Why Tim Hudak lost

Last week, Ontario voted to re-elect Dalton McGuinty to a third term as Premier of Canada’s largest province. Ontario is big on the Canadian stage and is unrivaled in sheer population numbers at 13.2 million, unrivaled in its debt numbers at $237 Billion, unrivaled in unemployment outside of Atlantic Canada and it set a new record for voter turnout: a low at 49% — unseen since 1867.

Given the numbers, it would be foolish to dismiss Ontario’s hunger for change and the Hudak team knew this. They did everything to label their candidate as the province’s agent of change — they even named their platform “Changebook”. Yet a label will only take you so far. What Hudak’s team failed to offer was change itself.

Barack Obama won a campaign on hope and change. Though in truth he was a superficial agent of change at best. Suffering wars, recession and bailouts, a chance to elect America’s first black President proved to be the change America had been waiting for, but not the change they needed. Three years later, America is still at war, deeper into recession and Obama is still trying to bail out America with more spending. Hope and change indeed. But America was interested in what Obama represented, not who he was.

To say the least, the Hudak plan to offer superficial change did not elect him to high office. No, on October 6th, Tim P. Hudak was not giving a chance to Ontario to turn a chapter in Canada’s troubled anti-Slovak history and elect the first descendant of Slovak grandparents to sit as provincial leader of the free Confederation.  The greatest strength offered by Tim Hudak to the Ontario electorate was that his name wasn’t Dalton McGuinty. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.

If you took a passive view of the PC campaign over the past two months, you might have been vaguely aware of what Changebook’s greatest promoted promise was: a cut in the HST! (ahem, off of home heating costs). Or maybe you heard about chain gangs for prisoners! Or that foreign workers something something bad something something! Or that Premier Tim was going to reverse Premier Dad’s move to educate our kids about “the gays”.

Tim Hudak ran as the “change” candidate, yet he offered none. Why? A few polls early in the low signal to noise phase of the campaign early this year told his team that he was up 20 points! Time to shift the “change” plan into the superficial gear and run a front-runner no drama campaign, it was likely decreed. Yet, those polls didn’t really represent anything substantive and as the campaign began, Hudak could only count himself to be a meager few points ahead.

A true message of change was one that would have resonated with the people of Ontario. Every new green job that Dalton McGuinty was creating was costing 5 jobs in the real economy due to the higher cost of doing business. Ontario’s credit rating will come under greater pressure in the coming years making it cost much more to pay off the interest on Ontario’s $237 billion debt — now nearly double from when McGuinty took office. Ontario is a have not province meaning it is the laggard of Confederation, drawing on the wealth generative capacity of the likes of Newfoundland and Saskatchewan. You want a message of change? Ontario stands to our own Greece as $7 of new government spending is supported by $1 of economic growth. What to change?

1) End government involvement in creating economically unsustainable industries.

2) Cut the HST from 13 to 12 to 11 percent

3) Cut the Ontario corporate tax rate to encourage new investment

4) Cut government spending 5%, then 10-15%

5) New union and lobbyist transparency rules

5 priorities? Stop the Gravy Train? Sounds familiar? A clear and consistent message track. Put change in the window. Tim Hudak can be Ontario’s next Premier, but only if he lets Ontario know he has a plan to change.

Why is the CBC is above the law?

The setup, from Kris Sims:

OTTAWA – The CBC isn’t getting taken to the woodshed for airing vote results to western Canada on election night.

In a letter to a complainant in British Columbia, Elections Canada said since the state broadcaster didn’t intend for their signal to hit screens in the west, no penalties will be dealt.

The law in question is the Canadian Elections Act, specifically s.329:

329. No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.

This particular law was under debate during the last federal election and in my role as Director of the National Citizens Coalition, I participated in a number of television, newspaper and radio interviews on this terrible section of the Act. It also seems to be one of those topics that I write about during each time an election rolls around. Also, I usually pull Blogging Tories offline for three hours during election night in order to comply with the Act.

