29 October 2008

Minority government: lucky for us, lucky for Stephen Harper

The failure of the neoconservative ideology in the United States, in affairs both domestic and foreign, represents the biggest collapse of a political and economic philosophy since the fall of Communism. The edifice lies in ruins. The collapse of the American financial system will harm us as well to some degree, of course, given our interdependency, but less than it will affect many other countries in the world simply because we better resisted the blandishments of the neocons.

At the core of the domestic failure in the U.S. was deregulation of their banking system. For years, the Americans, and the British, pressured us to follow their lead in deregulation. According to Paul Martin, when he was in office "You couldn't go to a G7 meeting or IMF meeting without it coming up. ... We were under tremendous pressure to 'loosen up Canada.'" Martin said no, and for that we owe him yet under debt of gratitude. Canada went its own way, actually tightening lending rules in some respects.

If Stephen Harper had won a majority in 2006, or even in 2004, it may have been a very different story. Harper is very much the neocon himself, a believer in small government. One suspects he wouldn't have resisted the pressure for deregulation, indeed would have been more likely to embrace it, and we could have been well on our way toward a U.S. style financial system and the consequent collapse.

We were fortunate the Conservatives, newly reinvented under Harper, lost in '04 and only got a minority in '06. And Harper may have inadvertently caught a break, too. If a majority had freed him to institute the failed policies of the U.S. and Britain, he would have had to take the fall for the results. As it happened, he never got more than a minority and was, therefore, confined to moderate measures that just may have saved him from facing a very angry electorate. Saved, you might say, from his own folly.

The collapse of neoconservatism, combined with minority government, should confine Prime Minister Harper to moderation for the next few years. A small blessing, at least, for those who do not look forward to Conservative government.


  1. Worst possible result for Canadians, really.

    Harper majority would have meant he would have either had to come out with something real for the social conservatives who've been backing him (and alienate the "government out" economic conservatives that have flocked to him) or shut them down (and alienate them) either one would have sent these lipsticked Reformers back to the woodshed for a decade or so.

    Harper minority means he can tear down our economic and governmental structures based on a Liberal party being still unable to withstand the 'confidence vote' games while being able to blame lack of action for the moral minority type stuff on being a minority government.

    Given the economic downturn, now would actually be the best time for a conservative majority, as it would make it painfully apparant to Canadians (as it has to Icelanders) what conservative economic policies really mean in the lean times.

  2. Bill, you assume that Harper no longer believes in deregulation and other neo-conservative shibboleths just because they have been shown to be disastrous failures elsewhere.

    We have no basis for assuming that.

    We've been shown that Harper has the capacity to learn certain kinds of lessons from certain of his own experience but there's no indication that he's capable of learning from the experience of others.

    Witness Flaherty in Finance for example.