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January 26, 2006
The Tory Test Drive

I make my return to my regular rotation in the Daily Standard this week with a look at the Canadian election and the lessons it has for politicians north of the 49th. Titled "Test Drive A Tory Today," it argues that the Canadian electorate turned out to be more intelligent, engaged, and nuanced than anyone predicted:

The thin plurality means that the Conservatives will have to work with the other three parties to pass their legislative agenda, which will force them to keep a moderate approach. Harper will have to convince Layton or Gilles Duceppe of the BQ to support the creation of any new programs or the curtailment of existing ones before attempting to push his budget and policies through Parliament. His only alternative will be to work directly with the new Liberal leadership by broad consensus. Either way, the scare-mongering of Liberal electioneering will not come to pass; there will be no dismantling of the national health-care system, nor will Canadian troops be parachuting into Baghdad by March.

On the other hand, Harper's government will be capable of incremental changes. Canada is not likely join the United States in Iraq, but Harper will prove a closer partner in the war on terror and in tightening immigration in North America. He may also reverse the reversal of Paul Martin and entertain a Canadian partnership in missile defense. The Tories won't pass any corporate giveaways but they will be looking to cut taxes with the unpopular GST a likely starting point. They will also focus on fulfilling election promises, a child-care initiative among them. Most worrisome for the Liberals will be the ability of the new government to investigate the worst excesses of the old, but the split in Commons will prevent a wholesale dumping of the Ottawa bureaucracy overnight.

In the long run, I think that the minority government works best for Harper and the Tories. It allows them to control the most extreme elements of their party while building credibility with Canadians for a longer run at governing. Had they won a majority, the party may have been tempted to push through too much change at once, creating a political backlash among the electorate. Having to take their reforms slowly and selecting them with care will serve them better in bringing more and more voters into the tent with them, and eventually could result in a much stronger and longer-lived Tory mandate.

We shall soon see. The installation of the new government should take place within the next fortnight or so.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 26, 2006 7:10 AM

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