Read the Globe's endorsements from federal elections past
- 1926: No endorsement
- 1930: Liberal Party
- 1935: Liberal Party
- 1940: No endorsement
- 1945: Conservative Party
- 1949: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1953: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1957: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1958: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1962: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1963: Liberal Party
- 1965: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1968: Liberal Party
- 1972: Liberal Party
- 1974: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1979: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1980: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1984: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1988: Progressive Conservative Party
- 1993: Liberal Party (Minority Government)
- 1997: Progressive Conservative Party
- 2000: Liberal Party
- 2004: Liberal Party
- 2006: Conservative Party
- 2008: Conservative Party
- 2011: Conservative Party
1926: No endorsement
The Need of the Morrow (Globe Editorial from September 13, 1926)
The political campaign draws to a close. Tomorrow, for the second time in less than twelve months, the people of Canada are called to register their verdict at the polls.
On the first day of September last year, before the dissolution of the Fourteenth Parliament and the opening of the electoral campaign which terminated in the balloting of Oct. 29, The Globe stated its position in these words:
“The Globe is an exponent of Liberal principles. It is not and has not been since Confederation the organ of a party. It owes no allegiance to party which can be permitted to stand in the way of its duty to its readers and to the country. For us, as for the founder of The Globe, country is above party.
“It has been suggested that, because of failure to see eye to eye with the members of the present Dominion Government on such matters as the promotion of immigration, Senate reform, the prevention of whiskey smuggling, the adoption of laws to lessen the opportunities for gambling, a deepening of the St. Lawrence waterways, and the providing of opportunity for the development on a large scale along the upper St. Lawrence of electric energy, The Globe will remain neutral in the coming election. Some of those who make the suggestion are themselves notorious pussyfooters. The Globe has not yet learned the art of “however,” “notwithstanding” and “nevertheless.” It proposes in the coming election to advocate the principles of political Liberalism as it has advocated them for the past eighty years. That assuredly does not mean subservient support of a policy of political drifting which involves the evasion of issues that should be faced courageously. It will be better for Liberalism to go out of power fighting for its principles than to surrender the direction of public affairs in Canada to a Senatorial oligarchy representative of nothing but the prejudices of superannuated politicians and the predatory instincts of high finance.”
In the present campaign, as in that of last October, The Globe has endeavored in discussion of parties and policies to carry out this declared and traditional policy. It has advocated Liberal principles whole-heartedly and has aimed always to place country before party, maintaining its right -- a right it conceives to be its duty -- to take issue with any political organization on decisions of conduct which it deems to be detrimental to the public interest.
The task which confronts a newspaper that seeks to be a spokesman for the people, not a mouthpiece for a party -- that strives to serve rather than aims to please -- cannot always be a pleasant or an easy one. The Globe finds itself today, as it found itself a year ago, unable to commend on many counts the position of either of the two parties. It is faced with evidence that both of them secretly have been accepting campaign contributions from the distillers, whose best customers, according to the revelations at the Customs investigation, would seem to be Canada’s worst outlaws. In response to repeated public demands for the disclosure of why, how and for what, these contributions were given and taken, the Leaders maintain silence. There is but one reasonable conclusion: that the distillers purchased from both parties that favorable consideration which has led to the shameful results now so well known. And, in the light of this partial drawing aside of the curtain on secret dealings, is the public not justified in fearing that there are other interests, perhaps even more powerful than the distillers, to whom the parties are bound in purchased allegiance?
How can it be expected that The Globe will condone such conduct -- that this newspaper will beat the party tom-tom and join the party war-dance under such conditions? Like the captured Israelites of old, weeping by the rivers of Babylon, many citizens, like ourselves, must be experiencing the Psalmist’s satire: “We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
And, apart from the degrading “tied” position of the parties, The Globe is unable, on the issues and the records, to endorse the attitude of either. It heartily commends the Robb Budget -- a progressive piece of sound legislation, designed to give the people themselves a full share of the benefit from improved conditions and renewed prosperity -- but it is altogether unable to excuse or condone the scandalous Customs improprieties, for which the King Government must accept a large share of responsibility, and is, on this issue, the Government immediately on trial. Once again the barnacles have fastened themselves upon a Liberal ship of State, and once again they must be removed -- scraped off “with an iron hand.”
With equal force and candor The Globe feels called to condemn the Meighen dishonesty in the exploitation of different policies in different portions of the country, particularly his dual and diametrically opposed pronouncements as to his course and the course of his party in event of the Motherland being menaced again by the spectre of war. Mr. Meighen’s declaration in favor of the tragic and unpatriotic absurdity of a wartime general election was made, beyond question, in a disgraceful and humiliating attempt to influence French-Canadian fellow-citizens in the sister Province of Quebec. A few days ago he was zealously promulgating this “policy” in Quebec, but on his arrival in Ontario he told a Toronto audience that now was not the time to discuss it. Such unprincipled conduct is something that cannot be tolerated in national leadership.
The Globe believes that both parties have failed in their public stewardship. The Fifteenth Parliament of Canada -- the Parliament recently dissolved -- was one dominated from its inauguration to its dissolution by the long, selfish, wearisome struggle to “get in” and “keep in.” Office was the goal, and party advantage the rule of combat. Politicians played with principles and policies for the sake of portfolios and power.
Tomorrow’s election must not end the quest for betterment in political life. Mass meetings, in which leaders in all phases of the life in all parts of the country participate, would do much arouse sentiment and bring a stimulating influence to bear on the new Government. It would soon realize that the people were in earnest and the “time for a change” in administrative methods and conduct had come.
Tomorrow will tell whether this country is to have Liberal or Conservative government, or whether, as year ago, it is confronted with a stalemate. But, whatever result the polls may render, the people of Canada can still look forward to better things if they awake to their responsibilities and fight for the purification and strengthening of the political life of their country. Where there is a will the way surely opens. The people can govern if they will -- and with them rests the justification of democracy.
William Lyon Mackenzie KingJohn Boyd
1930: Liberal Party
The Only Thing That Counts (Globe Editorial from July 26, 1930)
In all probability the majority of electors have made up their minds by this time how they will cast their ballots on Monday, but it is worth while to take a last-minute view of the issue.
The Globe has endeavored to direct attention consistently and steadily to the significance of the question to be decided, and to urge that it be considered apart from political affiliations. It has done so in the sincere conviction that the future prosperity of this country depends upon a correct verdict at the polls. It believes that if Canada rejects this opportunity to enter into broader marketing relations with other Empire countries, her industries, both manufacturing and agricultural, will suffer seriously and her people will undergo a long period of grave unemployment.
The reasons for this belief have been given in a series of front-page articles and through editorials on this page. No argument has been advanced anywhere to show that these reasons were not based on the facts. Many attempts have been made to draw red herrings across the trail, to divert attention away from the crux of the situation by bringing up minor points, but the soundness of The Globe’s arguments has not been challenged.
The facts, viewed without prejudice, are too clear to admit of contradiction. Canadian products to the value of scores of millions of dollars have again been shut out of the United States market by the recently enacted tariff legislation. European countries have raised their tariffs against us also. There remain only the countries of the British Empire to which we can turn for a friendly reception for our surplus commodities, upon the sale of which the entire commercial life-blood of the nation depends.
We may have been slow in failing to realize earlier the great importance of the Empire markets, but in the past nine years other markets have helped to keep our industries active and our people prosperous. There was not the urge for a change which has forced itself upon us in recent months. We know now that markets must be found to displace those lost. And we find awaiting the greatest collection of purchasing countries the world has ever seen: the British Empire with a population of 450,000,000 occupying one-quarter of the world’s surface, importing annually products to the value of $11,000,000,000.
That is, we find these countries awaiting if we approach them in the right spirit, willing to trade with them on fair terms, to buy from them what we must import and what they can supply.
We find them waiting also as sister Dominions experiencing with us the same difficulties with foreign nations, anxious to divert their trade to friendly channels.
This is the opportunity made possible by the invitation and the offer of the Dunning Budget, which was framed in anticipation of just such a situation as we are now facing. It was not guesswork, but was devised after long scientific study. It carries the Empire-trading spirit; it has been caught up with enthusiasm in other Empire countries. New Zealand has copied it. Upon its foundation will be created a new trading alignment when the Imperial Economic Conference is held a few weeks hence, if the Canadian people give it their endorsement.
If for any reason the voters should cast this Budget and all that it means overboard, Canada will have nowhere to turn for markets and the whole Empire trade crusade will receive a decided setback. It is not comfortable to contemplate the consequences.
The issue of the election, then, is whether Canada is to go forward with the rest of the Empire or halt for an interminable period the progress which has been hers in recent years.
There is nothing else that counts in the voting. If the Dunning Budget is overthrown the Canadian people may as well resign themselves to a long stretch of difficult times. If they endorse it by voting for those candidates supporting the King Government they will have every reason to look forward with confidence to more business, more employment and more prosperity, growing steadily with an increasing share of the vast Empire commerce.
Canada is “at the meeting of the ways.”
This utterance of Premier King promises to become historic, because of the momentous issue involved in the election to be decided on Monday.
This issue is clear-cut. It is not so much whether Liberals or Conservatives will win, but whether the policies of their respective Leaders will triumph. However, the only way the voters can express themselves on policy is by marking their ballots for the candidates enrolled in support of the Leaders. If they want what Mr. Bennett stands for, they will vote Conservative; if they want what Mr. King stands for, they will vote Liberal.
The all-important matter, therefore, is the policy. Mr. King stands squarely on the Empire Trade Budget which his Government adopted, and which is now in operation. It speaks for itself, but the summing-up of Mr. Dunning in his Budget address may be repeated: “These tariff favors to those who favor our products are not the result of any bargain with any other country, but of an attitude in international relations which we believe to be mutually beneficial, and are an expression of the spirit in which Canada will approach the Imperial Conference in a few months’ time. In other words, we do not intend to meet the other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations in a spirit of petty bargaining, but rather in the broad spirit of willingness to become, in ever-increasing measure, good customers of those who treat us in like manner.”
Mr. Bennett has made it clear that he is opposed to all this; to the Budget and the spirit in which it was framed. He wants to bargain; he proclaims “Canada First” as a copy of “America First,” talks about “blasting” his way into other markets. And his campaign utterance most likely to go down in history as expressing his thought and his purpose is: “A dollar spent in the West Indies is as much lost to Canada as if it were spent in the United States.” He makes no distinction between British and foreign countries.
Liberals are sneered at by their opponents for waving the flag. If holding the Union Jack aloft is a crime, then the Liberal leaders will have to plead guilty; and the people of Canada, if they are true to history, will applaud them for doing so.
And it is in this respect a grave difference is marked between the Leaders of the two parties. Waving the flag is not the prerogative of any party or set, and he would be false to the record of events who would say that the Conservatives of Canada were less loyal than any others.
The trouble is that the Conservatives of today are unfortunate in their leaders. Mr. Bennett’s leadership in this campaign is distinctly anti-British, for there can be no halfway stand. His right-hand men in Quebec are Mr. C.H. Cahan, K.C., and Mr. Arthur Sauve, former Provincial Conservative Leader. The latter’s position was made clear in a recent speech, quoted by the Canadian Press as follows:
Mr. Sauve stated that during the Great War the King had invited groups of journalists to be his guests in England, and to visit the seat of war. “ It would have been perhaps the finest trip of my life,” Mr. Sauve said. “I was one of the invited guests. So was Hon. Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State in the Mackenzie King Cabinet). But the man who refused the invitation and preferred to stay at home and look after the interests of the young men of his division was not Mr. Rinfret. It was Arthur Sauve. And after that they would suggest that because you elect me to represent you at Ottawa you would expose yourselves and your young men to be involved in war somewhere. Never!”
It was shortly before the war that Mr. Cahan proclaimed publicly to what extent his affiliations were not directed toward the British Empire, and it is not known that he has expressed contrition for what he then said. In the Halifax Herald (Conservative) of Feb. 7, 1912, was published a despatch from Montreal quoting Mr. Cahan as follows, when speaking before the Montreal Club:
"The independence of Canada will come like that of the United States, and when that time comes I would rather stand alone and see my children go down to their death in battle before my eyes to attain the independence of Canada than to be subordinated when we are strong enough to stand alone.
We have no responsible government in Canada at the present time. As we have not the power to change an act made by the Empire under the British North America Act, we are in the same state that the United States was before the Declaration of Independence, and Canada has been and is being controlled by the Old Country for the Old Country alone. We stand for taxation which caused friction in the United States many years ago, and resulted in the Declaration of Independence. We have no Rights, as Canadian citizens, outside of Canada or beyond the three-mile limit on the ocean.
We, as Canadians, cannot live forever in this way. The people are daily becoming alive to the fact that there must be a change."
And in Ontario Mr. Bennett has as his lieutenant Mr. G. Howard Ferguson, who proclaims Canada’s Empire Trade Budget as “sheer humbug.”
It is little wonder that Mr. Bennett is not being supported in his campaign by numbers of the old Conservative stalwarts, such as Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, Sir Thomas White and Sir George Foster.
Sir Robert Borden has come to the rescue of Mr. Bennett in a last-minute statement, but along with his tariff pronouncement on this occasion should be read the statement he made in London in July, 1918, containing the following: “The people of Canada would not desire the people of the United Kingdom to shape or modify their fiscal policy for the sole purpose of giving a preference to the products of Canada, especially if such change should involve any supposed injustice, or should be regarded as unfair or oppressive by a considerable portion of the people of the United Kingdom.”
This utterance by Sir Robert has gone on record as authoritative, and cannot be easily dislodged. Mr. Edward Porritt, in his book on “The Fiscal and Diplomatic Freedom of the British Overseas Dominions,” published by the Oxford University Press, uses it, and upon it bases the deduction that “the Conservatives abandoned their former contention that there should be no preference in Dominion tariffs for imports from the United Kingdom, unless there were tariffs in the United Kingdom in which there were preferences for imports from Canada.” However that may be, Sir Robert has not added to his distinction by endorsing the present company of leaders in their Empire position.
Nor can any Conservative who believes Sir John A. Macdonald was sincere in his expressions of devotion to the Mother Country support Mr. Bennett. No one can imagine the present Conservative Leader, with his “Canada First” doctrine, rising to repeat the words of that great Leader when he said: “If England does not call upon us to make a financial sacrifice, it is for the good of the Empire that we, England’s first colony, should sacrifice something.”
Canada is not now asked to sacrifice anything. She has adopted a great Empire trading policy which will help her commerce, will help the Empire, and promote that Empire solidarity which every loyal Britisher wants. As the London Daily Express said: “The Dunning Budget constitutes the greatest advance in Imperial relations we have seen since the war.”
Mr. Bennett and his colleague-leaders have departed from the traditions of their party. If they had not, they would not be making a party issue of the Empire Trade Budget.
The irresistible and regrettable fact is that Mr. Bennett’s policy leads away from Empire. It is not a policy loyal Canadians can endorse. The Dunning Budget, on the other hand, is a direct move toward closer Empire relations – in the words of the London Observer, “one of those rare strokes of genius which illustrates the realities of Empire.”
It is for Canadian voters to choose.
