Canadians turning against Big Government

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Urbane
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Canadians turning against Big Government

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Canadians' attitude toward government has changed in recent years. Have a read and we'll see if you have any comments.

Kevin Libin Jun 8, 2011

There was once a Canada where a vast part of the country believed deeply in the virtues of Big Government. Where the public rallied behind a man named Pierre Trudeau who promised he could, by force of will and policy, command an economy and engineer a society. Three decades after Trudeau — no doubt, in large part, because of Trudeau — that Canada no longer exists. The nation today is one where people are disenchanted with grand government schemes and large national projects, with the idea that government is good at all that much besides maintaining law and order and defending our borders. Canadians in 2011 are about as soured on Big Government as you can get.

That’s what the annual Barometer survey released Wednesday by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy suggests. Conducted in the days after the federal election, and released on the eve of the victorious federal Conservatives’ national convention, the poll offers the most helpful insight yet into why the Liberals suffered their worst defeat in history. In all their years in power, one of the Liberals’ most lasting achievements, it seems, has been to turn Canadians against Liberalism.

Already, more Canadians (about 33%) identify themselves as Conservative than at any point since the mid-1980s; fewer Canadians (20%) are willing to call themselves Liberal than at any time since election studies began tracking this in 1965.

“Party identification is more stable than votes,” says André Turcotte, the associate professor at Carleton University’s school of journalism who co-authored the Barometer report with pollster Allan Gregg. That means the Liberals’ troubles run far deeper than having a flawed series of leaders; it means more Canadians than ever see a Liberal party foreign to their values and beliefs.

The survey tells us a lot about why. The Liberals’ legacy of championing multiculturalism and group rights has become a washout: 80% of us say we prefer government to treat us as individuals than as a member of some identity group. Canadians have had quite enough, too, of the moral relativism of the Trudeau legacy, whether that’s the former prime minister’s chumminess with murderous dictators or the recent attempts by his son, MP Justin Trudeau, to argue that so-called honour killings of disobedient women in certain cultures shouldn’t be considered “barbaric”: only 18% of us agreed that “right and wrong” are merely a matter of the beholder’s eye.

Trudeau’s notions of a “Just Society,” deploying the power of government to rescue underperforming regions and individuals, has been largely lumped, as well: Though 56% of us generally agree that poor people are often victims of circumstance, and 63% of Canadians agree to some extent that we “all have a responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves,” it would seem we wouldn’t readily trust that role to government.

Almost three-quarters of Canadians agree that when there are problems to be solved in this country, the government’s role is to “support individual initiatives first rather than always trying to find its own solutions.”

Nearly the same proportion believes government should focus on creating equality of opportunity — stopping at ensuring all have simply a fair shot at providing for themselves — rather than trying to engineer the equality of results, ensuring we all enjoy the same lifestyles. A majority of respondents, meanwhile, agreed that in most cases, the government’s attempts to rehabilitate criminals are doomed to failure, while fewer than a quarter of us are willing to buy that government action is the best medicine for economic problems.

Canadians’ confidence in the ability of government to fix our problems is clearly fading. Three times as many people say they’re losing faith that government can solve social challenges, like improving health care and education, or environmental issues, as those who say their confidence is growing in government remedies; twice as many Canadians report decreased confidence in the government’s ability to addressing economic challenges than those encouraged by the government’s record.

After watching time and again as large-scale government schemes are tried and fail — think: the National Energy Program; the Kyoto accord; or the disastrous constitutional upheavals that were the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords — the Canadian mainstream, it seems, has developed a strong taste for small-government conservatism, says Preston Manning, founder of the Manning Centre and the former leader of the Reform party. Two out of three Canadians say they want the government to “get smaller” and out of their way so they can do more for themselves. This cannot be comforting news for a Liberal party that has stood for so long for the power of government as an agent of good.

Far from disavowing the Trudeau legacy of meddling, the Liberals maintain him as an icon in the party, looming larger than the more restrained Laurier. Trudeau’s successors, reared on the legend, have sought largely to emulate his fetish for sweeping endeavours, whether it’s realigning the national economy with a climate-minded Green Shift, proclaiming the Kelowna accord the saviour of First Nations, stripping the notwithstanding clause from the Charter, or developing a national daycare strategy. It’s true that such bold plans haven’t only tempted Liberals: Brian Mulroney wears the blame for Meech Lake and Charlottetown. But only the Liberals — save, perhaps, Jean Chrétien, their last successful leader, who operated a notably unambitious, relatively conservative, agenda — seem yet to grasp that the population has moved on.

“I think it’s harder for them because they’ve been on that kick,” in part because they’ve governed for such a large part of the last four decades, Mr. Manning says. Canadians aren’t necessarily ideological about small government, the way the U.S. Tea Party might be, he says; it’s that they’ve been burned too many times by big — usually Liberal — government failures.

Still, the Barometer survey, accurate within 3.1% percentage points nine-and-a-half times out of 10, doesn’t suggest Conservatives are perfectly attuned to Canadians’ values either: Three-quarters of us believe politicians don’t share our views, up from 62% just six years ago, and we generally handed them low marks for focusing on important issues, and the work we expect from them. Stephen Harper, meanwhile, has hardly distinguished himself as a crusader for reining in government growth. But in an era where Canadians would rather rely on themselves and community to solve problems before government, it would seem that more staid, boring and workaday management — as exemplified by the yawner that was Monday’s budget — at least bothers Canadians far less than the prospect of yet more visionary ventures that the hard lessons of experience have taught us are destined only to disappoint.

