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New Year’s Resolution: Stop Harper from gutting the federal government.

The key goal in 2007 must be to send this Conservative government packing its bags and out the door. Harper and his brand of conservatism must be stopped and sent back into opposition whence it came in 2006. Seeing what they’ve done while in a minority government and surmising what they’d do if they had majority government status should be enough initiative for every progressive-minded person in Canada to make that their ultimate goal.

An op-ed was published in the Star today detailing what Harper aims to do. What he’s been doing so far and what his ultimate goals are is scary stuff for a social liberal like myself (and should be to anyone else in the progressive camp – be they Greens, socialists, social democrats, feminists etc), who believes that government is more then just providing military defense – it can be used for instituting social reform and social justice in society. As you see in the article, Harper is aiming to neuter the federal government’s ability to do that:

Ultimately, all of Harper’s policies are designed to dismantle the capacity of the federal government as a force in Canadian economic and social policy…Harper has espoused a patently anti-federal government ideology, akin to Republican dogma in the United States.

The most important part of the article is the end statement:

On their own, each of these Harper measures do not seem that significant. But added up, they translate to nothing less than an utter dismantling of the federal state as a positive force in Canadian lives. The question for Canadians is whether or not Harper has a mandate to dismantle the federal government’s capacity forever, or whether they are willing to grant him such a mandate in the next election.

Personally, I strongly believe that if it can be communicated to Canadians what Harper is attempting to do by changing Canada to his neo-conservative vision, they will throw him and his government out on its ear. We can already see from the polls that Canadians have become increasingly uneasy at this strong right-wing Republican-style turn Harper is attempting to take Canada on. The onus will be to effectively bring that message across to people in a 6 week election campaign and do it without being accused of fear-mongering.

Over-dramatic statements aren’t need here; reminding Canadians simply what programs he has decided to cut based solely on narrow-minded ideology as well as his continuing inability to do anything on the environment and his government’s skepticism over “so-called” greenhouse gases and global warming should be more then sufficient, as well as providing to Canadians what your specific alternative to his style of government is.

Simply put, the question should be framed as this: Do you want neo-conservativism (with a touch of social conservatism thrown in) espoused by US Republicans and used to such disasterous effect in Mike Harris’s Ontario in the 1990’s (with many of those ministers not coincidentally in the Harper government), or do you want a government committed to, as Thomas Axworthy put it in another great op-ed article today, “a coherent, progressive alternative to the neo-conservative ideology of market dominance. A market economy, certainly, but a market society never, is the stance that should distinguish progressives from conservatives.”

Effectively market that message, and the Conservatives reign in power will mercifully come to an end (and not a moment too soon).


13 comments to New Year’s Resolution: Stop Harper from gutting the federal government.

  • To return to the point of the initial post; I agree, on balance, that the safest assumption is that Stephen Harper is still the emphatically neo-liberal small-government advocate he used to be. And I agree further that there is a very real chance he may get to put program of small government into action, and would probably act to make his moves ‘permanent’ through expedients like a deadlocked bicameral legislative system.

    It’s possible his views have been tempered towards the mainstream, of course. The nation motion was classic Progressive Conservative politics and anathema to Reform. But his domestic policy preferences are still enigmatic, barring apple-pie motherhood statements. He hasn’t shown any regret over his past views, which run quite contrary to said motherhood statements, especially when taken to their logical conclusions. And lastly, there is still a solid CPC political constituency for a dramatic rightward shift; for example, most of the Conservative blogosphere is ideologically congruent with “Harper Classic.”

    The Conservatives have decided to respond to all concerns about Harper by deriding “the boy who cried wolf” strategy, and this is very effective for them. The challenge for Liberals is to deal with the fact that there was and still is a wolf, but that the case is harder to make convincingly the longer Harper governs inconspicuously.

  • Lets get back to what made Canada great – less government.

    Humina humina humina. Care to explain this to those of us not fortunate enough to own R. Reagan’s seminal “Lesser Known Canadian History?”

    How did you start getting Cherniak-levels of Blogging Trollers, Scott?

  • Fred

    Why are you so against the Canadian Constitution’s separation of powers between municipalities, provinces and the Federal Government ??

    Is there some secret liberal agenda to stealth re-write the constitution ??

    30 years of Trudeaupia is enough. Lets get back to what made Canada great – less government.

  • I like the juxtaposition of these two statements, which I reverse for effect.