William Lyon Mackenzie King, portrait. c. 1930
1935: Liberal Party
Two Questions for Today (Globe Editorial from October 14, 1935)
There are two main questions the voter who goes to the polls today should ask himself. Both are of the highest importance, and when he marks his ballot the voter will have in his hand the only way by which the questions can be answered.
It is difficult to decide which should come first, but the voter will be well advised to begin with this: Does the country want a railway amalgamation? Does it want a “national” government composed of members of different political allegiance, who, their parties being freed of responsibility, will tackle with zest the job of amalgamation?
The voter who is opposed to this national government and its associated railway amalgamation scheme will have no hesitation in marking his ballot for the Liberal candidate. Mr. King has been positive and vigorous in announcing his party as definitely opposed to any such trafficking with the people’s transportation system. On the other hand Premier Bennett sidesteps the issue by declaring for the investigation of the railway situation by a “brain trust,” and follows this by a hint -- vague but well understood -- that he will call upon members of Parliament to unite in a common cause. And this common cause also is well understood. So it is King and no chance of national government and amalgamation, or Bennett and every chance of both.
The voters who goes to the polls today has been studying the existing situation and analyzing its causes. Five years of Conservative administration have found him just where he was that long ago; perhaps worse off. And he will ask himself if he wants another five years of it. Hardly. He knows that a drastic change in the conduct of public affairs is a first need. He knows also that, to effect this change, there must be a strong Government at Ottawa. He sees in the field an almost bewildering multiplicity of parties, with the certainty that there will be in the next Parliament many groups jockeying for political advantage -- “influence,” Mr. Woodsworth, C.C.F. Leader, calls it. And it is “plain as the nose on his face” that a Government depending for support on any or all of these groups cannot steer an independent course in Parliament.
There is widespread admission that the Liberal Party is assured of the largest group after today’s voting. That opinion may be heard wherever citizens discuss the election. Therefore, common sense will tell the voter to make sure that this largest group will be large enough -- sufficiently independent of all other groups -- to go ahead, along well-defined policies, with the business of the country.
The voter who has turned these questions over in his mind will have no hesitation today in marking his ballot for a Liberal candidate.
1940: No endorsement
A Wartime House of Commons (Globe Editorial from March 23, 1940)
The easiest course for a newspaper in an election campaign is to throw in its lot with one party and root for it with might and main. It is an old custom, dating from the days of bitter political partnership which in later years has become more honored in the breach than in the performance. Although the politics demarcating party lines have become less distinct, there still are times, undoubtedly, when a public journal cannot honestly do otherwise than beat the drum for one side, when there has been grave dereliction of duty or superior public service, or some other outstanding qualification draws a sharp distinction.
In this campaign The Globe and Mail has tried to avoid partisanship, not because it feared to offend one side or the other, but for reasons which ought to be clear from its general policy in dealing with public affairs.
It is an independent newspaper which declines to believe that one party is all good and the other all bad. Before an election was in sight it urged the people to take a keener interest in their own public business, to influence the selection of candidates instead of letting a small group of party ward heelers make a choice for them, and to seek the best men available for office.
Since war was declared it has appealed to public men to eliminate politics and work together for the success of the only cause that counts now, the saving of this country and all civilization from the terrible fate decreed by the Huns. It has asked the people to do the same thing.
It took the position that the war effort should not be embittered by an election campaign, for it is constitutionally possible to get along without elections during such a crisis, and there is no public opposition to the prosecution of the war undertaken. Parliament, which declared war without appealing for a popular mandate, had ample authority to arrange to carry the war on.
To ensure abolition of political strife as far as possible while the war lasted and co-ordination of effort to promote the only important issue, this paper begged that a Union and National Government be formed. Such a step, naturally, should be taken by the Government in office, by inviting the other parties to co-operate with it. Mr. King did not agree. Evidently he felt that his Government and party had all the wisdom, vigor, power and enterprise needed, and precipitated an election on party lines.
It was his privilege to recommend dissolution to the Governor-General. We have criticized him severely for scuttling Parliament after summoning it to sit just long enough to be told to go home again, and denying the public the information to which it was entitled, and which could have been obtained in a session of reasonable duration.
Failure to hold a session deprived the people of enlightenment which would have helped guide them when marking their ballots. Neither this paper nor any one else, except the Ministers themselves, knows what was withheld from public knowledge, whether it would be favorable or unfavorable to the Government at election time. While the public is likely to conclude that the circumstances were suspicious, we have not joined in wholesale condemnation of the Government’s record. We have given the Government, and especially the Ministers most closely associated with the war effort, credit for doing good work under difficult conditions, although admittedly there have been mistakes and failures.
The election campaign closes today. It still would be the easiest thing in the world to say the King Government should be supported because it is in office and is known, or it should be defeated because of the charges made by the Opposition speakers. But it would not be consistent with the conviction that this is no time for party government, that partisanship must be eliminated while the war lasts and that it is the duty of the electors to send the best men possible to the House of Commons for no other purpose than to see that we do our part fully in winning the war.
If the war becomes as terrifying and as prolonged as it promises to be, we see nothing ahead but a coalition Government, notwithstanding the immediate prospect of a party Government. Therefore, the most important duty of the voters is to fill the seats of House of Commons with able members conscious of their responsibilities, so when critical times come a sufficient number of them will be courageous enough to get up in the House and demand the co-ordination of strength behind the war effort and the elimination of party strife. All the good men in Parliament are not around the council table, but too many of the rank and file are merely rubber stamps who might as well be at home. For this reason we urge the voters to select candidates for individual merit, for knowledge of war problems, patriotism and determination to keep Canada’s name unsullied, showing at the same time that when a war is on they are not concerned about parties.
Hon. John Bracken, c. 1943
1945: Conservative Party
Today's Vote Decides Canada's Future (Globe Editorial from June 11, 1945)
Today’s election will determine the whole future course of Canada -- not merely the Ministry at Ottawa for the next five years.
On the result hangs the issue of unity or disunity and all this means in sober reality, affecting the national life and the Dominion’s status among nations.
You as a voter must think about this above all things as you seek your duty this morning. Whether a Liberal, a Progressive Conservative or an adherent of some minor group, you are a citizen of a country which has been deliberately divided by Prime Minister King for political exploitation. You have seen the effect in domestic conflicts, in the betrayal of eight Provinces on the manpower question to retain the support of the Quebec bloc and the dishonorable name given the country abroad on this question. It is emphasized by Mr. King’s recruiting policy for the Pacific war. His program for the future underlines his determination to divide.
The Progressive Conservative Party alone, under Mr. Bracken, insists upon a policy of equality which will ensure unity.
To give Mr. King another five years in office would be to give his party another term to continue the breach. It is hard to say how far-reaching would be the outcome in national stability, but the prospect is alarming.
Is it worthwhile taking the chance just to gratify Mr. King’s personal ambition to end his public career at a peace conference? Or is it more important to make certain that Canada will have a peaceful, united future?
The vote today will decide. It is thus urgent that every citizen go to the poll, rain or shine, and determine the future course of the nation with wisdom. If this opportunity is neglected there never may be another.
The Hon. George Alexander Drew, c. 1948.
1949: Progressive Conservative Party
The Voters' Chance (Globe Editorial from June 25, 1949)
The Canadian people have their chance on Monday to put a new Government in charge of their national affairs. They have compelling reasons for doing so. Here are some of them.
The present Government has been in power continuously since 1921, except for one five-year period in the 1930’s. Even if its members were paragons of wisdom and virtue, it would be time for a change, because one-party rule is the very definition of dictatorship. But the Ministers now in office are anything but paragons, as can be seen by the record of their dealings:
They resent and resist Parliamentary scrutiny of their accounts, their laws and their policies. In April of this year the Opposition, with Mr. Drew as spokesman, asked that the Public Accounts Committee be assigned to inquire into the deals by which war plants and equipment, particularly Canadair, were sold to private interests. The committee was not even allowed to meet. The Government’s response to Mr. Drew’s demand was to dissolve the Commons, months earlier than necessary, so that an investigation was made impossible.
This disdain for Parliament is now a fixed habit. Evasions, lies or stony silence have met all demands for information about defense policy. A majority of the laws affecting trade and industry now in force in Canada are Government orders, never checked. The last Parliament was a mere cipher, as it was bound to become under a group of men who see themselves as permanent fixtures.
They have over-taxed the Canadian people by $1,600,000,000 since 1946. Reduced to manageable size, that means $400 for every Canadian family. Income tax has been belatedly reduced this year and the people are invited to applaud the Government for giving them some of their own money back. But it is the hidden taxes that really keep the citizen poor. Of 35 cents paid for a pack of cigarets, 25½ cents is taxation. A man who buys a pack a day pays $92.16 a year to the Ottawa Treasury -- on that one minor item alone.
With Their Money
“Easy come, easy go” applies to public revenues as forcibly as to private incomes. How long is it since any one heard a spokesman of the Government advocating “economy” or even mentioning the word? “What’s a million?” asked Mr. Howe on one occasion. He and his colleagues have treated the taxpayers’ millions as if they grew on trees. A flagrant example was the sale of Canadair, which cost the public $22 million, for $4 million by a secret deal in which no competitive bids were asked for. Parliament was never given, and the docile Liberal majority never demanded, an opportunity to check the gigantic expenditures pushed through in the closing days of every session.
With the Provinces
This Government has got Dominion-Provincial relations into such a tangle of ill feeling and cantankerous debate as has not been seen since Confederation. In our Federal system the central and local Governments have distinct duties for which they need tax revenues. There are other fields of action, such as housing, social insurance and the building of a trans-Canada highway, where they must co-operate to get the best results. What is the actual situation today?
The Federal Government has for three years refused to call a Dominion-Provincial Conference to discuss taxation and teamwork. In 1946 it imposed “take-it-or-leave-it,” a so-called “tax agreement” wholly unsatisfactory to four Provinces with 70 per cent of the country’s population. The tax issue is thus up in the air. As for co-operation, in housing and the other policy spheres mentioned, it has come to a dead stop, as thousands of houseless people know. No Government has ever shown such a calamitous failure of leadership as this complacent regime.
With Export Trade
Export trade is Canada’s mainstay. By juggling figures, by using dollar values which take no account of the price rise and by plain prevarication, Ministers have soothed the public with statements that all is well with ours overseas business. Every exporter knows differently. Every farmer knows that his market in Britain is vanishing. Nobody denies that some of the obstacles to world commerce are outside Canada’s control. But this Government has made matters worse by its pig-headed policy of artificial parity for the dollar.
The catalogue of its failures is too long for this page -- but here is just one more. The population of the Prairie Provinces has grown less than 5 per cent in twenty years. No one in his right mind thinks that is a suitable rate of progress for that great community. But has this Government done anything to irrigate the dry lands of the West, to introduce industries there, to fill the empty spaces with immigration? Obviously not. Handouts to hard-luck farmers are the only Western policy this brilliant regime has been able to devise.
If the voters want to change all this, they have their opportunity on Monday. But they can only have a new Government by voting Progressive Conservative. Supporting the CCF, which is not in the running, can only produce a minority Liberal Government taking orders from the Socialists.
George Drew, c. 1960.Chris Lund
1953: Progressive Conservative Party
Canada's Opportunity (Globe Editorial from August 10, 1953)
There have been livelier election campaigns in Canada’s history than the one which culminates today at the ballot box. But there have been few which drew such a sharp distinction between two contestants. After two months of campaigning, it is clear that the Progressive Conservatives take a constructive attitude toward Canada’s problems and possibilities; the Liberals, a negative one. The former have much to offer the electorate; the latter, nothing at all.
Mr. George Drew and his colleagues went into the campaign with the conviction -- which they retained throughout -- that it was desirable, possible and necessary to make a number of important changes at Ottawa; in particular, to reduce the burden of taxes and restore the supremacy of Parliament. To these and other pledges, the Liberals found no answer save the timid, evasive one of “It can’t be done” -- an attitude sufficient in itself to warrant their removal from office. No free nation, at this moment in history, can afford weakness and irresolution at the top.
To this purely negative attitude, the Liberals added a smug self-righteousness which many Canadians found nauseating. They tried to tell the nation that they, and they alone, were competent to administer its affairs. They were irreplaceable, indispensable, a conglomeration of geniuses such as this world had never before seen. If, they argued, the people of Canada were so foolish and ungrateful as to defeat them, a major depression and a global war were the very least that could be expected.
Such is the vanity of a Government which has been in power for eighteen years, and during that time has had the spending of some $46 billion -- more than $3,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada. Many people will vote against it simply because of that vanity; they have a healthy distrust of men and Governments that consider themselves indispensable. Others will vote against it because of its negativism. It is not necessary to be an ardent Progressive Conservative to recognize that this richly endowed country cannot drift as it has been drifting; it urgently needs a policy of constructive development such as that put forward by Mr. Drew.
Many Liberals will vote against the Government. Nobody who understands, and approves, the basic principles of Liberalism can support a regime which has trampled on every one of those principles with hobnailed boots. What has been done in this country -- to Parliament, no less than to the people -- by a so-called Liberal government over the last eighteen years would make Mill and Gladstone turn in their graves. No regime in this nation’s history has done so much to destroy liberty in all its forms.
It is this factor, more than any other, which should guide Canadians when they go to the polls today. They can vote the Government out because of its weakness and weariness, because of its extravagance and inefficiency, because of its failure to promote our development at home and our trade abroad. All are good reasons. But the best reason has to do with freedom, and the Parliament whose great function is to protect freedom. Parliament must be given back its power and prestige, so that it can perform that function. History will show this to have been the most important of Mr. Drew’s pledges.
It is not by design, will or wish that this newspaper opposes the Liberals in today’s election. We opposed them four years ago for the same reasons that we oppose them now. During that time, they have done nothing to correct the things for which we criticized them in 1949; on the contrary, they have gone further along the road -- further from democracy, further from liberty, further from their own historic principles.
There is a strong, workable alternative to the St. Laurent Government. By placing the Progressive Conservatives in office, the nation can give itself a much-needed change. That party has enough candidates in number, and more than enough in ability, to give Canada a new Government and a far better one. Canadians will serve themselves well by instructing it to do so.
Progressive Conservative leader John Diefenbaker, c. 1957
1957: Progressive Conservative Party
Today's Big Opportunity (Globe Editorial from June 10, 1957)
Nine million Canadians are qualified to vote in today’s general election. It is too much to hope that every one of them will cast his or her ballot. But we trust that the vote will be -- as it ought to be -- a heavy one.
For this is an election at which the people of Canada can make a decisive change for the better. They can improve their nation, they can improve their own status in it, by getting out and electing a Conservative Government headed by Mr. John Diefenbaker.
Those who do not cast their ballot are in effect voting Liberal. Those who cast their ballot for Social Credit or the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation are also in effect voting Liberal. All such people are, quite literally, asking for trouble.
They are asking for new and higher Provincial taxes, for heavier Provincial indebtedness at crushing interest rates -- because the Liberals do not allow, will never allow, the Provinces their rightful share of the Canadian tax dollar. They are asking for new and higher municipal taxes, for heavier municipal indebtedness at the same crushing interest rates -- because Provincial Governments deliberately kept poor by Ottawa can give only limited aid to the municipalities.
