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Tag: Thomas Mulcair

Consequences of the Canadian Liberal Majority

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority government. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stepped down as Conservative party leader. As of this writing, Thomas Mulcair has not stepped down as NDP leader.

The election started with the NDP in the lead, primarily due to the Liberal Party having voted for the police state bill C51. The NDP ran to the center, the Liberals ran (somewhat) to the left. NDP’s lead narrowed, then they were neck and neck until the Conservative party and Bloc Quebecois used the Niqab as a wedge issue. You can read a summary of the campaign here.

So what does this mean going forward?

A great deal will depend on how Trudeau rules. (A majority Canadian PM is essentially an elected dictator).

Trudeau has promised to repeal C51 and reintroduce a similar bill, minus the worst bits of C51. Note that Trudeau has repeatedly stated he voted for C51 as a matter of principle, so some of the nasty will remain.

Pipelines are a go. TPP is a go (though the NDP was not great on either of those issues, they were better than the Liberals).

National Pharmacare and Daycare will not happen.

Certain regressive tax changes, like income splitting, are gone. Expect another tax cut for the “middle class,” which it doesn’t particularly need.

Expect the muzzling of scientists to end, and the long-form census form to return. (Conservatives got rid of the longer census form and made the census non-mandatory, turning its data, essentially, to meaningless crap.)

Moving away from the First Past the Post-electoral system: The NDP and Liberals had both said they intended to do something along these lines. But with a Liberal majority government in power, this is very much in question. I will be pleasantly surprised if Trudeau doesn’t bury this in a committee.

The Economy

The brutal truth about the Canadian economy is that it is unlikely to recover significantly, though the recession will end.

I’ve written about the Canadian mixed economy in the past, but the bottom line is that Harper doubled down on resource extraction–especially oil. Manufacturing was gutted during the period of high oil prices and a strong Canadian dollar and will not recover naturally during a weak dollar period. This is because those who took advantage the last time were burned so badly most of them went out of business.

Canada’s housing bubble is significantly worse than the US housing bubble in 2007. This bubble is government guaranteed.

So, at this point, Canada is a resource extraction economy with artificially high asset prices. It is a petro-state.

Trudeau is onside with this. Mulcair repeatedly talked about the mixed economy and how to return to it, and was a staunch and principled environmentalist. Trudeau has pandered repeatedly to the oil sector.

Given this, there are only two questions about the Canadian economy that matter:

  • Will the housing bubble endure?
  • Will oil prices rise, preferably above about $80US a barrel, which is the break-even price for much of the oil sands?

If you think the housing bubble will burst, you expect a financial crisis. If you think the answer to number two is no, then you think that the Canadian economy will not significantly improve under Trudeau.

Trudeau’s economic performance, in other words, is linked almost entirely to how China’s economy performs and the world price of oil–things over which he has no control.

The Next Election

The economy may get a lot better, but that doesn’t mean it may not bumble along sufficiently well for the Liberals to be re-elected. Contrary to Democratic party talking points, Obama never fixed the US economy. The percentage of people employed in the US never recovered and wages stagnated, but Obama was re-elected (the Democrats didn’t do as well in the House, but the House in America is gerrymandered).

Still, the NDP and Conservatives will likely have an opening in the next election. Whether they will be able to capitalize on it is unclear and, again, much depends on Trudeau’s performance. Right now, he is a blank slate upon whom many hopes have been written. But in four years, he will have a track record.

I don’t know if Mulcair will stay on as NDP leader. He was a strong and effective opposition leader, but he was neither on the campaign trail, and must shoulder responsibility for turning a first place start into a third place finish. He has lost all the gains made by the previous NDP leader, Jack Layton. (I believe Layton would have won this election. The cost of his death rises and rises.)

As for the Conservatives, expect one of the Ford brothers to run, among others. It will be a zoo. But the Conservatives held their prairie base and a good chunk of Ontario and BC. They were not wiped out, they just lost. They will remain a viable threat–especially if the electoral system remains the same.

Justin Trudeau is going to feel good, for a while, compared to Harper. He will be better. He will repeal some of Harper’s worst policies. He will also not be an offensive creep, and that matters.

But he is, at the end of the day, a believer in the neo-liberal consensus. He will run a kinder neoliberalism, but it will still be neoliberalism. He is not particularly committed to civil liberties, he had no principled opposition to Harper’s worst excesses (that was Mulcair), and there is no particular reason to believe he will make any sort of radical break from Conservative policies; he voted for a great many of them.

