Why Canada Should Vote Conservative
Which Canadian leader and which Canadian political party will best respond to the challenges of tomorrow?
Let's see if we can peek around the corner and discern what those challenges might be.
MANAGING ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Canada suffered less from the world economic crisis than most countries. Now Canada is visibly recovering. Recovery will pour more revenues into the federal Treasury. The next government will face some important decisions: Should it spend the extra money? Or use the extra money to reduce deficits and lower taxes? Three Canadian parties agree on option 1: spend more. One party prefers option 2: balance the budget and reduce taxes. That solitary party is the Conservatives, in case you were wondering.
RESPONDING TO QUEBEC NATIONALISM
Quebec nationalism is rising again, and no wonder. Surging energy and commodity prices have boosted the Canadian dollar to par with the U.S. dollar. The West profits. Manufacturers in central Canada struggle. Ontario can at least balance the damage to manufacturing against robust technology and financial sectors. Quebec feels the brunt. In the important aviation sector, Bombardier loses market share to its Brazilian competitor, Embraer. The Quebec aluminum industry clamours for government help.
So the next government will likely face new demands from Quebec. Some of those demands may even be reasonable. Many more will not be. In the federal parliament, the Bloc Québécois champions Quebec's grabs. The NDP and the Liberals will have no choice but to appease the Bloc. Only the Conservatives can govern without the Bloc.
SECURITY AGAINST TERRORISM
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Americans hardened their borders. That hardening complicated life for Canadian business. To make matters worse, the then-Liberal government refused, for nationalist reasons, to co-operate with the United States on creating a secure perimeter around all of North America.
The good news is that over the past five years, that early unwise Canadian policy has been reversed. Canada has worked successfully to persuade the Americans to reconsider their border policies and recommit to the North American perimeter that Canada rejected a decade ago. At an Oval Office meeting in February, Stephen Harper and Barack Obama agreed on a framework leading to a new border security deal within a year.
Three Canadian parties have been negligent or worse in keeping the U.S.Canadian border open to lawful traffic. One party has accepted the political risks to reach an important agreement. Again: That's the Conservatives.
STANDING WITH ALLIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The next 12 months will be an unusually unstable period, even by Middle Eastern standards. Sometime this fall, the Palestinian Authority will press the United Nations to vote on a resolution declaring an independent Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza. Such a vote will have dubious legal effect, but great propaganda value. For one thing, it will condemn the Israel security fence as an encroachment on Palestinian territory. For another, it will pre-empt Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on important security issues such as protecting Israeli airspace against the risk of West Bank rocket attacks.
General Assembly votes are not subject to veto by the United States. They are settled by majority rule and hard lobbying. The next Canadian government will have to decide: How committed is it to working with the United States and Israel against anti-Israel actions at the UN? The Conservatives' commitment is clear. But Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals have already signalled that they think Canadian policy tilts too closely toward Israel. A Liberal minority dependent on the Bloc and the NDP will be an anti-Israel minority.
ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE IN A WAY THAT PROTECTS THE CANADIAN ECONOMY
Energy -and especially oil and gas -have emerged as Canada's most valuable exports to the United States. There are reasons to fear that U.S. energy policy may evolve in ways inhospitable to Canadian prosperity. The next Canadian government may overlap with a re-elected Obama administration. To date, the Obama administration has done little on climate, but a re-elected Obama administration could be bolder. Lower U.S. courts have accepted the Environmental Protection Agency's designation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees with that designation, a re-elected Obama administration will gain new powers to regulate carbon dioxide even if Congress declines to legislate on the subject.
New carbon rules could pose serious hazards to Canada's energy industries, and especially to Canada's oil sands exports. All Canadian parties are agreed that action should be taken on climate change. But only one Canadian party is fully committed to sustaining and developing Canada's oil sands industry. Hint: It's the party that holds all but one of the Alberta seats in the House of Commons.
Those are only some of the crucial challenges ahead. But again and again, it is the Conservatives who seem to have the most serious response. Elections are times of emotion, and some voters cast their ballot inspired by passing feelings. But the consequences of a vote endure after the emotion fades. An unwise choice can exact a decade of serious costs.
Originally published in the National Post.