Have you felt something special in the air this year? Perhaps it’s the festive spirit of having fought to a stalemate with the Americans in the War of 1812, which the federal government has devoted $28 million to celebrating? After all, Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared, upon winning last year’s election, that Canada is a “nation of warriors.” He’s absolutely right, too: Most people think of Canadians, as cold, calculated killers. Such expenditures will hardly bankrupt the country — most of it can be paid with the $20 million that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney estimates will be saved each year by cutting prescription drug coverage for refugees.
In all seriousness, these skewed priorities only add to the ever-growing mountain of evidence that Harper’s government is the worst Canada has ever had. We have clearly lost touch with what it means to be human when we choose to honour wars from which every veteran has been dead for over a century before honouring the lives of those coming to our shores seeking protection from persecution and strife. We used to be a country that embraced the less fortunate, but now we look down on them with a cynical distrust. Is there anyone who can lead Canada back to its compassionate, positive ways?
Enter Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair. In Mulcair, the NDP have found a leader who can pack just as partisan a punch as Harper. Mulcair was particularly feisty earlier in his tenure, when he bemoaned the “Dutch disease” of eastern Canadian jobs being lost to western prosperity. When Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall expressed concern over the divisive nature of these comments, Mulcair’s spokesperson dismissed such grievances, claiming that Conservatives were the masters of division and, therefore, nothing that they said mattered. Clearly Mulcair is not the candidate for national unity and cooperation.
In terms of policy, the NDP’s last electoral platform had no plan to slay the deficit. But this is not Jack Layton’s NDP. Tom Mulcair has been described as a social democrat rather than a socialist, which ostensibly means that he is more centrally aligned. His politics are more liberal, however, he refuses to cooperate with the Liberals. Based on this knowledge, we can only assume that Mulcair will either plunge us into enormous deficits with unsustainable spending or he will refuse to cooperate with those who share similar values because they wear red instead of orange.
Though in the early stages of a leadership race, the Liberals are by far the most prepared to provide an effective government. They are somewhat similar to the NDP in prioritizing issues such as education, health and seniors’ care, Aboriginal rights, the environment and childcare. However, the Liberals have also shown they recognize the importance of having a balanced budget in order to make social programs sustainable. In their mutual cooperation with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Liberals have shown that they can work productively with open-minded parties in parliament.
The Liberals’ National Energy Program of 1980 may still leave a bad taste in the mouths of Albertans. Many vividly remember the unforeseen negative impact the NEP had on them personally. However, the next election will not be fought over the NEP — it will be a choice between costume parties and human lives. If the latter are more important to you, then the Liberal leadership contest is worth your attention.