If, for some reason, it isn’t immediately apparent was is wrong with the law, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, it is unreasonable for Elections Canada to expect individual Canadians to keep Eastern results to themselves when many are ignorant of the details of the Act. Further, while there is the ideal of fair elections to respect, there is also the principle of free expression. Legislators must create laws that recognize and move with reality, not try to shape new ones.

The National Citizens Coalition has history with this section of the Elections Act. In 2000, a BC webmaster named Paul Bryan published election night results from the east coast on his website and was subsequently charged under the Act. The National Citizens Coalition bankrolled his fight through the BC Supreme Court through the BC Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada where s.329 was deemed constitutional and legal because it ensured “informational equality”.

Yet, lets understand “informational reality” while aiming to safeguard “informational equality” at the same time. When the tools of mass communication can exist in anyone’s hands, one must recognize a new truth. The mandate of Elections Canada is to protect the integrity of election results. In truth, the onus of protecting against premature transmission lies with them. They are the custodians of this information, in fact they likely swear an oath to protect it. To ensure “informational equality”, Elections Canada should keep all poll boxes sealed until polls close in British Columbia. Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley complains that this approach means Canadians won’t get “timely” results (in this age of mass media, no less). Yet, a higher principle of freedom of speech exists for Canadians who are unbound by any mandate to protect the information of Elections Canada.

While mass media technologists armed with Twitter faced fines of up to $25,000 for tweeting election results, the CBC accidentally broadcasted the same to all of their viewers. Because there was no intent, Elections Canada argues, CBC will skate free. Yet, tweeters ignorant of the law (most of them) faced crushing fines.

This also brings the fair and equitable application of the law by Elections Canada on some parties versus others. How is it we see progressive champions of progressivism at the CBC save themselves from what would amount to chump change for the Crown corporation while the small guy gets a hefty fine? Why can Elections Canada shrug its shoulders at the CBC but yet force a seven year $1 million Supreme Court fight for someone that wouldn’t have had a voice without the good financial supporters of the National Citizens Coalition? Why is it that Elections Canada raids Conservative Party offices over the “in-and-out” scheme where it has been shown that all parties have participated in one form or another of the same scheme? Why is it that the Manning Centre cannot register as a charity and do political work, while David Suzuki’s charity plays politics frequently? When laws are seen to be applied unequally, existing-only-on-the-back-of-a-napkin-only-type organizations like the Broadbent Institute think that they can use the special tax status of a political party like the NDP to funnel contributions through and issue tax receipts.

Why is it that some laws in our society only exist to regulate some while elite institutions and causes need not worry about the same?

We demand transparency!

News broke yesterday about the CBC’s Radio Canada hiring former separatist leader Gilles Duceppe to host a show on the french-language network. Canadians are outraged and the story led the front pages of a number of Sun newspapers this morning.

When Mr. Duceppe was working to split up Canada from the House of Commons for twenty years in Ottawa he was collecting a paycheque from the Canadian taxpayer. Now that he’s a “retired” politician, he collects $141,000 per year in his gold-plated pension — also paid by the taxpayer.

If this isn’t outrageous enough, Duceppe has landed a gig at the state broadcaster. For a man working for independence for so many years, he’s always the first in line for a cheque from the Government of Canada.

This shows that the CBC isn’t even holding true to its mandate of being a supposed unifying cultural force for all Canadians. But leave it to the twisted logic of our state-run broadcaster to seek unity through division. And to think that’s what the cultural elites said what Sun News would do!

The final outrage? CBC won’t disclose what they’re we’re paying Duceppe as a state employee.

We here at the National Citizens Coalition are calling upon Heritage Minister James Moore to extend federal accountability to all Crown Corporations including the CBC. The Ontario Government has a “sunshine” law compels the disclosure of salaries of all taxpayer funded positions over $100,000. We’re calling for the same sort of law to be instated federally.

The CBC collects $1.1 Billion worth of taxpayer subsidy every year. How much of this are we using to further subsidize one of Quebec’s most visible separatist leaders?

