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|Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:07 am Post subject: NationalPost Conservatives a clear choice in uncertain times
|Editorial board endorsement: Conservatives a clear choice in uncertain times
National Post editorial board Apr 28, 2011 – 9:00 PM ET | Last Updated: Apr 28, 2011 8:57 PM ET
The editorial board believes Harper is still right for Canada
On Oct. 8, 2008, six days before the last federal election, we wrote these words about our Prime Minister: “Stephen Harper has governed the country well overall. He has stuck by Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, provided sound stewardship for the economy (notwithstanding the inevitable buffeting we [have taken] thanks to Wall Street’s meltdown), managed the Quebec file well, returned Canada-U.S. relations to their normal level of amity, lowered taxes and implemented a number of welcome tweaks to our criminal justice system. Most importantly of all, Mr. Harper has avoided the temptation to impose any large-scale Trudeauvian social-engineering schemes on the country.”
Though written almost three years ago, these words apply as much today as they did in 2008. Despite opposition efforts to present Mr. Harper as a radical, his tenure as prime minister — which now extends more than five years — actually has been marked by steadiness and constancy. The main question in this election is about who can steer Canada forward during uncertain economic times. Given Mr. Harper’s record of intelligent, sober leadership, and the many question marks associated with his opponents, his Conservatives are our clear choice in Monday’s election.
Under Mr. Harper, Canadian GDP growth has been among the strongest of all developed nations. We have contributed effectively and honourably to the mission in Afghanistan, and even stood with our allies in confronting Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The anti-Americanism that infected the Liberal government during the Chrétien and Martin eras is gone — as is the moral relativism that sometimes was the reality behind their “soft power” dogmas. In particular, Mr. Harper has stood by Israel in times of crisis, including at the United Nations.
On social policy, meanwhile, Mr. Harper has struck a solid balance between maintaining sound elements of the status quo — such as gay marriage — while stripping away ultra-liberal excesses such as the Court Challenges Program.
His government has made sensible changes to our immigration policy, which now emphasizes marketable skills over family reunification. And the new Citizenship Guide more accurately reflects the process of integration and respect for Western cultural values that we expect of new immigrants.
Canada needs steady leadership in the years ahead — and not just because of the fragile global economy. In Quebec, the Parti Québécois has a good chance to win Quebec’s next provincial election, bringing with it the prospect of fresh separatist agitation. The last three minority governments all have shown us that a Parliament sitting at the Bloc Québécois’ pleasure is a Parliament vulnerable to regional blackmail. Canada needs a strong majority — of the sort Jean Chrétien had when he gave us the Clarity Act — to face down the stream of demands that PQ leader Pauline Marois promises will emit from Quebec City if she becomes premier. Only the Tories are in a position to achieve such a majority.
If Mr. Harper does not receive a majority, the result could be destabilizing for Canada. We believe Michael Ignatieff when he says that he will not form a coalition to immediately seize power following Monday’s election. But, as he candidly and correctly noted in a CBC interview, all bets are off if the opposition parties subsequently vote down a Tory minority government in a confidence vote. The Governor-General then could permit Mr. Ignatieff to form a government with the formal or informal support of the BQ. Whether such an arrangement amounts to a “coalition” in a narrow sense is immaterial so long as the resulting hodge-podge is a creature of Gilles Duceppe’s co-operation.
To add another layer of uncertainty, there is no guarantee that Mr. Ignatieff would even lead such a quasi-coalition government: Recent poll results suggest that Jack Layton’s NDP might win more seats than the Liberals. While the NDP once might have seemed like a safe place for disaffected voters to park their protest vote, that is no longer the case — especially since Mr. Layton has shown himself to be alarmingly sympathetic to the power-grab demands of Quebec nationalists during this campaign.
In other words, if the Tories do not get a majority, we could end up with a government led by quasi-separatist socialists, propped up by full-blown separatists and leavened by a rudderless Liberal party in a state of leadership flux. No one has any real idea what such a government would look like. And so the only way we can guarantee stability is if the Tories win at least 155 seats.
The need for stability notwithstanding, there are certain things that should change, however. Spending has ballooned under the Tories — only some of which can be blamed on the perceived need for stimulus that emerged in the wake of the 2008 U.S.-epicentred financial meltdown. The Tories have embraced protectionism on politically sensitive files (such as potash), maintained the statist status quo on health care and have injected countless populist doodads into their budgets. A re-elected Conservative government, sitting as a majority, must trim spending and move aggressively to reduce the deficit. It should also revisit its more draconian tough-on-crime initiatives — some of which, as National Post columnist Conrad Black has noted, seem more spiteful than sensible.
It is also true that the Tories have played fast and loose with Parliamentary disclosure rules. While the recent contempt of Parliament ruling was a partisan stunt, there was substance to the underlying allegation that the Tories failed to provide Parliament with full costing information on their signature programs. The Tories came to power with promises of greater accountability in Ottawa. If anything, they have given us less. That, too, must change.
If the Tories do win a majority — as we hope they do — we also hope that they push forward on projects that proved impossible in a minority government, including eliminating per-vote financial subsidies for political parties, phasing out the long-gun registry and initiating Senate reform. We also urge the next government to finally and decisively reject the strict interpretation of the Canada Health Act that, until now, has discouraged private health options in this country. Canadians are ready for a European-style mixed system of public and private health care.
These are not radical projects, but overdue changes that have been stymied by bickering parties locked in a minority Parliament. The time has come to break this logjam, which is why we urge our readers to vote Conservative on May 2.