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  October 16, 2008

Canada reelects Stephen Harper

Murray Dobbin: Harper will continue to dismantle social democracy
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Murray Dobbin, Vancouver based, has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for over thirty-five years. A board member and researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, he has written five studies for the centre including an expose of charter schools and ten myths about the Canadian tax system. He has been a columnist for the Financial Post and Winnipeg Free Press, contributes to the Globe and Mail and other Canadian dailies and now writes a column for the Vancouver on-line paper The Tyee. He has written five books, three of them critical profiles of Canadian politicians. His latest book, Paul Martin: CEO for Canada? exposes Martin’s corporate agenda for the country.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper was reelected this week, as his Conservative Party won its second minority government. Harper called an early election last month after accusing the Canadian Parliament of being dysfunctional. Observers called it a calculated political move, meant to take advantage of his lead in the polls, with the aim, to secure a majority for his party. Journalist and author Murray Dobbin believes Stephen Harper will continue to dismantle social democracy.


Canada reelects Stephen Harper

ZAA NKWETA, TRNN: Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, was reelected this week, as his Conservative Party won its second minority government. Harper called an early election after accusing the Canadian Parliament of being dysfunctional. Observers called it a calculated political move meant to take advantage of his lead in the polls, with the aim to secure a majority for his party. The Real News spoke to author and journalist Murray Dobbin.

MURRAY DOBBIN, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: we've wasted $250 million. We have another minority government. I think the main difference, interestingly, is that Harper will really hate this situation. He really wanted a majority. He hated having to deal with a minority Parliament, even though he treated it as a majority. And he won't get away with that this time. The other parties will not simply give him a free ride on everything he wants. I think the Liberals will be forced to vote against bills like the youth crime bill and call Harper's bluff. We'll have a very different Parliament. Harper said yesterday he's going to, you know, cooperate with the other parties. That's just not going to happen. There's real pressure on Dion personally to try and figure out a way to force Harper's hand and have a vote of confidence, defeat Harper, and then form a government with support from the NDP and the Bloc. That is still a possibility. It's much less a possibility than if Harper had done not as well. If Harper had gotten the same sort of number of seats that he had last time, you know, in the mid-120s or something, then it would have been much easier for the Liberals to play the role as alternate government. And the other thing was that people weren't angry enough with Harper to really dump him. He hadn't done big things that really angered Canadians. He got rid of stuff that didn't already exist—in other words, the whole childcare thing, which was an enormous commitment on the part of the Liberal government, a $5 billion national childcare program. But the thing is people never had it, so they didn't end up missing it. Harper is absolutely opposed to any activist role for the government in the economy, much less, even, than George Bush. I mean, George Bush, you know, buys up banks. I mean, Harper, although he did put up $25 billion for mortgages for the banks here, he's really reluctant to use government spending, for example, as a way of stimulating the economy in a recession. And, of course, the other thing he's done is that he's given these enormous tax cuts, $60 billion in tax cuts, which completely ties his hands. We'll be in a deficit position by December or January unless he goes back on his tax cuts. I mean, this is what Layton was trying to push—you know, stop these tax cuts. Now, he could do that, but he's very reluctant to. He's not the kind of guy who changes his ideology. So I think this will really hurt him. We'll go into a recession, he won't go into deficit, he'll start cutting things, and that will bring about his defeat, because those are money bills. He'll start to make fiscal decisions in the House of Commons, and those will be confidence matters, and that's where the confrontation might end up happening. We are in a period where the social movements and unions are very weak in terms of their impact on the political culture, and we really need to reexamine the role of the social movements, why they're so weak, and they're so disengaged, because ultimately that's what defines a political culture—it's not elections and it's not political parties. But the second factor is—you know, I think that Dion was a huge factor, you know, unfortunately. People just could not bring themselves to vote for this man. And, lastly, Stephen Harper managed to frame himself as this sort of stern father figure. And even though he almost blew it by saying, you know, "It's a buying opportunity" when he was interviewed by Mansbridge, he also comes across as this stern father who you can trust in tough times. It makes no sense in terms of his actual policies, but it does make sense in terms of his image, and I think it was the image that won out, whereas Dion just looked completely inept. The future of Canada's been in trouble for, you know, 20 years, ever since the Free Trade Agreement. And with Harper back in a minority government, he will be pushing the whole deep-integration agenda into the US. We've been dismantling the sort of social democratic state that we established, you know, in the first 30 years after the Second World War ever since free trade, and that agenda is still being implemented.


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