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Saturday 10 October 2015

Comment: The End of Canada's Conservatives?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 25th September 2015

They've governed Canada since February 2006, but even conservative Canadian media outlines suggest that Canada's centre-right Harper administration is ailing. And religious social conservatives are frightened. Canada goes to the polls on October 19.

For good reason. No-one would say that Canada's Harper administration is anywhere near as extremist as elements of the US Republican Party or its satellite, Tony Abbott's Australian Liberal/National Coalition federal government. Harper hasn't lasted nine years through kowtowing to extremists like the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition on issues like abortion rights or opposition to LGBT rights. However, it is nowhere near as pluralist and inclusive as New Zealand's own Key administration, or the Cameron administration in the United Kingdom. However, that said, the Harper administration has pandered to the Canadian Christian Right over issues like transgender rights and effective recriminalisation of sex work. It would appear that the latter issues are enough to keep Canadian Christian Right pragmatists like antifeminist REAL Women of Canada in line for now. Others are contemptuous of Harper's Tories for their refusal to revisit abortion rights or marriage equality through conservative restrictions or repeal.

Prostitution law reform went wrong after an initially promising Canadian Supreme Court decision in December 2013,Canada (Attorney General) versus Bedford. That praiseworthy decision found that laws prohibiting brothels, and bans on soliciting for sex work and management of sex work. As a result, the Conservative Party decided to lurch backward with a thin garnishing of pseudo-progressive "abolitionist" prohibitionist feminism. Ostensibly, the new anti-sexworker legislation follows the "Nordic model," which allegedly criminalises the purchaser of sex work, "not" the sex worker herself or himself. However, the legislation retains criminalisation of sex work venues and management of the same venues, as well as street sex work. Sex workers rights and LGBT organisations were disgusted at the decision. Fortunately, there may be fewer problems with Bill C-279, as both NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau have said that either a Liberal or NDP-led government would reintroduce and pass the transgender rights bill, finally adding gender identity to the anti-discrimination Canada Human Rights Act. If there is a post-October coalition government in Ottawa, it seems certain that transgender Canadians may finally obtain federal legislative equality and antidiscrimination law coverage.

In mid-August, the usually right-wingNational Postdelivered a poll result that showed Thomas Mulcair and his centre-left New Democrat Party (akin to New Zealand's Labour Party) in the lead over his rivals. On August 16, a Leger poll had the NDP on thirty three percent, ahead of Justin Trudeau and his Liberals (28%) and the governing but ailing Conservatives in third place (27%). Most other Canadian opinion polls, such as Ekos, Forum and Ipsos Reid, show the New Democrats in the lead, at around thirty to thirty four percent. Cumulative polls appear to indicate that the sluggish Canadian economy after 2008 and Conservative animus against active citizenship and civil liberties have alienated mainstream Canadian voters, giving the lead to the Liberals during 2013-14 and the New Democrats after July 2015. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is most popular political leader, attracting twenty eight percent of Canadian voters, as opposed to twenty one percent who prefer Prime Minister Stephen Harper and twenty percent who back Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Complicating the matter is that there are divergent leading parties within the various provinces. The NDP leads in Quebec and British Columbia, the Conservatives predictably lead in right-wing Alberta and there's a three-way dead heat in Ontario. Given that Ontario is Canada's most populous province, there may be some problems there, given that NDP support seems to be ebbing slightly. One outcome might be a three-way hung parliament, although this could be resolved through an NDP-Liberal coalition against the Conservatives. Such possibilities have been canvassed before, when the Conservatives were engaged in a minority government with the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois unable to agree on consensus arrangements to topple the Harper administration. The NDP's lead narrowed to a single percentage point over the Conservatives as September arrived, probably within the polling margin of error.

