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Thinking big


 

Bruce Anderson considers the way forward for Mr. Harper.

… the Conservatives should try to avoid being cast as the party of moderate ambition and small ideas. Just as Mr. Ignatieff needed to walk swiftly away from looking as though he was going to force an election over EI rules, Mr. Harper probably can’t win an election because people want a tax break for a home renovation project.


 

Thinking big

  1. I'm not being a smart arse here, but I'm hard pressed to think of a big idea or two that Harper could put forward that wouldn't manage to alienate either a) the social conservative base, or b) everybody else.

    Any ideas?

    • I was just wondering if Anderson knows anything about conservatism. Most/much of Con base does not want grand ideas and are perfectly content to be left alone. Greatness is achieved by individuals, not large government programs, so small ideas about government and it's role is exactly what cons want.

      I am curious to see how many cons will sit out next elections, or vote for someone else, because Harper et al seem to have forgotten what it means to be a conservative.

      • Are there really any true conservatives to be found? Seems to me we've got social conservatives in some number, and a lot of people who want socialism (or at least lots of perks) without paying taxes.

        • There are true conservatives, Jolyon and Coyne so thats 2, (unless Jolyon is Coyne).

          Another significant fraction of conservatives in canada is defined as simply hating Trudeau (PET first, Justin now). They may not know what they are… but they are damm sure about what they aren't.

          Another big fraction is simply contrarian… the Liberals have been in power so long… (Dakota, the green guy) This group really likes Harpers bag of tricks, chess to checkers, it is not a game (but if it was I would win) type stuff.

          Siting a true Red Tory (who is not a senior citizen) is getting tough these days. That might be because of what happened to Tory the Tory in Toronto not so long ago.

          • The green guy is not actually a contrarian.

          • The green guy is not a contrarian.

          • et ole

          • Oh, way to prove his point!

          • Stewie: You're contrarian.
            CR: No, I'm not.
            Stewie: See! Told you so!

            Honestly, I've seen Grade 5 students who engage in a higher level of discourse.

          • 1) They would have to be Finnish Grade 5 students
            2) I assumed when you said "The green guy was not contrarian" you were in on the joke (next time I will be more clear)
            3) Lighten up
            4) Someone who makes a habit of adding short inane comments just to be the last in a thread
            should be cautious about elementary school references.

          • 1) Total digression, but I remember reading in an article that Finnish elementary school students outperform students in the rest of Europe for some reason.
            2) Nope. I was being literal. I don't think that I'm actually a contrarian, even though I often find myself taking a "contrary" position on a Wherry blog post for some crazy reason.
            3) Will do! By the way, I wasn't actually annoyed. I was just being curmudgeonly.
            4) That's an inside joke between me and Ontario_Town, not a "habit".

          • 1) Total digression, but I remember reading in an article that Finnish elementary school students outperform students in the rest of Europe for some reason.
            2) Nope. I was being literal. I don't think that I'm actually a contrarian, even though I often find myself taking a "contrary" position on a Wherry blog post for some crazy reason.
            3) Will do! By the way, I wasn't actually annoyed. I was just being curmudgeonly.
            4) That's an inside joke between me and OntarioTown, not a "habit".

      • Whether you agree with her or not, Margaret Thatcher was able to make conservatism a big idea.

        • And her ability to placate Western alienation whilst holding Quebec separatists to a stalemate was something to behold. I would have liked to see more movement on the aboriginal file, but there's only so much one leader can do, I suppose.

  2. 10 % tax reduction for everyone with earnings under 50,000 sliding scale upwards until it disappears at around 60,000

    • Or just raise the basic personal exemption, a lot, up to say $30K

  3. And cancel all tax credits, put the GST back to its old level, and cease all stimulus spending?

  4. Actually he probably can. I think Canadians generally vote for the party that isn't going to rock the boat.

  5. I saw a portion of Mulroney's interview that is going to be on the National tonight. Mulroney understand Harper reduced the GST for political reasons, but it was wrong to do so.

    No kidding there Brian.