Will you stand with us at the NCC and demand transparency? Click the recommend button if you want the CBC to account for the taxpayer dollars it’s wasting on separatism.

UPDATE: Gilles Duceppe has resigned!

Social media and free speech

During the London and UK riots last week, many commentators — myself included — wondered about a social media shutdown and mobile shutdown in affected areas. As the riots were coordinated and congregated via Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry Messenger why wouldn’t a society moving to enforce the rule and law and restoreorder to its street hit the killswitch on certain websites and mobile services?

To begin, the United Kingdom is a democracy which embraces 800 years of rights stemming from the Magna Carta. In distressed countries where democracy is fragile and non-existent, the use of social media has been a welcome boon for those wanting others to hear their voice.

When citizens are able to cast ballots, they are much less likely to cast stones. Indeed, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy said in an address to the diplomatic corps of Latin American countries,

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

The ability to speak freely — and the use of one’s preferred forum to express it — is a safety valve that allows a diversity of views to co-exist in a society. Clamping the valve and shutting down vocal expression can cause the manifestation of expression to be violent instead.

The United Kingdom isn’t a dictatorship and one is virtually free to speak, even via Twitter. The threat by Prime Minister David Cameron to shutdown social networks to restore order would set a terrible precedent. It was reminiscent of the absolute power practiced unblinkingly by governors in Libya and Saudi Arabia.

What of the use of the social media to co-ordinate clean up efforts, civic responsibility, and even rescue? On the other side, what consequence of discarded freedom to restore order more obvious than the unchecked abuse of those restoring the order?

It has also been argued elsewhere that tabloid television and 24 hour cable news do much to sensationalize and disseminate information that encourages disorder rather than restore or maintain it. Accessible, instantaneous, and compelling information is not only biased to lead when it bleeds (or burns) but the regionally and temporally disparate can all-to-often seem local and immediate, causing panic.  Television blackouts are common in China for example, where a recent train crash prompted crackdown of Chinese media which could have seeded criticism of the government. China fears the disorder that could be caused by government criticism. What happens when instead of restoring order via censorship, government looks to preemptively maintain it by doing the same?

In all circumstances, speech is like water that runs downhill. Attempts to halt its progress will only create new channels and the more than is done to dam it, the more catastrophic the breach.

Instead of trying to shape a new reality, policy makers must recognize and work with the reality that exists. Wisely navigating social media channels can be an advanced and immediate tool for law enforcement while hitting the killswitch will have unintended consequences. And yet, while information control can create a mollified populace, it can also breed ignorance. When we have more information and a more unfettered ability to communicate it, the lower the potential there is for our own societal self-destruction.

Postal filibuster was a practice round

First Air Canada then Canada Post. What does the future hold in showdowns of Conservatives versus the union-backed New Democratic Party?

I noted a couple of days ago about how fast the NDP folded on their filibuster regarding bill C-6, back-to-work legislation. Why, I wondered, had they given up so easily? Indeed, Jack’s pack could have filibustered on all amendments to stretch out the debate not over days but weeks. Yet, when the NDP gave up after a few days, their union backers did not tear them up. Why?

Further, why was the Conservative government so eager to bring about legislation to legislate both Air Canada employees and posties back to their jobs?

The NDP is likely keeping their filibuster powder dry. In the ultimate showdown between the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the government, both sides have pre-positioned themselves in Parliament.

On one hand, the Conservatives have given government departments notice to table a 5% review plan and a 10% review plan. These strategic and operational revues will inevitably mean job cuts to the Public Sector and this has already set the union that represents these workers on red alert.

Within days of promised strike action, the government had legislation on the ready to cram work stoppages back into the can. One reporter noted to me that an amateur caucus of the NDP had faced off against a well-oiled Conservative machine.

However, the NDP’s strategy may have not yet become apparent to all. Perhaps the New Democrats have simply introduced the filibuster concept while not causing Canadians to tire of it so that they can unleash the mother of all filibusters when the government tables its plan for reductions in the public service. While setting the priming charge, the NDP is keeping their powder dry for big battle they intend to fight.

