Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why the Conservative government Must Be Defeated in 2015

1.  The millions of taxpayers' money spent on partisan propaganda, the personal attack ads between elections, the "anything you can get away with"  attitude to parliamentary democracy, the avoidance of any press scrums or federal-provincial meetings that the prime minister cannot control, the awful Senate scandal, the first prime minister in Canadian history to be found in contempt of Parliament--all of these are extreme examples of autocratic, ham-fisted rule that are without precedent in all of Canadian history, at least in peacetime.

2. Simple logic tells us that it is not necessary to degrade our democracy in order to improve our economy. Any government that appears to assume otherwise is behaving badly. And if this government is rewarded with back-to-back majorities, all politicians will learn the lesson, and the damage to our institutions will have become permanent.

3. Any advantage Canada has enjoyed economically in the past decade, other than commodity prices that are completely beyond anyone's control,  has derived from the fact that the Conservatives inherited a more stable financial industry and a more independent monetary policy than other G7 countries--a fact that the Conservatives themselves deserve no credit for, and  to which in fact the Conservatives presented the greatest existential threat of all the Canadian political parties.

4. In any event, simple math shows little or no actual growth or efficiency dividend clearly flowing from the government's "economy first" downgrading of social and environmental priorities.    In fact, the Conservative government's record is becoming a textbook example of  how such a simple minded "great leap forward" in building pipeline capacity  and reducing environmental and safety regulation is jeopardizing projects rather than facilitating them.

5Therefore, the Conservatives' game is not worth the candle.

{By way of further explication, here is my latest column for November issues of Anahim-Nimpo Lake Messenger, the 100 Mile Free Press, and a number of other interior B.C. newspapers.}

What can you say about a government that jeopardizes the Keystone XL pipeline because of its poor environmental record?  And delays the Northern Gateway because it antagonizes First Nations people and environmentalists? And talks about unbundling our cable channels, even as it bundles together controversial and  uncontroversial bills in order to evade accountability?  That deregulates railway safety at the same time that it quadruples the amount of oil and gas being transported? That appoints the most aggressively partisan people it can to the Senate and then acts shocked when they behave as expected?  That continually throws people under the bus without any notion of due process or respect for Parliament?

The Canada-EU Trade Agreement is starting to look better than it had once appeared, providing greater access to a huge market. But does it really outweigh all the contradictory and self –defeating political manoeuvres of this government? A last ditch effort to engage First Nations people on the issue of oil pipelines,  described by one representative of First Nations  as "too little too late," comes after after  20 months of aggressive campaigning to  vilify opponents  of the Northern Gateway Project as "radicals"  and "hijackers"  funded by "foreign interests;"   changes to the National Energy Board Act to limit public participation in hearings; and   repeatedly antagonizing First Nations with unilateral changes to the Indian Act and environmental regulations as part of an Omnibus Budget bill, sparking the Idle No More movement. 

Similarly,  Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's   recent overtures to the U.S.  indicating that the Government of Canada  is "ready to partner on tackling climate change" , including an un-typically rapid  acceptance by the government of the latest scientific meta-study from the University of Hawaii,  comes after six years of downplaying climate science, five Fossil of the Year Awards, pulling out of both the Kyoto and UN desertification treaties, and generally damaging Canada's international reputation in regards to the environment.

If the government were really serious about a "Consumers First" strategy, it would be opening the domestic market in airlines, agriculture and banking; It would reverse the recent decision to increase tariffs on  72 less developed countries, which will raise the cost of clothes and sports equipment. It would open the telecom market to everyone, not just a multinational corporation like Verizon that made $40 billion in profits last year in the U.S. while paying no taxes. 

Of course, the government will do  none of these things. Unbundling cable channels and tackling high cell roaming fees are popular moves and are safe politics. Aside from a few regulatory changes related to telecom, cable and credit cards, (mostly nicked from the NDP) this is just a shift in the propaganda winds.  We should  be keenly aware how much these initiatives represent public relations band-aids for self-inflicted wounds. 

Mark Crawford is a former public servant and now teaches political science at Athabasca University. He can be reached at

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