Lessons from Canada
by Tom Donelson on May 10, 2011 at 9:23 AM
The Canadian elections show important lessons for American conservatives. It begins with sound policies that make for good politics. Canadian Steve Harper has managed to lead Canada through the past economic crisis by out performing the United States Keynesian economic theories on steroids. There was a time when Canada's government debt share of the economy was significantly higher than her neighbor to the south along with weaker currency compared to the United States. In the early 90’s, the Canadian dollars toppled downward forcing the Liberal government to begin serious budget cuts.
The Conservatives continued the budget cutting and Harper; a cautious politician came into office with a goal of restoring Canadian defense, reducing taxes and further cutting government spending. The Canadian economy has improved quicker despite being a smaller economy integrated with the larger United States economy and the Canadian dollar is now stronger than the United States; showing that good policies produces results and the conservatives won a majority for the first time since 1988. The Canadian conservatives represented a unity of Western conservatives with the old Progressive Conservatives that were nearly wiped out in the early 1990’s and this would be equivalent of the Republican establishment uniting with the Tea Party. Harper appealed to the Canadian working and middle classes, including immigrants, which can be a lesson for Republicans to learn from going into the 2012 elections.
For many in the working class, mobility in Canadian society is important and the Tories made stride in Ontario due to this point. One Canadian polling company noted, “The historic middle class or bourgeois bastion of liberal-conservative establishment hass become the fortress of anti-establishment NDP while the less educated and hence lower status Canadians are set to become the stronghold the impregnable fortress- of the Conservatives.” Some Canadian pundits on Election Day added that some of the liberals voted for the conservatives and deserted the NDP.
The lesson for Republicans is three fold. The first is that free market policy works better in producing a long standing recovering. The second is that good policies translate into votes and third and final lesson is that many middle class wants opportunity to move up the economic ladder and not have it swept away from them.
For many Americans, the Obama’s recovery has passed them by and they have either become ward of the state, forever prop up by yet another extension of unemployment benefits or worry about the job that they have. Those who have jobs, their salaries have stagnated while they see the cost of gas and food going up. Republicans have to present not just opposition to Obamanomics but a plan that will present the promise of future growth and future opportunities.
For many Main Street businesses, Obamanomics promise higher cost, higher taxes and restriction of future growth. This brings us to the left side of the equation. In the 90’s; Canadian liberals like their Democratic counterpart in the United States moved to the center due to necessities. In the case of the United States Democrats, the collapse of Hillary care and the massive congressional defeat forced Clinton to the center. The Canadian economy forced Liberals to get their financial house in order but in this past election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) became the new opposition and what is left of Liberals must now decide how to rebuild. The NDP is the hard left party and now the left of center opposition to the Conservative is simply the left opposition.
In the United States, the left has taken over the Democratic Party and what is left of its center died in the last congressional elections; Canada is no difference now as the left extremists has taken over the direction of the left-center opposition. This makes compromise impossible on key issues including the budget.
The Canadian conservatives provided a game plan and they already had results to show; thus they had credibility. The Republicans are in a more difficult position since the Democrats control not just the White House but the Senate as well, but it should not stop them from producing a budget and forcing the Democrats to make hard decisions. Let the Democrats be the Party of big government and higher taxes; as long as Republicans can convince the public that the Democrats will not stop at taxing the rich, but tax the middle class as well. Finally, the Republicans should note that as soon as the Bush tax rates were extended and not raised, employment solidified and that the only pro growth programs were based on Republican principles that tax rates matter. Keynesian economics have failed to generate a strong recovery, but to win an election; you have to propose an alternative. Canadian conservatives produced an optimistic vision, and Canadian voters agreed. Republicans must present an optimistic vision showing Americans that the next generation will see prosperity greater than what their parents saw. Right now, most younger workers look at the future and all they see is decline.