Looking over the shambolic Monday night English debate, beyond the mound of over-talking, micro-babble and incoherence, beyond the litter of promises both trivial and extreme, only one leader held sensible high ground on the most important policy issues of the election.
Three major economic and political directions will be determined in the Oct. 21 election: the level of federal spending and debt over the coming decade, Canada’s role in global climate policy, and the degree to which extreme notions of wealth redistribution and class warfare will shape the national agenda.
As Monday’s debate unfolded, only Andrew Scheer emerged as the candidate worthy of the support of Canadians who value sensible general economic policies free of radicalism and extremism.
Scheer’s full Conservative platform, to be released formally on Friday, will not be without serious flaws and inconsistencies. The party’s support for agriculture supply management is an untenable sop to rural constituencies. His innumerable tax expenditure gimmicks and other vote-buying schemes are as deplorable as those of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats.
All parties are guilty of vote-buying, and Scheer’s Conservatives are no exception. Through the debate, however, only Scheer rose above the crowd on the three important issues of debt, climate and class warfare. While Trudeau, Singh and Green party leader Elizabeth May ripped into the “powerful corporations” and the wealthy, raised extreme alarms about climate change, and ignored the risks of rising debt, Scheer held stable ground. At one point he even used the word “freedom” to describe the essence of Canadian citizenship.
On the three main economic topics up for debate, Scheer offered the soundest policy options and ignored the extremist options offered by his opponents.
Scheer did not get sucked into the Trudeau/Singh/May climate alarmism rhetoric. Against claims from May on the alleged infallibility of climate science, and the alleged existential risk posed by global warming, Scheer stuck to his rational and responsible approach. His climate proposals stand in clear opposition to Trudeau’s insistence that the Liberal carbon plan to meeting extreme global emissions targets are essential and will be successful.
Setting carbon policy is an international problem that must be resolved internationally. Scheer’s anti-carbon tax stance smacks of populism, but there are also good reasons to hold off on major and costly national carbon policies until the international conflicts and disagreements are settled and formal regimes are established — if they are ever established.
Even if Canada were facing a “climate emergency” with increasing floods, wildfires and storms — as claimed by May, Trudeau and Singh — no Canadian “emergency” carbon policy, carbon tax, pipeline shutdowns can change the world climate trajectory. It would all be symbolism with no real impact. Sheer is right in noting that if China, India and other nations are increasing their use of fossil fuels, increasing their carbon emissions and raising global climate risks, it makes no sense to charge ahead as though the future of the world depended on Canada’s climate actions. The opposite is true: Canada’s climate future depends on how the rest of the world acts.
Debts and deficits
Scheer’s full platform will reveal his fiscal plan, but so far he has indicated a commitment to a balanced budget over time and claims the Conservative platform will outline a sensible path forward toward balance. All such platform fiscal plans are suspect, but at least Scheer has indicated he intends to run a prudent fiscal plan.
Through the debate, and in policy statements so far, Scheer has systematically avoided joining the creeping leftist push for the confiscation of the incomes and assets of the wealthy.
Trudeau talks of a need to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes (whatever that means), although at least he has in the past resisted the idea of imposing a wealth tax on Canadian billionaires and multimillionaires. Jagmeet Singh plans to raise $5 billion a year via a one per cent wealth tax. During the debate, Singh repeatedly referred to “rich and powerful corporations” and the wealthy who are “not paying their fair share.”
Looking forward, only Scheer offers the possibility that Canada’s fiscal and economic future will be free of the wealth-confiscation and other extreme policies that are gaining support in Canada and the United States. Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada also suggests it might be a safe haven for fiscal and climate conservatives, but his immigration stance and vague policy outlines are too marginal for most Canadian voters.
During the debate, Trudeau repeatedly denounced “fear-based politics” and the “politics of fear and division.” It was not clear who he was accusing of fearmongering, but it would be hard to pin that label on Scheer. On the contrary, as the debate ended, the Conservative was the only leader who did not engage in fear-based politics — over immigration, climate, wealth or any other issue.
There will be holes in the Conservative platform that will be released Friday. One of the biggest will be details regarding the plan to legislate a National Energy Corridor through which Ottawa will somehow impose national projects on provinces and regions. Should Quebec be allowed to continue to import oil, or should the province be forced to take in possibly more expensive oil from Alberta?
On the main issues of this election, however, the options are clear. Only Scheer stood out during the debate as the candidate whose platform rises above the radical and the extreme that Canada does not need.
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