trudeau-fullBy David McLaren

In a perceptive article for the National Post, Michael Den Tandt observes Justin Trudeau steering to the right on a raft of issues, but especially on foreign policy. He will likely vote for a ground war in Iraq in April. He underscores the Conservatives' unwavering support of Israel. He will support Mr Harper's so-called anti-terrorist Bill C-51 even if he has to swallow his own amendments.

Liberals and Conservatives have, for some time now, the same trickle-down economic policy. On the expenditure side: tax cuts to corporations (forget all that dead money companies are sitting on), and a Gordian's knot of tax credits for the middle class (never mind there are fewer and fewer of them). And on the revenue side: cut jobs, services, salaries, pensions and EI benefits. That's how Mr. Chretien and Mr. Martin balanced their budgets. Mr. Harper is doing the same.

Mr. Den Tandt goes further and looks at how Mr. Trudeau would apply his policies across Canada. He risks becoming the "headwaiter to the provinces," as the senior Trudeau once put it. That is, set a standard (for carbon pricing for example) and let the provinces figure out how to reach it — or not. Or maybe not even set a standard: in interviews, Mr. Trudeau Jr. has been consistent in his vagueness about how he would enforce his policies. I can hardly wait to hear how he would convince the provinces to implement the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on physician assisted suicide. (Hint: look at current inequality in access to abortions).

Mr. Trudeau differs from Mr. Harper in one regard at least. He would meet with the premiers.

It's really no surprise. If the Liberals want a majority, they will have to go after the Conservative vote. How else is he going to do that but list a little more to starboard in his policies? This is a lot further to the right than his dad ever steered.

You can tell how much the political landscape has shifted when Liberals, who used to campaign from the left and govern from the right, now campaign from the right. It makes you wonder where they intend to govern from.

You don't have to look hard to see how far Mr. Trudeau is prepared to go. Just look at the recent defection of Eve Adams from the Conservative caucus. Put aside, for the moment, Ms. Adams' desperate hunt for a seat (any seat), and look at how comfortably a life-long Conservative politician slides into the Blue-Lite caucus of Mr. Trudeau.

This is big trouble for Canadian democracy because it begs the question: are we heading for the same troubled waters the U.S. finds itself in?

Down south, the Democrats and Republicans are so close together on key issues (especially foreign policy and the economy) that the only game left is which one can grab and hold onto the reins of power. I think that's one of the reasons for the ascendency of ideological vitriol and big money in U.S. politics — if there's no real differences in policy, then stand your ground on emotion and cash-stuffed super PACs.

The things that make us different from America are becoming fewer, and those are fading. But one of them is that we allow more than two parties into the scramble for seats.

Unfortunately, you would never know that by the reporting on the election campaign so far. A quick perusal of the main-stream media's websites reveals a myriad of stories about Conservative policy vs Liberal policy, Mr. Harper vs Mr. Trudeau, as though that was the only game in town.

Now, you might dismiss this little essay as coming from a crabby NDP-er complaining about media coverage. And you would be partly right. But remember, the NDP is the Official Opposition. And it has been the only effective opposition to the Liberal-Conservative hegemony — not only in this Parliament but in most Parliaments since TC Douglas sat in the House.

A few years ago, the New York Times apologized for its uncritical reporting and analysis of George Dubbya's policies and practices. I wonder if the Canadian media will have to apologize for forgetting there is more to Canadian politics than the Conservative-Liberal Party.

David McLaren is an award-winning writer working and living at Neyaashiinigmiing on the Bruce Peninsula, and an aspiring candidate for the federal New Democratic Party.

You can read more of his political writing at https://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/.



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