Dear Conservative friends, I don’t get it.
I think I have some conservative values but I couldn’t be more detached from what the Conservative Party of Canada is doing. What does it mean to be conservative? Google tells me its along the lines of:
“holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.”
This seems like a reasonable perspective. We have it pretty good and it is logical to be cautious about changing what we have. While the intention is clear, I struggle with how the present Conservative Party platform is true to that definition and how their actions are in any way cautious about change.
A significant component of The Conservative Party of Canada’s platform is centered on low taxes and a balanced budget. I have no problem with this intention for sound fiscal management. I feel all Canadians want this to be part of the equation. Digging a little further into the Conservative platform a defining statement is written:
“A balanced budget ensures that we’re not passing on a massive debt burden to our children and grandchildren.”
Its statements like these however where I start to struggle with the definition of conservative and the intention vs impact paradox in Conservative policy.
In contrast to that statement, Stephen Harper’s government is responsible for adding 24% to Canada’s debt having followed up 10 years of surplus through the Martin-Chretien era with 7 straight years of deficit. Surely this was not the impact they intended. Certainly it is contradictory to run on this platform with a record like that but I’m quite used to the lying at this point and its not my biggest concern. The singular focus on government fiscal debt as the only measure of intergenerational impact is much more concerning.
The exact meaningfulness of government debt in macro-economics is an ongoing area of study and debate among economists. Its complicated to say the least and while surely it matters I’d propose it may not be as important as we think.
So what am I worried about if not the almighty dollar? For starters I’m worried about the climate and the environment and the Conservative governments contempt for both. The denial of and failure to act on climate change by our “conservative” government has thrown us into a future of high risk unknowns. Whether its unknowns about food security and the health of our agricultural industries or unknowns regarding how exactly hundreds of millions of climate refugees projected for the coming decades will effect our relatively large and empty country. It is these real debts that truly will affect and define the future realities of our children and grand children.
I’m also worried about the massive and growing social deficit caused by the significant growth in inequity. It is well documented that inequity has severe impacts, including negative economic impacts, and yet conservative economic policy continues to promote the growth in inequity. Inequity can be looked at as a type of social debt and the impact the quality of life or our children and grand children is far from known.
I think its reasonable to consider these environmental and social debts as real debts. There is no spin. There is no complex macroeconomics involved. They are very easy to measure and we are simply pretending these debts don’t exist to justify downloading them to the next generations. All to ensure we maintain our “economy”. It feels risky to say the least.
From my perspective that isn’t even the worst part. I think the worst part is that the Conservative Party knows this disconnect between intention and impact exists. They know that as nice as their promoted ideals or intentions ring off in a sound bite, the impacts will be well represented in the data and the results won’t be positive for Canada. And rather than adjusting the policies to produce better impacts (represented in the data) they have instead assaulted our ability to measure impacts while betting ideal is more important than real.
The Stephen Harper years have been defined by the removal and destruction of data through activities and policies aimed at shutting down research programs, muzzling scientists, destroying research libraries, and removing the long form census. This is what worries me the most. The removal of the ability to measure the impact of policies while doubling down on said policies is about the least conservative and highest risk thing we can do as a country.
We have no idea how exactly climate change, the pending climate refugee crisis (projected to be 100 times bigger than the present refugee crisis), the growth of inequality, and the reduction of social infrastructure will effect our children and grand children. Its anyone’s guess, and basing our legacy on guess work rather than measuring impact through hard data is about the least conservative thing we can do.