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Conservative Platform

The word on the street is that Canada's new-ish Conservative Party is, unlike the old Tories, a bunch of real, America-style rightwingers. And certainly there's some truth to that what with the "tax relief" and "defence of marriage" talk on their website. On the other hand, one wouldn't really hear this from the GOP:

Canadians on Fixed Incomes
The Conservative Party will fight for low-income Canadians. We will increase support for Canadians on fixed incomes, including seniors, who face rising costs of living.
Mmm . . . welfare. Nor do you hear a lot of this sort of talk from American conservatives: "A Conservative government will cooperate with the provinces to ensure adequate funding, shorter waiting lists, and more doctors and nurses. We will improve access to health care for all Canadians, regardless of ability to pay." Which is all less to say anything about the merits of the Conservative Party than to just make a point about the ratchet-like quality of policymaking. If America ever gets a universal health care system, then soon enough the GOP will find, like parties of the right throughout the rest of the rich world, that it, too, needs to become a supporter of universal health care or else become permanently doomed at the polls. There are important assymetries like this between leftwing and rightwing economic programs: big progressive achievements become very, very, very hard to displace but unlike tax cuts they're usually very, very, very hard to implement in the first place.

April 22, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

that ratchet effect isn't always for the good. Look at how impossible reform has become in France. It was practically a miracle that they were able to ALLOW companies to negotiate a more-than-35-hour with their employees.

Posted by: Jacob | Apr 22, 2005 11:05:28 AM

35 hour work week, that is

Posted by: Jacob | Apr 22, 2005 11:06:28 AM

Right. The Conservatives are worse that the Tories, but the damage they can do (especially with a minority government) is highly limited. There's no significant support for ending single-payer even in Alberta, they're not going to pass an abortion law, etc. etc.

An important element of the path dependency, of course, is that corporations like single payer once it's there. Somehow, I doubt Canadian corporations are desperate to be in the same position as General Motors...

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Apr 22, 2005 11:06:35 AM


Today's Conservatives are an alliance b/w the "old" Tories and the Reform/Canadian Alliance Party, and if you want the word on the street, that alliance is an uneasy one, especially if social issues come into play in the election.

Posted by: 2shoes | Apr 22, 2005 11:12:31 AM


Today's Conservatives are an alliance b/w the "old" Tories and the Reform/Canadian Alliance Party, and if you want the word on the street, that alliance is an uneasy one, especially if social issues come into play in the election.

Posted by: 2shoes | Apr 22, 2005 11:13:57 AM

It's called "entropy", Matt. Making things worse is always easier than fixing them again. ;)

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Apr 22, 2005 11:23:03 AM

oh, how quicly we have forgotten "compassionate conservative"

Posted by: yoyo | Apr 22, 2005 11:25:44 AM

Your last line got me thinking -- "big progressive achievements become very, very, very hard to displace but unlike tax cuts they're usually very, very, very hard to implement in the first place."

Somehow I feel like the "big" (meaning more bureaucratic, harder to displace) conservative achievements have had an easier time being placed, but not because they're more popular, per se. Take the example of the creation of the huge bureaucratic non-transparent Department of Homeland Security, or the example of the assault on Medicare with the medicare prescription drug "benefit". Those are huge programs that are pretty seriously hard to reform or displace, but weren't that hard for conservatives to pass through the legislative process.

Man, those canadian conservatives. Gotta love how they've got love for the government taking care of their people :>

I agree that the GOP would have to embrace, in some way, a universal health care system were it implemented in our country. But i have a feeling it would be a bitter embracement, similar to how they embrace medicare (they wouldn't even attempt to completely get rid of it, but they'll find ways to put taxpayer money into corporations' pockets, to slowly flush the government down the toilet and then show that there's a need to dismantle govt programs because they cost too much). Or perhaps i'm wrong, perhaps they'll embrace it more than i think they will...

Posted by: Anjali | Apr 22, 2005 11:30:12 AM

You're right; the Conservative party cares for health care in very much the same way that Bush cares for social security.
They have been hunting for a two-tier health care system for some time, with private hospitals available for the rich. Luckily, here the concept is considered offensive by the vast majority.

Posted by: hugh | Apr 22, 2005 3:22:54 PM

Take the American political spectrum, and shift it to the left such that there is nothing out past, say, Bob Dole. On the other side, Barbara Boxer is a centre-right.

Presto, you now have Canadian Politics.

Posted by: David M. McClory | Apr 22, 2005 4:17:58 PM

Granted, it's harder to scrap these big social programs, but don't be fooled by what the people on the right SAY re. health care. Their strategy is to treat it like a noble ideal that, sadly, can't work in the real world. So they say they love it, but once in power they cut it back to the point where most people notice its flaws in a big way. Then enough voters agree that, yes, it was a noble dream, but not feasible, so that we have to move to a 2-tier system.

Posted by: praymont | Apr 22, 2005 4:18:34 PM

hugh's right about what's lurking beneath the surface of the single-paragraph campaign-style blurb about health care policy. Note that the Conservatives steer pretty clear of terms like "universal" and "single payer". They want a two-tier system, like the ones Alberta's Ralph Klein wants to experiment with. Sure, that'll provide some health care for everyone in need, but it won't provide the same kind of health care that people who can pay for it will get.

Which is to say, displacing an existing system is *exactly* the name of the game for Conservative health policy.

Posted by: Scott E. | Apr 22, 2005 4:52:42 PM

"Sure, that'll provide some health care for everyone in need, but it won't provide the same kind of health care that people who can pay for it will get."

Um, yes. Because the people who can pay for it, pay for it. Is this obscure or something?

Medical care is one of many goods on which it is possible to spend essentially unlimited amounts of money buying better quality. You could bankrupt the entire PLANET trying to buy everybody in just Canada the absolute best quality medical care. Or the absolute best housing. Or the absolute best food. Or the best of just about anything...

So, there are essentially two alternatives: You either accept that some people are going to get better medical treatment/housing/food/whatever, because they can freaking PAY FOR IT.

Or, you decide that some people are going to be denied things that they can afford, just because somebody else can't afford them. That somebody whose life could be saved by expensive treatment "X", and who can pay for it out of their own pocket, has to DIE, to make somebody else feel better.

One or the other, no third way. Make up your mind, and don't be suprised if people fight like hell your efforts to force them into the second choice.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Apr 22, 2005 7:43:03 PM

Speaking as someone who has lived on both sides of the border for decades, I can tell Brett the difference between the American and Canadian rich: Yes, the Canadian rich might cross the border to get expensive treatment X, paying out of pocket as the American rich would. Canadian well-to-do folks, by my observation, do accept the high taxes necessary to support the universal system because they embrace their whole society. Many are tories in the Disreali sense. They are not like the ugly American rich (Louis Hartz calls them the petty bourgeois giants) who drive past the hungry and shivering poor without a glance or a second thought. Enjoy your proximity to those creeps, Brett.

Posted by: g-lex | Apr 22, 2005 10:54:29 PM

Aren't you being a little melodramatic, Brett? A wealthy person forced to die because of evil socialized healthcare?

Posted by: three hills | Apr 23, 2005 11:45:38 AM

big progressive achievements become very, very, very hard to displace

Which is why people fight so damn hard to keep progressives from implementing things.

Posted by: TW. Andrews | Apr 25, 2005 3:53:01 AM

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