There is an election coming up in Canada on January 23, an election that seems likely to result in the election of a slate of Conservative candidates behind Stephen Harper, in which they will likely defeat incumbent Prime Minister Paul Martin and his Liberal Party.
And undoubtedly, American conservatives will replay a quote by Harper in which he talks about how he has been inspired by 'the American conservative movement,' when he wins.
However, while there are some parallels with the American elections this year, it is likely that Conservatives and Liberals alike will misinterpret the parallels.
So let's get the record straight. For starters, it is true that the Canadian Liberal party is on the left in Canada, and the Conservative party is on the right. But Canadian politics as a whole is much more liberal than American politics. A Canadian Conservative does have a healthy respect for the free enterprise system, but is much more like a moderate to left Democrat in America, continuing to support Government investment and involvement in a whole raft of areas, while a Canadian Liberal would be considered a Socialist in America. Now, let's look at some points that can be gleaned from the article.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) -- Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin warned Canadians on Thursday that his main rival, Conservative leader Stephen Harper, would turn the country into a bastion for a U.S.-style extreme right.
"I really do believe that Canadians don't want to buy the far conservative right in the United States," Martin said in a television appearance....
Harper dismissed Martin's criticism as not believable, especially after the Liberals released a series of negative ads that seek to portray him as a frightening extremist.
"I'm interested in what credible critics say about me. I think Mr. Martin's credibility is reflected in the false and misleading ads that he's running," Harper said in Halifax, where he visited a low-income family to promote his planned consumption tax cut.
First, note that in Canada, being tied to American conservatives is considered a smear, and Harper is dismissing it as 'not believable.' So 'liberal' is not a smear in Canada, but 'conservative' is, especially if tied to 'American conservatism.' That speaks droves right there about the difference in philosophy between the two countries.
Second, yes Mr. Harper is proposing a tax cut. But the tax he is proposing to cut is the national sales tax. Conservatives in America want to implement a national sales tax so they can do away with other taxes, especially on the wealthy. In Canada they have one (and still have other taxes). Mr. Harper, of all the taxes he could propose to cut, is proposing to cut the most regressive tax, the one which hurts poor people the most. Doesn't sound much like an American conservative, now does he?
The Liberals have been in power since 1993, and party members are conceding privately that defeat is now likely.
Martin's minority government was defeated in late November over a kickback scandal, triggering Canada's second general election in as many years.
Yes, I can see a parallel to the American elections here. One party has been in power for a dozen years, and is now suffering from a financial scandal involving corruption in office. So they will probably lose. Now I'd love to see an American conservative take a look at that and claim that a Canadian Conservative victory would bode well for Republicans. And let's make this clear: The whole election was forced by this scandal, so it is an election more than anything else about corruption. Keep that in mind when you watch the results.
Harper's team set out from the beginning of the eight-week campaign to outline policy platforms daily in an effort to counter past Liberal attacks that the Conservatives had a hidden agenda to dismantle Canada's social safety net.
The main platforms include a cut in the federal sales tax, guarantees on timely health care, cleaning up government and a crackdown on crime.
Martin has cut income taxes and promised improvements on health and other issues, but has largely campaigned on his record as someone who, as finance minister, tamed a yawning budget deficit in the mid-1990s.
There's that ducking the 'conservative' charge again, and then the candidates campaigning on promises to cut sales tax (see above), improving the National health care system (nothing about not having one, just about making the one they have better), fixing the corruption problem, and on a record of reducing the crime rate, and balancing the budget. These all sound like either positions the Democrats have or things they achieved during the Clinton administration. And that Republicans want to or have done the opposite.