Thoughts on the NDP filibuster

The NDP filibuster over bill C-6 is over and it ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

With 102 MPs allowed to speak for 20 minutes (not including about 10 minutes of questions) on each stage of the legislation to put postal workers back on the job, the NDP perplexingly gave up much too early.

Solidarity forever, or at least until Saturday at 8pm. The NDP could have presented 102 speakers on the hoist motion and 102 speakers on *each* of the 22 subsequent amendments to the legislation. Further, they could have presented any number of amendments for the third reading of the bill. Indeed, they could have filibustered until CUPW reached a deal with Canada Post, or until the House was scheduled to resume on September 19.

It was a surreal scene: MPs reading emails from their constituents on the importance of postal delivery, the PM sleeping on his office couch, hospitality suites in Centre Block, and David Chistopherson rousing everyone at 3am in the House with his over-the-top mad-as-hell routine.

For many MPs, this was their first time participating in the House. Sure, most had risen before to thank their MPs by reading an SO31, but for a number of rookies, this was their first real exposure. From both sides, I’ve heard that the filibuster was good for team building: being stuck on Thursday for 56 hours can do that to you.

Regarding the issue itself, it was about a preemptive Canada Post lockout in the face of imminent rotating strikes by CUPW. If we look at the context of pre-positioning for an agreement, the government’s legislation also undercut Canada Post proposed offer giving the union additional incentive to settle with the Crown corporation.

On the legislation, it’s an ugly thing to see the government step in and meddle in a negotiation between two parties. Collective bargaining is a right, however there is no right to “strike” and to hold a company hostage. Then again, politics isn’t a game for philosophical purists. Back to work legislation is a perfect example of the imperfect and ugly sausage-making business of politics.

The Liberals were very much absent from the debate. The interim leader and about 2/3 of his caucus were absent from the votes. Mailing it in had a few Liberal partisan friends wondering again why they still back the Grits, now decimated.

The NDP must consider a few items going forward. First, they promised a different sort of politics and they’ve always promised to “make Parliament work”. The filibuster may be an effective tool in their arsenal for future political debates, but Canadians will become cynical of the tactic after it loses its renewed novelty. Second, the Conservatives will provide plenty of opportunity for the NDP to be polarized partners on issues. On the restoration of postal services this split was 70-30 but it was a stark division without much ground in between. The Conservatives and the NDP can provide each other many victories in this majority parliament. Keeping the Liberals marginalized and creating an established champion on the left in the NDP are in the interests of both the Tories and the Dippers. However, this dance will end with the Conservatives if the Dippers jam every piece of legislation in the 41st Parliament.

Julian Fantino: Minister of Procurement

It was a move during the latest swearing-in of cabinet that made a few observers scratch their heads: an Associate Minister of Defence was named to cabinet, one Julian Fantino. The name of the cabinet post drew some confusion at first but then Ottawa started asking the big picture questions along with the small question of who was up and who was down.

Was this a demotion for Peter MacKay and a promotion for Julian Fantino? Ontario’s former top cop got a promotion from Seniors but splitting up Peter MacKay’s portfolio surely meant demotion, right?

Not necessarily.

While some observers have noted that MacKay is perhaps too fraternal with the Canadian Forces suggesting he was biased in his role and duty to their oversight from cabinet, word from senior government insiders is that any such concern is small and lacking much significance as they say that the Prime Minister continues to have confidence in his Minister of Defence.

Fantino’s new job quickly became known in the shorthand among Ottawa observers as the “Minister of Procurement”. But why was procurement taken off of the plate of Peter MacKay? A recently published Conference Board of Canada report notes that if the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is anchored in Halifax’s Irving shipyards rather than on the West Coast, this would mean over 11,000 jobs for the region. If MacKay oversaw a windfall for the BC shipbuilding industry it would hurt tremendously at home. On the contrary, if he was personally responsible for the same for Halifax, that would be the very example of a conflict of interest. Further, while there is absolutely nothing to suggest anything untoward in the present context, the MacKays have previously had bad luck in association with military procurements on the East Coast.

