicals.

The Conservatives appeared on news shows, talk shows and organized rallies putting out the word that what was happening in Ottawa was an attempted coup. At the centre of this claim was the proposition that Canadians had just re-elected Stephen Harper as prime minister and that he had a mandate to govern.

It concluded by calling on the provincial government to build firewalls around Alberta to stop the federal government from redistributing the provinces wealth to less affluent regions. That year Harper also wrote that Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country…led by a second-world strongman [Jean Chretien] appropriately suited for the task. He advocated a stronger and much more autonomous Alberta.

The Conservatives did make gains in the October 2008 election, but fell short of a majority. Harpers Conservatives won143 of the 308 seats, taking just over 37.5 per cent of the vote. The Liberals won 77 seats, with 26.25 per cent of the vote, the Bloc won 49 seats and just under 10 per cent of the vote, and the NDP took 37 seats and just over 18 per cent of the vote.

Preston Mannings Reform Party merged a number of political streams. It featured the Alberta regionalism of the old Social Credit with its suspicion of Central Canada, its rejection of Quebec nationalism and bilingualism, and its promotion of provincial rights. In addition, the party adopted a strongly neo-conservative view of the economy, and had no sympathy for the historic Tory backing for state intervention and crown corporations. The third stream in the mix was social conservatism, closely aligned to the views of evangelical Christians, who were opposed to abortion, were negative to rights for gays and lesbians, and later to same marriage. As well, social conservatives opposed multiculturalism and voured a reduction in the level of immigration to Canada.

Senior government officials who were in charge of the federal governments advertising and sponsorship contracts in Quebec, as well as five Crown Corporations, the RCMP, Via Rail, Canada Post, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Old Port of Montreal, had wasted money, violated rules, and mishandled millions of taxpayer dollars since 1995. More than $100 million was paid to communications companies in the form of fees and commissions. While some elements of the scandal had been bubbling to the suce for a couple of years, it was Frasers report that made it a major political issue.

Stephen Harper was successful in convincing the Governor General to prorogue parliament on December 3, 2008.

The Tory idea proved highly useful to Canadians for generations in their efforts to compete with the powerful nation to the south. In the first decade of the twentieth century, under the leadership of Adam Beck, a manucturer from London, Ontario, the province of Ontario drew on the Tory creed when it created a publicly owned hydro-electric system. The inspiration behind Ontario Hydro, at the time the largest public utility on the continent, was that a public corporation could provide electricity at cost to consumers and businesses alike. Later, Tories established the Canadian National Railway, the Bank of Canada and the CBC.

– Reform publicly-funded health care

In this political emergency, to prevent the House of Commons from voting No Confidence in his government, Harper went to the Governor General and demanded that she immediately prorogue the House of Commons. Prorogation is normally used as way to punctuate work in parliament during the life of a government. It halts the work of one session of parliament to open the way for another session, begun with a new Speech from the Throne.

Harper then broadened his attack on the Chretien government, beyond trade issues, to attack it for its entire foreign policy stance vis a vis the United States. Downright hostility to the United States, anti-Americanism, has come to characterize other dimensions of Canadian policy, he declared. In 1996-97 Canada aggressively pushed forward with the treaty to ban landmines without giving due consideration to U.S. concerns about the potential implications for its security forces in South Korea. What did we end up with? We ended up with a ban on landmines that few major landmine producers or users have signed, Harper charged. Having dismissed an anti-landmines treaty signed by most of the nations of the world in Ottawa, Harper went on to tow the Bush administrations line on the development of an anti-ballistic missile defence system. Most recently we have been inclined to offer knee-jerk resistance to the United States on national missile defence despite the ct that Canada is confronted by the same threats from rogue nations equipped with ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction as is the United States. Harpers litany of complaints against the Chretien government ended with this nod to those who allege that Canadas refugee system makes it vulnerable to terrorists: The government has not adequately addressed the matter of security in the context of continental security. Because of the unreformed napeter james centre eastern healthture of our refugee determination system, we continue to be subject to unique internal security and continental security dangers.

It took two elections for Stephen Harpers new party to push the wounded Liberals from office. In the first election, which took place on June 28, 2004, the Liberals won 135 of the 308 seats, putting them in minority territory. The Conservatives won 99 seats, the Bloc 54 seats, the NDP 19 seats and one independent was elected. While the Conservatives made major advances over the results for the CA four years earlier, winning 24 seats in Ontario, pollsters concluded that many voters who had been leaning Conservative on the eve of the election, changed their minds and switched to the Liberals.

Both on the left and the right, Alberta had its own brand of populist politics, heavily spiced with the views of American immigrants. One of the first to put his stamp on Alberta rmer politics was Henry Wise Wood who hailed originally from Missouri. He arrived in Alberta in 1905, the year Alberta became a province. More than any other person, Wise Wood helped shape the philosophy of the Alberta rmers movement. His critique of Canadian politics was that the party system naturally voured the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of other segments of society and the domination of the country by central Canada. Dismissing the Liberals and Conservatives as unprincipled parties seeking power for the sake of power, he called for the creation of a party to represent rmers alone. While his ideas had little impact on the country as a whole, they were ideally suited to appeal to the particular conditions of Alberta at a time when the largest single occupational group was rmers who owned their own rms. He was the guiding force behind the United Farmers of Alberta, a movement that became a highly successful political force when it won power in the province and governed Alberta from 1921 to 1935.

The newly re-elected Conservative government soon ced a major political-constitutional crisis. On November 26, 2008 Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released an economic statement, which among other things announced a significant reduction of public funding for political parties. This measure, along with what the