Big lesson from wee Canada

Tired of all the election speculation coming out of the U.S. these days?  Well allow this polite, humble Canadian to steer your attention north of the Canada-U.S. border to where another federal election campaign is underway – one that may be over before most of the world realizes it had ever began.


I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that since settling at Fleishman Hillard Brussels, I haven’t heard a peep about the excitement back home, despite my religious attachment to FH Canada’s election blog – (yes, what a shameless plug). What with global economic meltdowns, U.S. election debates and U.K. party politics, there’s not much room in the political newscycle for wee Canada.

But gosh darn it (yes, Canadians are that polite), wee Canada deserves some attention!  After all, if you consider that the land of beavers, Mounties and maple syrup will be the first member of the G8 to go to the polls following “the worst financial crisis since ’29”, there may be a few reasons to watch and learn from the Canadian experience.

While I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting that the fate of incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a pre-cursor to John McCain’s (all told, it’s most likely that Harper will eek out a small minority government this coming Monday), both men’s laissez-faire approach have been interpreted by their opponents as “out-of-touch” and lacking compassion.  Just look at the reaction to Mr. Harper’s suggestion yesterday that the recent downturn is an opportunity to buy cheap stocks and you’ll understand how exceedingly sensitive members of the public are becoming to the current economic situation.  It seems people want both a big heart and big government in these times of need and the small-C conservatives who ignore this point, both in Canada and abroad, do so at their peril.

But then again, we should not forget that “conservative” governments, including the current Republican administration, have been at the head of some of the largest government spending projects in modern history.  No Child Left Behind, money for AIDS in Africa, the war in Iraq – good or bad, these are all record-making expenditures that precede the most recent and single largest cheque ever written by a national government in the history of the world.  Perhaps when John McCain suggested in yesterday’s presidential debate that Barack Obama would raise taxes, the Democratic candidate should have answered, “Yes, to pay for Republican bills!”.  And given the fact that an economic turnaround is not foreseeable at this point, could it be that these big spend tendencies will be reinforced?  Again, today’s support from the U.K. Tories for Gordon Brown’s £50 billion bank bail-out is but another example.

But I digress – and most certainly do so at the peril of future postings on this blog!  So let me end by revising my argument about the significance of the highly under-covered Canadian campaign.  Perhaps not only will this election be a clear reminder for conservatives, worldwide, of the need to go back to their big government roots, it may in fact represent one of the last major Western campaigns for a while where conservatives can credibly argue for smaller government.

But then again, I’m getting ahead of myself.  I am after all just a humble Canuck pining for a little world attention.

Canuckia Blair

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December 05, 2008 | 3:10 PM


November 04, 2008 | 3:54 PM

Eliane, Many thanks for pointing this out. Our apologies for this error on the part of the team member who made this post, we have removed the picture. James btw - for those who are wondering what the picture was, check out Eliane's website: Some pretty cool illustrations as part of a large portfolio of work:

November 03, 2008 | 10:06 PM

You have used my photo on this blog entry without my permission or even crediting me. Please correct this.

Canuckia Blair
October 10, 2008 | 4:28 PM

Just saw this article in the Economist, funnily enough released on the same day as my original piece (I actually completed my note on the 8th, for the record!). Interesting reading, particularly the articles thoughts on the first credit crunch election in the West.

james macduff
October 09, 2008 | 7:52 PM

"big hearts and big government" eh? Oh to have a time machine and take this post back to Queen's University circa 1999, and get a reaction to this Canuckia Blair from a certain Collingwood native. Is it really "big hearts and big government" people want, or mere competence, that strangely elusive quality in current leadership? And if Harper appears unwilling to recognize and acknowledge the extent of a problem, then he's already lost that battle before you get to a discussion about solutions.

Canuckia Blair
October 09, 2008 | 4:30 PM

You would have to bring it back to Obama, now wouldn't you MacDuff! :) I agree about your point re: Stephen Harper not going on the offence. What I don't think many people understand is that he's incapable of going on the offensive when it comes to big government. The man is just not programmed to do so. Which brings me back to my original point. Stephen Harper's achilles heel is the fact that he will not consider government as a solution to an issue like the current economic meltdown. And as we've seen with the current polls, it's really hurting him. In these tough times, people want big hearts and big government, arguably characteristics that Stephen Harper either doesn't have or completely despises. Where's John Maynard when you need him?!

Election 2008 | Daily election analysis and commentary by Fleishman Hillard
October 09, 2008 | 3:05 PM

[...] One of our colleagues Blair Stransky from FH Ottawa has recently moved to our Brussels office to take on an assignment there.  Like the good Canadian he is, Blair has decided to add his own commentary about the Canadian Election to the interweb.  You can read Blair’s posting on the FH Brussels’ public affairs blog here. [...]

james macduff
October 09, 2008 | 1:43 PM

Harper is in trouble mainly because the government of the day always gets tagged with the country's economic performance. They take credit for successful growth, rightfully or not, so it's not surprising people are apt to blame them for downturns. Note that in the UK, the economy will be the main cause of conservative victory. That said, Harper's biggest problem has been to underestimate the issue and downplay its significance, instead of seizing it. In other words, staying crouched in a defensive crouch instead of going on offence with an understanding of the magnitude of the concern. He's no doubt frustrated, because he's far less responsible for the dire economic situation than Bush and the Republicans, but he terribly misread how to respond. Given where the fault for the looming downturn lies, there is good reason that, even in Canada, our own election is dwarfed in importance by the need to bring some sanity and intelligence back to the White House. And, happily, the unlikely Barack Obama, the "skinny black guy with big ears" and truly my favorite politician of modern times, looks poised to get it done. Let's all hope so.

October 09, 2008 | 10:24 AM

What ever happned to the news media being impartial them giving us real facts instead of giving us distorted, biassed facts and telling us who to vote for?