Thursday, March 26, 2009

Canada's Regressives

While they masquerade under the brand name "Conservative", today's Conservatives are arguably more interested in dialing the clock backwards, not merely preserving that which is good about our country.

A regular reader sent me the following essay a few days ago (and I've been a little slow to post it):

The shift from Edmund Burke ideals to Regressive conservatism.

Traditionally, in Canada, conservatism generally referred to a political ideology that attempted to maintain what its followers felt where the best aspects of the then current culture, a fiscal management style which favoured lower taxes and less government spending, and an economics model designed to promote more freedom of market activity.

A marked shift in the principals of Canadian conservatism started with the rise to power of the Mulroney led governments from September 17th 1984, to June 25 1993. This period saw a progressive movement to further market deregulation and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement on December 17th 1992.

In the United States the shift away from traditional conservativism, which started with Ronald Regans time in office, gained momentum under George W Bush's administration. A strong shift towards a more theologically based system of government, of which the Faith Based initiatives is but one example.

Under G.W. Bush's watch a systematic attack on education was launched under the guise of the 'No Child Left Behind' program which further widened the quality of education gap between the private school system and the public school system. Concurrent to this was a reduction to funding of scientific research programs, the outright banning of certain lines of research that were deemed to be 'morally objectionable' to the religious community, and the attempts to have 'Intelligent Design' accepted and taught as science fact in the school systems.

This shift to a style of government that was both highly focused on appeasing the religious right and catering to the corporate power structure has resulted in a new style of conservatism that can best be described as being regressive. It is characterized by a highly patriarchic-al system with strong ties to a religious belief system, a reduction in overall educational levels of the population, a strong control over who gets access to information, and the concentration of wealth and power in a small group of corporate and political elites. The Regressive Conservatives have invaded sovereign nations under the guise of spreading democracy and the removal of threats to the mother land.

The closest parallels to the modern day Regressive Conservative can be found in the governmental structures that were in place during the height of the Catholic Churches' power around 1000 A.D. This time period saw the Catholic Church controlling information, education, restricting scientific research, influencing governments and increasing its own wealth through property acquisitions, mandatory tithing, the selling of indulgences and the waging of Holy Wars. The Holy Wars were waged by the Catholic Church to spread Christianity and to remove threats to the power of the Holy Church.

Canada has seen an accelerating shift towards Regressive Conservatism under the Harper led governments starting in January of 2006 and continuing through to the present day. Since Harper came to power there has been a steady erosion of access to information, reductions of funding to scientific research, the removal of funding for the court challenges programs, an increasingly large gap between the wealthy and the poor, and an increase in the cost of post secondary education that has become so large that only moderately well off families can afford it.

Canada needs to be moving forwards, a return to the status quo, as measured in 1000 AD, will do nothing but harm the Canadian people.

Credit: Commenter "SB"

Now, I've been saying that the HarperCon$ are about as backward looking as you can get outside of the Vatican these days for quite some time. In the Globe and Mail today, we find columnist Lawrence Martin summarizing the festering stew of Conservative backwardness in their foreign policy:

But look at the other indicators. Check the law-and-order fixation, the leisurely approach to the green file. And look at the record on foreign policy – Mr. Harper has surely earned his hard-line stripes. Previous Conservative governments showed some progressive strains abroad. Not these Regressive Conservatives. With Russia, with China, in the Middle East, they harbour old confrontational attitudes. There's no new outreach as there is in Washington, no new thinking for new times.

A month ago, there was that soft-sounding summit with President Barack Obama. It was barely over before the Conservatives tried to get Cold War juices flowing, accusing Moscow of encroaching on Canadian airspace with their bombers. Since the flights were in international airspace, the anti-Red rhetoric fizzled.

... and it gets better:

The Conservatives are in the midst of slashing the foreign affairs budget by $639-million from 2007 levels, while increasing spending on the military by $2.4-billion. If their creed is that guns trump diplomacy, it is being well-heeded.

Criticism comes not only from opposition parties but from the likes of a former Conservative foreign minister, David Emerson, who cites our failures to appreciate and exploit Canada's place in the world. While other Conservative governments, particularly that of Brian Mulroney, showed a more open-minded side, today's government keeps its eyes wide shut.

On fiscal matters, it may be that our PM has become more moderate. But as for world affairs, there's clearly no need for his party's hard-liners to be rolling over in their caves.

No, Harper hasn't moderated one iota on financial matters. The current circumstances have forced him to attempt to create the appearance of doing something ... especially when his government could collapse anytime.

1 comment:

VĂ©ronique said...

That's a very good essay. Thanks for posting it. And I always like Lawrence Martin's take on Canadian politics.

I started to call the Harper party "Regressive Conservatives" right after the Canadian Alliance swallowed the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and stole only part of their name. I don't even like when they're referred to as Tories. I think they killed the Tory party.