There is a consensus among many people, even some conservatives, that Harper has jettisoned most of his political principles for the sake of political expediency. And indeed, it does appear this way. He certainly didn’t create a more open government, and the biggest deficit in Canadian history brought to us by a man who said he would never run any deficit; these are certainly damning events. Coupled with his appointment of so many political cronies to the senate and the radical increases in taxes (income trusts and HST both mean many people are paying a lot more tax under the CONS) makes Harper look more like a political opportunist than a man of principle. Now, die-hard conservatives will rationalize these policies as necessary compromises given the circumstances, but of course principles, by definition, are not abandoned simply due to difficult circumstances, if they are then they ipso facto are NOT principles.
However, I have begun to wonder whether we might look at this a different way. I think that the only principle that Harper came into office with was to destroy the major gains of our social democracy. Harper and his cronies couldn’t stand that Canada was a country with major social programs that worked fairly effectively, it was eating them up inside because of their cut-throat capitalist ideology and their hatred of anything ‘social.’ During the first couple of years the Harper government began to chip away at some very important aspects of our social democracy. For example, they cut all adult literacy programs, many women’s programs, the court challenges program, and they tightened up government so that it is now considerably less open and access to information (one of the prime hallmarks of a healthy democracy) is a joke. They geared all their social policies to ‘results based’ requirements, something that is notoriously ineffective for real social programs. They monumentally overspent in their first two years of government to bring the country to the brink of deficit because they knew that a recession was coming and the last thing they wanted was a fiscal cushion. Then when the recession did come and they were forced into running a deficit, this did not challenge their principles, rather it gave them a new opportunity to reach their goals. They brought forth a budget that had permanent tax cuts and insignificant and temporary infrastructural spending. This strategy has ensured that any future governments are going to be forced to make major cuts to social programs. Voila, the Conservatives have lived up to their principles because their only real principle was to destroy Canada’s social democracy. The Conservatives, by the way, faced no real challenge from the Liberals in laying waste to the country.
Judged thusly, the Conservative have done exactly what they wanted to do and Canada may never be the same.