We on the Left like to think that the Harper government is in the pocket of Big Business. But, Jim Stanford writes, recent decisions have caused business to re-evaluate its support for Harper and Co:
More recently, however, the relationship between Ottawa and the corporate sector has become more complicated. Canada’s business leaders might be wondering whether Santa Claus was replaced by the Grinch – because on several issues, the Conservatives have come into direct conflict with business. With a tough election looming, and the government’s actions increasingly dictated by political optics rather than any consistent economic ideology, executives have been negatively surprised by several recent edicts from Ottawa.
Stanford cites the following examples of political opportunism:
A potent symbol of that tension was the legislation introduced at year’s end, requiring companies to “justify” price differentials between Canada and the U.S. The Competition Bureau is authorized to collect confidential corporate financial data to facilitate this comparison. Few believe the Bureau has either the desire or the resources to investigate prices in any meaningful way, and it will have no power to do anything about “unjustified” price gaps in any event. Moreover, the only reason such gaps exist – a substantially overvalued Canadian currency – is disappearing before our eyes. So the legislation is pure theatre.
This silly but unprecedented intervention echoed another simmering confrontation between Ottawa and the telecommunications industry. The Harper government is actively aiding the creation of a fourth national wireless carrier, assuming that consumers would consequently enjoy a sea-change in quality and cost. (International evidence on that score is not encouraging.)
More open conflict was sparked by the Conservatives’ sudden decision to restrict the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program. It was the Harper government that threw this program wide open after 2007, but they soon faced growing (and understandable) popular anger – including from segments of their own base. So they dramatically rolled back the program. Business is still complaining, and loudly. The government was motivated more by polls than principle; they’d still like to expand the supply of low-wage labour through other means. But in the meantime, it’s another major irritant in its relations with business.
When you add the evidence up, it becomes clear the only ideology that guides Stephen Harper is power -- getting it and keeping it. Organized labour has known that for a long time. More recently, Canada's veterans have also learned that hard lesson. And now business is beginning to understand that -- when push comes to shove -- it'll be thrown under the bus.
So, in the next election, where are the votes for Harper going to come from?