Those who criticize the Harper Conservatives for not having some grand project to make their mark on Canadian history such as Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights perhaps expect the current group to be like previous governments that held power for a protracted period. What should be clear, however, is that one by one the Conservatives are taking on the main policies that have characterized Canada for decades and reshaping them so that they become conservative in nature. That is their grand project.
The longer the Conservatives remain in power the further to the right we will get. If it hadn’t been for the American banking meltdown and the subsequent worldwide ripple effect this project may have begun sooner; or perhaps if the Conservatives hadn’t been a minority government for six of the past seven years. (In spite of that, though, they did act as if they had a majority all along and it did not help that the Liberals had fallen into disarray with their pro- and anti- Chretien/Martin/Ignatieff/Rae camps. What is that saying about a house divided not being able to stand?)
So while many of us take comfort in the Conservatives maintaining the public purse, they are at the same time reshaping Canada into something that many of us will not recognize.
Bearing in mind that the Conservative Party gained their majority with just 40 per cent of the popular vote, it could be assumed that most Canadians do not welcome this change. But we have another three years before the next federal election and there can be no doubt that by that time this will be a significantly different Canada; one with government policies that suggest some contempt for the people on the lowest rung, but also certainly one where business will enjoy new freedoms.
The safety net is being whittled away and before it is all over we will have less government and fewer protections. We are losing a way of life that made Canada a desirable country in which to live. The country that was once considered fiscally prudent but with a progressive social conscience is being traded in for an aggressively business friendly, free-market (read capitalist) profile.
Is the current government reading from the U.S. Republican Party’s playbook?
For business people that should be happy news because a business-friendly climate means there will be fewer regulations to get in the way of running or starting up a business, particularly if you are a foreign investor. The sunny side of that formula is it could have benefits in lower unemployment all-round. But there are other features being set in place, one is that the government is changing the policy on pay rates for foreign temporary workers so that they can be paid as much as 15 per cent less than Canadian workers. There are provisos to this, but the message is clear. This government will do whatever it takes to create a friendly climate for neo-liberalism. Business wants government red tape out of the way and business wants to pay as little taxes as possible. However, what is good for business shows a history of usually being bad for people. No one wants to discourage business. That is not the point. But the capitalist business world as it runs now is set up so that in order for business to win the rest of us have to lose. And the Conservatives are clearly on the side of business.
Business people are not all demons looking to do dirt to society, but where the law looks the other way or gives the impression that certain safeguards are not a priority then there are some that will just as easily let such things slide. Regarding the natural environment, for example, this government has signalled to the larger business world that it is now willing to shorten environmental assessment periods. Great for business; the environment, not so much.
Change is inevitable. But, to what extent are these the changes Canadians want?
A note to the mayor on dieting…
Many can empathize with abandoned attempts to come to grips with unhealthy eating patterns for it is a formidable task to change how one relates to food. Still, in the interest of a person’s health, it is a vital consideration. For health’s sake, let’s hope the mayor has not completely given up.