For some time now, the Conservative party of Canada has not been doing a very good job of living up to its name. Several recent governmental policies betray a move from traditionally conservative ideals to ideals which fit more into the centre of the political spectrum. This shift may ensure that the party gets more votes than it would otherwise, but it threatens to alienate the Conservative’s base of support, leaving that base vulnerable to the seductions of more radical, right-wing groups. This is dangerous not just for the Conservative party, but for individuals and groups across the political spectrum.
The Conservative party and the base that supports it have traditionally supported policies of fiscal conservatism and small government. Recently, however, one would find it hard to believe that the current Conservative government’s policies are based on either of those ideals. Rather than reigning in spending, the current government has been quite liberal in its economic policies. The Canada Economic Action plan in last year’s budget included an unprecedentedly large $40 billion in stimulus to be distributed over two years for the Canadian economy. What’s more, last year’s federal budget included a rather large deficit 8212; the first since the early 1990s. This year’s budget does not look to be any more promising for fiscal conservatives. It is assumed that like last year’s budget, it too will include a very large deficit.
The Conservatives are not just abandoning the portion of their base which believes in fiscal conservatism, but also the portion that believes in small government. The current government has established an unprecedented level of involvement in the Canadian industrial and financial sectors. In late 2008, the federal government gave struggling Canadian car makers a bailout totalling $4 billion. Last spring the total climbed and it is estimated that the auto bailout could end up costing Canadian taxpayers over $10 billion. As well, last year the government indirectly bailed out the Canadian banking sector, buying up $50 billion in bad mortgages. This unprecedented involvement in Canada’s industrial and financial sectors is contrary to the traditional support of small government espoused by the Conservative party’s base.
The Conservative party’s abandonment of the core conservative ideals of fiscal conservatism and small government is sure to alienate many traditional supporters of the party. With no other major Canadian party espousing those sorts of policies, they are likely to lend their support to groups outside the traditional Canadian political establishment. While this is not necessarily a negative development, it is likely that right wing and nationalist groups will benefit from this phenomenon. Similar trends have been seen in France, Austria and Hungary, all of whom have experienced the rise and legitimization of radical right-wing political parties in recent years. While many who identify with the centre and left of the political spectrum loathe the Conservative party and its policies, the Conservative party’s abandonment of its previously fundamental ideals poses an even greater threat, both to the Conservative party, and to the nation as a whole.