They are asking for other, and worse, trouble. Those who fail to use their vote today, or throw it away on one of the splinter parties, are not only in effect voting for the Liberals; they are voting against Parliament, which the Liberals openly dislike and despise, and which they have brought to the edge of ruination. The non-voters and splinter-voters are thus voting against their own rights and liberties, of which Parliament is the custodian.
Mr. Diefenbaker has conducted a most courageous and convincing campaign. He has persuaded countless thousands of Canadians that with him as their leader they can enjoy greater freedom, greater progress, and greater security in both. Available to him are men and women who can make up a strong Cabinet, representing all Canada, and all that is best in Canada.
Whether he will be given the power to do so is not for this newspaper, or any other, to predict. We say just this -- that if the Canadian people really value their ancient liberties, if the Canadian people really value their future prosperity, and if that valuation guides them in their actions today, the result can only be an overwhelming victory for the Conservatives.
John Diefenbaker, c. 1958
1958: Progressive Conservative Party
Only one issue (Globe Editorial from March 25, 1958)
A long election campaign has produced all kinds of talk on all sorts of issues. But in fact there is only one issue to be decided next Monday, and that is whether the Canadian people will give the Conservative Government the decisive mandate it asks.
The basis on which the Government seeks such a mandate is very clear. Part of it was established during the Conservatives’ short term in office under the adverse condition of forming a minority in the House of Commons. The rest of it has been established in Prime Minister Diefenbaker’s keynote speeches -- speeches in which he outlined a challenging program of national development from the Atlantic to the Pacific and, particularly, from the United States border to the increasingly important treasures and opportunities of the Far North.
It is this great concept expansion that the voters are to pass judgment upon next Monday. We do not see how any Canadian with blood in his veins can turn it down. We do not see how any voter can question Mr. Diefenbaker’s sincerity and reliability when he pledges himself to launch, here in Canada, a development program which will excite the attention of the world.
The short session which ended in dissolution had one certain effect. It conclusively disposed of the myth, circulated before last summer’s election, that the Conservatives lacked the array of talent necessary to form a strong Government. They did form a strong Government -- lacking only to the extent that it lacked a majority in the House -- despite the fact that not one of its members had served in a Federal Cabinet (and only one in a Provincial Cabinet) before.
The voters of Canada know this. In that knowledge, and to give an already strong Government the additional strength it needs to fulfill its development program, most of them are, we believe, going to mark their ballots Conservative. But the word is now getting about that some voters, while approving the past accomplishments and future plans of the Conservative Government, intend to cast their ballots against it so that it will not have the top-heavy majority which characterized the Liberal Government in its declining years.
Nonsense! Individual voters themselves are not in a position to correct such an imbalance. But they are in a position, by opposing a Government which in fact they favour, to cause another stalemate like that of June 10. That would be a great misfortune, indeed a disaster, for Canada, which must have firm, consistent leadership to fulfill the destiny clearly marked out for it.
Only by returning the Conservative Party with a clear majority can the Canadian people assure themselves of such leadership, and of the nation-wide development they all want. Here is Canada’s opportunity to vote for something positive and dynamic, something bigger and bolder than individual security -- yet something which will make every individual more secure.
For the real basis of individual security, social security, whatever one wishes to call it, is a nation’s wealth. The Conservative Party aims, through expansion, to increase and diversify Canada’s wealth so that we can at least count on keeping such security as we have carved out for ourselves; and be able to count on the prospects of further improving it. To vote for the Conservative Government is thus to vote, at one time, both for a secure future and for an adventurous one, both for enjoyed stability and enjoyable progress; to vote, in short, for the things most Canadians want most.
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, foreground, 1962Harry McLorinan
1962: Progressive Conservative Party
Day of decision (Globe Editorial from June 18, 1962)
Today the Canadian people go to the polls to elect a Government to pilot them through the most critical days that have faced Canada since the Second World War. The postwar boom days have departed; the Canadian economy is no longer surging ahead on the strength of a world demand for our goods. We must make our way in international markets that become increasingly competitive.
None of the four political parties has come through this election campaign without blemish, without error. But, as we made our choice to support the Conservative Party, the country’s decision should not be based on party manifestoes or on platform oratory. It should be based on the performance of the last four years.
It is all very well to pretend that third and fourth parties are needed to needle the senior parties into action. But what the voters are really doing when they contemplate voting for a third or fourth party that they know has no hope of forming a Government is evading responsibility for deciding between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
There is no evidence that we need a Socialist Government to take care of this country or to provide what has come to be called social justice. Social justice is not the sole prerogative of the New Democratic Party; it is a first consideration with all parties. The policies of the Social Credit Party are still an enigma, and, in any event, the party lacks the experience to provide efficient administration.
The issue is between the two major parties; and in view of the problems that face the country, we do not think the voters should risk a stalemate or a minority Government. Whatever party forms the Government will have to act, in many respects, in drastic fashion. It must have the strength for such action.
With this in mind, we restate our choice of the Conservative Party to form the next Government. We are the first to admit that the Conservative Administration has made mistakes; we were frequently the first to point to those mistakes. Nevertheless they were, in the main, mistakes of doing, and frequently of doing more than the country could afford at the time. It is a matter of record that the Conservative Government was more faithful in fulfilling its promises to the electorate than any Government since the turn of the century. It was so eager to fulfill its promises, in fact, that it sometimes moved more rapidly than the Canadian economy justified. The Conservatives, however, have not fought this election campaign on the basis of wild and irresponsible promises to the electorate. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker has told the electorate frankly that the Canadian people will have to work harder and more productively if they want more welfare services.
This is a basic fact of Canada’s economic life which the Liberals have not yet recognized. Throughout the campaign they have kept promising, in a fabulous and almost ridiculous manner, to provide dozens of new and expanded services which the country does not have the means to provide. They have tried to put on the cloak of Mr. T.C. Douglas of the New Democratic Party while pretending, at the same time, not to share Mr. Douglas’ views.
This newspaper believes that, regardless of anything promised in the campaign, the simple fact remains that the major issues are these:
Tax inducements and fiscal inducements to get business rolling again.
A properly managed devalued dollar.
A tax review as promised by the Prime Minister.
A balanced budget as promised by the Prime Minister.
These are the basic conditions that must prevail if Canada is to stand firmly on her economic feet and make progress in world markets. The parties which have refused to recognize these fundamentals are simply deluding themselves or attempting to deceive the voters, for the circumstances of the national economy and the international problems that beset Canada demand that these conditions be made to exist.
In a sense, what the people should vote for today is not a party, but an opportunity to do the things which they, and not the Government, must do. Canada has been demonstrating since the war that government cannot do what business and the people must do for themselves. Government can and should produce the climate and the tools for healthy economic growth, but only business and labor and the whole Canadian community working together, can produce the growth.
The Conservative Government of the past four years has demonstrated that it believes in keeping its promises. It has now promised, not more for nothing, but a climate in which the Canadian people can roll up their sleeves and work out their own destiny. It does not promise a cradle world, in which a fatherly Government will provide all; it promises a world in which the Canadian people will be enabled to provide for themselves.
Liberal leader Lester Pearson, 1963.John Gillies
1963: Liberal Party
Facing the facts (Globe Editorial from April 2, 1963)
Canada, as it approaches the election, is in trouble. We have a tremendous deficit in our international balance of payments -- much more money is going out of the country than is coming in, and most of it goes to pay interest and dividends on foreign capital invested in Canada. At home we have an uneven state of economic health, with over-all unemployment high, especially in the Maritimes and Quebec.
The Government that is elected on April 8 will face a demanding and involved task. So long as our deficit in international payments remains high -- and it would take years to correct it -- our dollar and much Canadian industry will depend upon the confidence Canada can command among foreign investors. If they lose confidence in us they can withdraw their money and bankrupt our dollar and us. This confidence was severely impaired last spring.
It is therefore imperative that the new Government be one that will restore Canada’s reputation abroad. It is equally imperative that the new Government have sufficient strength in Parliament and sufficient will within itself to tackle Canada’s domestic problems. We must increase our production of manufactured goods and our share of the market in these goods both at home and abroad, thereby improving both our employment picture and our balance of payments. We must work toward a balanced Budget. We must work to reverse the trend which is permitting control of Canadian resources and industry to pass into foreign hands. No Government can accomplish these tasks that is not a stable Government with a working majority.
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker has proved that he is unequal to the job. So far from restoring confidence in Canada, he has, since last June, managed to alienate the United Kingdom, the United States and half his own Cabinet. It was his indecision which precipitated the crisis of last June, and he has done nothing since to tackle the still existing causes of that crisis. At no time throughout the election campaign has he offered a program for national recovery.
Liberal Leader Lester Pearson has offered such a program. He has abandoned the easy promising of the last campaign and faced reality. We already know, from the work he has done with the Department of External Affairs and the United Nations, that he is capable of decision and action. He is also the Canadian most widely respected abroad and most capable of commanding foreign confidence. He has recruited some new, good and strong men, among them Mr. Mitchell Sharp, Mr. John Turner and Mr. Walter Gordon.
The Liberal platform has also been designed with Canadian realities in mind. Mr. Pearson and the new strong men of his party have promised that no money will be spent in the immediate future that is not calculated to expand the economy. They have detailed a number of plans for expanding the economy, a few of which are:
A new Department of Industry charged with enlisting the co-operation of industry and labor to produce manufactured goods now imported. A National Development Corporation, in part privately capitalized, to finance expansion of existing industries, and establish new industries. An agency to handle regional economic problems, such as exist in the Maritimes, with the funds to do the job. Grants and tax incentives to encourage industry to produce goods not now made in Canada, and to produce for the export market. An accelerated retraining program which would start to train workers for new jobs before they lost their old jobs. No new welfare projects until the economy has improved enough to pay for them.
This is an ambitious program, but a realistic one. It goes to some of the roots of Canadian problems. We believe that the Liberal Party should be given a working majority on April 8, and told to get on with the tasks and responsibilities of government.
John Diefenbaker, 1965Photographer unknown
1965: Progressive Conservative Party
The instruments of power (Globe Editorial from October 30, 1965)
Only 900 days ago, The Globe and Mail was able to urge its readers to throw out the minority Government of Mr. John Diefenbaker (which had ceased to be a government at all) and to give a majority of seats in Parliament to Mr. Lester B. Pearson and the Liberal Party (an unknown but promising combination).
The Tories had been confused in office and were in disarray out of it. The Grits had been purged of most of their old guard and we were able to assume that while they “would not provide the greatest government in Canadian history,” they would deliver the “sound and stable government” they had promised.
The choice was simpler then. We were turning from a devil we knew in hope of better things from a devil we did not know. If we are to be honest in our consideration of how we should vote in this election, we must admit that we have now come to a worse place, the nadir of our political affairs, a point at which subtraction is more important than addition in the arithmetic of choosing.
Still, the status of devil is not always constant. We were once able to say that with the “competent and courageous leadership of Mr. Diefenbaker, countless Canadians could enjoy greater freedom and progress” than they had ever known. And six years later to say that he had “destroyed the Conservative Party.”
We were able to say of Mr. Pearson that he was “a sensible, decisive man” who would do his best to live up to his promises. And 18 months later to say that in a national moral crisis “the Prime Minister’s conduct has been disillusioning above all.”
It was never said of either man that he was lacking in integrity. Where Canadians challenged both and found them wanting was in their exercise of the instruments of power. Power corrupted neither man, but it immobilized one and turned the other into a sieve.
John Diefenbaker squandered his unprecedented opportunities, increasingly clasping authority to himself and doing nothing with it until the pressure of events left him no room to manoeuvre, no time to explain the decisions he was forced to take, almost no friends to defend him. That he had earlier done admirable things (the Saskatchewan dam, the Bill of Rights) and even in the last days needful things (devaluation of the dollar, restrictions on tourism) was forgotten or ignored. He had unplugged his hearing aid and lost touch with his party and the people. Canadians turned, hesitantly it is true, to Lester B. Pearson.
The Liberals’ bright promise of Sixty Days of Decision began with the new Prime Minister’s assurance that “it is my resolve not to allow the lack of ... a clear majority to influence the Government in any way.” That was the only real decision of those 60 days, and for the next two and a half years, even unto August of this year, Mr. Pearson continued to reassure us that he would govern -- a promise that landed in the ashcan half way through the life of a normal Parliament.
But if there were few decisions in the first months of the Pearson Administration there were crude attempts at them. Of the discriminatory measures against foreign capital in the first Liberal budget, The New York Times said, “The way Pearson has chosen will hurt the Canadian economy and the Canadian people.”
The New York Times, of course, was in error. This was not the way Lester Pearson had chosen. It was the way Mr. Walter Gordon had chosen. Economic policy had slipped to him through the sieve, and Mr. Pearson has made no effort to retrieve it. He has left full responsibility for economic policy in the hands of a man who has thoroughly discredited himself in the Canadian business community, and of all his Cabinet ministers, he has named only Mr. Gordon as continuing in his post after the election.
Many are the powers that have slipped through the Pearson mesh to stronger men. A determined Premier Jean Lesage took control of his Canada Pension Plan away from him and doubled its cost to us with virtually no increase in benefits, so that he might build a huge development fund. The excuse is made that such failures to be resolute are necessary in these times of federal-provincial stress.
But what excuses can be offered in the Rivard Affair? In that, Mr. Pearson deferred to his friends. He escaped from the original uproar to a political junket in the West, leaving his colleagues to be backed into an extension of the Dorion inquiry. When the Commissioner questioned the performance of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the judgment of the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister could do no more than shift Mr. Guy Favreau sideways in his Cabinet, when he should have put him out. As he should have put out -- and did not -- the two furniture-affair ministers.
It would be irresponsible to suggest that Mr. Pearson yielded all power or that his Government accomplished no good. He led his party in the flag debate. His Government helped to reduce unemployment and negotiated the Columbia River Treaty. It also made a start on planning medicare and a war on poverty. In these great ventures Mr. Pearson knew he would not be blocked by the Opposition.
Why, then, did he bypass a most necessary redistribution of federal ridings and call for a dissolution of the 26th Parliament? Was it hack opportunism -- the certainty that, with the Tories still agonizing over their leadership, an election could be won? We are told no; that the time had come when the Pearson Government needed a majority to get on with the nation’s business. What business?
National unity has been cited -- the need of a firm hand to deal with the provinces. But if the Prime Minister feared for national unity -- as his Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism had warned he should in a preliminary report replete with words like peril and breakup -- then surely he would not have plunged the country into the passions of an election that may well divide it even more dramatically along racial and regional lines. No, in charity to the Prime Minister it must be accepted that he knew there was no immediate danger to Confederation, no need for a stronger mandate than he already had to take to the federal-provincial table.
Did he need majority strength to implement the Porter Commission’s recommendations for reform of the Banking Act, to strengthen the Bankruptcy Act, to amend the hospital insurance scheme to cover tuberculosis and mental patients, to extend foreign aid? Many in the Opposition would have supported him joyfully had he proposed any of these measures.
Or was it Mr. Pearson’s purpose to so weaken the Opposition that it could not compel the Government to reverse wrong policy? As the Opposition did with Walter Gordon’s budget follies. As it did when it forced the Dorion inquiry. Or did Mr. Pearson, in fact, reach for a majority so that he might present legislation that had never been discussed with the electorate, legislation that no house of minorities would ever pass, legislation that might change the character and purpose of our free enterprise system?
