After the 2004 presidential election in the United States, a lot of liberal Americans looked longingly to the north. Canada, the theory went, was a social democracy with a sane foreign policy and humane values that offered a genuine alternative to the right-wing hegemony that the U.S. was about to experience.
But, this week, U.S. television networks and newspapers declared: “Canadians Tilts Right” and “Conservatives Capture Canada.”
As shorthand for the election results that saw Canada’s Conservative party outpoll the governing Liberal Party for the first time since Ronald Reagan served in the White House, those headlines may be useful.
But the claim that Canada has lurched far to the right is anything but accurate.
Of course, that has not stopped conservative spin doctors in Washington, and their echo chamber in the U.S. media, from announcing that last Monday’s election results from Canada represent a seismic shift to the right for the North American continent. David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush, was peddling the line that Canadians had rejected “anti-Americanism” — fostering the lie that the Liberals, who had worked closely with the U.S. government on issues ranging from the occupation of Afghanistan, in which Canada is a major player, to free trade, which the Liberals support, was somehow at war with the U.S. Equally disingenuous was Bob Morrison of the Family Research Council, a Washington-based group that opposes reproductive freedom and gay rights, who announced that: “We are glad to see that Canadians have values-voters too. We can be optimistic about the end of the social engineering as driven by the (Liberal) government.”
U.S. conservatives, who can point to little in the way of positive political news from around the world these days, are entitled to their fantasies. But no thinking American should buy into them.
As is the case with most right-wing “analysis” coming out of Washington these days, the truth is a lot more complex than the right-wing spin doctors would have Americans believe.
In fact, the Canadian results ought to be read as a warning signal for U.S. Republicans.
* The Canadian election was held early because the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin had been rocked by a major corruption scandal, which involved the misuse of public funds to promote the government’s position on issues involving the relationship between the province of Quebec and rest of the country. All of Canada’s major opposition parties ran anti-corruption campaigns, and the first promise of the Conservatives was not a rightward shift in public policies, but rather the restoration of honest and accountable government. In the United States, where corruption scandals have shaken the Republican leadership in Congress — forcing indicted House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to surrender his position of power — Canada’s vote-the-bums-out response to government wrongdoing ought to be heartening to progressives who would like to see a similar response in November to the corrupt practices of this country’s governing party. The results from Canada indicate the power of a reform message. According to a poll conducted for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 54 percent of Canadians who voted Conservative did so because they thought it was time for a change, while only 41 percent said they favored Conservative policies.