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Lady tehMa
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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I don't trust government, or politicians. I used to, when I was younger. Now I see a bloated parasite draining the average person. So many layers of government are redundant, or just plain ineffective. I would like to see streamlining. I would like to see honesty and transparency.
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Urbane
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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    Lady tehMa wrote:I don't trust government, or politicians. I used to, when I was younger. Now I see a bloated parasite draining the average person. So many layers of government are redundant, or just plain ineffective. I would like to see streamlining. I would like to see honesty and transparency.
My thoughts too. Here's another interesting column on this issue:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/201 ... -backyard/
WhatThe

Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

Post by WhatThe »

Urbane wrote:
    Lady tehMa wrote:I don't trust government, or politicians. I used to, when I was younger. Now I see a bloated parasite draining the average person. So many layers of government are redundant, or just plain ineffective. I would like to see streamlining. I would like to see honesty and transparency.
My thoughts too. Here's another interesting column on this issue:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/201 ... -backyard/


curious then Urbane, if they are untrustworthy and show us no respect, why should that respect be returned?


Don't mean to derail but this seems at odds with the Depape protest and your take on it.
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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The Depape "protest" was ill considered and ill timed IMO, and definitely the wrong forum for such childish antics.

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Urbane
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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    NAB wrote:The Depape "protest" was ill considered and ill timed IMO, and definitely the wrong forum for such childish antics.

    Nab
Absolutely, and of course "Do unto others . . ."
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Homeownertoo
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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The trouble is, even as Canadians finally turn against Big Government, we are stuck with its legacy, both in terms of the infrastructure of Big Government insinuating itself into every aspect of life and with a citizenry that has learned to turn always to Big Government when it wants its way. The loss of faith in Big Government has not been accompanied by a rediscovery of the virtues of the private sector or a willingness to see it prevail.
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Urbane
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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    Homeownertoo wrote:The trouble is, even as Canadians finally turn against Big Government, we are stuck with its legacy, both in terms of the infrastructure of Big Government insinuating itself into every aspect of life and with a citizenry that has learned to turn always to Big Government when it wants its way. The loss of faith in Big Government has not been accompanied by a rediscovery of the virtues of the private sector or a willingness to see it prevail.
I agree. For example, when anyone even mentions the idea of more private options for Canadians when it comes to health care a big stop sign goes up. "Profit" is a dirty word to many and they would prefer to die waiting in line for treatment rather than see someone make a profit.
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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Pollsters tell us that Canadians are becoming more fiscally conservative and anti-big government, not because people are changing their political thinking any quicker than years past, but simply because the population is aging; older folks care more about smaller government and lower taxes, while younger folks (generally lower income earners) care more about lower tuition and better social safety nets. In other words, it may be a long time before we see a change in Ottawa.

On a similar note, if Canada had mandatory voting like they do in Australia, we would more than likely still have a minority Conservative government.
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Urbane
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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    Glacier wrote:Pollsters tell us that Canadians are becoming more fiscally conservative and anti-big government, not because people are changing their political thinking any quicker than years past, but simply because the population is aging; older folks care more about smaller government and lower taxes, while younger folks (generally lower income earners) care more about lower tuition and better social safety nets. In other words, it may be a long time before we see a change in Ottawa.

    On a similar note, if Canada had mandatory voting like they do in Australia, we would more than likely still have a minority Conservative government.
Excellent points Glacier. I know that I've become a bit more conservative as I've gotten older. I've seen so many costly big government programs that have not been effective (e.g. the long-gun registry) and more and more I've come to think that government should stick to the basics. Interesting point about mandatory voting and what that might have meant in the recent election. I believe your conclusion is accurate. Anyway, our goal should be informed voters, i.e quality, and not percentage of voters, i.e. quantity.
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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I disagree.

I think the liberals and both the conservatives shifted left and the values of Canadians have remained fairly constant. It's like looking at the sun and assuming it is spinning around the earth and the earth is staying in one place. The Liberals owned the 90s by cutting programs and maintaining a balanced budget and likewise the Conservatives ran on a platform of increase healthcare spending and various other social platforms (but not elaborate spending). I see not much a change in values but rather a shift in the choices we have in the voting booth.

I will admit there are some notable differences. Reducing the military was a vote getter in 93 along with a childcare program which is not what you'd expect from Harper. However leaving Afghanistan and a child credit program also have been flex points for the Conservatives. The Conservatives have not fought hard to stay there despite that they say they are pro-military (this has shifted over time in the hunt for a majority - to align with public opinion)and the child care program was added clearly as an alternative to Martin's childcare program.

Conservative brand, but not much other than that. I have no problem with this either: Is it not the governments job to make action out of public opinion in a democracy?
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Glacier
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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You are certainly free to disagree, QW, but the fact remains people (in general) become more concerned about taxes, crime, and other popular conservative ideals as they age. Pollsters tell us that this is true, and political parties know this is true.

Yes, paradoxically people do become more liberal in some ways as they age, and as you rightly point out, the parties have drifted to the left in some respects - but by no means in all respects. I don't think we've had a Prime Minister as far to right overall as Harper since at least Diefenbaker, almost 50 years ago.
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Re: Canadians turning against Big Government

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“Certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed.” -- Leftist icon Herbert Marcuse
“Don’t let anybody tell you it’s corporations and businesses create jobs.” -- Hillary Clinton, 25/10/2014

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