    Over-dramatic statements aren’t need here


    The most important part of the article is the end statement:

    On their own, each of these Harper measures do not seem that significant. But added up, they translate to nothing less than an utter dismantling of the federal state as a positive force in Canadian lives.

    I mean, seriously. We still have health care, we still have welfare, we still have EI, we still have government subsidies for business. The Liberal government cut program spending in the mid 1990s far more than the Conservatives have ever considered.

    You can argue, as I do, that those cuts were necessary, but one would think that you’d have difficulty claiming that far lesser degree of cuts will ‘utterly dismantle’ the capacity of the federal government where far more substantial cuts did nothing of the sort.

    Check out Coyne, as always.

    Its this kind of meaningless fear mongering that made Paul Martin look like such a delusional ass last election. I’d advise against it.

  • The governments of Alberta and Quebec support a decreased role for the federal government. The Government of Ontario – to the best of my knowledge – has only supported more money coming to the province (something every province supports), but not necessarily decreasing the role of the federal government.

  • wilson61

    Ontario, Quebec and Alberta favour Feds limiting its power to spend in areas of Provincial jurisdiction, and the Libs are attacking the Cons over it?
    Good luck defeating the Cons on this issue; the big 3 are onside with PMSH !!

  • Paul Vincent

    Well, historically the Liberals have only supported two policies, symetrical federalism and centralizing power. Every Liberal government in some way has made attempts at it. Some were more obvious like Trudeau using the war measures act. Some are less obvious like Chretien aking over provincial responsibilities.

    I would honestly like to see where Harper is going with this and who he is sending money to. If he’s going to strip the government for anoher 1% GST decrease then I stand against it. If he is going to empower the provinces, that’s great… more services for the services provinces need.

    Liberals should be threatened dismantling 100 years of centralizing power in one mighty minority governmen will curb the Liberals electability. Setting up new programs (again) is a risky detail, easily leads to scandal, and looks really bad on audits.

  • I, for one, am frankly tired of this attempt to use the slashing of federal transfers to the provinces in the mid 1990s in an attempt to paint the Liberals as some sort of political pirates. The fact of the matter is that the Liberals did what was necessary in order to save the country. We were in financial ruin and our economy could actually have collapsed.

    We have seen the federal government under the Liberals screw up all sorts of things. Send that one to the papers – governments screw up. But we also saw a government which recitified the finances of this country; that kept the country together when there was a real risk of it falling apart; that put in place a gun registry which is used by police across the country (which is more important to me than cost-overruns); which gave the right to same-sex couples to wed (getting the government out of their bedrooms); which made an attempt on a whole host of issues, where Conservatives seem content to not even attempt to rectify.

    I had the benefit of being able to look at that record when I chose to join the party a year ago. I’m willing to stand behind that record. Any day.


    We have seen the LPC approach over the last 13 years . . . have we not!! Taxes and more payroll taxes, cuttine transfer payments to provinces, inept, wasteful federal programs from Kyoto to the Gun Registry. I won’t even mention the dishonesty, patronage and graft that was also prevalent.
    The federal govt is too large, too involved in provincial affairs . . . time to fix the mess, put some money back into Canadians pockets, especially families . . . (you guys remember them don’t you – a husband, wife and children!!!!!)
    I predict the so-called progressives/socialists/marxists will all unite in 07 . . . their vision of Canada is to follow France’s lead into the quagmire of socialism.

  • There is a difference between a cooperative federalism which promotes working with the provinces and waht Harper is proposing. Harper doesn’t want to work with the provinces on a united approach at all, but concede virtually all spending authority to the provinces. There is a world of difference between the two.

  • wilson61

    In the 1996 Speech from the Throne, (Chretien) the federal government gave a commitment to work closely with the provincial and territorial governments on renewing the social union,
    **and expressed its desire to limit its power to spend on social programs.***

    That announcement marked an important change in the federal government’s approach to the social union, and suggested that a more cooperative federalism might be practised.

  • […] I like to highlight posts at Prog Blog that dont get a lot of front-page blogtime (sometimes due to the time they get posted at the site when a lot of people aren’t reading there) and this one by Jonathan Ross at TDH Strategies should be read. Basically, his argument is that Harper will attempt to gut the federal spending power in Canada by trying to fool people and provinces into thinking he’s solved the fiscal imbalance, thus trying to prevent forever any more federal national programs/initiatives like medicare or such (which I’ve already blogged about once here) […]

  • […] Surpluses are not service cuts because they are revenues that exceed the current costs of existing programs. Get it? Some Liberal cheerleaders don’t. […]

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