It is difficult not to believe that this is so. One need only look at the men who grasped the power that went through the sieve last time and at the new Liberal recruits. Mr. Gordon has not finished with his schemes for economic sovereignty. Mr. Tom Kent still wants laws to limit advertising so that people will not know about new products and will not want them and therefore will not mind if he takes their money to spend as he sees fit. And what of Quebec’s Three Musketeers, fresh from the ranks of the socialists having changed nothing but the base from which to seek power? Will they strengthen Forestry Minister Maurice Sauve, who would establish an economy rigidly controlled by the Government?
In the absence of any assurance that the Pearson Establishment is not intending to move -- indeed gallop -- into a controlled economy, the prospects of returning to Conservatism under Mr. Diefenbaker must be examined.
If Mr. Diefenbaker “destroyed the Conservative Party” has it been born again and if it has, is there any guarantee that the man from Prince Albert will not destroy it again?
The Liberals say no, that Mr. Diefenbaker is still having visions and that the dissidents have come back to the fold only to be there when the old chieftain is deposed. The argument might be credible if the only returnees were aspirants to chieftainship who are already so old that they must strike now or never. This is not so.
Across the country, men who turned their backs in 1963 are campaigning vigorously. Not just candidates, but organizers (like Edwin Goodman), fund raisers (like Joseph Sedgwick), intellectuals (like Prof. William Morton). Three Premiers whose personal ambitions might have been better served had they stood aloof (Robert Stanfield of Nova Scotia, John Robarts of Ontario, Duff Roblin of Manitoba) would not be urging support of the Conservative Party if they did not believe that it offers, in 1965, a reasonable alternative to the Government in power.
But what of Mr. Diefenbaker? There have been different Diefenbakers. The magician of 1957 and 1958 was able, for a time, to give this country sound leadership. Can we expect that Diefenbaker to return?
His supportersm and they include able men from his old administration (Richard Bell, E. Davie Fulton, Paul Martineau) and formidable new candidates (George Hogan, Dalton Camp, J. Patrick Nowlan) tell us that they would be able to work with and for Mr. Diefenbaker, that they would be able, this time, to exercise proper influence.
Mr. Diefenbaker himself must have learned a bitter lesson in 1963 -- that his hustings magic won’t work when he abandons his lieutenants. The party has admitted it needs a leader. The leader has admitted he needs a party. There is, at least, ground for hope.
The exercise in arithmetic produces an answer. In this unnecessary election, Canadians who are concerned for the future and reputation of their country should entrust their votes to the Conservatives.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968Erik Christensen
1968: Liberal Party
The man for the future (Globe Editorial from June 20, 1968)
It is improbable that there is a single person in Canada who really dislikes Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield. He is the embodiment of rectitude, conservatism and caution. It is possible to have great confidence in him as an individual. It is possible, too, to have confidence in a number of the men who are running on his ticket – men like Davie Fulton, Duff Roblin and Dalton Camp.
Where Mr. Stanfield has failed is in creating the conviction that his followers form a team and that he could provide that team with dynamic leadership. Divisions are to be expected in both the old-line parties, with their stretch of views from far left through centre to far right. But it is usual – at least in this country – for them to present during election campaigns a disciplined pose, not a false pose but one that reflects the consensus of the party.
With the Conservatives this has simply not been the case. Some of their best volleys have been reserved for each other, and their fury that the Liberals observed this has only confirmed that the divisions do exist. The Conservative campaign has lacked zest, focus and, strangely, organized purpose.
It has been different with the Liberals. True, the spotlight has been upon Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. But in almost all his appearances – as in Toronto yesterday – Mr. Trudeau has been at pains to show that he speaks for a group, and not a group drawn only from the old establishment but one with a considerable infusion of bright young people.
He has, of course, the advantage that a campaigning Prime Minister always has, that of being able to relate what he plans for the country’s future to what he is doing now, and his emphasis has been almost entirely on programs already initiated.
The argument most frequently made against him is that he is unknown, that we have no long-term record of Mr. Trudeau as an administrator, that we can’t be certain how he will react in any given situation.
But perhaps it is one of the facts of life in the Sixties that Canada no longer needs the great certainties that are largely born of fear; Canada is willing to adventure. It may be that what Canadians see in Mr. Trudeau is this new side of themselves, a readiness to gamble on the unknown, to move into areas not explored before.
Yet little that we know of Mr. Trudeau suggests that he is a radical. He is a reformer, yes. In his brief tenure as Justice Minister he introduced as legislation reforms that had been promised for many years by many administrations but never delivered. He talks of creating a just society, in which many things would have to be changed – and he makes it clear as he stumps the country that he is not afraid of change.
There is, still, a cautious side. When he talks of welfare programs, of the management of the economy, of international relations, of all the things that are immediately most important, he does it as one who would first consider, examine, then assess and reassess. He promises no drastic new policies but only – and always – that everything will be reviewed in the context of a world that has changed and is changing. That nothing is permanent nor should be revered merely because it has been a long time with us. But that change in itself is not a virtue unless it moves Canada to better things.
Mr. Trudeau is most the reformer when he is dealing with the relationship of the individual to the state, a matter on which he has thought and written for years. Here he can stand on his record. His grasp of human problems and his courage in attempting to resolve them are among his most attractive qualities. His disarming candor – an unexpected quality in a politician – startles at times but, what the hell, why shouldn’t a politician say what he thinks?
Former Prime Minister Lester Pearson knows Mr. Trudeau well, and in the brief spate of campaigning he allowed himself this week he was generous to his successor. Mr. Trudeau, he said, is exciting, energetic, dynamic, but he is also “a man of good, cool judgment and I feel happy leaving the country and the Government of Canada in his hands . . . I think of him as a very wise, mature, intelligent patriot. He has been loyal to the language, the culture and the traditions of Quebec but he has put above all of that his loyalty to Canada. Everything’s going to be all right and I can sit back and enjoy my retirement.”
Then he added, “This man is a truly outstanding person. He is a man for all seasons but especially a man for the season of tomorrow.”
That, we think, is what Canadians have intuitively grasped about Mr. Trudeau.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1972Charles Mitchell
1972: Liberal Party
A familiar strain (Globe Editorial from October 19, 1972)
Unemployment and inflation have been presented by Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield as major issues in the campaign; and so they are. Yet what Mr. Stanfield offers as corrective in these areas is mostly more of what the Liberal Government has already tried, or incomprehensibles, like his $2,500 tax credits for certain uncertain investments in small Canadian companies.
Mr. Stanfield would cut personal income taxes. Well, the Liberals have temporarily cut them by 3 per cent and Mr. Stanfield would continue that cut and add 4 per cent . The purpose of this is to give people more money to spend, thus creating demand for goods and services thus creating jobs. The difficulty with it, as an immediate attack on unemployment, is that Canadians are more in a mood to save than to spend money, unless they are so poor they can afford neither. Canadian savings as a proportion of disposable income have climbed steadily from 5.3 per cent in 1969 to 5.8 per cent in 1970, to 7.8 in 1971 to 8.5% in the first quarter of 1972 and 10.3 in the second quarter.
Saved money, of course, would through investment in buses, eventually create jobs; but the need is now, and in that case the money should go to those who will spend it at once.
But the Liberals have already moved in that direction. Their increases this spring in old-age pensions went so far beyond what Mr. Stanfield had been saying simply couldn’t be done a month or so earlier that it leaves him with little more to say now than that the payment of cost-of-living increases be accelerated.
That was for the old.
For the young Mr. Stanfield would propose -- what else? -- Opportunities for Youth. Some OYP projects have been quite successful, he told an interviewer in the West and he would continue them. “But programs of this sort should be related to the ongoing needs and the priorities of the provinces and the municipalities -- projects often held up for lack of funds.”
Still, it would be the Liberal initiative that he would build upon, which the Liberals -- as a matter of fact -- have been doing themselves.
In the West too, he promised ot pay higher prices for Western grain products. But that is exactly what the Liberals have already done -- to our disapproval -- with their two-price wheat policy: a higher price for grain used on the domestic market, a competitive price for the world market. Mr. Stanfield would again take the Liberal initiative and give it more.
It is the same with other Liberal programs. He would reorganize the Farm Credit Corp. to give more credit and outright loans. He would turn the Department of Regional Economic Expansion (DREE) into a “much improved regional development program.”
He accuses the Liberal Government of devoting its efforts to stemming inflation without regard to unemployment. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has frankly admitted to fighting inflation but two years ago, with no election in view, he also said. “It has not prevented the government from being concerned all the time about the problem of unemployment, particularly in the less developed areas of the country.”
That was true. What else was served by DREE, OYP, LIP (Local Initiatives Programs), easy money, increasing accounts into old-age pensioner hands, even Unemployment Insurance. We have attacked aspects of unemployment insurance, particularly those which handed benefits to people who were not breadwinners, even for themselves, but simply free-riders. Yet there can be no doubt that the hundreds of millions of dollars poured out in benefits have enormously spurred the economy. There is no doubt that 193,000 new jobs were produced between last September and this.
There is no doubt, either, that the Liberals’ considerable success in fighting inflation put us in the best place in the Western world to fight the new round of inflation now upon us; because of it we starrted with lower prices and our rate of increase is below all our competitors except the United States, which has wage and price controls.
Well, says Mr. Stanfield, “if we have to fight runaway inflation I would resort instead to temporary price and wage controls.
Oddly enough the Liberals thought of that too -- to the point of developing a comprehensive plan -- and rejected the idea. Not without reason. The US controls are not working well; most Canadians favour wage and price controls -- but for everybody else’s wages and prices, not their own; and finally, wage and price controls take the steam out of workers and out of their employers and eventually cause ... unemployment.
Of the Liberals this has to be said: they have been innovative. Of the Conservatives: they are imitative.
Progressive Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield, 1974.Chuck Mitchell
1974: Progressive Conservative Party
A need for change (Globe Editorial from July 6, 1974)
Immediately after the election, regardless of which party wins, the prime bank rate for all banks will almost certainly rise to at least 11.5 per cent and the exchange value of the Canadian dollar will move upward again The election has delayed this, but after the election Canadians will have to go back to living with the international world.
This international world is in a very uneasy economic state. Britain, France and Italy are in deep trouble; certain banks in the United States and even on in that economically stable country, Germany, are in difficulty. Confidence is shaken.
The Canadian Government elected on Monday cannot divorce this country from the rest of the world; but it can take internal steps to hold domestic damage to a minimum. It can fight inflation from domestic sources. Any such fight, if it is real, will temporarily hurt a lot of people in order to prevent much greater damage to more people for a longer time later.
Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield has had the guts to promise such a fight, knowing that it might be unpopular. He has promised it from the beginning. To use his words that he has used over and over, he has “believed that voters were adults and should be treated as adults.”
He has said that “government itself has to be responsible in this economic climate to tax less and waste less.” He has promised to balance the budget. This will mean cutting off some services some people want, delaying the initiation of new services other people want. He has promised, for instance, to eliminate the 11 per cent tax on building materials. He has promised to examine the Unemployment Insurance Fund which has become an enormous burden on the people; he has suggested that one means of reducing the burden would be to require people to work longer than the Liberals’ eight weeks before becoming eligible for benefits.
Mr. Stanfield cannot know where all waste exists until he is inside the government looking at how the taxpayers’ money is being spent. The Liberal Government has been an exceedingly secretive government. No Opposition can know how many of the secrets were wasteful; but Mr. Stanfield has pointed at one probably fruitful spot for exploration. In Lester Pearson’s last year as Prime Minister expenditures for consultants’ fees totalled $250-million; this year Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s estimates called for expenditures of $780-million.
Government spending is a prime source of inflation, which is why Mr. Stanfield would curtail spending. The budget on which Mr. Trudeau Government fell would have increased spending by 22.5 per cent, and continued the long line of deficits.
Mr. Trudeau knows as well as Mr. Stanfield that you can’t spend yourself rich. But he has been rushing up and down the country promising to spend money on every local project anybody wanted and a mass of national projects. One estimated puts his promises at $3-billion, another at $135 for every man, woman and child in the country.
Considering that four years ago, Mr. Trudeau told the provincial premiers that inflation was the most critical issues facing the country, and that since then the cost of living has increased by 30 per cent, his present promises are strange indeed. Either he has decided that the rising cost of living is unimportant, or he is telling the people one thing while planning to do another. Certainly his speeches -- examined in bulk - bear the consistent tone of a professor lecturing his class.
Mr. Stanfield has treated the electorate as adults facing a tough situation in an economically precarious world. He has had the courage to offer new initiatives . In order to do this new minds will have to be brought to bear on what are new problems: one of his promises is to replace many of the top civil servants who preside over exiting inflation with new civil servants.
Some of the proposals the Conservatives are considering might be impossible to apply. One would attack high interest rates by lowering the central bank rate; but this would require devising some means of keeping dollars at home instead of chasing higher interest rates abroad and could lead to an undesirable degree of isolation from the world economic community. On better grounds, the Tories would put some controls on consumer credit -- surely a necessary measure. Another measure, to quote Mr. Stanfield, would be to stop “printing paper money faster than we can produce goods”. Another would be a measure of income and price controls.
At the moment we seem to be rushing toward destruction on a tide of increasingly useless money. That has to be changed. Mr. Stanfield has had the courage to offer change. He should be given the chance.
Joe Clark, 1979Erik Christensen
1979: Progressive Conservative Party
Sorting the devils (Globe Editorial from May 19, 1979)
The devil we know or the devil we don't? That is the underlying issue in this election.
The Globe and Mail, among others, has expressed reservations about the policies of Conservative Leader Joseph Clark. But it is Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who has forced the questioning on most of the issues before the electorate. How? Take energy. Mr. Clark has been criticized for proposing to sell some sections of the Government-owned Petro Canada to private industry while promising to preserve its essential function - the power to deal directly for oil with foreign governments - by giving this power to the National Energy Board. But Petrocan is the least of our energy problems.
Eastern Canada, including Ontario, is in real danger of being short of heating oil next winter. Canada has enough energy resources, including oil, to become self-sufficient. The Liberal Government has not even attempted to make it self-sufficient. It has aimed at what it calls self-reliance, which means leaving Eastern Canada dangerously dependent on foreign oil. It has been spending tax money on subsidizing foreign oil for Eastern Canada, while it failed to provide the tax incentives for steadily increasing production of domestic oil from Western tar sands and heavy oil deposits. Next winter some of that subsidized foreign oil will not be available. Proper tax incentives could have made sure that Canadian oil was there to replace it.
Mr. Trudeau's Government has not moved to extend the pipeline carrying natural gas from Montreal to Quebec City and the Maritimes. The applications to get on with the job have not even been heard by the National Energy Board. Mr. Clark would extend the pipeline immediately.
Take the problems with Royal Canadian Mounted Police wrong-doing. Mr. Clark has expanded his original proposal and would put the RCMP within the framework of law (which is still not specific enough for our satisfaction). But why is the matter an issue at all? It is an issue because the Liberal Government never did face the responsibility for the measures taken by the RCMP to do what the Government had asked it to do. Ministers were warned of the illegalities, the Cabinet was warned. The Government did not change the law. It simply left the RCMP to be blamed for break-ins, barn burnings and the like.