The bottom line is this: Justin showed his character when he supported C51. Mulcair showed his character when he went hard against it, even as polls showed a majority of Canadians were in favor of it (they later changed their mind, but he did what he did when it was unpopular).

I cannot find any great confidence in Trudeau, either as an ethical man, or as an economic leader.

Finally, despite the spin in the global and domestic press, this election is no great repudiation of Harper, or a collapse of the Conservative party, which maintained most of its voters. There has been no collapse, like what happened to the Progressive Conservatives after Mulroney. After nine years in power, it is normal for a party to lose power, and majority governments are the historical norm in Canada. This is a status quo flip between Canada’s two ruling parties.

Harper changed the nature of Canada’s government and economy, and created a unified Conservative Party. Trudeau will not undo most of Harper’s fundamental changes. Harper will go down as an important Prime Minister.

Stay tuned.

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Canada’s Left-most Party, the NDP, Moves Ahead of the Neo-liberal Liberal Party

I am amused:

Canadian Federal Poll Results

Canadian Federal Poll Results

This is entirely the result of the decisions made by Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau, and by NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair. After Parliament was attacked by a mentally ill man, the Canadian Prime Minister, Harper, decided to push through a surveillance and police state bill, Bill-C51. This bill voided about half the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

Immediately after the attack, support for the bill was in heavy majority territory. So Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader, decided to support it. Mulcair decided not to support it.

But Canadians turned out to be more sensible and principled than Trudeau thought (indeed, I was surprised, though I would have done as Mulcair did as a matter of principle); as time went by and the details of the bill came out, they turned against it.

More importantly, left-wing swing voters turned against it. And seeing that it was supported by the Liberal party, they turned against the Liberal party and towards the NDP, whose principles now appear to be driven by something other than polls.

Or, as I sarcastically noted some time ago, “I’d like to thank Justin Trudeau for single-handedly reviving the NDP’s election chances.”

Justin Trudeau is, for those who don’t know, the son of the great Pierre Trudeau, who ran the country through much of the 70s and 80s, and who is beloved by many on the left (and truly hated by many on the right, and in the West). Justin is also quite pretty, and has beautiful abs, which he showed off in a boxing match he won.

He was the heir-presumptive from the moment he was coronated by the Liberal Party (calling it an election implies there was any chance the Liberal Party wasn’t going to choose him)—the polls consistently showed the Liberal Party under him as the main opposition party to the Conservatives.

Meanwhile Mulcair kept just doing most of the right things. And one day Justin, who was always quite clearly a neo-liberal with few actual left-wing beliefs, made an error of judgment and character which left-wing swing  voters weren’t willing to overlook.

This is exactly the circumstance I was talking about in my article on ideology and political parties. Exactly:

Let me put this precisely: The job of a political party is either to get a few specific people into power, or it is to offer a clear option to the voters. If it is the second, then your job is to make sure that option remains available. In many cases, if you do so, you will get into power fairly soon—after two to three terms. In other cases, if you are a minor party, it may take decades.

If you genuinely believe in your policies, in your ideology, whatever it is, then that is fine. The public has a right to choose, you just make sure they have a real choice and not a menu that is all of the same.

Your job is to offer a clear choice. Mulcair, fairly consistently, has offered that clear choice. Perhaps he did so out of principle, perhaps he did so out of strategy, perhaps it was both, I don’t know. But it has paid off. If he had offered the same as the Liberals, those voters would not have gone to the NDP. (I happen to believe, in this case, that it is principle.)

The election is still some way off, and there is no way to be sure who will win. But this has changed a multi-year dynamic in a significant way. Last election made the federal NDP the official opposition party, but it did so on the back of the personal charisma of the previous NDP leader: Jack Layton. One election is not a pattern.  Two elections start becoming one.

If the NDP either wins the election or becomes the official opposition again, one will be able to make the case that they are one of the two main parties. At that point, strategic voting starts cutting heavily against the Liberals (a thought which brings most NDP supporters great schaenfreude). If you want the Conservatives out, you must vote NDP, not Liberal, so as to “not split the vote.”

I find that funny beyond describing.

And as for Trudeau, he was always an empty suit: A man cruising on his father’s name, “le Dauphin”, with no real accomplishments or weight of his own. Since their coup against Chretien, the Liberals have repeatedly selected as their leaders either men with little charisma (Martin, Dion), no weight (Trudeau), or neither weight nor charisma (hello Michael Ignatieff). Perhaps they should decide to believe in something other than being in power, and in doing so, deserve to be in power.

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