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Permanent change doesn't happen quickly Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 08 March 2004

A stern editorial appeared last Sunday in the Toronto Star, the nation's biggest, fattest, most Liberal newspaper. It warned Hogtown locals not to switch their vote to the federal Conservatives just because a few prominent Liberals happened to steal $100 million from Canadian taxpayers.

Beware! admonished the Star. The Conservatives want to "lower taxes," enact a balanced budget law like most provinces, and pay down the national debt.

Even worse, "a Conservative government will take a hands-off approach to areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as health and education." It would even probably allow provincial governments to increase the role of private enterprise in the health sector.

Pretty scary stuff. Sounds like Scandinavia or Holland. But steel yourself, there's more.

"Conservatives say they want to preserve the environment, but they'll balance that with the need to create jobs. They would kill the Kyoto accord." (Actually, Russia is killing the Kyoto Accord, but this news hasn't reached Toronto.)

"A Conservative government," warned the Star, "will rebuild the Armed Forces, boosting their funding, training and equipment.

"And that's just scratching the surface. They would abandon the federal gun registry... [and] protect the traditional definition of marriage..."

All of this sounds so refreshingly sensible it makes you wonder why it alarms people in Ontario.

However, the most striking thing about this Toronto Star editorial is how little it sounds like the Toronto Star.

Why no more paranoid panic about a "secret right-wing agenda"? Why no caricatures of mouth-breathing, gun-toting, homophobic, holocaust-denying, racist, hate-mongering, Bible-pounding western bigots and crackpots? Where's the standard fulmination against reactionary lackeys of war-mongering Yankee imperialists, and sinister transnational globalism?

Either someone at the Star slipped up, or (more likely, I think) the editorial board, sensing a shift in the local political wind, still wants to be taken seriously after the next election.

All of the above leads the Star to conclude that a protest vote for the Tories might bring about a "radically different" country four years from now.

If only.

Unfortunately, permanent reform can't happen that quickly. Still, a Conservative victory could begin a long-term change of direction. It would need at least two or three Parliaments to pull off lasting restructuring. But it is no longer beyond hope.

For the past decade the Liberals have won by flattering eastern voters with the pleasant delusion that Canada is a world leader, a rich nation, and the envy of the world.

In fact we are ridiculously over-taxed and over-governed. Since Chretien's victory in 1993 we have been surpassed economically by Iceland, Finland, Holland, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. In 1998, the average personal income in our richest province, Ontario, fell below that of America's poorest state, Mississippi.

Our health care system is slowly falling apart. Our young people are leaving. Our governing institutions have become dictatorial, wasteful, inept and corrupt. Our media and culture have grown morally disgusting. Our birth rate and family formation are in chronic deficit. We have an unsustainable pension plan. And we are rapidly losing our most basic freedoms to speak and live as we think right.

The simple cause of all this is that we have allowed government to get far too big, greedy and bossy.

In 1960, when we still had a big army and after the provinces had established their own public health care systems, government at all levels claimed only one third of our incomes. It now takes half. That's the problem.

Perhaps the worst federal frustration of the past half century has been that the Liberals and Conservatives were essentially the same. Despite their occasional tub-thumping rhetoric in the West, the Tories were just as bad as the Grits.

The Star is right. The new Conservative Party, having driven off the likes of Joe Clark and David Orchard, is now positioning itself to lead us in a new direction.

It is a Herculean political task, and will take a whole generation to accomplish. But the sooner we start, the better.

- 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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