The ruling Canadian Conservative party was born from the Bush Administration mentality of certainty and confrontation and while Bush is long gone these conservatives continue on and they don’t know how to change.
Their certainty is a curious amalgam of confidence, insensitivity and ideology which has the same fracturing quality as the Republicans in the US: Canadians either like them or loath them. The big difference in the multi-party Canadian system is that a loathed party can still capture 30-odd% of the vote and rule, if in a minority situation, as is the case with these Conservatives.
And ruling, of course, is empowering. It allows the timidity of speaking for the few to become the arrogance of governing all.
By necessity the Harper Conservatives have had to rein in its personality to attack and react conciliatingly to emerging issues — and that isn’t in its pugnacious nature. Examples abound. Moments after Finance Minister Flaherty sneeringly denied any vulnerability to the emerging financial crisis he was forced to react with an enormous stimulus package built along US lines and at US and EU insistence. After steadfastly denying an extension in Employment Insurance benefits as anathema to its principles the Conservatives acquiesced to placate its political foes.
In the past few days the imperious Conservatives have continued its GWB approach to world affairs by ham-handily confronting the EU over visa requirements for its member country, the Czech Republic. It will certainly be forced to back down.
A day before, Environment Minister Prentice warned Canadians and the world not to expect anything from Canada at Copenhagen due to Canada’s size, growth and “industrial structure” — meaning growth of the Alberta tar sands, a constituency both he and PM Harper directly represent.
In a startling reversal of roles the arrogant strutting of the US across the world stage has been moderated by the soft diplomacy of negotiations while the usually timid steps of Canada have been jack-booting its way in the face of both domestic and international opposition, not to mention common sense.
Canada’s increasingly arrogant intransigence is galling to many internationally. Domestically, it is a constant reminder of the Bush years and, alas, just as President Bush got re-elected so the Harper brand of conservatism is growing in the polls.
A multi-party system has its brilliance, but it also has its Harpers.