David J. Sanders
Arkansas News Bureau
October 19, 2008
While most Americans focused on Wednesday’s final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, the Canadian Leaders Debate, which re-aired Tuesday night on Canadian television as that country’s voters awaited the results from their parliamentary elections, provided a future glimpse of what the American government will look like if Democrats sweep next month’s elections.
A quick primer on Canadian politics: Of the four major political parties, only Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party bears some allegiance to free-market capitalism. That said, the Conservatives north of the border embrace a far greater amount of state control in their nation’s economy than do their counterparts in the U.S.
The Liberal Party led by Stéphane Dion, the Bloc Québécois led by Gilles Duceppe, and the New Democrat Party led by Jack Layton are all left-wing statist parties that support increasing government spending and giving the government greater control over their citizens’ lives. The debate also featured Elizabeth May from Canada’s Green Party, which is decidedly left-wing.
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By nature of his position, Harper found himself in the line of fire, mostly on the economy, but also on the environment and the war in Afghanistan (most of the Canadian leaders called for pulling that country’s troops out of the troubled region). Not unlike Barack Obama, who tries to tie John McCain to President George W. Bush, Dion, Duceppe, Layton and May all attempted to link Harper’s economic policies to the unpopular American president. Layton attacked Harper for offering big corporate tax cuts to manage Canada’s economy – tax cuts he claimed benefited big banks and oil companies like Exxon (sound familiar?).
Dion, attacked Harper for not supporting “reimbursable tax credits” (cash payouts) for Canadian businesses that aren’t making profits. Duceppe, Layton and May proposed a “Buy Canadian” plan that amounts to protectionism. Liberal, Bloc and NDP plans for Canada include vast amounts of new government spending and higher taxes as a solution for dealing with an economy that is in a slowdown.
On the environment, Harper’s government has backed away from elements of the Kyoto Protocol, which drew protests from the others. Every other party argued for stepped-up regulation and increased taxes to deal with the country’s environmental problems. The Liberals propose a carbon tax, the NDP embraces an emission trading system similar to what Obama and McCain support, which critics both in Canada and the U.S. say will impose an additional burden on the economy.
Perhaps the most disturbing exchange took place on health care. Across the board, the leaders’ answers for dealing with Canada’s troubled government-run universal system was to spend more money.
In a question submitted to the leaders, a mother from Quebec complained that she couldn’t find a pediatrician for her six-year old daughter — she found one after calling 75 different clinics. She, like many Canadians, said she was concerned about the quality of health care. Under the government-run system, Canada now suffers from a doctor shortage. Layton proposed more government spending to alleviate the medical school debts of those who choose a career in family medicine. Duceppe claimed that the problem was a disconnect between the federal government, which sets policy, and the provincial governments charged with administering healthcare.
May claimed that the great evil was not the government system itself, but government cost-controlling measures, which reduced the number of hospital beds and doctors, and the for-profit health care clinics trying to gain a foothold there. Dion proposed more spending to help with the five million Canadians who lack a family doctor. Harper, like the others, touted his government’s record on health-care spending to alleviate waiting lines for life-saving treatments and a lack of cutting-edge research in cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Democrats in the U.S. clamor for a similar government-run system.
The good news for Canada is that voters there rebuffed the left-wing parties and added to Harper’s numbers in Parliament. Unfortunately, American voters are on the cusp of handing the government to Obama and the Democrats who embrace many of the same left-wing policies Canadians rejected.
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