More than an endorsement, our view on the Canadian election


After almost a decade at the helm of Canada’s federal government, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is fighting to remain in power in one of the closest electoral races in many years. On Monday, October 19th, Canadians will finally decide if they want a fourth consecutive Conservative administration or a new government. We have been struggling with our choice for this election for many weeks and are still not very sure at this point which party and leader would best serve Canada’s interests.

Since coming to power in 2006, the Conservatives under Harper have moved Canada into a more free-market, pro-business direction, successfully managing the global financial crisis and returning to fiscal balance during the last year. The Conservative administration and the Prime Minister have many areas in which they should be proud of themselves: a balanced budget, lower taxes, a stable economy, a strong record on free trade including the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a promising pro-skilled immigration policy, a strong stance against international terrorism and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and support in the fight against ISIS. On the other hand, they have too often been tempted to pander to fear in order to strengthen support from their most ideological base –the Niqab issue comes to mind– and have failed dramatically when it comes to address climate change. Mr. Harper’s style, instead of broadening the appeal of the party, has made it less and less appealing to millions of Canadians. He has proven to be a good steward of the economy, not so much a leader who respects and welcomes everyone.

On the other side of the aisle, the opposition Liberals –which we endorsed back in 2011 as a credible centrist alternative– have made the mistake, under their new leader Justin Trudeau, of moving to the left instead of reclaiming the fertile center ground where most Canadians reside and where the party was so successful for most of the 20th century. Besides his obvious inexperience, what troubles us about Mr. Trudeau is his tendency to say whatever pleases the majority of public opinion at any given time and the vagueness of his ideas. Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for instance. We still don’t know whether he would really push for TPP or, if public opinion turns against it, he would back away from it even though it would benefit Canada’s economy and standing in the international community. While Mr. Harper is an unabashed proponent of TPP and Mr. Mulcair –the left-wing NDP leader– a strong opponent, we have no clue what Mr. Trudeau really thinks about TPP and free trade in general. The same applies to many other issues.

When it comes to the Liberal platform, we find many aspects we dislike: their deficit spending proposal, their vague stance on TPP and trade, their support for tax increases, their opposition to the Conservatives’ pro-skilled immigration policy, their proposal to withdraw from the fight against ISIS. On the other hand, there are aspects we find very appealing: their strong stance on climate change, their balanced approach on civil liberties vs. security concerns, their more generous refugee policy and their overall tendency to social tolerance and openness.

While the election has turned into a two-way race between Liberals and Conservatives, at some point, the left-wing New Democrats (NDP) appeared to be poised to win a federal election for the first time in Canada’s history. That is no longer the case (and we’re relieved for that). Despite Mr. Mulcair’s efforts to move the NDP to the center (for instance, promising to keep the Tories’ balanced budget), their proposals still remain anchored on the socialist roots the party has always had. Mr. Mulcair’s recent stance against TPP only strengthens our view that the whole “centrist” image was just a charade, which, fortunately, Canadians didn’t buy.

So, which party should govern Canada? If you think that the economy is the most important issue on this election and that the Liberal plan is too radical –which, despite all its flaws, we don’t think it is–, then you should stick with the Conservatives. On the other hand, if you –like us–, think that the Conservatives have done a good job when it comes to the economy, deserve a lot of credit in their strong stance against terrorism and ISIS, but have had too many years in power and have failed on issues of great importance like climate change policy and democratic accountability, then you should give your vote to the Liberals, which, in the end, are going to default to the center once again.

This is not one of our usual endorsements, but the choice is really difficult. By losing, we hope the Conservatives renew themselves into a pragmatic center-right party led by a sensible leader in the mold of Brian Mulroney. Mr. Harper’s time is up. An election win would only lengthen his leadership of the party and deteriorate its future prospects. Under a new leader and a renewed –and more centrist– approach, perhaps the choice won’t be that hard in four years’ time.