Take the economy. Mr. Clark has been criticized for saying that he would temporarily increase the budget deficit, with tax cuts and such programs as the one which would permit homeowners to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes for income tax purposes. He says this program would in the end reduce the deficit by increasing the number of workers with jobs in the construction industry and therefore the federal government's revenues. If budget deficits were not so dangerously large, heavy unemployment would dictate government stimulation of the economy. Who created these dangerously large deficits? Mr. Trudeau.
In 1968, when Mr. Trudeau took power, the entire federal budget was $9.9-billion. Last year the deficit alone was $12.1-billion; this year it is expected to be $12.9-billion. Federal spending, in those 11 Trudeau years, has increased to an expected (by the Government) $52.6-billion this year. The Auditor-General and a commission appointed by Mr. Trudeau have found that his Government has lost control of public spending.
The Government's enormous deficits are the chief cause of inflation, which is again rampant. They are also one of the reasons why foreign investors have lost confidence in our dollar, which has nosedived. A depreciated dollar should have increased our merchandise trade surplus; but it hasn't. The Government has so neglected the top technological industries, on which the trade of a high-wage country like Canada must depend, that even with a cheap dollar we can't compete. Last year our total trade deficit was a record $5.29-billion; this year, according to Statistics Canada reports on the first months, it could be between $6-billion and $7-billion. We have nearly a million unemployed.
Canada is in a terrible mess. And who created it? Not the devil we don't know, Joseph Clark. The devil we do know, Pierre Trudeau.
It is time for a change.
Joe Clark, 1980Tibor Kolley
1980: Progressive Conservative Party
Conservative policy (Globe Editorial from February 16, 1980)
The Conservative Government of Prime Minister Joe Clark has told the people what its policy would be, which the Liberals have carefully avoided doing.
The Conservative policy was outlined in the Throne Speech of October 9, and much of it was spelled out in Finance Minister John Crosbie's budget. It did what the Liberals had never done: it faced the very big and dangerous economic problems which threaten to topple Canada into a Depression, and did it courageously.
Eleven years of Trudeau government have left Canada with high inflation, enormous budget deficits, vastly increased public debt, record post-thirties unemployment, the biggest deficits ever in international trade in goods and services, high interest rates, and a dollar that had dropped below 84 cents. We had also been left dangerously dependent on foreign oil, which is costly and unreliable, when Canada could have developed its own resources to become self-sufficient.
A country does not get out of such difficulties without discipline and self-sacrifice, and these the Conservatives were so bold as to ask for.
Canada imports more than a quarter of its oil, but under the Liberals had held its domestic oil prices to less than half the world price. (We had actually paid the world price for the imported oil, but that had been concealed in taxes and, through government borrowing, in inflation.) The Conservatives would have raised domestic oil prices gradually to 85 per cent of the world or United States oil price, whichever was the lesser. It would have increased the excise tax on transportation fuels.
Certainly this would have put up the price of gasoline. It would also have induced conservation, reduced our trade deficits, cut the downward pressure on the dollar, and eventually made us energy self-sufficient. Provision was made to give energy tax credits of $80 per adult and $30 per child to families with incomes of $21,380 a year and under. Most of the increased oil money would not have gone to the petroleum industry, though it would have retained enough to encourage continued exploration and development. Most of the federal oil money would have gone into developing new Canadian sources of energy, providing development capital to Canadian oil companies, and cutting federal budget deficits (and the inflation they stimulate).
Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has the natural resources to become oil and energy self-sufficient; to survive and flourish, that is, while other countries are held to ransom by OPEC and see their economies go under. With the Conservative program Canada could do it.
The Conservatives also proposed a whole battery of measures to give Canadians a stake in this country that could become strong. These ranged from Registered Retirement Savings Plans that could have invested in common stocks of Canadian companies, to special borrowing measures for small Canadian-controlled corporations, to help for farmers and small unincorporated businesses, to tax credits to create jobs in private industry.
It was not just individuals who were asked to sacrifice now so that the future would be brighter and more secure. Business was hit with a temporary 5 per cent surtax, and found tax loopholes closed.
A Government capable of so tough and honest a budget could be trusted in other things. And, in fact, it proved it. The Trudeau government had promised for 11 years to give Canadians access to government information. The Conservative Government did it, and with doubtful cases to be decided by the courts not the cabinet.
Canadians when they vote Monday should remember that only the hard road leads out of the swamp in which we are sinking.
Brian Mulroney, 1984
1984: Progressive Conservative Party
For the Conservatives (Globe Editorial from August 31, 1984)
Two months ago, there were fears that this election campaign would be a contest of image pure and simple, a final move to TV-clip politics in place of struggle and sweat in the marketplace. It hasn't happened. The major issues have received surprisingly full attention in this campaign, and despite the best efforts of their image-makers, the party leaders have undergone an exhausting test of their capacities. The process has worked.
What, then, are the major issues? Beyond the deficit, unemployment, taxation, women's rights and an endless argument about the cost of campaign promises lie two questions central to Canadian political life. Which party is most likely to change - really change - the way our national government operates? Which party has the best claim to be a truly national party appealing to the diverse regions and groups which comprise the Canadian family? The answer to both questions is: the Conservative Party. And that, not Brian Mulroney's smooth campaign or John Turner's sometimes scratchy one, is why Canadians should vote to install a Conservative Government in Ottawa.
But what of the party leaders, who have dominated media attention during the past two months? Ed Broadbent, first, has fought an excellent fight, albeit with the freedom of a man who knows he will not have to translate his expensive ideas into action.
John Turner, on the other hand, has had to deal with the realities of office, and he has done so for the most part with remarkable responsibility. He has not scattered huge spending proposals along the campaign trail; he refused to grab the seductive - but impractical - notion of a nuclear freeze at a time when it might have given his campaign a real lift. He has shown guts and staying power in these recent weeks of dreadful poll results. He is a thoughtful, compassionate patriot with much to offer his country. If this were simply a presidential vote pitting John Turner against Brian Mulroney, one might well pull the lever marked Turner.
But a president is not what Canadians will be voting for on Tuesday. They will be searching, through their ballots, for a new team and new approach to national affairs in Ottawa - one which values Parliament, consults with Canadians and does not deal outrageously with the spoils of office. They will be voting to break the dangerous link between the public service and institutionalized Liberal power. They will be voting to repudiate the arrogance of Pierre Trudeau.
Mr. Turner says he represents the change Canadians are looking for, but his case was fatally weakened by his acquiescence in Mr. Trudeau's final orgy of patronage and his desperate turn to the old guard to rescue a faltering campaign. It is time for real change, and the Conservatives are the better bet to achieve it.
They also represent, for the first time in more than a decade, the prospect of a government which appeals to all parts of the country. Mr. Mulroney speaks the language of Quebeckers, both literally and figuratively, and he seems likely to reap the political benefits. That is good for his party and good for Canada. It would be better if Mr. Turner were able to make a similar breakthrough in the West, but western Canadians are clearly not ready to forget the profound alienation of the Trudeau years - Liberal years.
It is, as Mr. Mulroney says, a time for civility, for healing, in this diverse and quarrelsome land. The best chance for that is to elect a Conservative Government and let it get on with the nation's business.
Brian Mulroney, 1988Fred Chartrand
1988: Progressive Conservative Party
For the Conservatives, three parts (November, 1988)
Globe editorial from November 17, 1988
Not long ago, many of us were clucking about the dirty American election and congratulating ourselves on the quality of our own contest. It's time for a rethink. Liar, traitor and other dubious epithets are flying about the arena as our politicians and their allies get down in the goo. Free trade is certainly a more substantial issue than Willie Horton, but the disinformation being peddled about it is of a similar order. Meanwhile, important other matters go unpondered by a bemused electorate. This is not a democratic exercise that does us proud.
It is, though, too vital to stand back from. This is a pivotal election for Canadians. The free-trade agreement with the United States represents one of those watershed opportunities that come along but rarely. It should be seized by a vigorous, intelligent people who have no fear of their ability to compete in the world of the twenty-first century.
The Globe and Mail strongly supports free trade - and thus the Conservatives in this election. We believe they should be returned with the majority necessary to implement the agreement they negotiated. In clear contrast, the two opposition parties promise to rip up the agreement; they would leave us out in the cold with our tiny market in a world of large trading blocs. As The Economist of Britain said last month, in genuine puzzlement, "In looking a gift horse in the mouth, Canada risks losing a trade deal that other countries would welcome without pause."
We confess we are puzzled, too, for the economic benefits of this agreement are so obvious that this country's business leaders are overwhelmingly in favor of it. These are not people thirsting to sell out their country or move en masse to the United States. They are men and women who see significant opportunities to sell into the world's richest market, free not just from tariffs but from the thousand niggling non- tariff barriers and political harassments built into the U.S. system.
They know that freer trade produces more prosperity, as it always has; they know the history of free-trade agreements shows smaller partners benefit, proportionately, more than the larger ones; they know, too, that a rejection of the agreement will leave many Canadian firms - and thus Canadian jobs - with little protection when U.S. interests begin again to clamor about unfair competition.
We had thought, perhaps naively, that the debate would turn on economic matters - benefits and losses under free trade (for of course there will be some of both), the quality of future jobs, the consequences for different regions and the like. Instead, Canadians listening to the debate have been told that their medicare system will be destroyed; Mr. Turner's commercial about hospitals in future checking his bankbook before his pulse is simply shameful. Frightened old people have been told their pensions are at risk. The CBC, the Canada Council and the National Film Board are supposedly all in jeopardy. Radioactive waste will be dumped in Saskatchewan, and on and on.
All these things are possible in an imperfect world, of course - so are floods, killer bees and the heartbreak of psoriasis - but none will be caused by the free-trade agreement. John Turner, Ed Broadbent, hysterical editorialists and the plaster saints of our cultural world have a lot to answer for here.
Enough nonsense. If Canada were genuinely being sold out, if the Canadian dream were truly being sacrificed by Brian Mulroney and the Conservatives, not one Canadian in 100, not this newspaper, not eight of 10 provincial premiers, not even the money-chasing businessmen that the opposition so cheaply pillories would be in favor of this agreement. They are, we are, because it eases Canada's passage on the increasingly rough seas of international trade. To reject this opportunity would be a mistake, perhaps a fateful one.
Globe editorial from November 18, 1988
To a degree perhaps unprecedented in Canadian history, this election has been dominated by a single issue - the free-trade agreement negotiated with the United States. Moreover, the political lines on the issue have been drawn with exceptional clarity: the Conservatives are strongly pro, the Liberals and NDP deadset against. The result, for those of us who favor the agreement, is an easy and obvious choice about which party to support in Monday's vote. It must be the Conservatives.
There is, though, a drawback to such an election. Concentration on a single issue enables many voters to slough off their responsibility to weigh a packet of other considerations before casting their ballots. We suggest they still should, and that when they do, the result once again strongly favors the Conservatives.
In many ways, the Tory government has been its own worst enemy. For beneath the slickness and smarminess, marred occasionally by scandal, an effective administration has been operating with a good feel for Canadian priorities.
It has repaired relations with our all-important southern neighbor and negotiated a sensible agreement for access to that neighbor's market. It has restored civility to federal-provincial relations and brokered the equally sensible Meech Lake agreement. It has reconfirmed the place of the French language in our institutions. It has - and this may turn out to be Brian Mulroney's most enduring legacy - finally sunk Conservative roots into the soil of French Canada.
The Tories have handled the country's purse level-headedly, putting a hold on growth of the rampaging annual deficits which, as accumulated debt, cast such an ominous shadow over our children's future. They have also led the state bull out of the china shop of the economy and relied judiciously on the market to produce prosperity. That it has done - to the point, ironically, where Canadians have become dangerously complacent about the perils ahead.
Internationally, Canada has played a significant role in the Commonwealth, la francophonie, the United Nations and the Group of Seven leading industrial countries. Finally, by relying on such able ministers as Joe Clark, Michael Wilson, Donald Mazankowski, Barbara McDougall, Benoi t and Lucien Bouchard and Thomas McMillan, Mr. Mulroney has produced far more effective administration than when he tried to do it all himself.
There have been missteps along the way. The early orgy of patronage offended an electorate which thought it had voted in 1984 to stop that sort of thing. The attempt to de-index pensions was so badly handled that the necessary overhaul of our wasteful universal programs has been set back for years. Western bitterness returned with the ham-fisted transfer of the CF-18 contract from Winnipeg to Montreal. And Mr. Mulroney's coast- to-coast strewing of dubious megaprojects was an odorous progression. On balance, however, the record is impressive.
Against this, John Turner, Mr. Mulroney's only serious opponent for the prime ministry, compares poorly. True, he took a principled, costly stand in favor of Meech Lake, and he has shown astonishing resilience in the face of challenges to his leadership; one must admire a man who has been through hellfire and survived.
On the other hand, he would destroy the free-trade agreement. He has been wildly irresponsible in the cost of his campaign pledges. He leads a party in shambles, and if elected he would have to dip into the Rat Pack for front-line ministers. That makes its own quiet statement.
The choice is clear. On the one issue, or on the many, the Conservatives deserve re-election.
Globe editorial from November 19, 1988
With so much talk about free trade in this election, we have almost ignored the issue of national unity. This is something of a luxury, reflecting how much better the Canadian federation is working now than in the early 1980s. But it cannot be taken for granted, and the election result could be dangerous, due to the possible death of free trade and a greater threat to Meech Lake.
Tearing up the trade agreement would certainly inspire the separatist movement in Quebec , no matter how Quebeckers vote on Monday. And historic alienation in the West would deepen, the chip on Alberta's shoulder transforming into an ever larger hump on its back. Free trade was supposed to be an agent of national unity, reducing regional grievances sparked by high tariffs. It was supposed to end the unequal access to U.S. markets provided by the auto pact (which benefits Ontario to a fault). Tearing up the trade agreement would not settle the issue; it would root it in more chronic, internal disunity.
The threat to the Meech Lake constitutional accord is less direct but no less real. If the Conservatives are defeated, the main architect of Meech Lake is defeated, and the mandate for ratification weakened.
Although John Turner supports Meech Lake, his own reservations are well known and the disunity within his caucus is better known. Liberals in the Senate refused to ratify the accord at all last year and had to be overridden by the House of Commons. It is hard to imagine a Liberal government acting as the champion of Meech Lake, whatever Mr. Turner says now.
And a champion is needed still. Manitoba and New Brunswick have not yet ratified the accord. The Liberal government in New Brunswick threatens to reject it, and the Liberal opposition in Manitoba (where the Conservatives govern with a fragile minority) has shouted its way into careless, emotional opposition to Meech Lake. If ambivalent Liberals win power in Ottawa, their recalcitrant provincial cousins will grow more recalcitrant. And Meech Lake could fall apart.
With it would fall apart the reconciliation of leading Quebec nationalists with the rest of Canada. This Quebec government went out of its way to make constitutional peace on historically modest terms. The affront to federalists in Quebec, nay, their humiliation, would doom new efforts at reconciliation for years to come (and doom other constitutional initiatives, such as Senate reform and aboriginal self-government).
