Conservatives Win: Stephen Harper Meets Sir Edmund Burke

I’ve been writing my agricultural commentary for almost 20 years. Yes, I go back to 1986. Those were the Mulroney hay days. Interest rates were double digit then. The US farm bill was just beginning to rear its ugly head. There was something called Free Trade in the wind. Liberal leader John Turner rented a bus back in those days. He wanted to see what 40 seats looked like.

Laugh if you want. Seven years later the Liberal party returned to power, which they only relinquished last Monday. It goes to show that political winds blow back and forth. Back in 1986 when the Agridome was born, Brian Mulroney looked unassailable. In 1993, his party was reduced to 2 seats.

Stephen Harper’s win last Monday was hard fought and well deserved. The Liberals held their urban base with enough seats to make a comeback within the next 18 months. With Prime Minister Paul Martin deciding to step down, a Liberal leadership race will get under way. When the dust clears, the Liberals will be better for it. A national cleansing just like the old Progressive Conservatives got in 1993 will be good for them.

However, keep in mind the Liberal Party of Canada is one of the most successful organizations on earth. They don’t like losing and rarely do. With the strength of 103 seats in Parliament many Liberals might take this as not a defeat, but more of a spanking. If that is the case, they haven’t learned from their election stumble in
2004. The Liberals need to regroup and resettle and choose a leader at least as young as Mr. Harper to keep their competitive edge. Thinking the 2006 election is an aberration will not serve them. It is what it is.

Stephen Harper and his young Conservatives will bring real change to Parliament Hill. Urban media ideals about his values were repudiated in every part of Canada outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. His government will make changes to the Senate. They are going to reduce the GST. They have offered significant changes to agricultural stabilization policy, which will surely help Southwestern Ontario farm country.

They will also need to get long with everybody. That said the Bloc Quebecois have the balance of power in the House of Commons. They aren’t likely to give the Conservatives trouble. The Bloc actually lost seats from the 2004 election campaign. It is in their best interests to support Harper, as the conditions for Quebec sovereignty are still a long way away.

That’s because federalist Jean Charest is Premier of Quebec. He’s not very popular so the Bloc will have to wait him out before the PQ get a shot at him in the next election. However, with an Albertan now in 24 Sussex, many soveriegnists are looking at this as their perfect storm. They simply have to bide their time.

Locally the big blue wave swept away Liberals. Dave VanKesteren and Bev Shipley will have a tall order to fill. They benefited by farmer outrage during this campaign. The Liberals under Jean Chretien destroyed agricultural stabilization policy. When they did that, millions of dollars left ridings like Lambton Kent Middlesex and Chatham Kent Essex. The political price for that was almost paid in 2004. However, last Monday the agricultural economic environment had deteriorated to such an extent the result was almost predestined.

You might say a lesson has been learned. An argument could be made if the Liberals had listened to farm groups going into the election, they would easily be reelected. Their obvious appeal in urban areas couldn’t be matched in farm country. However, Liberal candidates were hamstrung at farm rallies and farm meetings forced to defend the indefensible. In the end, they came over to the Risk
Management Program proposed by Ontario farm groups.

Losing is never easy. However, there were several candidates who during the election made a positive difference. They will surely be heard from in the future. Jeff Wesley, Kathleen Kevany, Jim Johnston, Kevin Blake, Jim Comiskey and many others showed a lot of moxy during this campaign. Canada is greater because of their contribution during the campaign.

Then of course, there was Sir Edmund Burke. Let me tell you. I’m sure our publisher John Gardiner is hiding under a rock today. Rest assured I would find him and let him know the sun did come up. As for Sir Edmund, I don’t know. Something tells me in future weeks and months he’ll have reason to smile. I wonder what he would think about the “chips?” Did they fall as they may?

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