  6. Anderson might be on to something here, but it really depends on the idea. Specifically, Harper must champion some idea that 40%+ of Canadians will support, while the opposition parties will need to take the opposite stance. Compromise should not be an option, and the issue must be salient enough that most voters will consider it the top issue.

    Mulroney succeeded by doing this, as did Borden and John A. – ironically all on the same issue (free trade/reciprocity/the national policy). Mike Harris did the same in Ontario with the Common Sense Revolution.

    Tax cuts, as some have suggested, are a bad option. The problem with tax cuts is that if Harper says "I'll cut taxes 25%", Ignatieff can say "I will cut them by 24% and/or more broadly". Issues like that open the possibility of compromise, something the Liberals are experts at doing. Harper's GST cut, for instance, was not a huge winner, and the Liberals were at least somewhat successful at portraying a smaller income tax cut as being equivalent in the 2006 election.

    Social security reform might work. Something like phasing out social security for people under 30, while raising the limit on RRSP's would almost certainly incur the wrath of the NDP and the Liberals. At the same time, most of the Conservative base is over 30, and would be unaffected by the change. At least some (albeit a minority) younger Canadians expect the CPP to disappear before they draw benefits, and could be sold on the policy as well. Moreover, it puts the Tories on the side of the segment of the populace most likely to turn out and vote.

    Of course, big ideas can fail big. Bennett's fair deal flopped, as did Mulroney's constitutional reforms, Dion's carbon tax, and Stockwell Day's citizen-initiated referenda. Canada's winningest PM's have tended to think small.

  7. Here's a big, novel idea the Cons could run on:

    "You will elect 308 individuals to serve as Members of Parliament. They will deliberate and debate legislative proposals, with a view to enacting those proposals which are deemed to benefit the country. Where there is none, consensus will be sought. Should the Conservatives form the next government, we will do all we can to ensure the 308 individuals in the House of Commons work together toward this goal. In other words, your Parliament will act like a parliament."

    And one more thing: they have to mean it.

  8. Good insights – here and further down the board.

    I don't think he has the team to support him in launching anything on the constitutiional front. After Strahl, I can't think of any in the caucus who could be trusted with the keys to that car. The time is certainly ripe for Senate reform, though.

    Death penalty would be good fun, as a debate. But I'm not sure that would pull enough voters.

    My only suggestion would be to revisit federal party funding. It has a nice legacy feel to it, costs the government nothing (in fact gains a wee bit of cash), and is awfully hard to run against without sounding selfish.

    • The problem with the federal party funding issue is that it is rather firmly linked in the public mind with the disasterous economic update of last fall. Possibly not an association the CPC would want to revive during an election.

      • Although, the FU gave rise to the traitorous coalition of commies, separatists and opportunists. Which Harper wouldn't mind Canadians discussing again.

  9. Great post! Must have taken all of 15 seconds to find a political article, and then enter the URL. Genius, Aaron, simply genius.

  10. I would have thought that a real explicit effort at senate reform or an attempt to cut spending and the size of the public service would have been easy identifiable opportunities for him, but neither have gained traction. while I agree that he has opportunities, his passivity in pursuit of them make me increasingly of the mind that he is most concentrated on reinforcing the perception of government as ineffectual. it is almost as though he is trying to live up to Thomas Franks' Wrecking Crew, albeit less via corruption as incompetence.

    http://tcfrank.com/books/the-wrecking-crew/

  11. You mean that by guiding Canada through an economic downturn better than any other G8 (and probably OECD) country, owning up to years of aboriginal mistreatment, tightening election finance regulations, and not creating billion-dollar boondoggles every year, Harper's resume (as a minority leader, at that) could use a little padding?

    • Who are you kidding? He "guided" us through an economic downturn kicking and screaming at its nonexistence while being dragged there by the other parties in Parliament. He threw out an apology for aboirignal mistreatment, all right, which would have been a meaningful act had he then followed through on actually altering policies and the like. Tightening election finance regulations by plowing right through the heart of them, providing stimulus to those regions with a Conservative MP, increasing the amount spent on polling while simultaneously blaming the Liberals for spending too much on polling, and reforming the Senate by doing what every Senate loving PM has ever done–more blatantly.

  12. Huh?

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