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May 6, 2011

Canadian lessons for Australia.

A couple of posts ago I dealt with the Canadian election, which resulted in, a great win for the Conservatives. To put things in perspective, over there the Conservatives are like our Liberals only less conservative. Their Liberals are centre left, and their New Democrats are hard left.

James Allen, a former Canadian, and lecturer in law at Queensland University has an article in today’s Australian, which covers the implications for Australia in the result. There is an area, which he has missed:

What is a big deal, what is shocking, in fact, is that Canada's centre-left Liberal Party was more or less destroyed by the further left, and touchy-feely, New Democratic Party, which for the first time has become Canada's official opposition.

Now let me be clear about this. The left-of-centre Liberal Party has not just been the natural governing party in Canada, having been in power for more than two-thirds of the 20th century, but it was also the most successful political party in the Western democratic world, more successful than the Democrats in the US and even more successful than the Tories in Britain. …

… It scored barely 20 per cent of the popular vote and won (as of the latest count) about 35 of the 308 seats on offer. For comparison purposes, the Tories won 167 for a small majority and the NDP won a shocking 103 or so, seeing them easily surpass the Liberals.

Now it's no great stretch to compare the NDP with the Greens here in Australia. Both have the same other-worldly grasp of economics, the same dislike of free trade, the same strands in their parties who dislike Israel and the same proclivity to deal in moral and political abstractions rather than specific facts. …

… The Liberal leader, former BBC TV host and Harvard academic Michael Ignatieff, repeatedly asserted that the only alternative to the Tories was his Liberals. But what happened, in essence, was that he got outflanked on his left as well as his right. …
It offers, however, the Australian Labor Party plenty of grounds to put as much distance as possible between itself and the Greens.
The real difference we have here is that the Greens, while having taken the high ground on the left, have not been able to come out as a mainstream party. They have instead grasped at the standard grab bag of anti Israel, pro Palestinian, anti free market, anti capitalist rhetoric, and are unlikely to change in the short term. As result they are not a serious threat to Labor’s status on the left.

The Liberals on the other hand are benefitting from Labor’s unpopularity, but simply do not look like a party to govern. They are essentially presenting themselves as Labor lite, as they really have no original ideas and no philosophical basis to get them from. I have little doubt that if an election were called today, despite their lead in the polls, the difference would narrow fast.

Compared with our Liberals, the Canadian Conservatives are positively libertarian. Where Abbott is looking toward a different GW solution, Canada’s Conservatives have rejected the idea of destroying business with a carbon tax. Over there they understand that the way to more jobs is not to have the government try to create them, but to get out of the way, lower taxes, and let the economy just get on with it.

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