The New Democrats lead in British Columbia and Quebec, while in Ontario, there was a three way dead heat. The Conservatives are only ahead in Alberta, traditionally Canada's most right-wing province. The National Post suggests a New Democrat minority government is now the most likely result. During the current parliamentary term, the Harper Tories have concentrated their attention on law and order issues, such as the Safe Streets and Communities Act (Bill C-10), an omnibus bill which focused on criminal justice policies such as mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug or sexual offences, increasing prison terms for cannabis offences, child pornography exposure offences and allowing the administration to sue sponsors of organisational terrorism on Canadian soil. Other legislation modernised Canadian copyright legislation, abolished the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly purchaser, and abolishing Canada's national firearm registry inclusion of currently non-restricted guns and other firearms. However, some of its more controversial legislation fell by the wayside. The Protecting Children From Internet Predators Bill (C-30) was criticised for its anti-cyberlibertarian, draconian powers of surveillance and was effectively superceded by other, equally controversial legislation that also enshrined wiretapping and warrant-free surveillance of criminal and terrorist suspects within Canadian federal law. Another, the Jobs Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act (Bill C-10) engaged in a spasm of regulatory review curtailment and compliance restrictions, as well as creating barriers to public participation. One private members bill prevents people from concealing their identities during riots and imposes a draconian ten year penalty for doing so. In 2012, the Canadian public was shocked when they encountered an attempt to engage in non-Conservative voter erasure, currently under investigation from Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Elections Canada. Political journalist John Ibbotson has recently also authored a highly critical book on the Harper administration and its authoritarian turn over its most recent parliamentary term. Other critics of the Conservatives wonder if they're trying to weaken Canadian social liberalism through provoking Quebec sufficiently to consider secession, although the collapse of the Bloc Quebecois in 2011 may have rendered such an outcome implausible now.

In early September, the Conservatives received crushing news, indicating that they had now been set back into third place behind the New Democrats and Liberals in some polls. In the Globe and Mail (05.09.2015), Daniel Leblanc noted that in a recent national opinion poll, the New Democrats still narrowly led the Liberals, on thirty one percent compared to thirty percent, while the Conservatives languished in third place on twenty eight percent. However, while the New Democrats were polling forty six percent in Quebec, and well ahead of the Liberals (twenty percent), Bloc Quebecois (eighteen percent) and Conservatives (thirteen percent), the Liberals were polling strongly in Ontario, at thirty seven percent, ahead of the Conservatives (twenty-eight percent) and NDP (twenty-seven percent). Moreover, LeBlanc noted that NDP support seemed to be 'soft.' However, during August 2015, a Conservative federal Senator, Mike Duffy was facing bribery and corruption charges, further tarnishing the Conservative brand. While the election may come down to a race between the New Democrats and Liberals, the Conservatives aren't in the picture. Incumbency fatigue has well set in.

Unlike New Zealand, Canadian elections are conducted without any campaign finance limitations. Party leader debates were scheduled on several major policy issues in several major Canadian cities, such as the Canadian economy (September 17, Calgary), foreign policy (September 28, Toronto) and more general broad spectrum debates in both Toronto and Montreal. The debate continues. However, it seems as if Canada may be headed for a change of government in early October.

Wikipedia/Canadian federal election 2015:http://en./
Wikipedia/Prostitution law in Canada:http://en./ Prostitution_law_in_Canada
Wikipedia/Prostitution in Canada:http://en./ Prostitution_in_Canada
Wikipedia/Opinion polling for the 42nd Canadian Election: https://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_ the_42nd_Canadian_federal_ election
Wikipedia/Conservative Party of Canada:http://en./wikipedia/wiki/ Conservative_Party_of_Canada
Wikipedia/New Democrat Party:http://en./ New_Democrat_Party
Wikipedia/Liberal Party of Canada:http://en./ Liberal_Partyof Canada
Daily Xtra:
Globe and Mail:http://www./
Daniel LeBlanc: "Canadians want a new PM, polls suggest" Globe and Mail: 05.09.2015: http://www.theglobeandmail. com/news/politic s/canadians-want-a-new-pm- poll-suggests/article26230989/
John Ibbotson:Stephen Harper:Toronto:Signal: 2015
Justin Trudeau:Common Ground:Toronto: HarperCollins: 2015
David Laycock and Lynda Erickson: Reviving Social Democracy: The Near-Death and Surprising Rise of the Federal NDP:Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press: 2015.
Jeffrey Brooke:Dismantling Canada: Stephen Harper's New Conservative Agenda:Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press: 2015.
David Rayside and James Fearney:Conservatism in Canada:Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 2013.
Political Party Websites:
Conservative Party of Canada:http://www.conservative./ca
New Democrat Party:http://www.ndp./ca
Liberal Party:http://www.liberal./ca

LGBT and Other News:
Daily Xtra:http://www.dailyxtra./com
Toronto Globe and Mail:http://www.globeandmail./com
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:http://www.cbc./ca
Canadian Television:http://www.ctv./ca
Not Recommended:
REAL Women of Canada:http://www./realwomenofcanada. ca
Institute for Canadian Values:http://www./
Canada Family Action:http://www./

Lifesite News:http://www.lifesitenews./com

Craig Young - 25th September 2015

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