And the Quebec separatist movement would have another drum to beat in its campaign against Canada. The next time the pendulum swung toward the separatist cause - and it will swing - the corpses of free trade and Meech Lake would fuel a dangerous argument that Quebec can be prosperous and socially mature only through independence.
Quebeckers would not necessarily respond en masseto such logic, but we should not give separatists a plausible argument that Confederation isolates rather than empowers Quebec economically. The same negative argument would be made in the West.
This election demands passage to a higher state of maturity in Canada, internally as well as globally. Unity can no longer be based on the assumption that whole regions can stand alienated for generations "in the national interest." The constructive citizenship of most Canadians must be assumed to be deepened. The image of Ottawa as policeman and Defender of the Faith must give way to Ottawa as leader and partner in a shared national purpose, as it has since 1984.
This is a nation-building election. We need a Conservative majority to protect and strengthen the new foundations of unity laid by the Mulroney government. Complacency with our progress could too easily become the enemy of our success.
1993: Liberal Party (Minority Government)
To put the Liberals on a leash (Globe Editorial from October 20, 1993)
Near the end of the campaign, the critical observer must conclude that no party has earned a majority in this election.
To watch the governing Conservatives has been to watch a party destroy itself. There was nothing inevitable in this. Popular support for the policies pursued over the last nine years is reflected in the positions of the other parties, who must now at least pay lip service to ideas the Tories championed. Had they presented a functioning political party, capable of learning from its mistakes and building on its achievements, they would have merited another majority.
But the Tories have squandered the opportunity Brian Mulroney's resignation afforded to define a new mission for a third term. While the party's basic philosophical leanings remain closest to our own, neither we nor apparently they have any idea how they would translate these into a specific course of action. Whether out of internal division, failure of nerve, or indifference to the national mood, the party went to the electorate without a platform, calculating it could win on "leadership." No leader should expect a successful campaign to run on such scant fuel. That goes double for Kim Campbell. The party's total reliance on such an untested leader speaks volumes of its weakness.
The Liberals, for their part, have campaigned with faultless efficiency, and appalling complacency. We had hoped to find their insouciance at Canada's approaching fiscal crisis was merely a cynical pose. We are increasingly persuaded it is genuine: they really don't think it's a problem. This is the gang that got us into this mess, remember. Indeed, it is worth pausing over the "team" of which Liberal leader Jean Chretien boasts: a cabinet featuring the likes of Andre Ouellet, Sheila Copps, Herb Gray, Lloyd Axworthy, Brian Tobin, and Dave Dingwall is the stuff of chronic insomnia.
After nine years in opposition, they offer a program best described as Bourbon economics: they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. As the supreme example of the party's "new thinking," the Liberal jobs plan - public works spending, 1930s-style - is an embarrassing fraud. The number of short-term jobs it would "create" is paltry even in gross terms: net of the jobs destroyed by extracting the money to pay for it from elsewhere in the economy - through lower spending, bigger deficits or higher taxes - the figure drops near zero.
The Reform Party, third, is clearly not ready to govern. Equally clearly, it is not about to: the absence of any candidates in Quebec would be enough to guarantee this on its own. The party has won a substantial following for its principled advocacy of fiscal and democratic reforms. But beyond that, Reform runs aground: its positions on health care, on immigration and on national unity in particular are not well thought out. They are not evil, nor are they frightening: they are merely wrong, and it is scandalous that the other parties will not engage them on that basis. Aside from policy, the party lacks bench strength. We have been impressed by Preston Manning, not least for his skills as a politician, that unjustly reviled word. But past him, the party has few candidates of note, and some we should prefer never to hear from again.
That exhausts the list of contenders (the NDP having read itself out of modern political history). The polls indicate the Liberals will win the largest number of seats, and thus form a government. Whatever our misgivings about the party, this is undoubtedly the least bad alternative: the Liberals have won the keys to 24 Sussex Dr., fair and square. The question is whether it should be a majority or a minority government. Let us declare firmly for a minority. We do not trust the Liberals to govern unguarded.
If the Liberals are given a majority, the party will take it as a sign that nothing much has really changed in Canadian politics: a couple of protest votes, but nothing that might cause them to rethink their basic assumptions. It isn't that the Liberals would take the country in radical new directions. It's precisely what they wouldn't change that is so worrying. In a matter of weeks, we would be reading the same old stories: more patronage, more pork-barrelling, more idiotic high-tech adventures, more divisive group politics. Business and other interests are already lining up to kiss Mr. Chretien's ring.
Worse, it is clear that a majority Liberal government would make no serious attempt to rescue the nation's finances. Indeed, it's a safe bet the Liberals would not get the deficit below $30-billion. It would be five more years of the same desperate game of catchup with the debt, just keeping pace with the remorseless growth in interest payments by nickel- and-diming spending - and raising taxes. In the same vein, the Liberals' expressed willingness to let inflation rise again only guarantees the country will have to endure another recession before long. What that will do to the debt we can only guess.
But if it is a minority government, all sorts of creative possibilities arise. We should stress that minority government need not mean weak or unstable government. It has not in the past, and there is no reason to think it would now. The Liberals would have no need of formal coalition partners. Rather, they could seek the support of different parties for different pieces of legislation: either Conservatives or Reformers. This is precisely the balancing act that the present state of electoral opinion would warrant.
The government would have to command the confidence of the Commons, as it is supposed to do now, only without the automatic assurance of the three-line whip. The Liberals would have the right to propose bills, but would have to find support from elsewhere on the political spectrum to pass them into law. Even without relaxing the rules on confidence bills, as Mr. Manning proposes, this is quite workable. All sides would have to consider carefully whether to reach a compromise, or to provoke the sort of showdown that might precipitate an early election. The latter would be unlikely: no party would risk being seen as having put the voters through another election, so soon after the last.
In short, a minority would put all three parties on probation, probably for about two years. We should then have the chance to watch and learn from their behaviour in Parliament - whether the Grits have changed, whether the Tories can regroup, whether Reform matures - before committing ourselves to a majority for any one party. In the event, Quebeckers would have an early chance to turf out the Bloc, as they may well wish to do by then: under a minority government, there is no one more impotent than the Official Opposition.
What does all this mean for Canadians deciding where to cast their ballot? The Liberals are rightly assured of a plurality. The task now is to deny them a majority. So we urge voters who share our concerns at the Liberals being given a "blank cheque" to vote tactically, Tory or Reform, depending on which party's candidate is best placed to defeat a Liberal. With the collapse of the Tories, that party looks in most cases to be Reform. The need to avoid splitting the vote is most acute in Ontario and the West, where the Grit majority will be won or lost. Mr. Manning wants his party to be the "fiscal and democratic conscience" of the next Parliament. He has earned that right.
Jean Charest, 1997
1997: Progressive Conservative Party
Who made the case to govern? (Globe Editorial from May 29, 1997)
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called this election early for a reason: He believed his opponents were too weak to matter, and that the government would be re-elected by default. That's about it.
In their campaign materials and speeches, the Liberals have offered no vision of what they propose to do in the next term except stay the course. This, despite the fact that the course is about to change with the arrival of consistent budgetary surpluses; that Canadians have experienced falling real incomes throughout the 1990s; that the unemployment rate has stayed well above 9 per cent; that we will probably face another referendum on Quebec independence within four years.
In his first term, Mr. Chrétien turned out to be a Mulroney Liberal, embracing virtually all the policies central to the Progressive Conservative government between 1984 and 1993: free trade; the goods and services tax (about which Mr. Chrétien still cannot tell the truth); the substance of the Meech Lake accord; privatization (CN Rail); decentralization of federal programs (manpower training, mining, fishing, forestry); reform of Unemployment Insurance; and, of course, deficit reduction.
On the last issue, Mr. Chrétien and his solid Finance minister performed much better than the previous regime (and the Liberals' own targets), hiking tax burdens and cutting spending enough to tame the deficit beast and set us on the road to budget surpluses by 1998-99. This is the great and admirable achievement of the Liberal government -- the realization, finally, of the Conservatives' core program goal.
The Liberals abandoned much of their 1993 red book in the process, but that was the price of common sense on the main issues. Where the Liberals did strike out on their own, they too often demonstrated contempt for truth, due process and fairness: Pearson Airport; Airbus; the Somalia inquiry; the Isaac affair in the Federal Court of Canada.
The arrogance that attended these cases is more to be expected of an aging government grown comfortable in the abuse of power. With the Chrétien regime, it started before the government was even sworn in, with the appointment of Robert Nixon to justify the Pearson debacle.
On national unity, the Liberals came late to every aspect of the challenge at great risk to the country. They offered no effective strategy to counter the 1995 referendum, scrambling at the last minute with improvised measures to salvage what they could. Even after dodging the bullet, they rebuffed many offers of help from federalists across the country and rushed ahead with unripe strategies for accommodation and confrontation with Quebec (Plans A and B).
In all this, the Liberals have not done so badly that they should be clearly thrown out. Nor have they done so well that they should be clearly re-elected. They must pass the test of comparison with the alternatives.
In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois offers the purgatory of bitter uncertainty through another referendum, and the certainty of drastic upheavals if the vote leads to a narrow mandate for independence. The Bloc and its Parti Québécois overlord operate on the ethically unsupportable premise that the benefits of Quebec's separation exceed the costs of Canadian federalism. In fact, the separatist project drains economic, social and cultural vitality from Quebec for every decade that it continues, and can only lead to a darker passage should it ever come to fruition. There is idealism to this cause, but no justice, and justice is the test.
Across Canada, the Liberals face three other parties of substance. The weakest are the New Democrats, whose vision fails the test of experience and expertise. To propose in 1997 that we raise historically high and rising tax burdens, contemplate higher "short-term" deficits, expand social spending and intrude heavily again in the private economy shows a breathtaking ability to remember everything and learn nothing. It is not enough to flaunt a conscience in national politics, or to evince compassion. A credible economic and social platform is required.
The Reform Party offers many attractive ideas, especially on economic policy. Reform's commitments to specific tax cuts and balanced budgets pass the test of economic reason and social responsibility. Reform floats sensible ideas on strengthening democratic institutions and clarifying federal-provincial jurisdictions. Even privatization of the Canada Pension Plan has its attractions.
But Reform poses two major problems. Its policies on Quebec polarize opinion and drive up support for separatism in that province. Reform has failed to fashion for itself an identity as a national party. As Alberta Premier Ralph Klein suggests, Reform uses the word equality to smother Canada's necessary acknowledgment of Quebec's unique francophone culture in North America. Reform has cynically driven a wedge between francophone Quebec and other provinces for its own political gain. Reform's instincts concerning Quebec are fundamentally destructive.
Reform also attaches a socially conservative agenda to its politically conservative platform, with an illiberal and harsh streak that would further polarize Canadian society. Deprived of deficit-fighting as fuel for its cause, Reform has reached down into the barrel of cultural and moral differences to sustain itself. This can lead to no constructive outcome for Canada.
It is almost surprising to realize that, on balance, the best party platform comes from the Progressive Conservatives under Jean Charest. The PCs were not supposed to be ready with a coherent vision for the future yet, but Mr. Charest delivered it this spring with convincing force. It offers early and specific tax cuts, starting with unemployment insurance premiums and personal income taxes. It envisions cuts in the GST rate. It commits to a balanced budget law. It tackles federal department spending. It offers a superior vision for federal support of provincial social programs through the transfer of federal tax points, based on enforceable federal-provincial agreements. The PC's budget numbers rely on a growing economy to provide higher federal revenues and so do not add up with certainty, but their economic vision, like that of Reform's, is fundamentally sound.
Mr. Charest also makes specific commitments to an internal common market, a national role in educational skills testing and far more transparency and participation in appointments to the Senate and other federal bodies. There is no comparison between the specifics and forward reach of the PC platform and the just-trust-me smugness of the 1997 Liberal red book.
As a political leader, Jean Charest is clearly superior to Jean Chrétien. Mr. Charest's ability to make the case for his cause is unsurpassed in Canadian politics, and his approach to Quebec has long shown the suppleness required by reality. The fact that Mr. Charest's teammates are largely unknown and untested is a liability, but less so than Mr. Chrétien's presumptuous absence of policy or vision.
Elections require that choices be made among imperfect alternatives in the face of unpredictable events. The Liberals made a bet in calling this election: That they wouldn't have to earn a second mandate with specific commitments for the future because their opponents were too weak to matter. Both Reform and the PCs have shown the Liberals to be wrong, and Jean Charest has, in our opinion, prevailed in making the best case for the support of the voters.
Jean Chretien, left, and Paul Martin, 2000.
2000: Liberal Party
Why we recommend a vote for Paul Martin (Globe Editorial from November 25, 2000)
The crucial questions in Monday's election are simply put. What visions of Canada do the parties have, and are they the visions this country needs at this moment in its history?
Canadians have enjoyed an uncommon run of prosperity. The federal Liberal government, by which we mean Finance Minister Paul Martin, has taken advantage of the good times and exercised the necessary fiscal restraint to erase a crippling federal deficit and begin paying down an enormous debt.
At the same time, Canada has to a large extent piggybacked on the expanding U.S. economy. It needs to increase its own productivity and level of innovation. It faces the challenge of an ailing public health-care system, weakened by years of cutbacks in federal transfer payments. The failure of the dollar to reflect the basic soundness of the economy is a concern. If the economy were to suffer a downturn, or if interest charges were to mount on the sizable debt, the government would be under pressure to run deficits again.
This is not the time to dismantle a strong central government capable of responding with authority and coherence to international challenges. It is not the time to embrace radical, poorly thought-out measures as a response to the uncertain cues of globalization.
The Liberals, the New Democrats and, to a lesser degree, the Progressive Conservatives believe in a strong federal government. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has carried this to an unhealthy extreme, consolidating in his office power that more properly belongs to Parliament. However, the three parties' traditions are of considering the national and international implications of their acts and recognizing that a federation can be more than the sum of its parts, its provinces and territories.
The Canadian Alliance is not of this tradition. Its roots are in the Reform Party, a Western regional movement, and despite its aim to broaden its appeal the party remains what it was: a party hostile to Ottawa and determined to devolve power to the provinces in general and the Western provinces in particular.
The Alliance has many of the right instincts: fiscally conservative, ready to offer tax relief and suspicious of corporate subsidies and regional slush funds. The trouble with its vision of national government is that it doesn't want to govern. Its heart is with a string of almost autonomous region-states and a federal government that manages the Criminal Code, foreign relations, the military and little else. The Alliance would strip Ottawa of much of its power, hand over more tax points to the provinces and might even, leader Stockwell Day mused at one point, encourage the provinces to collect income tax and put Ottawa on an allowance.
Beyond that, the campaign has sown doubts that the Alliance has the intellectual sophistication to operate the levers of a complex country at a complex time. Witness its willingness to hand over any issue -- the legality of abortion, the return of the death penalty, the fate of the GST -- to the simplistic mechanism of a referendum whose timing will be left to 3 or 5 or 10 per cent (the Alliance hasn't figured that out yet) of Canadians. Witness the absence of an arts policy that recognizes the importance of a vibrant culture in this country. Witness the insistence of a candidate for the country's highest elected office that his core beliefs -- among them, that the Book of Genesis trumps scientific reasoning and discovery -- have no political content and are not appropriate fodder for a political campaign.
