Saturday, September 19, 2009

Canadian Teabaggers

America's Tea Party protests migrated north of the border today as former SoCred premier Bill Vander Zalm was found leading the masses in protesting British Columbia's introduction of the HST (a harmonization of provincial and federal sales taxes).

I won't go over all the economic arguments in favour of the HST, since a lot of people are already aware of where the expert consensus is. The question is how one reacts to that. As "Andre Jean" on the Globe and Mail's website puts it in responding to the comments of another (italicized):
I'm not sure I would trust the public at large to really understand these issues.... According to just about every economist [Liberal Premier Gordon] Campbell is doing the right thing

I don't think that this is the point. What are we? A democracy or an expertocracy? Why bother having elections? Why not leave it to the professional organizations of economists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, et al. to set public policy?... Might as well leave it to the expletive deleted think tanks to run the show.

Well, Andre, if you are looking for refuge from an "expertocracy", Ed Stelmach's Alberta is your shelter from the storm!

It's arguably unfair to American Teabaggers to compare them to Vander Zalm's mob because the US demonstrators are calling for lower government spending, a very sound policy (although not so sound is the number of Birthers, Deathers, Tenthers, etc in their ranks). This Vancouver protest has nothing to do with spending and everything to do with whether the tax burden is transparent and efficient (paid by consumers) or obscured and inefficient (paid by producers).

According to Les Leyne of the Victoria Times Colonist
The blame -- or credit -- for the Return of the Zalm falls squarely on one man -- my friend Vaughn Palmer of The Vancouver Sun.
It was Palmer who invited Vander Zalm on to his Voice of B.C. TV show in June. The topic was his absurd 645-page, self-published [and self-edited] book ... The appearance gave Vander Zalm his first taste of publicity in years. TV is like crack to him.
That appearance likely brought in enough gushy e-mails from long-dormant Socreds living on the outskirts of Crazytown that it reawakened his taste for being in the news. So it's no coincidence that, several weeks later, he pops up at the front of the angry mob, ready to lead a populist charge in all directions.

Vaughn Palmer responds by noting that he could hardly be conspiring for the return of someone who had such a "dismal and disturbing record as premier":
Denounced by the New Democrats of the day for trying to impose his religious beliefs on the province by cutting off funding for doctor-approved abortions. Accused of presiding over one of the most ethically-challenged administrations in history.
Found guilty of multiple violations of conflict-of-interest standards over the sale of his property to a Taiwanese billionaire.
Persisted in his actions (to quote from the Ted Hughes-authored review of his conduct) 'because of the apparently sincere belief that no conflict existed so long as the public was not aware of what's going on.'

There is a lesson here for Alberta social conservatives, and that's that one has to be discriminating in terms of whom one is backing. Vander Zalm had already alienated Indo-Canadian supporters of his anti-HST crusade by declaring that multiculturalism is destroying the country. Now I happen to believe that Vander Zalm's lament about multiculturalism and the decline of religion, and in particular his remark that "[w]e’re trying to accommodate all people, and in the process losing everything" is a message that should be taken seriously. The problem is that this messenger cannot be taken seriously.

The biggest warning flag that the Zalm is not, in fact, advancing "true conservatism" is the fact that he is in league with the NDP. Today Vander Zalm introduced Carole James saying the NDP leader was “doing a great job.”

Lately I've been asking supporters of Mark Dyrholm to consider Dyrholm's campaigning on behalf of Ed Stelmach's PCs. How does that square with Dyrholm being a "true conservative"? Is Vander Zalm, who wears his "conservative Christian beliefs" on his sleeve, a "true conservative"? Then what's he doing on a stage with the NDP? Even if one thinks the Stelmach PC party is "conservative", surely we can agree that the "label" does not belong on the NDP.

"[C]onservative Christians" ultimately retard the cause instead of advancing it by following a demagogue who "pops up at the front of the angry mob, ready to lead a populist charge in all directions." Everytime this happens, the judgment of the followers is called into question. As Vaughn Palmer notes with respect to the NDP leader: "you have to wonder what she is saying about her own standards."

The fact is that "conservative Christian" values do not have to be packaged into a single football and handed off to a self-promoting politician who showboats for the crowd and then fumbles it. One can advocate on an issue by issue basis, like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada does, and be far more effective.

1 comment:

Patrick Ross said...

Well, let's be honest with ourselves. Social Credit may have been used as a vehicle for conservative governance -- as Earnest Manning in Alberta and Bill Bennet did in BC -- but the underlying theories and principles of the party are fundamentally unconservative and statist in nature.

It's no wonder Vander Zalm could so casually politically associate with the NDP. They share one very big plank in common.