Cabinets are built upon geography among other incidental characteristics. Landlocked Julian Fantino removes some of the political disaster potential for Peter MacKay. As MacKay has been a solid workhorse and star minister in Stephen Harper’s cabinet, the appointment of Fantino was proactively defensive.

Game Changer

They’ve been popping organic champagne corks in the NDP war room this week as poll after poll is showing that party ahead of the Liberals in a race for second place.

The surge of the NDP seems to be most pronounced in Quebec where there are certainly more than a few former NDP staffers, thinking they were taking one for the team, who may yet find themselves with seats in the House of Commons come May 3rd.

The larger effect of all of this is of course the psychological block experienced by many on the left regarding cheating on their idealism to act pragmatic. For those that have traditionally held their nose voting Liberal to “stop Harper”, this week has been a game changer for the NDP.

What happened? Jack Layton gave phenomenal back-to-back performances in the debates. Walking into this campaign, with the visible assistance of a cane, reporters had asked him how his health would fare during a grueling 35 days while leaders crisscross the country on an intense schedule. Instead, we’ve learned that Layton may toss his cane aside by election day.

Indeed, Layton now appears to be dancing circles around the Liberal campaign led by a leader many in the press expected to do better given lower expectations set by 2 years of negative advertising against him. Instead, the Harvard professor was schooled by Layton in the moment of the English language leaders debate that was the closest thing we saw to a “knock-out blow” in those two nights. Called out for his poor attendance record, Layton asked rhetorically how Michael Ignatieff could speak convincingly on democracy if he didn’t show up for votes in the Commons.

Many leftwing voters are now asking how Ignatieff can represent their views if he’s not present for votes. And as we’re seeing in the polls, many wonder if Ignatieff can do much to stop a majority Conservative government.

The other fatal blunder for Ignatieff this week came during an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge when the Liberal leader admitted that regarding a coalition, Mr. Harper could try to form government yet if he could not command the confidence of the House, Mr. Ignatieff would try to form a government with the support of the other parties, including the Bloc Quebecois. Yet most Canadians are more grounded than Ignatieff appeared to be during that interview. It is widely understood that such cooperation would come with concessions to any partner that would support the second-place Liberals in the formation of a new government. And while Mr. Ignatieff is willfully ignorant that such concessions would relate to cabinet, Canadians remember the last time the Liberals negotiated a scenario for taking power without the support of the majority or plurality of the electorate.

Canadians are going into the Easter weekend tomorrow with a few truths to consider. First and foremost, Stephen Harper will be the next Prime Minister. Second, if Michael Ignatieff cannot be counted on to stop Stephen Harper from forming a majority, left-leaning Canadians will look to the much more likable and ideological Jack Layton to oppose Mr. Harper in the 41st parliament. Third, Canadians will consider a coalition government to be explicitly on the table as Layton may be in an increased position of strength to negotiate its outcome.

Infertile Ground

This week, the Conservative government in Ottawa nixed a $39 Billion takeover bid of Potash Corp by Australia-based BHP Billiton. Industry Minister Tony Clement broke his rhythm as he read a prepared statement in the foyer of the House of Commons reading his “Canada’s open for business” preamble and then taking a deep breath and then delivering his verdict against foreign investment.

Economically, this shook the faith of fiscal conservatives. The Investment Canada Act mandates compulsory review of such foreign takeovers when they exceed $299 million in assets exchanged. But as fiscal conservatives can we be surprised when our ideas don’t sprout when they have not taken root?

The blocking of the potash takeover put to shame our principle of free investment and our global reputation of being open to business. By the time Clement had finished speaking, it was front-page news on the Wall Street Journal’s site. The blackberries of Ottawa-based consultant lobbyists buzzed with bewilderment from clients in Frankfurt. However, this wasn’t a decision made in the broadest political context of global economic stimulus, it was one made in the more raw and narrow context of saving 13 Conservative seats in Saskatchewan. And by doing so, acting wholly unconservative.