What of the other four parties?
The Bloc Québécois takes the drive for regional autonomy to the breaking point. It seeks an independent Quebec, a goal that would fracture the country and, we have long argued, be destructive for Quebec and Quebeckers. No to that.
The New Democratic Party, though it has no monopoly on concern for the less fortunate in society, offers a clear alternative to those who reject the fiscal priorities of the Liberals, Alliance and Conservatives. It would spend more money, more quickly, than the other parties to repair and expand the social safety net. However, its demonization of all but small businesses, its lack of concern for the debt and its failure to acknowledge high taxes as a threat to the country's competitiveness rule it out of contention for anyone who sees a strong economy as the way to guarantee the survival of Canada's social programs.
In several respects, the Conservatives have an impressive legacy. However, by the end of the Mulroney years they had squandered the trust of the nation, not just with their minor scandals and pork-barrel antics but with their dismal failure to tame the deficits and the debt. They talked the talk of fiscal probity and stumbled. The party is a shell of its former self, its recovery hampered by Reform and, now, the Alliance.
Mr. Day's party sought to unite the right and failed, in large part because it failed to expand its tent to include the Ontario Conservative tradition represented by Tom Long and Mike Harris. The country needs a strong right-of-centre alternative to the Liberals, one that will entice Westerners back into a truly national party. But it will likely be some version of the Progressive Conservative Party, not of the Alliance, that spearheads such a centre-right revival, drawing in the social liberals as well as the fiscal and social conservatives.
That day is not yet in sight. Mr. Clark, a man of experience and integrity, deserves credit for making good use of his opportunities in this campaign to remind voters that the Progressive Conservatives remain a vital force, with an attractive platform. Some sophisticated analysts have even recommended a tactical vote for the Conservatives in the hope of destabilizing the Liberals and thereby bringing about new Liberal leadership. However, this option is one we reject, for two reasons: first, the unrealistically large number of votes this strategy would require to be effective; second, the essential lack of principle in voting for a party one doesn't in fact favour.
We prefer a more direct approach. That approach, unfortunately, leaves us with Jean Chrétien.
Mr. Chrétien has to go. He has become a one-man band, loving power for its own sake (witness his premature election call), terrorizing backbench MPs who might seek an independent voice when confidence isn't at stake, shrugging off the sloppy record-keeping and politically charged grants of Human Resources Development, dismissing the ethical problems of his intercession with the Federal Business Development Bank, and in general treating his position as lord of a fief rather than as a public trust.
He deserves credit, after coming close to fumbling the 1995 sovereignty referendum, for proceeding with the clarity bill, which laid out the federal ground rules for any future vote. But his government has been more a caretaker of the laws, acting when prodded by circumstance, as in its extension of benefits to gays and lesbians to satisfy the courts.
Yet the Liberals have managed what the Conservatives before them and the Trudeau Liberals before them could not: to make a positive difference to the government's books. Paul Martin has brought the Canadian government into glorious surplus. If he has been helped by a buoyant U.S. economy and the windfall of unnecessarily high Employment Insurance premiums, he has nonetheless resisted the impulse to spend the money on new programs at the expense of future solvency.
Mr. Martin has taken seriously the threat that future generations might lose their social programs because they would be too busy repaying the debts of the past. To that end he has taken unpopular measures, including the drastic suspension of billions of dollars in health-care funding, to eliminate the deficit and enable the government, with the new freedom that surpluses give, to afford to start putting those health-care dollars back.
If only Mr. Martin were running for prime minister rather than Mr. Chrétien, our choice would be obvious. Mr. Martin is a fully bilingual, thoughtful, experienced politician with a business background and leadership instincts at the conservative end of the Liberal spectrum.
But Mr. Martin is not running for prime minister. Mr. Chrétien has made sure of that, several times. The question, therefore, is whether he might become prime minister.
That will depend on the timing of Mr. Chrétien's departure, which is almost certain to be forced on him by the mandatory leadership review of March, 2002, or earlier in the event of a minority government. Mr. Martin would not be the only competitor in the leadership race, but he would be the best choice and, if the race were held soon, the likely winner.
We therefore cast our vote for the Liberals, in the belief that the party will soon choose Mr. Martin as its leader, and Canada's.
If Mr. Chrétien wins a majority on Monday, the party should encourage his voluntary departure in these terms: You won your gamble of a fall election. You can celebrate being the first prime minister in many decades to win three consecutive majorities. But if you stay longer, your place in history, which is already decaying, will be tarnished by your ego and disrespect for the party's future. Go now, and spare yourself the ignominy of being pushed.
Prime Minister Paul Martin gets a hug from a member of his campaign staff upon his arrival in Ottawa Tuesday June 29, 2004.Tom Hanson
2004: Liberal Party
The safe choice is to do no harm (Globe Editorial from June 23, 2004)
Commentators have wrongly characterized the 2004 general election as dirty, derogatory and demeaning. In fact, it has been one of the most illuminating of recent times.
The campaign has reaped a bumper crop of choice for voters. Those Quebeckers steeped in parochialism can opt for their now-permanent party of protest, the Bloc Québécois. Romantics can throw their lot in with dreamy Jack Layton's New Democrats or, for a change of pace, the blissful future promised by the Greens.
Then there are the two entities with a chance of forming a government: the reformed Conservatives under Stephen Harper and the perennial default choice of Canadian politics, the Liberals, now with Paul Martin at the helm.
For 11 years, the Liberals have governed Canada, and, by and large, they've governed it well. Simply ask yourself a variant of Ronald Reagan's famous question: Are you and your country better off today than you were a decade ago? The answer must be a resounding yes.
A previous generation of governments, Liberal and Tory both, had so abysmally managed our economy that Canada was keeping company with the likes of Belgium and Italy when the Chrétien Liberals came to power in 1993. Today, the Canadian economy is the envy of the industrialized world, providing the foundation for social investment. Did this turnaround occur on the backs of the provinces and other recipients of federal funds? Obviously. Was it justified by the circumstances? Just as obvious.
Nor was finally wrestling the deficit to the ground Mr. Martin's only achievement. Working with the provinces, he also put the Canada Pension Plan on a sound footing. And then, just five years after his shock fiscal therapy, he authored the largest tax cut in Canadian history.
Yet, in other important ways, Mr. Martin and the government he served came up decidedly short. They repeatedly failed to produce a serious effort at health-care reform, preferring to purchase temporary provincial peace rather than tackle the real problems plaguing the system. They lacked the will to confront the running sore of aboriginal policies that never seem to lift aboriginal peoples out of misery. Nor could the party of Lester Pearson muster the intellectual power to put in place a modern foreign policy.
Finally, like most governments long in the tooth, the Liberals grew sloppy, even cavalier, with power and money. And so we were introduced to the concept of friendly dictators, democratic deficits and, ultimately, the sponsorship scandal. The Liberals took ownership of the crisis of public ethics that had propelled them to power in the first place.
That said, the point of the current electoral exercise is not so much to judge the kind of government the Liberals have provided as it is to evaluate the kind they would provide with another mandate.
To put it succinctly, Paul Martin, or whoever is inhabiting his body, has proved a monumental disappointment since becoming Prime Minister six months ago. His pronouncements have displayed all the consistency of Pablum. Intent on winning every vote in the country, he lived in fear of offending someone, somewhere, somehow. On Iraq and Kyoto, he was incomprehensible. On same-sex marriage, he swung both ways. On missile defence co-operation, first he was openly for it, then secretly for it. He had two Supreme Court openings, but boxed himself into a process corner.
He made enemies of the meritorious (witness Stéphane Dion) and promoted the mediocre (come on down, Jean Lapierre). The only difference between his political manipulations and those of his "friendly dictator" predecessor was that the latter didn't leave bloodied fingerprints at the crime scene.
On health care, we have heard much rhetoric. But Mr. Martin's ideas for shortening waiting lists remain fanciful. As a general rule, he has beseeched voters to count on his reputation for solutions rather than proposing any.
But does he deserve to be thrown out?
The country's justified but disproportionate anger over the sponsorship scandal is insufficient cause by itself to impose capital punishment on Mr. Martin's Liberals. The McGuinty budget in Ontario is infuriating but not germane.
The answer to the question of who can best govern Canada requires a close examination not just of the devil you know but of the alternative. Which brings us to Mr. Harper and the Conservatives.
The greatest argument in their favour is the time-for-change imperative. All institutions require periodic cleansing to remove sclerotic thinking and allow for renewal. On issues such as health care, Mr. Harper is better positioned to bring new approaches to old problems.
Over the past year, the young Conservative Leader has proved more adept than generally presumed at building bridges, as demonstrated by his role in merging the Alliance and Tories, and finally creating a viable alternative for Canadians. But merged entities take time to gel. And the Conservatives have not had ample time. As we have seen throughout the campaign, the new party speaks with many contradictory voices, a cacophony of confusion that needs to be sorted out.
What of Stephen Harper himself, the man who would be prime minister? We may know Paul Martin all too well, but we hardly know his challenger at all. Some of what we know demands greater explanation, most notably the sentiments contained in the infamous Alberta firewall letter. It was incumbent upon Mr. Harper to provide a greater comfort level rather than respond to challengers with quiet contempt or truculence.
Mr. Harper is an exceedingly intelligent man. But his position on same-sex marriage, for instance, is either dumb or, more probably, disingenuous. However one feels about specific issues, the courts play a legitimate role in Canadian society. After all, it was politicians, not judges, who conceived, wrote and adopted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Harper's assertion that the judiciary would respect a free vote of the House of Commons, presumably a vote to restrict marriage to a man and a woman, flies in the face of this assigned role. Indeed, Mr. Harper was not such a stout defender of parliamentary supremacy when elected officials voted to restrict third-party advertising during election campaigns. In that instance, he rightly sought Charter relief from Parliament's oppression of free-speech rights.
So what are his principles here? And why won't he tell us whether he would use the notwithstanding clause, a legitimate constitutional tool, on same-sex marriage?
One is left to conclude that the Conservative Leader prefers the 1867 version of our Constitution, with its explicit division of powers between the provinces and Ottawa, to the 1982 version granting rights to individuals and groups and conferring power upon courts to adjudicate these.
For Mr. Harper, checks and balances would come in a different form. He intends to gradually move to an elected Senate without the inconvenience of constitutional negotiation. And, as a proponent of smaller central government, he favours devolving power to the provinces.
It is at this juncture that the right-of-centre Mr. Harper finds common cause with the left-of-centre Bloc Québécois. We worry that Mr. Harper would both weaken the capacity of Ottawa to govern in the name of Canada and that his party's possible alignment with the Bloc in a minority Parliament would give succour to the separatist movement.
Finally, and oddly, Mr. Harper, a graduate of the fiscally dry Reform Party, has put forward a platform that sails too close to the deficit wind for our comfort. A high quality of life can be built only on the foundation of a strong economy, and a strong economy requires governments to provide a stable fiscal environment. The Conservative platform is inadequately prudent in this regard.
And so we find ourselves in the same conundrum as millions of voters. On the one hand, the Liberals are worn and tired and their leader has not lived up to his billing. But he's performed well in previous incarnations.
On the other hand, Stephen Harper, a product of Central Canadian caution and Alberta's can-do frontier mentality, represents genuine change. Yet there are troubling signs that he has not yet matured into a truly national leader.
As with medicine, the most important principle of Canadian politics should be to do no harm. That means don't risk our fiscal health and don't gamble with our national unity.
We wish Mr. Martin had afforded himself the opportunity of an 18-month tryout before going to the polls. Now the voters have the opportunity to impose a probationary period themselves. Whichever party prevails Monday, a minority looks the most likely outcome. We believe Mr. Martin represents the less risky proposition and deserves a second chance to prove himself. We further believe the Conservatives could use more time to pull their new party together and make their positions and predispositions clearer.
Therefore, we urge a Liberal vote Monday -- not because they've earned the right to re-election but because, at the very least, we can count on them to do little harm and, at best, the near-death experience might help the old Paul Martin find himself and lead Canada more confidently into the future.
Conservative Party of Canada leader and Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper speaks to supporters in Calgary, Jan. 23, 2006.Andy Clark
2006: Conservative Party
Three reasons why it's time for a change (Globe Editorial from January 14, 2006)
Canada has been well served by 12-plus years of Liberal rule. Despite what the opposition parties would have us believe, it has not been all scandal and nest-feathering.
Ask yourself a simple multiple of Ronald Reagan's famous electoral question: Are you better off today than you were 12 years ago? Unemployment then stood at 11.2 per cent. Today, it is 6.5 per cent. An average mortgage rate was 8.78 per cent. Now it is 5.99 per cent, making home ownership affordable for hundreds of thousands more Canadians. The national debt has fallen from 66.5 per cent of gross domestic product to 38.7 per cent. Taxes are down; our standard of living is up.
On a more qualitative level, while much of the world has struggled with intolerance, Canada has emerged as a beacon of diversity -- home to newcomers from around the world and confident enough of managing differences to become one of the early adopters of same-sex marriage.
The Liberal years certainly have not been without their failings, from the gun registry to the sponsorship scandal to the fumbling of the income-trust issue. But there is no denying we are better off than when Jean Chrétien first came to power with Paul Martin at his side.
Nonetheless, we have concluded that the time has arrived for a change of government in Canada. Three reasons stand out above all.
1. While the past 12 years have been relatively good ones, the law of diminishing returns has been eroding Liberal effectiveness since at least the 2000 election. A change of leadership in 2003 has failed to reverse the process.
The government of Canada, long of tooth and short of energy, is mired in policy gridlock. Hard choices give way to easy spending, and long-term thinking is overwhelmed by short-term calculation. Lacking firm policy anchors, a heavily politi-cized Prime Minister's Office bobs from issue du jour to issue du jour, neglecting enduring challenges in favour of quick hits that hold out the promise of instant gratification. Thus, from nowhere, comes a proposal to outlaw the notwithstanding clause. Apologize, spend, line up behind the parade; it's hardly inspiring, even if a mean-spirited minority Parliament deserves some of the blame.
Moreover, Liberal verities hinder rather than assist the finding of answers to such challenges as increasing productivity, fixing an unwieldy and politicized immigration system, steadying relations with the United States and confronting the real ills of the health-care system. Too often, ministers have resorted to the politically correct course: waving a Kyoto agreement rather than tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, or throwing money at aboriginal problems. Fresh thinking is demanded, but the same old elected officials supported by the same old circle of advisers naturally come up with the same old solutions.
2. Then there is this matter of the culture of entitlement that has taken deep root within the Liberal Party. C. D. Howe may have been arrogant in invoking closure before debate even began on the pipeline bill in 1956, but at least he didn't hold up his chewing gum and announce he was entitled to his entitlements. Nor, to the best of our memory, did he take his driver on overseas business trips and defend the decision on the basis of his need for security advice. The Liberals have simply become too accustomed to power, and the elites in various sectors too accustomed to the Liberals. When even Ralph Goodale thinks it's all right to investigate yourself, you know you're in trouble.
