April 29, 2011
By Bruce WalkerNext Monday, May 2nd, Canadians are going to the polls for their third general election in five years. Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party have governed Canada since the 2006 election which made that party the largest party in the Canadian House of Commons, although a minority within that chamber. In October 2008, right before our presidential election, Harper received a larger mandate, though still with a minority in Parliament. Prime Minister Harper governs but he cannot enact real reforms without a majority in Parliament.Harper and his party need 155 seats. Right now they have 144 seats. The Liberal Party is the strongest opponent of Harper right now. It has 77 seats in Parliament. Next is the New Democratic Party with 37 seats. The Bloc Quebec, or French separatist party, has 48 seats. Elections in Canadian ridings, or legislative districts, are “winner take all,” so that the candidate with the most votes wins the seat even if he does not have a majority of the votes. Out of these four parties, only the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have governed Canada.Unlike other parliamentary democracies, minority governments — governments in which the party in power does not command a majority, directly or through coalitions with other parties — are not unusual. Since 2004, the governments of Canada have all been minority governments. Stephen Harper and his party are urging Canadians to let the Conservatives really govern, and give his party a majority.Might that happen? The pre-election polls are all over the map. Recent polls show a surge for the New Democratic Party led by Jack Layton. The NDP has moved from its historic role as the third largest national party (Bloc Quebec has votes only in Quebec). That surge may siphon off enough leftist votes from the Liberal Party to allow Conservatives to win a majority, but it might also give the NDP enough seats to actually push the Conservatives out of power, either by becoming the largest party (which is pretty unlikely) or reducing the Conservative plurality to below 2006 election levels.What does this general election mean to us? Jack Layton is an old-style leftist who supports higher corporate taxes, increasing social welfare spending, supporting union rights, making environmental regulation tougher, defending gay rights, and supporting nice sounding international efforts. There is nothing “New” about the New Democratic Party at all. It is a mishmash of every failed policy of modern leftism.Canadian business and conservative Canadians know what to expect with the “Grits” or Liberal Party. It has held power for most of the last twenty years. They also know Harper and his party, which has governed since 2006. The New Democratic Party, however, would pursue policies very much like Obama and his minions. Layton would try to use the public treasury to spend away every problem of life. Tax rates would jump. All the grim decline which has followed Obama’s policies would be replicated in Canada.Should that matter to us? Yes, emphatically, it should. Canada under Harper has been one of the few bright spots; some might say the only bright spot, in the democratic West. The Canadian Prime Minister has been as clear in denouncing anti-Semitism as any Western leader, including our own Obama. The Canadian dollar is doing well. The public finances of the nation are good. Our neighbor to the north, our greatest trading partner and closest ally, has one of the largest economies in the world, and Canada is by far the largest producer of oil among the stable Western world. We take Canada for granted — we nearly always take Canada for granted — but Canada is a vitally important country to America.Stephen Harper is from Alberta which produces vast amounts of oil, and he understands the petroleum industry. He is, by far, the Canadian political leader most sympathetic to free market solutions to problems like energy. Although a comparison to Texan George W. Bush is a big stretch, it is fair to say that Harper with a majority would do more than any Canadian in recent memory to expand oil production. A true Conservative majority in Parliament could also guarantee stability and growth in the Canadian economy. A prosperous Canada with a strong dollar producing as much oil as practicable would help the American economy significantly. Economic prosperity is not a zero sum game, particularly with nations like Canada which are closely connected to our economy. If Canada stays out of recession and keeps inflation low, we win too.What if Harper loses power? What if Layton is the new Prime Minister of Canada? Almost certainly, investors and businesses with operations in Canada will see tax increases and regulatory burdens increase. If the Canadian dollar begins to weaken, then that will not help our public financial situation at all. Energy costs will rise and energy supplies shrink. We can expect more political correctness and less help in combating terrorism in our nation and, perhaps, a more porous border with Canada. We will also see in Layton yet another of those dreary dinosaurs whose sympathies lie first with our nation’s enemies, rather like the man sitting in the White House today. America, already, seems very alone in the world. If Harper loses, we will feel much lonelier.Watch next Monday closely. No one, honestly, knows what will happen. It could be very good news or it could be very bad. But it will be very important to us.