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Will Harper (a) use his majority to govern as a Conservative or (b) seek to dominate the centre ground given the Liberals' collapse?

By Tim Montgomerie

On Tuesday I reported the result of Canada's general election; a majority Conservative government.

Pasted below are six of the best commentaries on the result:

The achievements of Harper's minority governments: "While his governance style has been quiet, Mr. Harper has established an impressive track record. He's cut Canada's value-added tax (the GST) as well as the corporate tax. He's deregulated the telecom industry. And despite strong pressure, he's only modestly given in to the temptation of stimulus spending. The result is that the Conservative Party has credibly promised to cut spending further and to balance the federal budget by 2014. Moreover, based on International Monetary Fund projections, in 2015 Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio will be less than 30%, largely unchanged from the start of the recession—and a third of the projected U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio in that year. Remarkably, Harper has accomplished these goals despite having to depend, at different points, on parliamentary votes from the Liberals (who publicly oppose tax relief), the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Bloc Quebecois (a separatist party led by a former Marxist). Now, after taming the deficit, he's promised a middle-class tax cut." (David Gratzer for WSJ)

But will Harper be different in majority? "Prime Minister Stephen Harper has argued – and rightly so – that he is the best of the party leaders to lead the country on a path out of the recession. The Conservatives have also pledged to the hold the line on regulations, pass tough-on-crime legislation and provide some small amount of tax relief for families. But what they propose besides that is largely disappointing: a pledge to increase health care transfers to the provinces by 6% annually, the complication of the tax code with things like credits for going to the gym, and the continued funding of the arts." (Tim Mak for FrumForum)

No says one freemarketeer: "Stephen Harper has not altered the Canadian political landscape with this election, and he won't now, even if he can. Instead of writing the script for a new conservative Canada, the Harper Tories reconstructed their political operation as the new Liberal Party of Canada. The Tories rode down the centre of Canadian politics, promising more of the same if elected -- the same health care, the same muddled corporate policies, the same ad hoc interventions in economic and social programs that played to a range of existing political camps. A few elements of Tory policy -- foreign affairs, corporate taxation, caution on climate change policy--suggest a Conservative willingness to buck Canadian tradition by sticking to programs that are under constant opposition attack. But that willingness was all too limited over the last four years, and nothing changed during the election." (Terence Corcoran for the National Post)

The rise and long decline of Canada's Liberals: "During the long ascendancy of the Liberal Party, the frozen Dominion came over all touchy-feely. It started pushing up its taxes and regulations to EU levels. The state that invented multi-culturalism in the 1970s took it to ridiculous lengths, appeasing anti-Western mullahs while persecuting Mark Steyn. In foreign policy, as in domestic, Canadians became English-speaking Scandinavians. Not any more. The past decade has heard the melancholy, long withdrawing roar of the Canadian Liberals. In 2000, they won 172 seats in the House of Commons; in 2004, 135; in 2006, 103; in 2008, 77; now they have been reduced to 33. Their leader, the former BBC presenter Michael Ignatieff, lost his own riding (as Canadian constituencies are known)." (Dan Hannan for The Telegraph).

And what about the new leading party of opposition, the NDP: "Like the Labour Party they are a product of trade unionism and left-wing intellectualism, although the party did not come into existence until the early 1960s when the Canadian Labour Congress and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation merged to create it. Ideologically they are a socialist party but also one which has tended to be environmentally friendly and socially liberal, something that marks them in stark contrast to Harper's climate change scepticism and Republican-style attitude to gun-control, migration and prison policy." (Benjamin Fox for the New Statesman)

A massive defeat for the separatists of Quebec: "Whatever their partisan preferences, Canadians should take heart from the Quebec results. The Bloc Québécois is effectively extinct, its leader defeated, its approach to federal politics rebuked. Three in four Quebeckers cast a vote for federalist parties. It may be a protest vote, a vote for the charisma and the nationalist-friendly promises of Jack Layton. But still, after years of Bloc obstructionism, Quebeckers are expressing a desire to participate in the affairs of their nation – of Canada." (Globe and Mail).


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