Mr. Martin, a modest and honourable man personally, has done little to challenge this culture, despite so promising during the leadership race. His parliamentary reforms proved a damp squib. Electoral reform died on the vine. A new group of PMO apparatchiks picked up where the old ones left off, exercising an iron grip over party and government affairs. In conducting business with the government of Canada, the question of 'who do you know in the PMO?' remains regrettably relevant.
3. Change is essential in a democracy. A perpetual lease on 24 Sussex Drive fuels the sense of entitlement that blurs the line between private gain and public good. Just as bad, a perpetual lease on Stornoway discourages the discipline and moderation required of an alternative government. Without a vibrant, continuing competition for power, a democracy runs the risk of degenerating into hegemony on the governing side and unreality on the opposition side. Both parties need to believe they can win elections -- and lose them.
Unfortunately, Canadians have lacked such a choice for most of the past dozen years. The Conservatives, historically a weaker coalition than the Liberals, splintered, rendering themselves chronically uncompetitive. If Canadians were primed for change in 2000, that possibility was rendered moot both by the continued split on the right and by the inept leadership and bizarre views of Stockwell Day.
In 2004, Canadians were not ready to bet on a party just recently knit back together and a leader, Stephen Harper, with a controversial political past and a brittle and angry campaign presence. They preferred to give Paul Martin, the most successful finance minister in the history of the country, the benefit of the doubt, despite his ill-starred early months as prime minister.
Today, Canadians clearly are ready for change. If not now -- if not after a painfully incoherent minority Liberal government, if not after a succession of scandals, if not after four full terms of deteriorating government -- then when? When is change acceptable if not now?
The argument against change essentially amounts to this: better the devil you know than the new devil. After all, the devil you know has been mediocre, not disastrous, and lies closer to that ephemeral Canadian consensus sometimes called values. Many on the centre-left of the political spectrum remain not unreasonably suspicious of Mr. Harper's election-hour shift to the political centre. They continue to think the erstwhile neoconservative harbours a hidden agenda.
Then again, Mr. Martin himself has shifted all over the map in recent years -- on ballistic missile defence, on same-sex marriage, on the Clarity Act. In the run-up to the election in June of 2004, we wrote: "We wish Mr. Martin had afforded himself the opportunity of an 18-month tryout before going to the polls. Now the voters have the opportunity to impose a probationary period themselves."
Mr. Martin did not pass that 18-month probation. He doesn't deserve the public's opprobrium, or an electoral wipeout, but neither has he earned the right to a fifth Liberal term. A spell out of power would give the Liberals the time they so clearly need to renew themselves.
In that same 2004 editorial, we characterized Mr. Harper as "a product of Central Canadian caution and Alberta's can-do frontier mentality." But, noting his propensity to "respond to challengers withquiet contempt and truculence," we expressed doubt that he had "matured into a truly national leader."
There is greater reason to feel comfortable with Mr. Harper today. He has shown himself to be an intelligent man and one, in this campaign at least, who has learned to master his emotions. He has gained control of a party inclined to fly off in all directions, moved it to the centre and proposed a reasonable if imperfect governing platform. His targeted tax measures are measured, his defence policies are sound, and his approach to waiting times is worth experimenting with.
His pledge not to use the notwithstanding clause on same-sex marriage provides some comfort, as does his promise not to reopen the abortion debate. In both cases, he has demonstrated a deft political touch, giving something to his base but leaving himself ample political room to steer clear of unnecessarily divisive issues. (Private members have their rights, but we doubt they can muster a majority.) It is the same pattern with his gradualist approach to Senate reform and his willingness to engage the once-dreaded Red Tories.
The question many ask -- who is the real Stephen Harper? -- cannot be answered with exactitude. Then again, who was the real Pierre Trudeau -- the civil libertarian or the invoker of the War Measures Act? All politics contains a degree of posturing and calculation. That said, the evidence suggests Mr. Harper has indeed evolved as a national leader.
It is hard to endorse him and his party unreservedly. We worry about his seeming indifference to the need for a strong central government in a country so replete with runaway centrifugal forces. We worry about him teaming up with the Bloc Québécois to weaken the federal government's tax-raising capacity and its advocacy of national programs. We worry that he might have to strike retrograde compromises with social conservatives in the party's midst. We worry that he may prove heavy-handed in wielding the considerable powers of a prime minister.
But we also know that public opinion in an information-enriched society provides a natural check on immoderate policies and behaviour. Political parties are in the business of currying public favour; a governing party, even an unnatural one, will not stray too far, too frequently, from the social consensus. The dynamic of democratic change keeps competitors for power within reasonable bounds. So it will be for Mr. Harper and his Conservatives.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper signs a campaign document for a supporter during a rally in Vancouver, Oct. 13, 2008.Chris Wattie
2008: Conservative Party
Harper is growing into the job (Globe Editorial from October 10, 2008)
Two anxieties, neither wholly irrational, have attached themselves to Stephen Harper in his years as a contender for and holder of the top political office in the land. The first is that he is a right-wing ideologue, badly out of sync with mainstream Canadian values and sentiments. The second is that he is possessed by a mean-spirited and controlling nature; that his emotional intelligence isn't up to his mental level.
These dual anxieties continue to fuel a passionate anti-Harper streak in Canadian politics. Certainly, he has been far too much a solo runner in the team game of politics. He doesn't trust easily and so isn't trusted much. He is prone to savage attacks on his opponents and detractors, such as his gratuitous characterizations of parliamentary critics as Taliban sympathizers or artists as rich gala-goers. He also shows an underdeveloped appreciation for the basic tenets of pluralism with his denigrations of the keepers of critical checks and balances in our political system, from officers of Parliament to members of the press.
But despite these personality traits, Mr. Harper has governed moderately and competently for nearly three years. He has not taken the country in dangerous new directions or significantly eroded the capacity of the government to act, when necessary, in the public interest. He has been side-swiped, at least on the emotional level, by an international economic crisis of epic proportions. But he has gotten the big things right.
An election rarely offers perfect choices. Voters are called upon to sort through a catalogue of inputs — issues, policies, past records, regional affiliations, personalities, etc. — in casting their ballots. On balance, Mr. Harper remains the best man for the job in the tough times now upon us. He deserves if not four more years, at least two more years. By all logic, he should be cruising to an easy majority. That he is not, and has proven incapable of holding north of 40 per cent in public support, will hopefully persuade him to be mindful of the penalty he pays for failing to address these two persisting anxieties.
That said, the anxious among us should also be mindful that the exercise of power is inherently moderating in a democracy. Elected officials need to balance competing interests and be able to justify their actions. Public opinion weighs constantly on a political leader; the knowledge is always there that his or her political strength is directly co-related with approval ratings.
In this campaign, Mr. Harper and his Conservative party are only seriously challenged for government by Stéphane Dion's Liberals. (For all the flourish of his introductory line — "I'm Jack Layton and I'm running for Prime Minister" — history and political culture suggest otherwise.) Mr. Dion is a decent man of great integrity and tremendous courage, most evident in his years as minister of intergovernmental affairs under Jean Chrétien. But a leader he is not.
If you want to meet the most inflexible head of a major political party, Mr. Dion takes it in a cakewalk. He's had a relatively strong week to be sure, but has never been much inclined to make the kind of mid-course corrections required in uncharted waters. He is a priest not a proselytizer, better at righteousness than salesmanship. The Green Shift has been an electoral disaster not because a carbon tax/income tax swap is a bad idea, but because his proposal is ill-timed, ill-considered (why mix an anti-poverty initiative into a tax on greenhouse gas emissions?) and ill-presented. You cannot be a leader without creating followers and Mr. Dion has failed to attract followers to his signature policy.
Some Liberals already have taken aim at Mr. Dion in the midst of the campaign, but they should engage in a more sophisticated diagnostic. The party-writ-large has failed to reinvent itself for the 21st century and public opinion research shows, perhaps as a result, that fewer and fewer Canadians identify themselves as "liberal." With the exception of the halcyon years of a badly divided political right, the Liberal Party of Canada has been shedding core supporters for decades, starting with Western and rural Canadians, then small business operators and Quebec nationalists and perhaps now extending even into the more entrepreneurial and socially conservative immigrant communities. It has not made adequate use of its time out.
Meanwhile, the supposedly obstinate Mr. Harper has been nothing if not open to adjusting as circumstances change. He was masterful in building a "big tent" centre-right alternative to the "natural governing" Liberals. His vision, determination and adroitness restored political competition to Canada, not an insignificant accomplishment.
Mr. Harper has done well on other fronts, too. He has spoken with refreshing candour and courage on foreign affairs, especially on the Middle East, and he was nimble in fulfilling his regrettable promise to hold a free vote on same-sex marriage while depriving the matter of any combustible material. He controlled his party's extreme social conservative rump, not vice versa.
He was shrewd and deft when the sensitive issue of recognizing Quebec as a nation was dropped in his lap by the machinations of Liberal Michael Ignatieff. He acted calmly and decisively to forge a cross-party consensus and made sure the status of nationhood went to the Québécois people, not to Quebec. As with Afghanistan, he played a bad hand very well — an example worth remembering as the economy poses unprecedented challenges.
Indeed, the most important characteristic Mr. Harper has shown over 33 months in office is a capacity to grow. There is no reason to think he won't continue along the same trajectory if re-elected — a good thing, too, since there is much more for him to learn.
Instead of carping about a dysfunctional Parliament, for which he holds much responsibility, Mr. Harper should throw out his previous playbook and try making the institution work. It would mean displaying the confidence to operate outside his comfort zone of near-absolute control, but it is a mission built for a true conservative. And, no, Senate reform is no substitute for getting the House of Commons operating well.
Mr. Harper should also use his political skills to wring real meaning out of last spring's apology to aboriginals. The rampant social pathologies afflicting native Canadians — from suicide to alcoholism to poor educational outcomes — remain the greatest stain on Canada's history and reputation. Coaxing First nations peoples into a full partnership with other Canadians and full participation in the Canadian economy and society would be the stuff of a prime minister intent on real achievement.
We also urge Mr. Harper to revisit his wholly inadequate climate-change plan. Canada and the world need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. Counterintuitively, Mr. Harper may be the best-positioned Canadian politician to lead on this important issue, should he ever condescend to take it seriously. Given the impregnability of his Alberta base, he could strike a modern Nixon-to-China on climate change.
His attitude toward China, which thankfully looks to be in transition, has been rooted in old-fashioned, missionary-driven zeal. Human rights matter and should be part of the discussion. But managing relations with China, as with the United States, calls for balance and the pursuit of national interest, not personal ideology. Mr. Harper needs to recalibrate his approach to this proud and flawed world power.
Finally, the economy. Mr. Harper has to temper his distrust of the national government as a force in domestic policy with an understanding that Canadians always look to Ottawa in times of trouble. His instincts to play as small a role as possible, other than for electoral gain, are perhaps not as wrong-headed as those who would have the state play too big a role, given the excesses of past interventions. But we have entered an unprecedented period of market breakdown and Canadians need their government to be attentive and responsive. Mr. Harper possesses the competence and flexibility to pull this off, notwithstanding his awkwardness over the past week, including the rollout of a policy to shore up lending reserves.
Whatever you think of him, the Stephen Harper of today is not the Stephen Harper of 2004 or earlier. The "firewall" temperament has largely subsided, despite the odd recurrence on matters such as artists who choose free expression over popularity. He is in better control of his emotions. He is smart enough and adaptable enough to recognize that his tendencies toward pettiness and hyper-partisanship hold him and his party back.
By and large, Canadians still don't really trust Mr. Harper and so he has not yet earned their comfort with a majority government. If he prevails next Tuesday, it will be as a default choice, not a popular choice. Voters generally respect him — and, right now, competence trumps the unknown — but if he ever hopes to complete the construction of a governing party of the right and be remembered as more than a middling, minority prime minister, Mr. Harper will have to show as much capacity to grow over the next four years as he has over the past four.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks at campaign rally in Beaupre, Que, on April 14, 2011.Mathieu Belanger
2011: Conservative Party
Facing up to our challenges (Globe editorial from April 28, 2011)
We are nearing the end of an unremarkable and disappointing election campaign, marked by petty scandals, policy convergences and a dearth of serious debate. Canadians deserved better. We were not presented with an opportunity to vote for something bigger and bolder, nor has there been an honest recognition of the most critical issues that lie ahead: a volatile economy, ballooning public debts and the unwieldy future of our health-care system.
The challenges facing our next federal government do not end there, of course. The next House of Commons must find new ways to protect Parliament, the heart of our democracy. It needs to reform its troubled equalization program without straining national unity. Relations with the U.S. are at a critical juncture. Any thickening of the border threatens to punish all Canadians, while negotiations over perimeter security have implications for national sovereignty and economic security. Wars in Libya and Afghanistan, climate change, Canada's role in the world, the rapid and exciting change of the country's ethnic and cultural makeup – the list is great, as is the need for strong leadership in Ottawa.
Whom should Canadians turn to?
The Liberal Party's Michael Ignatieff has been an honourable opposition leader; he has risen above the personal attacks launched by the Conservatives, he has stood up for Parliament, and he has fought hard in this election. But his campaign failed to show how the Conservative government has failed, and why he and the Liberals are a preferred alternative.
Jack Layton has energized the New Democrats and the electorate, and seems more able than the other leaders to connect with ordinary people. He has succeeded in putting a benign gloss on his party's free-spending policies, but those policies remain unrealistic and unaffordable, at a time when the country needs to better manage public spending, not inflate it. He has shown that a federalist party can make serious inroads in Quebec, but it has come at the cost of an unwelcome promise to impose provisions of Quebec's language law in federal workplaces.
Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let's call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. He has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper's successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.
Mr. Harper could achieve a great deal more if he would relax his grip on Parliament, its independent officers and the flow of information, and instead bring his disciplined approach to bear on the great challenges at hand. That is the great strike against the Conservatives: a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts (including during this campaign) to stanch debate and free expression. It is a disappointing failing in a leader who previously emerged from a populist movement that fought so valiantly for democratic reforms.
Those who disdain the Harper approach should consider his overall record, which is good. The Prime Minister and the Conservative Party have demonstrated principled judgment on the economic file. They are not doctrinaire; with the support of other parties they adopted stimulus spending after the financial crash of 2008, when it was right to do so. They have assiduously pursued a whole range of trade negotiations. They have facilitated the extension of the GST/HST to Ontario and British Columbia, and have persisted in their plan for a national securities regulator. The Conservatives have greater respect, too, for the free market, and for freedom of international investment, in spite of their apparent yielding to political pressure in the proposed takeover of Potash Corp.
Even more determination will be needed to confront the sustainability of publicly funded health care in an aging society. Health care is suffering from chronic spending disease. If left unchecked, it could swallow as much as 31 cents of each new dollar in wealth created in Canada in the next 20 years. In spite of some unwise commitments he has made on subsidy increases to the provinces, Mr. Harper has the toughness and reformist instincts to push the provinces toward greater experimentation (in private delivery, for instance) and change.
The campaign of 2011 – so vicious and often vapid – should not be remembered fondly. But that will soon be behind us. If the result is a confident new Parliament, it could help propel Canada into a fresh period of innovation, government reform and global ambition. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are best positioned to guide Canada there.