Politically it was the right move, but it should not have been. More votes were saved in Saskatchewan this week than were lost on Bay street. Yet as with the stimulus, for Conservatives both in name and in principle, it ripped at our guts and gave us great pause as to what we’re doing in Ottawa if not acting to advance rational objectives and liberal free-market principles.

Back in early 2009 when other developed nations doing it and spending at least two percent of GDP on government make-work projects, this government caved to peer-pressure and took a hit of illicit economic enhancing stimulus. In order to participate in the global pork project, Canada — while best-positioned to whether the global economic downturn — conceded by jumping into the sordid business of direct economic intervention in order to keep borders open to other countries (especially the US) who were looking at stimulus out of conceived necessity rather than as a go along. Indeed, if we had eschewed stimulus, our access to markets would have been closed to government projects in other countries. That 2% of GDP was rationalized by our government in Ottawa as a small price to pay for shelter from a global wave of protectionism that lapped at our shores and border. Yet, I have never heard my government discuss this concession to fiscal conservatives so plainly. But in turn, we fiscal conservatives also fail the governments we elect.

I’ve written before that parties and governments are only principled up to a point. By definition, a government must win a majority or at least a plurality of votes or seats to act. This week the government acted according to a majority of opinion where it counted as votes — in Saskatchewan. Eighty five percent of the residents of that province were firmly against the foreign takeover. As Conservatives with populist roots we should at least take comfort that provincial rights were respected. While acted as a central planner, the plan recognized provincial autonomy.

What should shock and concern us though is that a great number of Saskatchewans either thought that their government still owned the resource or that the majority of shares in Potash Corp were actually owned by Canadians. A Conference Board of Canada report held the sobering truth. For the knee-jerk economic nationalists, it was unknown that a majority of shares of Potash Corp were foreign owned. What should shock us further is that a great number of Canadians are not passionate about the free market principles that have brought more people out of poverty than any other miracle in our history.

These past couple of years have been jarring for a town filled with reporters that cover five news beats with an inch of depth and politicos that write policy on the fly between their stints in undergraduate and business school programs. From constitutional crises, to prorogation, from censuses to potash, if Wikipedia were a publicly traded company, the government would have already nationalized it as a “strategic resource”. Hours before the announcement, many reporters were scrambling to justify their gut feeling that the government was about to go in the wrong direction on the file and approve the takeover. “Apparently potash is some kind of fertilizer made of salt,” one remarked. “‘Pawd-ash’ not ‘pot-ash’ is how its pronounced,” remarked another. When you pair understaffed newsrooms against an army of online amateur “experts” and professional rent-seekers willing to step into the void, you have a recipe for reactionary policy that grows like a weed.

The major communications challenge unmet by this government and by the movement that puts its hopes in the same is that the ground on important issues such as foreign-investment in potash has not been prepared; the studies sit on dusty shelves, the advocates recline unprepared or over-confident. In the new world of Facebook populism, where activism is made more broadly accessible, parties struggle to cultivate grassroots activism and observers sometimes fail to calibrate to measure the significance of an online uprising.

In recent memory, the government has only once prepared the ground for a key showdown on a contentious issue: the long-gun registry. But as for other issues that matter, policy has only been jarringly announced and clumsily if not sparsely advocated. And still, the government is but one megaphone for conservative issues. If conservatives want to see their values implemented in any government (whatever its name), a government that can only a plurality of votes, we must also prepare the soil.

Globally, conservatives must entrench free-market principles as the de facto standard. If protectionists were political pariahs, parties in various countries would compete over who could make the economy freer, not who could protect and reclaim the most from foreign investment. My pride in Canada should be its openness to investment and international growth, not its stagnation for the sake of the failed practice of economic nationalism. Yet, our principles cannot exist in a vacuum; our ideals face competition from special interests. Conservatives cannot believe that government should be small and with limited influence while investing their hopes on it to make transformational change. Our challenge is greater than any government; we have a lot of soil to till because until then our ideas cannot sprout in infertile ground.

