Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yo Canada

I don't think Canada was meant to have a Thatcherite revolution; it took them an awfully long time to try one out, getting around to it only in 2006, and it was only scandal that got the "natural governing party of Canada", the Liberals, out in the first place—though a scandal that seems by US standards ludicrously mild-mannered, like Dr. Evil's extortion demand; the government was found to have improperly awarded $3.75 million in contracts to some Montréal ad agencies, almost half of which involved no actual work, or what Pentagon insiders commonly refer to as "a typical Tuesday". And in the end none of the party's leaders were implicated.

But in the meantime, Canadian voters just don't like criminality even of such a modest sort, and while the country as a whole is normally of the left, the left is always divided, among liberal Liberals, progressive New Democrats, and the ethnicist Bloc Québécois, and so the vile Stephen Harper slipped into office with 36% of the vote, and 124 of the parliament's 308 seats, which is allowed in Canada's parliamentary system as long as enough people in the opposition put up with it (because, say, they don't want another election).

Two elections later, in 2011, the Liberals pulled the kind of idiocy a David Brooks might have recommended, and named the mediocre US-based ideology-free No Labels journalist-professor Michael Ignatieff (aka Count Mikhail Georg'evič Ignat'ev) to lead the party, and the Tories finally assembled a majority (with a big 39.2% of the vote), leaving the NDP to form the official opposition, as the Liberals had been nearly annihilated under Ignatieff's management.

And the Harper government went on its merry way, not so much governing (except in the interests of the oil industry) as consolidating power, as The Guardian summarized it:
Some of these allegations have been proved. In the 11 years since he became leader of the country’s Conservatives, the party has been fined for breaking electoral rules, and various members of Team Harper have been caught misleading parliament, gagging civil servants, subverting parliamentary committees, gagging scientists, harassing the supreme court, gagging diplomats, lying to the public, concealing evidence of potential crime, spying on opponents, bullying and smearing. Harper personally has earned himself the rare rebuke of being found to be in contempt of his parliament....
The Polaris Institute thinktank reported in December 2012 that 45 oil lobbyists had been allowed to work inside Harper’s government and that during the previous four and a half years, officials and ministers had held some 2,700 meetings with the oil lobby. By contrast, the Climate Action Network had managed just six.
Having changed the flow of information into government, [Harper] then dramatically changed the direction outwards to his electorate. A new protocol required all government scientists to ask for clearance from the PMO before speaking publicly. As a result, important research has been buried, stalled or misrepresented, including an analysis of changes in snowfall, an inquiry into the loss of ozone over the Arctic, and research on the impact of a 2C rise in global temperature. Meanwhile, the government department that oversees the oil and gas industries increased its advertising budget from less than $250,000 in 2010 to a massive $40m only two years later.
The victory of the new Liberal party under the leadership of Justin Trudeau is a really good thing from that standpoint, in that the party at least accepts the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and the possibility of doing something about it, though they take a pretty "moderate" (i.e. vague and cautious) approach and sort-of favor the nasty Keystone XL pipeline:
Although incoming Prime Minister Trudeau has often said he is supportive of Canadian resource extraction, his party’s platform contrasts sharply with that of outgoing Conservative premier Stephen Harper. A Liberal government in Canada is likely to result in greater engagement with the international community when it comes to talks aimed at curbing global warming, a sharp departure from the stance of Harper, who dismissed the Kyoto Protocol as a “socialist scheme” and pulled Canada out of the global climate accord. (Al-Jazeera)
Unlike the NDP, the Liberal Party favors the concept of a Trans-Pacific Partnership, but aren't willing to make an endorsement of the agreement that was finalized a couple of weeks ago until they see what's in it: Trudeau went on the record with a statement then:
The Harper Conservatives have failed to be transparent through the entirety of the negotiations – especially in regards to what Canada is conceding in order to be accepted into this partnership.... If the Liberal Party of Canada earns the honour of forming a government after October 19th, we will hold a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement.
I imagine that he will end up signing on, though; the Canadian left, such as it is, has a bit of a history of looking very uncertain at trade deals (such as NAFTA) but going along with them in the end.

