Tuesday, January 24, 2006

As I predicted just over a week ago (Canadian Election--Don't buy it when Republicans misinterpret the results), the Canadian Conservative Party behind Stephen Harper defeated the Liberal Party and Paul Martin yesterday.

And American conservatives seem to be going giddy tonight about the result. They have never much liked Martin, or his predecessor, Jean Chretien, and are excited by such statements by Harper as his saying that he had been inspired by the American conservative movement, and his expressed opposition to abortion and desire for closer cooperation with the U.S. on securing the border.

However, on closer inspection, this was hardly an endorsement of Conservatives, or of conservatism. In winning, Harper muted much of his basic philosophy. He did promise a tax cut-- but on the national sales tax, a regressive beast that penalizes the poor most, and which some far right American politicians seem to think is a good idea. However, if we look at an analysis of the seats won and lost in the election (three seats are undecided at this hour), the Liberal Party certainly did lose-- dropping from 133 seats to 103. And the Conservative Party did win, going from 98 seats to 123. The separatist Bloc Quebecois (which joined the conservatives in voting 'no confidence' in the government last September) dropped four seats, from 54 to 50. However, the biggest winners, proportionately in this election were the left of center New Democratic Party (part of Martin's governing coalition), which rose from 19 seats to 28. So there was a sharp movement, but it was much more away from the Liberal Party than it was towards Conservatives.

More to the point though, last year, the Liberals triumphed resoundingly. So how has the face of Canadian politics changed since then? That is a fair question to ask. For the most part, the parties have the same positions on issues that they had last year, when the race was run on those issues and the Liberal won. And Canadians on the whole are not dissatisfied with the way things are being run. They have budget surpluses, something that our government can only dream about. And Stephen Harper spent a good part of this election denying that he is an American style conservative, promising to improve, not impoverish, the nation's health care system. So what has changed?

Simple. The same thing that caused the government to fall last September. After 13 years in power, the Liberal Party got to used to the trappings of power and were caught in a kickback scandal. The revelations of how Liberal MP's abused their power has disgusted Canadians, and convinced them that the incumbent party had to go. And they are gone.

Now, I have no problem with discussing the Canadian election results, but those who claim it is a victory for Conservatism or that Republicans should take heart are dead wrong. It was a repudiation of large scale corruption, one which a party which had controlled Parliament for thirteen years could only blame their lack of ethics for.

And the message is loud and clear, and Republicans should fear it.

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