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Canada is primarily a socially progressive nation. The Liberals, Bloc and NDP are all on the “left” socially. Although sovereigntist, Quebec is socially progressive. André Boisclair, the leader of the Parti Québécois and opposition leader of in Quebec’s provincial government, is the first openly gay leader of a major political party.

If we do the numbers on the popular vote in the last federal election we see that 36.3% voted Conservative (socially conservative) and 58.2% voted for Liberal/BQ/NDP (socially progressive).

When Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was elected, a major concern of socially progressive Canadians was that Harper would start to move Canada towards more socially conservative policies.

Let me digress a bit to describe some Conservative Party history. Prevailing political thought in 2005 believed that the only way a Conservative Party would be elected federally is if they could pick up votes in Quebec. Quebec usually breaks down into sovereigntist and federalist ridings. The federalist ridings divide between Liberal and Conservative. In the last election the Conservative Party successfully grabbed 10 seats in Quebec, when they had none in the prior federal election. The current Conservative party is thus composed of three main sub-groups;

  • Progressive Conservatives – remnants of the old federal conservatives
  • Canadian Alliance – the new guard of Canadian conservatives
  • Quebec Federalists

Stephen Harper set to work after being elected and, quite deftly, resolved a number of outstanding issues.

  1. Federal Accountability Act – The general aim is to reduce political influence by banning large donations. This includes a $1000 political party donation limit, and passed the House on June 22, 2006.
  2. Taxation and spending decreases – This includes a consumption tax cut (GST): reduced from 7% to 6%, and a reduction of government spending of $2 billion over the next 2 years.
  3. Softwood Lumber Resolution – A huge beef between the US and Canada. The US imposed tariffs on softwood lumber that Canada said violated NAFTA and the US said Canada was unfairly subsidizing.
  4. Child Care – $1200 given to each family with a child under six. This plan has been criticized for both the amount of the allowance and the fact that other cuts removed funding for child-care spaces in cities. [more]
  5. Chinese-Canadian Head Tax – An official apology for imposing a head tax on Chinese immigrants from 1885-1923. Any of those surviving (or spouses) would receive $20,000 compensation
  6. Age of Consent – raised from 14 to 16 years with a ‘near-age’ exemption of 5 years.
  7. Clean Air Act – Sets targets on industrial air pollution. Complaints are that it’s a weaker version of Kyoto, counter is that Canada would never meet Kyoto so replace it with something realistic.
  8. Income Trusts – Removed a big corporate tax hole, but caused many retirees to be angry.[more]
  9. More info about Harper’s priorities and timeline

The Conservative party has also promised to crack down on crime with more severe penalties for firearm offenses and to implement a guaranteed waiting time for health care.

Stephen Harper’s minority government has accomplished a number of solid political moves during his time in office, but his success is marred by a general belief by left-leaning Canadians that he’s hiding something. Specifically, if Harper were to get a majority government he would be able to pass more socially conservative laws instead of the more fiscally conservative laws he has to focus on while in a minority government.

The usual reasons cited why this would occur are how he manages the press (he chooses who asks questions and restricts his cabinet from speaking to the press) and comments made by the more socially conservative branches of his party.

The counter argument to this is his track record, the fact that a majority conservative government would have to be made of more than just the socially conservative branches, and the composition of his current cabinet; which seems less socially conservative in composition than the conservative party MPs.

On a personal note, I tend to be fiscally conservative and socially progressive. Depending on the time this caused me to support the NDP, Liberal and Conservatives (I’d be a Red Tory). If I ever lived in Quebec during an election I may have voted BQ too.
I like most of the laws that Harper has passed or wants to pass and find it a refreshing change after the last few years of rather stagnant Liberal leadership.

I leave you with a few videos highlighting Harper.

Next time: The Liberal leadership race

Previous Posts:
Part 1 of 4: Would you mind if I told you how we do things in Canada?
Part 2 of 4: Minority Governments and the Parliamentary System

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