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Monday, January 30, 2006

Liberal lite

The federal election shows one thing above all, says Murray Dobbin, and that is that "Canada is a left-wing country." His reasoning is here.

It's an interesting take from the West's most dogged left-winger, especially in light of a telling bit of analysis from Paul Wells in Maclean's magazine's just-published election epic (the top bit of which can be accessed here).

"[Tom] Flanagan, the strategic guru at Harper's right hand, is an expert in game theory," Wells states. "This application of mathematics to the study of human choice can be as complex as you want to get -- Flanagan's textbook on game theory is no fun at all to read -- but the fundamental thrust of the Harper campaign was based on a simple decision that Flanagan had, uncharacteristically, made plain in his brief National Post article [of Sept. 24, 2005]. On any given issue, the Conservatives would stake out a position just a hair to the Liberals' right. [emphasis added] Far enough to be distinct. Close enough not to seem extreme."

Thus, if the Liberals are a left-wing party, and they certainly are, then the furthest the Conservatives could move would be to the centre. Which just happens to be the thrust of my "Stephen in the middle" cover story in the Jan. 30 edition of the Western Standard (not yet on line).

Posted by Terry O'Neill on January 30, 2006 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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A little logic is in order here. The only way that "Canada is a left-wing country" can make sense is if one is comparing Canada to other countries. Thus it can both be the case that "the Liberals are a left-wing party" as compared to political parties in other countries (and compared to those in the US and UK, it most certainly is) while at the same time being in the centre politically in Canada.

In fact, if Canada *is* a left-wing country then the a left-wing party would be at the *Canadian* political centre. It still makes the CPC strategy of being only slightly to the right of the Liberals a good one electorally, but it does not put them in the centre in the context of Canadian politics. And for those of us who find the centre a bit to the left of where we want the government to be, it's good that the CPC is still a party on the right.

Posted by: Edwin | 2006-01-30 2:20:29 PM

Rather than to the right, I would prefer a reformist and grass root party centered on the individual.

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-01-30 2:46:54 PM

BDF! It's a left-wing world in Western Civilization. Courts, schools, lawyers and the media have a lock on it.

It'll change though, Modern Rubby , er ... Murray Dobbin.

Posted by: greenmamba | 2006-01-30 2:57:49 PM

Murray's last screed in the Tyee about how the Green Party should quit using up good air and valuable NDP votes was semi-amusing, although too long. The trouble with being just a notch to the right of the Liberals is that they are in fact way way left on issues like crime and two-parent families. I'm worried that they may end up like Gordon Campbell, whose strategy now seems to be to stay just a hair to the right of the NDP. As a result, he is out of touch with the bulk of the electorate and his days are probably numbered. (Well, I guess everyone on Earth's days are numbered, but I mean Gordo may not survive another election.)

Posted by: CJ | 2006-01-30 4:07:54 PM

Just to pick up on Edwin’s logic. This is all about benchmarking and maybe we need to break it into key areas.

1. Fiscal balancing and fiscal size of Government.

2. Size of social program entitlements

3. Foreign Policy

4. Social conservative or liberal

On 1: I’d say Canada is to the right of the US and UK on balancing. However the only reason we balance the budget is because we way over tax compared to the US, still we at least balance.
But our government has about a 25% larger role in GDP here than in the US. I don’t know about the UK.

On 2 we’re to the left

On 3 we’re to the left

On 4 we’re to the left

Therefore we’re definately a left wing country. Maybe not when compared to France and Germany, but who cares? Those countries are about to be wiped out by economic competition from China and India when it reaches their shores. In Canada we still have time to get ready for it, if we move to the right and invest in the necessary productivity gains.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-01-30 4:51:49 PM

The Conservatives are left, the Liberals lefter, and the NDP leftest. Rather than left/right wing, I would prefer the Conservatives characterize themselves as a democratic party, as opposed to the Liberals, which are statist and anti-democratic. That is where the clear shining difference between the two parties lie, and, if I were the Conservatives, I would try to exploit this.

Posted by: Richard Ball | 2006-01-30 7:48:16 PM

I don't think Gordo wants to run again, he has defeated the socialist whiners twice, its someone elses turn . Jake

Posted by: Jake | 2006-01-30 8:19:09 PM

"still we at least balance"

Is this really true? Don't the majority of Canadians live in provinces who are running deficits?

As to "how far" left we are ... clearly, we're 'way too far left. A country which collectively has a negative savings rate is a country whose citizens have taken a very long rope, tied it around their necks, attached the other end of the rope to Big Brother's pickup truck, and then sat down in the middle of the road and started singing "take me to the promised land!"

I mean, honestly. If *everyone* is going around expecting to get free health care, free education, EI for barely working, welfare for doing nothing, subsidized daycare, prescription drugs, jobs in government departments/crown corporations/subsidized manufacturers, ... and so on ... then ... *who* do they really think is going to be willing to be un-subsidized, not on welfare/EI, paying loads of taxes, and generally paying the freight for everyone else? A couple of hundred thousand family-class immigrants from Jamaica and Sri Lanka? A hundred taxi-driving medical doctors from Poland? A bunch of army deserters and escaped criminals from the USA, plus a passel of warlords' and terrorists' wives and children from Rwanda, Somalia, Pakistan, etc.?

Oh yeah, I forgot - 30 million people in Canada are all going to be fabulously wealthy, living off the profits from a big open pit mine in Alberta! A great, big, *subsidized* open pit mine. All those other plans for Canadians to get rich, off of subsidized railroads, subsidized shipyards, subsidized skidoo makers, subsidized farms, subsidized hi-tech companies - we were just fooling around with those. This time we've really got it figured out.


Are you stupid or something?


Mama always says, stupid is as stupid does.