The most exciting thing is the point where the Liberals were to the left of the NDP, in campaigning openly on a promise to unbalance the budget toward an economic stimulus, while the New Democrats refused to contemplate such a thing, which may have been their downfall:
The loonie fell initially against the U.S. dollar, a knee-jerk response to Trudeau’s pledge to run small deficits in order to spend extra on infrastructure. Those doubters only created a buying opportunity for anyone with a less jaundiced view of government’s role in the economy. By the start of the trading day in Toronto, the Canadian currency had rallied. The Liberal Party’s platform included some of the best contemporary thinking on how best to confront an era of economic stagnation. The majority Trudeau won on Oct. 19 will ensure those ideas become policy without delay. (Canadian Business)
It's Krugmanomics, coming to an economy near you!

By the way, did anybody notice that Krugman ("Something Not Rotten in Denmark", October 19) stole the topic of the Sanders-Clinton debate over Denmark and a headline from me? Just saying.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


Gadfly said...

It's that failure to accept a deficit budget, let alone actively propose one, that was the last straw in Mulcair sinking the NDP.

Frankly, the man ought to retire his party leadership, as Harper has already pledged to do.

He ran a campaign that first was run "not to lose" rather than "win," and it got worse from there:


Unknown said...

Gadfly, I have this conjecture on the Mulcair position on deficit budgeting - that is was contrived with a specific view to overcoming the image of the NDP in Canada's province with by far the biggest population, Ontario, as the party of tax-&-spending union socialists. The Ontario provincial branch of the NDP won the Ontario provincial elections in 1990 and took over that government under a labor lawyer called Rae. The five years of that government happened to coincide with the world economic downturn that, among other things, caused Poppy Bush to break his "Read my lips" promise and contributed heavily to the election of Bill Clinton as POTUS. But in the case of Ontario and the Rae NDP government, they could spend and spend like crazy (which they arguably did, some of it to overcome decades of anti-labor bias in Ontario but a lot of it in effect giving in to it's union support to subsidize dying and struggling industries to keep employment up - yet without one big necessary feature, being the national government's control of central banking and huge influence over national fiscal, monetary and tax policy. In essence, it seemed to me at the time (still does) that the two biggest Canadian government entities, the national government and the Ontario provincial government, each under a different party with long term national interests, went to war with each other, in the shadow of a U.S. economy that was in downturn and a world economy that was then deeply headed towards balkinization and fiscal conservatism.

So the problem for Mulcair - who, from what I can tell, doesn't exactly have the charisma of former NDP leaders like his most recent predecessor, the late Jack Layton (I think no social democratic movement-oriented national party has a chance in hell without a leader who has at least some charisma; Mulcair seems almost to carry around NEGATIVE charisma) - in leading the NDP from official opposition status based on big support in Quebec (which I think may well have been shown up last night as nothing more than ephemerata, a swamp-gas illusion form Quebec voters spanking the Liberals from sticking with old, stupid and corrupt) was to 'fix' the NDP's image in Ontario, by going as batshit fiscally conservative insane as Harper. And it not only didn't work, it BACK-fired: now Ontario voters can justify seeing the NDP as not just profligate and not just out of touch with reality, but also just as venal and slime-ridden as two historically established national parties.

If Mulcair wanted to cement the NDP into full 'national party' status, he succeeded, but only in proven the NDP could be pander as cravenly as the big boys.

Unknown said...

Al Jazeera: "A Liberal government in Canada is likely to result in greater engagement with the international community when it comes to talks aimed at curbing global warming, a sharp departure from the stance of Harper, who dismissed the Kyoto Protocol as a “socialist scheme” and pulled Canada out of the global climate accord."

Bull shit. Justin Trudeau's entire energy policy is driven by his biggest deep pockets backer, a corporate lawyer energy oligarch in Calgary named Murray Edwards. Stephen Harper and his Conservative government lost power last night, but the billionaires and Big Fossil Fuel industry didn't lose even one step, except for this: before last night, Murray Edwards was a pretty big bullfrog in the shrinking pond. Today, Edwards is a cane toad sitting right on top of the incoming national government and Canada as a whole.