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Belinda made her choice between 'progressive' and 'conservative' Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 16 May 2005

On Tuesday we heard the astonishing news that Conservative MP Belinda Stronach has crossed to the Liberals, and is now Human Resources Development Minister.

As we approach today's crucial budget vote, angry people are calling her every vile name in the dictionary. But her formal title, from now until the day she dies, is the Honorable Belinda Stronach.

How very, very ironic.

While her real motives may be mere venal ambition, or revenge for not being taken seriously enough, the justifications she gave were matters of policy.

She didn't like the prospect of allying with the Bloc Quebecois, and she didn't like her party's opposition to progressive, urban things like same-sex marriage.

As for the Bloc, it is a non-issue. All parties are in a minority position, so alliances are necessary. If Stronach really thinks sating the big-spending desires of the NDP is better for the country than a provincial-rights alliance with the Bloc, she certainly ran for the wrong party.

Her second reason, though less distinct, sounded somehow more heart-felt.

"I tried to the very best of my ability to play a constructive role within the Conservative Party," she explained, "to advance issues that really matter to Canadians in cities, to women, to young people, to many Ontarians."

We heard almost identical comments a week ago from Diane Francis, right-wing editor-at-large of the Financial Post. She said that Harper and his party are seen as "scary" by many middle-ground swing voters, especially women, especially in the big cities, especially in Ontario.

By opposing legal recognition of homosexual marriage, argued Francis, the Conservatives are telling women and city-folk that they cater to backwoods bigotry.

Both Francis and Stronach hark back to when it was still considered intelligent to be "fiscally conservative" and "socially progressive."

It always surprises me that someone as bright as Diane Francis can't see what self-contradictory nonsense this is.

"A Canadian Conservative," she wrote last week, "believes in free markets, free enterprise and restricting the role of the state to providing essential services and protecting individuals and their rights."

This is an accurate definition only as long as we restrict "rights" to traditional core rights -- freedom of speech, religion and assembly, equality before the law, and security of life and property.

"Social progressivism" always goes far beyond these. Invariably, it is something invented, defined, financed and enforced by the state, through the courts, the government or both.

Same-sex marriage is a textbook example. Here we see courts and governments working together to impose an unpopular new "progressive right" on society, part of an endless cycle of government-funded litigation and new legislation.

If a conservative, as Francis says approvingly, believes government must be "limited," its purpose can't be left open-ended, expansive and "progressive," to claim ever-greater control of our lives and social institutions.

The distinction between "fiscal conservatism" and "social conservatism" is an illusion.

If the state is justified in taking unlimited, progressive control of society, it is also justified in taking an unlimited role in the economy. And it will. And it does.

If something as fundamental as the family is not safe from political meddling and intrusion by ambitious judges and politicians, why would they keep their hands off our income, our markets and our economy?

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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