Census change is about smaller government

I received a call today from a reporter around noon about what he conceded was “the story that just won’t go away”. He was, of course, talking about the census. He wanted to know if I could pass on a few names of possible interviews for right-wingers that support the government’s stand to scrap the long-form census. Of course, there are the folks over at the Western Standard who are taking up their obvious position against the mandatory “burden”, but in broader view, it got me thinking about who opposes the government’s plan and why the story would not just go away.

Every day it seems that there’s a new group of people lining up to bemoan the Industry Minister’s announcement that the census would forego the long-form. Certainly, this illustrates a serious problem that Stephen Harper faces as Prime Minister. Facing an opposition that can’t get its act together is one thing, but a nation where the voices of special interests are louder than ordinary citizens is another.

Indeed in this country, there are two groups of people. In fact, some would call these groups the haves and the have-nots. This is an not inaccurate way of describing it, but those that would might have the two switched. Canadians form two groups: those that receive from the government and those pay to the government. Those who form — or are constituent to — organizations dependent on government policy (and spending) are firmly against the changes to the census. Those on the other side are largely ambivalent because they are the large, unorganized and unsubsidized net taxpaying masses.

The conservative/libertarian Fraser Institute think tank’s motto is “if it matters, measure it”. The untruth of the inverse of this statement is at the centre of why this government should follow through. “If you measure it, it matters” is the motto of those net tax receiving organizations who only matter if they can make their case. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried the ideological argument against these groups for years. But ideology is by its nature debatable; removing the framework of debate is his shortcut to victory.

If Stephen Harper succeeds in moving in this direction, he will be in the initial stages of dealing a huge blow to the welfare state. If one day we have no idea how many divorced Hindu public transit users there are in East Vancouver, government policy will not be concocted to address them specifically. Indeed if this group were organized (the DHPTUEV?) and looking for government intervention, they’d be against the census change. The trouble is that in Canada, the non-affiliated taxpayers not looking for a handout have not organized. Indeed, the only dog they have in this fight is the amount of tax they pay (aka “transfers”) to sustain the interests of others.

QMI’s David Akin exclaimed surprise that from his cell within the beehive of special interests that is Ottawa, he was shocked to find that a full half — that other half — of Canadians aren’t upset about the changes to the census when it seems that’s the only thing the other bees seem to be buzzing about. The story that “just won’t go away” is a flurry of activity “inside the beehive”, because until you go outside, you can’t see the forest for the trees.

The other recent Lockheed Martin-related news story of the past couple of weeks was the Conservative government’s huge sole-sourced $16 Billion contract with Lockheed Martin to buy F-35 fighter jets. Perhaps I was a bit naive to think that every part of that sentence should be offensive to the Ottawa media… sole-sourced… American arms dealer… flying war machines… Conservative government. No, this largest military purchase in Canadian history didn’t even make a significant blip on the Ottawa establishment radar, simply because it didn’t challenge the position of any special interest groups. There’s no bevy of community/cultural/government organizations ready to line up to criticize/laud such a move. If the government had taken $16 Billion out of HRSDC’s $80+ Billion annual budget to pay for it, however, there’d be a swarm.

I believe that this Prime Minister has a few objectives in mind as he integrates seemingly transactional initiatives into something transformative. First, he merged the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance to challenge what seemed to be entrenched Liberal electoral domination. Through initiatives such as financial starvation via election finance reform and ideological force-feeding on the policy front, Stephen Harper seeks to diminish or destroy the Liberal Party to replace them with the Conservatives as Canada’s default choice for government. His greatest challenge is to dismantle the modern welfare state. If it can’t be measured, future governments can’t pander. I imagine that Stephen Harper’s view, Canada should be a country of individual initiative, not one of collective dependence “justified” through the collection of data.