Monday, December 01, 2008

Mark Steyn: Small Earthquake in Canada

Mark Steyn, one of Canada's most famous & influential writers has just written the following column in "The Corner", an American conservative blog read by a LOT of people:

The difference between the US system and a parliamentary democracy is that, in the latter, events can turn on a dime (as Mrs Thatcher discovered in 1990). In Canada, in October, Stephen Harper's Conservative Party was returned to office - not with a majority in the House of Commons but nevertheless with an increased minority. By contrast, Canada's formerly "natural governing party", the Liberals, got their lowest percentage of the vote since 1867, shriveling away to their Toronto heartland with a few redoubts in the Maritimes and the Yukon. Stephane Dion, an unpopular eco-obsessive with an ascetic mien and poor English presiding over an impoverished party trying to sell the nation an unwanted "Green Shift", immediately announced his resignation as leader, and it seemed the Tories would have the luxury of watching the Loyal Opposition tearing itself apart all winter electing his replacement.

Now, a mere six weeks later, what David Frum calls "the Harper government"* is about to fall, and the fellow set to replace him as Prime Minister is the October flopperoo Dion, reborn as leader of a freakshow coalition of Canada's three opposition parties - the soft left, the hard left and the separatist left, all of whom have figured out that what they have in common (unbounded love of big government) is bigger than what divides them. Which is true. Quebec separatism is mostly one almighty bluff, a giant racket by which the francophone minority screws out of English Canada a hugely disproportionate share of the spoils. The Bloc Quebecois are separatists who have no interest in separating: no matter how wide you open the stable door, the flea-bitten old nag refuses to bolt. Granted all that, it's weird to see the Liberals, until recently the most electorally successful party in the western world, reduced to climbing into bed with separatists and socialists.

How this will all play out I haven't a clue. There are those who say Harper's a genius to allow himself to be temporarily dethroned in glum economic times by two unpopular Quebeckers (M Dion and the separatist Gilles Duceppe) who'll get stuck with the blame for everything that goes wrong. Maybe. But Quebeckers are to Canada what the Sunni were to Saddam's Iraq: For 40 years they've been in charge, except for the very briefest of intervals. And once they're in getting them out usually proves tricky. This photograph, showing the two wily francophones sealing the deal with the socialist moustache "Taliban Jack" Layton (on the left) may confirm western Canucks' suspicions that Canada is a de facto colony of Quebec. Meanwhile, I like the game of trying to find a name for this coalition of the alleged talents: Canada's Natural Governing Separatist Party, New Libs on the Bloc, etc.

It is, of course, a disaster for that small band of Canadians interested in small government, non-confiscatory taxation, and freedom from nanny-state tyrannies like the "human rights" commissions. But the idea that, in half the time it takes Washington to accomplish the elephantine transition from one administration to the next, a government can be elected, demolished and replaced is not without a certain grim appeal.

(*I'm a constitutional pedant: It's Her Majesty's Government, but Mr Harper's ministry.)

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