Murray Dobbins writes that it's easy to become obsessed with Stephen Harper. But whoever follows him could make things worse. After all, Paul Martin made Stephen Harper possible, just as Brian Mulroney made Martin possible. Together they established corporate government in Canada:
No one was prepared for what Finance Minister Paul Martin had in store for the country (he effectively ran the Chretien government). Mulroney had established the foundation for corporatism with the free trade deal with the U.S. Martin delivered punch number two: the gutting of federal spending and revenue raising. In his famous 1995 "deficit-fighting" budget speech he boasted not about the reduced deficit but about radically diminishing the role of government: "...it is the very redefinition of government itself that is the main achievement of this budget... Relative to the size of our economy, program spending will be lower in 1996-97 than at any time since 1951." When surpluses went through the roof, he slashed taxes -- and revenue -- by $100 billion over five years.
That is why progressives need to give serious thought to who will follow Harper. Unfortunately, corporatism is now well established in both of the two main opposition parties:
We can expect almost nothing from trying to engage the Liberal Party except the next phase in the neo-liberal normal. Little has changed in the party of Paul Martin, and Justin Trudeau seems too weak morally and too lazy intellectually to establish a vision that can stand against the party's power brokers. Yet progressive Liberals must use their voices and pocketbooks to press their party to pledge a reversal of Harper's right-wing social engineering.
And the party which Dobbin long supported is now marching under the corporate flag:
The NDP with its long history of social justice principles should be the party committed to repairing the damage done by Harper. But without a concerted campaign by its own members and supporters we are likely to be disappointed. NDP leader Tom Mulcair has essentially declared that even if his party becomes government in 2015 he will do little more than administer the train wreck left to him by Harper. What else are we to make of his repeated, aggressive statement on raising personal taxes? He told the St. John's Telegram in August: "Several provinces are already at the 50 per cent rate. Beyond that, you're not talking taxation, you're talking confiscation. And that is never going to be part of my policies, going after more individual taxes. Period. Full stop."
So what's to be done? Dobbins believes that both opposition parties have to be led from the bottom. Unless Canadians push the leaders of all parties to abandon the corporate model, we will stop electing prime ministers and replace them with "economic managers."
And, if it comes to that, democracy will have died in this country.