I guess she's right. You want me to buy that oil off you? I'll give you a box of chocolates.


Well, you never know what you're going to get.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2006-01-30 9:27:00 PM

Justzumgai, that’s an excellent point about deficits in the Provinces, it slipped my mind.

And those Provincial deficits will get worse with Health Care and baby boomers. These deficits belie the illusion that Martin balanced budgets because he simply down loaded. Plus he gained the benefits of lower global interest rates, GST collections and fabulous trade benefits of NAFTA. We all should have realized as Chrétien did, that Martin was actually a lightweight.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-01-30 9:49:28 PM

Murray Dobbin's version of Harper is so cliche and so nostalgic in its use of leftisms that it's almost depressing to read. Someone should take off his lenses and slap him a couple of times.

Harper with his populist roots is quite unlike the tribe who have swarmed Ottawa in the last few decades. He is not a power-groupie, he's more of a grass-roots kind of guy. His natural inclination towards smaller government seems lifelong and sincere.

So when Dobbin bleats for the sake of some presumptively recurring audience that Harper is "totally in the service of big business" he is showing us his ignorance. But such typical, pandering, non-sequiteur vandalisms are the far left's building blocks.

When Dobbin plops out little gems like "Canadians in their large majority...support activist government", or when he says we have a "left-averse media", or explains that Paul Martin is "committed to a radically decentralized Canada", he makes perfectly clear that his imagined, ideal reader is someone too stupid to notice that Dobbin is just scratching his ass.

Easy crowd, there just aren't enough of them. Not even close. So maybe the next time the NDP, Dobbin, et al are inclined to speak for the "average Canadian", they might want to consider the fact that the average Canadian doesn't vote NDP.

Posted by: EBD | 2006-01-30 11:28:54 PM

Dobbin, the national socialist weasil, is unfortunately correct in his assessment. The Conservatives were up against a four-way leftist split vote. They played me-too with statist policies which have no place in conservative / libertarian matrices. The vote reflected more of a revulsion to corruption than any grassroots movement to dismantle leviathan.

The only hope for turning Canada around is for the complete dismemberment of the Liberal Party with the Conservatives capturing the hearts and minds of as many fiscal conservatives, classical liberals and minimal government sympathizers as possible, leaving the nanny-state socialists and ecofacists with the NDP / Greens / Block.

There were (and still are) Red Tories further to the so-called left than many Liberals.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2006-01-31 12:02:35 AM

“there are Red Tories to the left of many Liberals”

Sad but true, John Chittick.

Have a look at the post “How Harper Will Proceed”; I thought I was reading the pinko Harper’s Magazine when I first saw it yesterday. It starts off with how the CPC can find “common ground with the NDP” on their Bill of Rights for Consumers. This Bill is straight out of the Ralph Nader Manuel for Lefties.

The comments section now has NJC (a Red Tory I think or maybe a full blown NDP’er) who wants to block ads for children (I guess the TV does the baby sitting) and also asking if anyone trusts ATM’s and Supermarkets? The thread seems to be heading towards unionized Nanny Care where the nannies are also tellers, that would bring a whole new meaning to “private banking”. There’s more about how we need a “political party to teach people to do more with less”. Maybe we should all become architects where less is more? I digress.

No wonder Manley and McKenna have dropped out of the race. They saw the blue area of the map is already occupied and it has a real pink edge to it. Harper will need lots of help to keep us from sailing back to the flat earth society.

I confess that I’m a bit shocked to see how far we have to go in this country to bring some sense of personal responsibility for our lives and those of our children.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-01-31 6:37:27 AM

I do not believe that Canada is a left wing nation or a nation of left wingers.
Canada and Canadians as a whole have been misled and misinformed by liberal/left politicians whose willingness to play on the weakness and fears of the public is only outdone by the liberal/leftwing media. Thus the issues and agenda of the true left wing (which is very much the minority)has been put front and centre ahead of the concerns of average Canadians. This began in the Trudeau era and continues to this day.

As for Dobbin.............
I've never read Murray Dobbin before but his position is full of the typical smug assumptions of the left wing. Taking postitions based on false assertions and building a self justifying jumble of nonsense on them.

The telling thing to me is the readers responses.
Is Dobbins audience a mostly bunch of conservatives?

They certainly do for the most part cut to the heart of his BS.

Posted by: PGP | 2006-01-31 8:24:43 AM

I suspect Canada is a touch libertarian, and not conservative nor liberal. Consider: Canada tends to like fiscal conservatives, or at least parties perceived to be that way. The Liberals under Martin pretended to be that, and plenty of Canadians supported that position. Canada also tends to prefer voting for social liberals, even if opinion polls show that some slight majority of Canadians prefer regular old marriage over same sex marriage.

Fiscally conservative and socially liberal is libertarian. Left on social issues, right on fiscal issues. If the Conservative Party didn't have their socially conservative side, I bet they would have come much closer to a majority.

It's about time the Conservatives became much more classically liberal, and promote small government in general, and not just on economic issues.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2006-01-31 9:06:42 AM

PGP, if the average Canadian is not leftist, then why did only 36.3% (5,370,903 votes) of the popular vote go to the conservatives? That number includes all those that are on the far right as well, so you average must be a few hundred thousand who are centrist. It will take a lot of effort to make people see the folly of programs like ei's lotto 10/42 and free healthcare and education for everyone. If Harper just reduces the size of the government by devolving to the provinces (not just downloading the expense while keeping the power) then that would be a big step toward smaller governments. Of course I am talking about getting rid of the duplicate layers of government and thus increasing responsibility of government. Once responsibility is being pushed, it could be pushed toward increasing personal responsibility too. er, some how. Perhaps that is just another fantasy of mine.

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-02-01 8:47:36 AM

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