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Stephane Dion, Hypocrisy of the Liberal mantra

Beyond statism and sustainability


By —— Bio and Archives--October 22, 2007

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Stephane Dion likes to characterize himself as a man of integrity and intellectual rigour. But the Liberal Party he leads is certainly not characterized by these traits. And we are not writing here of AdScam.

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For if it was simply that, then we would also need to focus on the billion dollar gun registry; the human resources boondoggle; Hewlett-Packard’s $165 million overcharging of the Department of National Defense; retroactive tax-haven changes costing Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars and the abridgment of due process and abuse of state power to destroy enemies of the Party or its leaders.

What we are writing about here is the hypocrisy of the Liberal mantra that a leader claiming integrity and intelligence has to contort himself to defend. There has been much analysis of late as to the malaise of the Liberals. And the problems with Dion’s leadership. The two are not unrelated. Yes Dion has problems communicating in English. Yes he hasn’t decentralized power in the party. Yes he waited too long to name candidates in the three recent by-elections and didn’t listen to his grass roots organizations. Yes he spends too much time on criticizing the Afghanistan mission thinking that Canadians have forgotten that this was initially a Liberal commitment and the only reason we are in Kandahar is because a previous Liberal leader dithered too long choosing a mission for Canada’s troops. All this is true but does not fully explain the why behind Mr. Dion’s, and thereby the Liberals, malaise.

For all the things Stephane Dion has not done, there is one he does a lot of. He thinks. That’s what intellectuals do. But when one brings critical thought to bear on the Liberal mantra and tries to balance it with reality, one discovers a disconnect. A leader like Dion has to have an intellectual course set before he can make the practical political decisions on the ground. But the mantra is hard to reconcile with reality and maybe, just maybe, that’s why Dion isn’t being convincing or decisive.

The party of balanced budgets; lower taxes; growing social programs; Kyoto; the Charter and Canada’s pride of place on the world stage. That’s what we hear Liberals repeat time and time again. It was frankly disheartening to hear Mr. Dion repeat these same old lyrics from the very night he won the convention. If he is ever to get himself unwound and put a stamp of authenticity on his leadership he will have to put away this song sheet. He can’t win on it and Canadian’s aren’t buying it.

The reality is that thirteen years of Liberal government has not made life easier or better or prouder for Canadians. The “biggest tax cuts” in Canadian history merely moved more of the burden from the top 3% of the population to the bottom 60%. The “balanced” budgets were mostly accomplished by the sleight of hand of moving pension liabilities to other ledgers and keeping unemployment insurance surpluses in government coffers instead of returning them to Canadians as even many Liberal MP’s had urged before the last election. Canadians are working longer and for less. The Vanier Institute for the Family reported this year that one-third of Canadian households are below the poverty line.

The major reason for this crisis are our impossibly high tax rates in place because the Liberals hungrily became the subventors both of corporate welfare and cheap pork-barrel vote grabbing schemes to the point where they reached almost one-third of our federal budget over the past 13 years. 

The multicultural and social programs the Liberals enacted ostensibly for “the common good” were done in reality for no other reason than to have something for flyers in the next election. These programs have become restrictive of our rights as individuals and invade every aspect of our civil liberties and basic privacy. They are reflective of government by coercion and compulsion instead of by education and persuasion.

The Liberals love affair with Kyoto is perhaps as big a sham as their Afghanistan waffling. Greenhouse emissions have gone up 30% since Canada signed on—higher than in the US which didn’t—and has cost Canadian taxpayers $1.3 billion in 2005 in purchases of Russia’s emission credits. Kyoto is nothing more than a scam for emissions trading. The Tories Clean Air Act is certain to be more effective since the best science has determined that if all signatories to Kyoto met 100% of the targets it would only have a globally positive effect of 1/10 of 1%. And the Liberals know it.

As for our place in the world, Canada under the Liberals did not shoulder its fair share of the burden of engagement in relieving oppression to millions living in third world countries from which we benefit from cheap resources, human and material. Our military was reduced to dangerously low levels. Both Chretien and Martin declined to celebrate the heroism of Canadian servicemen and women in Operation Apollo. Canada refused to call Darfur a genocide. We had a hypocritical record on the Middle East refusing to stand with Israel, that region’s only democracy. We even saw Prime Minister Martin call Libya’s Muammar Khaddafi a man “with a philosophical bent of mind” when he went to negotiate oil leases. The Liberals remain wedded to the false and bankrupt notions of peacekeeping rather than peacemaking all layered with the veneer of knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

Though the Liberal Party of Canada may have lost its relevance , the promise of industrial liberalism is still the last, best hope for the broad masses of Canadians struggling for better lives under the crushing burdens of rising taxes, contracting opportunity, invasive statism, failed bureaucracies and continued pandering to privilege and preference. But whether historic liberalism will be best exemplified by the large-L Liberal Party or the small-c Conservatives is yet to be determined.

Labels no longer matter. Centre-left, centre-right, sustainable development, are all meaningless to the vast majority of citizens searching for a voice and a vision that will address their problems other than in vague terms of techno-babble meant to offend no one. Political elites within the Liberal Party cynically exploited inherent prejudices for partisan advantage paying no regard to the lasting damage inflicted on the nation.

They left a legacy of withered grass. If Stephane Dion cannot come to terms with the hypocrisy of the Liberal mantra—and change it—then he will never be able to make the party relevant to Canadians. The real challenge to Liberals is much more than technical politicking on the ground. It is how to move beyond the deceptions of an agenda of statism and sustainability.


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Beryl Wajsman -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Beryl Wajsman is President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal editor-in-chief of The Suburban newspapers, and publisher of The Métropolitain.

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