In the months prior to our 2019 election, among the usual third of Canadians who look less favourably on permanent surrender to socialist ideologues and post-modern dialecticians, there was a perception that the winds of change might be blowing across the Canadian political landscape.
In the Canadian west Justin Trudeau’s trendy opposition to the fossil fuel industry was wearing thin. The national debt level was troubling and several unforced errors had tarnished the brand of the most photogenic and“woke” Prime Minister in the history of the Dominion.
South of our border the much maligned, American capitalist, Donald Trump was presiding over one of the most dramatic economic turnarounds in American history. Many ordinary Canadians were making common sense comparisons between the two leaders and Justin Trudeau’s priorities were raising serious questions.
In addition, some very skeptical antennas went up when the Prime Minister attempted to gain political advantage by interfering with the justice system and was censured by the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner for improperly trying to influence the course of justice in an ongoing criminal case against the Quebec-based engineering firm, SNC Lavalin. All of this, along with a rather embarrassing trip to India which looked more like a costume party than a state visit, had damaged the Liberal brand and left the PM with a much diminished 32% approval rating by July 2019.
Unfortunately for working and middle class voters, Canadian Tories proved unequal to the task of developing a coherent alternative vision for the nation and challenge the powerful Laurentian consensus of political, media, professional and intellectual elites who supported Mr. Trudeau and other left-of-centre parties.
In the post-Harper era, the Conservative Party had coasted toward a divisive May 2017 leadership convention. After 13 agonizing ballots the Party passed on the front-running Maxime Bernier, a Harper Government Cabinet Minister and bold advocate of neo-conservative principles. Bernier was rejected by a narrow 50.95% of delegate votes. His Achilles heel appears to have been his disapproval of supply management policies and a forthright devotion to free-market economic principles. Conservatives passed on the opportunity to elect their first French Canadian leader in the history of the Party.
Instead, a slim majority fell in line behind the initially promising, but untested, Andrew Sheer from Regina, Saskatchewan. During the months that followed, Mr Scheer was unable to reunite the right and Maxime Bernier left to form the People’s Party of Canada. The schism left many Harper era activists dispirited and uncertain about the direction of the Canadian conservative movement.
The rest is history. On October 21, 2019, the Trudeau government was chastened but unbeaten. The Liberal Party lost 27 seats in the House and about one million voters; but will carry on governing through an informal coalition with socialist parties like the New Democrats, the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party of Canada.
Judging by the Prime Minister’s responses during an October 23 press conference, despite a significant setback in western Canada, he has concluded that all Canadians want him to continue prioritizing the issues he ran on. Canadian’s, he said, want him to focus on “climate change” and “affordability” Variations on the theme included: climate change and the French language in Quebec, climate change and the cost of living and, with regard to Canadian foreign policy, climate change and strengthening democracy.
On a lighter note, for the few remaining Canadians who have read history, it was, once again, ironically entertaining to hear Mr. Trudeau profess his enduring admiration for former French Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier. The irony is that Sir Wilfred was, for the most part, a nineteenth century classical liberal whose vision for the nation was one of individual liberty, compromise, decentralized federalism and a strong reciprocal trading relationship with the USA. “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality,” said Laurier who, were he alive today, might have more in common with Maxime Bernier than Justin Trudeau.
The more troubling aspect of our election result is that Justin Trudeau’s world view remains more in line with radical America activist, Naomi Klein, than it ever was with Sir Wilfred Laurier. Interestingly enough, the role-out of Klein’s latest book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate” along with the predictable documentary film version, runs parallel with our Prime Minister’s meteoric rise to political power. Klein’s portrait of a post-fossil-fuelled, post-capitalist future provides a dramatic Hollywood style backdrop for the political theatre we can look forward to in Canada over the next four years.
History demonstrates that whenever socialist policies have replaced free market principles there has been a drop in investment rates and capital formation which has led to rising costs for producers, contractors and consumers. Nationalizing and over-regulating the delivery of services and the means of production have led to waste, inefficiency, shortages, corruption and an inevitable decline in the general standard of living.
Only capitalist economies have been sufficiently productive to raise millions of people out of poverty and provide a wide array of social, health and educational services to vulnerable members of society. Socialism, over the same period of time, has failed to deliver on promises of eguality, security, prosperity and peace in just about every part of the world in which it took root.
Unfortunately, the left’s dominance over Canada’s centres of learning and cultural formation has left voters with a paucity of historical perspective or institutional memory with which to judge past performance and caste an informed ballot.
In an article appearing in the October 25 edition of the Financial Post, David Rosenberg reminded readers that: In 1972, when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was obliged to govern with the support of the socialist NDP, he veered further to the left in 19 months than he had during his entire first term.
Should history repeat itself Rosenberg predicts that the major thematic for the coming years will be: “More government spending. More taxes. A less friendly business climate, especially with respect to competitive tax rates and the energy sector. Western alienation and possibly a return to Quebec nationalism”.
As Naomi Klein might say: “This changes everything”.
William Brooks is a Montreal writer and educator. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.