Most Americans haven't noticed. But there has been another election going on in North America the last few weeks, and yesterday Canada's Conservative Party government won it. Here's a summary from the liberal Toronto Star, and one from the conservative National Post.
Despite the ongoing economic crisis, which is usually the sort of event that damages incumbents, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper managed to win reelection and even increase his party's seats in parliament from 127 to 143. On the other hand, he still has only a minority government and must get support from other parties to pass legislation. The Conservatives also managed to prevail in large part because three left-wing parties split 51% of the vote amongst themselves, enabling the Conservatives to win many ridings (Canadian electoral districts) by plurality votes.
From an American point of view, the Conservative victory is probably good news because the Conservatives are more willing to support a close alliance with the US than the left-wing opposition parties, and in particular more willing to continue the combat role of Canadian troops in Afghanistan (Canada, along with Britain, is one of the few NATO allies whose troops in that country actually engage in active combat operations). Barack Obama, who wants to greatly increase troop levels in Afghanistan, may be secretly happy about Harper's victory for this reason. The Conservatives are also relatively more pro-market and pro-free trade than their opponents.
Canadian libertarians tell me that Harper and his Tories have serious flaws, and I don't doubt it. But the Conservatives north of the border sure look a lot better to me than either American party does right now. Their policies are probably more pro-market than those of Bush's "big government conservative" GOP. Harper's plan to address the current economic crisis (he promises to "cut taxes, fight inflation and balance [the] budget") seems to be less interventionist than the massive Paulson bailout. Even before the crisis, Harper's Canada may have surpassed the US in economic freedom, especially in the field of protecting property rights[though it's important to recognize that Harper and the Ottawa government are not solely responsible for this, since Canada, like the US, is a federal nation with a lot of policy diversity between regional governments].
In addition, the Canadian Conservatives don't have nearly as much of a social conservative/religious right streak as the Republicans do. And libertarians have to give at least a little love to a prime minister who took a lot of flak for cutting government subsidies to the arts - a goal the Republicans weren't able to achieve with their campaign against the NEA.
As a longtime supporter of North American Free Trade, I wonder if it's too late to trade the Bush-McCain GOP for Harper and the Canadian Tories? The latter surely have lots of shortcomings, including some that are probably more visible up close to Canadians than they are to me. Nonetheless, I suspect that in this case the grass really is greener on the other side of the border.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, I should mention that I wasn't counting the secessionist Parti Quebecois [correction: known as the "Bloc Quebecois" at the federal level] as one of the three "left-wing parties" that split the opposition vote; I know that it's primarily an ethno-nationalist party rather than one based on economic concerns. I was counting only the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens (who did indeed win 51% of the vote between them); these three do focus primarily on social and economic issues and might have been able to defeat the Conservatives had they united.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Why Don't Canadian Conservatives Support Quebec Secession?
- Canadian Conservatives Win North America's Other Election: