Conservative Toronto Star watchers were probably positively dumbfounded by this op/ed piece, written by Tony Gizzie, which appeared in the flagrantly anti-conservative paper yesterday:
"In the current U.S. presidential race, Canadians overwhelmingly support the Democratic party over the Republicans by a ratio of four to one.
It is no surprise that Canadians feel this way. One reason may be the negative perception of the Bush administration. Another may be that for the first time the Democratic candidate will be either a woman or an African-American.
But look at one Democrat-versus-Republican issue that relates to Canada – trade. The Democrats are protectionist and anti-free trade. The Republicans tend to be free traders.
Based on their comments, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would love to renegotiate the current Free Trade Agreement to get a better deal for their country. They know it's about jobs, American jobs. So obviously a Democratic administration backed by a Democratic Congress would be bad news for Canadian exporters.
But beyond any specific issue, support for Democrats or Republicans is more than a choice between political parties; it is a choice of political inclinations.
In Canada, as in the States, the divide between left and right continues to grow. I find this fascinating. Why are those on the left so sensitive when their support for politically correct, humanistic, big government is questioned?
If I tell someone I respect George W. Bush's actions in Iraq, I must be prepared to be called a redneck, bigoted, fundamentalist Christian. Now, I'm a Christian, but I'm far from a redneck bigot.
Why are Canadians so fearful of the right? Since when are fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and less government in our lives bad things? One could argue that the times when government stepped in to control the economy, such as Pierre Trudeau's wage and price controls of the mid-1970s, the results were disastrous.
If I had a choice between tax-and-spend policies that tend to run up deficits, versus greater accountability on how our tax dollars are spent and a balanced budget, I would gladly take the latter.
The current opposition parties also are to blame for this negative perception of the right. They continue to demonize our Prime Minister because he is a real small-c "conservative."
No doubt, the next federal election campaign will see the opposition rise up to rant about Stephen Harper's fanaticism, his hidden agenda and his contempt for the parliamentary process. Harper may be a lot of things but a reactionary fundamentalist he is not.
I don't believe the Toronto electorate gives the right a fair shake. This is short-sighted and unfortunate. Toronto proudly votes for the Grits in every federal election and the citizens then wonder why a former card-carrying NDP member, Mayor David Miller, can't get his 1 per cent of the GST.
We in the GTA should begin to see conservative politicians in a positive light. To have the federal Liberals run the show indefinitely is not healthy for the state of democracy.
Yes, Paul Martin did a great job as finance minister, but he served in a period of economic boom and prosperity, and he enacted fiscally responsible and, dare I say, conservative measures, which were to reduce the debt and ease our tax burden. He would have been a good fit in Stephen Harper's cabinet.
Conservatives believe that Canadians are intelligent enough to do the right thing for themselves. They do not need to be taxed at a punitive level. They should ask themselves who can better spend their hard-earned money, an Ottawa bureaucrat, or themselves?
Socialist policies are expensive and they restrict the economy. Besides, the only Marx that was ever worth paying attention to was Groucho."
Some may have thought the column in question was was essentially a light at the end of the tunnel, a ray of hope that the Conservative party just might find some positive press coverage in Canada's alleged centre of the universe outside of the Toronto Sun.
Today, they're probably wondering who turned out the lights, as the readership of the Star has apparently struck back, starting with Adam Quinan:
"Tony Gizzie's defence of right-wing governments made this astonishing statement: "If I had a choice between tax-and-spend policies that tend to run up deficits, versus greater accountability on how our tax dollars are spent and a balanced budget, I would gladly take the latter." By that reasoning, he should oppose the Conservatives and Republicans and support the Liberals and Democrats.It's a cute theory, and in regards to the Republicans, certainly true.
It was a Liberal government under Jean Chrétien that set Canada's finances straight after the debt ballooned. When he was U.S. president, Democrat Bill Clinton brought the deficit under control and created the greatest surplus the country ever had. It is President George W. Bush who squandered that legacy, and it is Prime Minister Stephen Harper who is being warned that his policies are leading Canada back into deficits.
The great myth of the right is that it is prudent with public finances, but the right is as profligate as any other ideology, and less likely than parties of the left to actually try and control public finances."
Yet he seems to overlook the fact that then-Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin only moved to decisively eliminate the deficit after a number of scathing op/ed articles by writers such as Andrew Coyne about that very same subject. Furthermore, mr Quinan seems to be forgetting the extreme wastefulness of Liberal expenditure of Canadian tax funds following this decisive wrangling of the deficit, particularly Jane Stewart's billion dollar HRDC boondoggle.
If Canadian conservatives proved any less responsible with taxpayer funds, one would be willing to grant Quinan a point.
Up next, Daniel Heisler has a rather predictable bone to pick:
"Brian Mulroney ran up the biggest debt in Canadian history. Ronald Reagan spent billions on Star Wars, while cutting the taxes he needed to pay for it. Ditto George W. Bush. The war in Iraq has cost Americans billions of dollars and, along with cuts in taxes, run up the biggest debt and deficit in U.S. history.Funny that in response to an article that doesn't even mention Iraq -- or even George W Bush -- that Heilser would find it so necessary to beat that particular dead horse.
Bush lied to get his war in Iraq. Remember weapons of mass destruction and the link to Osama bin Laden? And Reagan either knew about Iran-Contra or was too dumb to read his own briefing papers.
Mike Harris sold valuable assets to get his tax cuts. Highway 407 could be offsetting Ontario's debt today. He was also less than candid about Ipperwash. Stephen Harper has given us a GST cut that we barely notice, with no measurable economic value, and has cost the treasury billions when the country's infrastructure is falling apart.
And, oh yeah, there's Watergate.
Why fear the right? Intelligent self-interest."
And certainly, Brian Mulroney did double the national debt. But he did that by continuing to expend Trudeau-level funding on public services during a time of economic recession and (if you ask the NDP) high interest rates.
And if Heisler wants to parade out the tired old litany of Republican abuses of American politics, John Diefenbaker, if he were still alive, could probably educate him all about the "indiscretions" of Liberal James Gardiner who, during prohibition, was known to plant whiskey bottles on his opponents then call the Mounties.
Then, there's John Gulland:
"I'll tell Tony Gizzie what's so scary about the right. Its policies don't work in the long run and it uses poisonous tactics to dupe a gullible public into supporting them. Gizzie asks, "Since when are fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and less government in our lives bad things?" They are bad when these oft-repeated phrases are code for the starvation of public services, tax cuts for the wealthy and support of creeping corporate dominance.One wonders if mr Gulland understand that, a scant 10 years ago, many global observers were wondering if Canada would survive the '90s on account of the debt accrued building the "great nation" that individuals like Gulland envisioned.
Right-wing politicians lack any awareness of how to build a healthy society, much less a great nation. They base success entirely on the rate of economic growth, which is a faulty measure of progress and virtually assures the continued destruction of the environment.
Yes, the right is scary, but what is more scary is its success in convincing voters that a couple of hundred dollars in tax cuts that can be spent at the local big-box store is the way to achieve a better life."
One wonders if mr Gulland remembers that, consistently over the past several decades, the Liberal party has continually opposed any efforts to end corporate welfare in Canada while ratcheting individual income tax rates to a level that rivals nearly anywhere in the world?
Probably not. Neither, apparently, does Steve Andrews:
"Simply stated, those on the right put profits ahead of people. The "lower taxes and less government" that Tony Gizzie attributes to the right disproportionately benefit corporations and well-off individuals, while the cost of tax cuts is the reduction of services that benefit and protect everyone – services like food inspection, education, health care and policing. And, as the Walkerton tragedy so clearly illustrated, service cuts can kill.Of course, this all depends upon how one defines things such as "just" and (most importantly) "safe".
Why do we fear the right? Because the society it envisions would be less equal, less just and less safe."
The fact is that Liberal criminal justice policies undermined justice in Canada for decades, particularly in the decades following Pierre Trudeau's reign. Furthermore, the most recent omnibus bill introduced by the Conservatives would actually make Canadians safer by putting dangerous offenders behind bars -- where they belong.
Too bad the Liberal-dominated senate has yet to vote on it.
Perhaps most disturbing thing about today's burst of letters is the seeming lack of tolerance for any other view point within the pages of the "hallowed" Toronto Star.
One thing that we can be certain of is that the letters printed were likely only the least vitriolic of those recieved, even if they are laden with the same old predictable rhetoric as always.
Conservatives in Toronto may be waiting a long time yet for that light at the end of the tunnel. Even so, that the Star would print the column at all suggests that things there are at least moving in a better direction.