Opinion

Canadians draw line on hard line

Brian MacLeod, QMI Agency

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

If there was a pseudo Tea Party movement in Canada, it’s dead. It may re-invent itself, but it won’t look like Alberta’s Wildrose party, which was thumped Monday by a Progressive Conservative party with the emphasis on “progressive.”

And perhaps that’s why Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak didn’t tack to the right in last fall’s election, as some — including myself — urged.

He knew Ontarians — and as we can see, Canadians — aren’t falling for the libertarian, socially conservative agenda, even though for a while, blips like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford left people wondering.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper contends that Canadians’ values are becoming Conservatives’ values. He’s right only if he’s talking about the party now in power in Ottawa, which through expediency, moved to the centre. And that is where most Canadians are — vacillating between centre left and centre right, with no patience for hard turns.

Look at the budget deal in Ontario between Andrea Horwath’s NDP and Premier Dalton McGuinty’s minority Liberals. The most popular initiative Horwath proposed, which McGuinty accepted, was a 2% tax on people earning $500,000 or more a year. The Liberals also accepted NDP suggestions to increase money for hospitals, day care and those on disability.

These are all reasonable for Ontarians.

Where would a hard-right conservative party fit? What’s Hudak to do? McGuinty’s Liberals, with their tighter budget, bolstered by NDP policies, are freezing him out the way.

Alberta’s election demonstrated Canadians’ centrist tendencies, even in the province that is traditionally the most conservative. It now looks like Albertans considered Wildrose to punish the PCs after scandals involving MLAs’ pay.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is no Tea Party clone — she’s pro-choice on abortion and pro gay rights — but she saw herself as a libertarian who didn’t believe in humans’ contribution to climate change, and talked about building a “firewall” around Alberta (language that Harper wisely left behind). And homophobic and racist comments from Wildrose candidates were left in the air after Smith refused to wholeheartedly condemn them.

Meanwhile, check out this quote from Alberta PC Leader Alison Redford during the campaign: “There are other political parties out there who have already promised to cut infrastructure this year, by $2 billion. And when that happens, you don’t get strong education, and you don’t get accessible quality health care ...and it doesn’t let us build communities.”

Sounds an awful lot like McGuinty.

In British Columbia, the NDP is well ahead in polls. The Saskatchewan Party, which won re-election last year in that province, was founded by a coalition of former Tories and Liberals.

PC parties in power in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador demonstrate traditional Tory thinking. New Democrats and Liberals rule in the other provinces.

And now the federal Conservatives’ support is falling — as the NDP’s is rising — after Harper announced he’d increase the age qualification for the Canada Pension Plan and he’d press through with his tough-on-crime agenda that required expanding prisons while the crime rate drops.

There are no hard-line parties in Canada holding power or threatening to win power.

But we’ll get a fresh take on the federal Conservatives’ social agenda Thursday, as a party member’s private member’s bill tore-open the debate on abortion — by discussing when life begins — will be debated in the House. Bet Harper is grimacing about that almost as much as he was after the Alberta election.

He knows better.

brian.macleod@sunmedia.ca


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