Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Sunday, June 13, 2004

What's a Tory anymore? 

The support given to Federal Liberal Anne McLennan by twelve Progressive Conservatives in Alberta is telling. See article in June 10th Globe & Mail for details. Also telling is the immediate reaction from a group of provincial Conservatives who sent an open letter to Premier Ralph Klein, calling on him to denounce those party members who are offering her support. "Not only is it against our Conservative principles, but it is quite likely this could also have dire consequences for our support in the upcoming provincial election," said the letter, signed by Ken Suitor from Athabasca and other Conservatives.

There is a very different philosophy between what could be called the Stephen Harper/Ralph Klein brand of conservative and that represented by the older Joe Clark/Peter Lougheed brand - the kind that would support Ms. McLennan. The new conservative offers a seductive message which runs something like this.

We believe in:
- privatization of public services such as healthcare, education, etc. and user fees to pay for them This allows us to have:
- less government involvement in the delivery of public services which enables us to deliver:
- lower taxes which lets you the people put more money in your own pockets which then provides you with:
- individual choice about how to spend your money.

This all sounds pretty positive and you can hear these themes repeated over and over. Who can question more money in your pocket or freedom of choice? As for privatization, both sides of the debate can point to reports from one think tank or another to prove their points so Martha and Henry tend to view the privatization debate as a wash.

Let's look for Canadian success stories of the new conservatism. The Klein government has being operating this way ever since the cuts to government spending ten years ago in 1994. They would point to a booming Alberta economy as proof of their approach. However, this is a bit like a lottery winner of $10 million dollars buying a new house and cars for all the kids and declaring that his financial astuteness was the reason for his success. The reality in Alberta is that about a third of all government expenses are funded by lottery winnings, also known as oil and gas royalties. The oil is there by good luck, not good planning. Running a province gets a whole lot easier when you can just buy your way out of problems. Remember the electricity rebate cheques?

Mike Harris tried the same approach in Ontario where there wasn't any resource lottery winnings to clean up the messes caused by less government. Remember Walkerton? Mike Harris and his conservative party is gone. Clearly not a success.

Now Stephen Harper is asking us to follow the same approach nationally. Like Klein, his platform calls for a middle class tax cut. Also like Klein's tax cut, the largest beneficiaries of the tax cuts are those in our society with the highest incomes, not the middle class. Billboards proclaiming "We promise huge tax cuts for our well-to-do supporters" however is not good politics. Best to bill it as a middle class tax cut.

The problem is, unlike Alberta, the Federal Government doesn't have resource lottery money to draw on. The cost will be borne by the taxpayer one way or another, showing up eventually as some combination of new user fees and reduced services. The tax cuts will remain in place because raising taxes is political suicide for any party. (Witness the flack the Liberals in Ontario are taking trying to clean up after Mike Harris).
This will result in an ever-increasing burden for most Canadians.

The old Alberta Tories didn't cut taxes. And the reason many of them don't support Stephen Harper now is because they know he can't afford a tax cut.

Long time loyal conservative supporters, and in Alberta that's the majority of us, need to understand the fundamental differences between the conservatives of yesterday and those wearing the conservative brand today. They are not at all the same thing.

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