Brian Lee Crowley

Announcing The Canadian Century

Coming soon: the sequel to Fearful Symmetry

I have had the great good fortune over the last 6 months to work with co-authors Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis on a new book that is essentially a sequel to Fearful Symmetry: “The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow”. This will be the first book of my new national think tank, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and will be published by Key Porter. Here is the blurb from Key Porter about the book, which is due out in May, 2010:

One hundred years ago a great Canadian, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, predicted that the twentieth
century would belong to Canada. He had a plan to make it so.

What happened? Canada lost sight of Laurier’s plan, and failed to claim its century,
dwelling instead in the long shadow of the United States.

In a bold, fascinating and thought-provoking call to arms, Crowley (author of the
national bestseller Fearful Symmetry) and co-authors Jason Clemens and Niels Veldhuis
envision Canada’s emergence as an economic and social power. While the United States
has been squandering its advantages — including making a series of bad decisions that
precipitated a global economic disaster from which it struggles to emerge — Canada finds
itself on a path leading out of the shadows and into a new prosperity that could — if we
stay the course — make us the envy of the world.

It won’t happen without effort, however. We must be prepared to follow through on
reforms enacted at the end of the twentieth century, completing the work already begun.
If we succeed, Canada can and will become the economic outperformer that Sir Wilfrid
Laurier foretold, a land of work for all who want it, of opportunity, investment, innovation
and prosperity. America’s performance, by contrast, risks trailing ours until they
embrace Canadian-style courageous and far-seeing reform.

Laurier did indeed predict the Canadian Century. He was absolutely right; he was
merely off by 100 years.

Brian Lee Crowley is the author of the national bestseller Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values. Crowley is Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy and is a frequent commentator on political and economic issues for the CBC, Radio-Canada and many other media. His website is He lives in Ottawa.

Jason Clemens is the director of research at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, where he specializes in fiscal policy. His articles regularly appear
throughout Canada and the United States, including the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in San Francisco.

Niels Veldhuis is vice-president and senior economist at The Fraser Institute. He also
writes a bi-weekly column for the National Post and appears regularly on radio and television
programs across the country. He lives in Vancouver.

Fearful Symmetry in The Taxpayer

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Manitoba Director, Colin Craig, interviewed me about Fearful Symmetry for the Fall 2009 edition of The Taxpayer. The interview is reproduced below.

Jeffrey Simpson reviews Fearful Symmetry

Fearful Symmetry in the Halifax Herald

This review first appeared in the Halifax Herald on January 3. It is no longer available online so I’m reproducing it here.

Socialist policies will be history, Crowley predicts


BRIAN Lee Crowley predicts that Canada is on the cusp of a profound economic and cultural change that will take the country back to its ideological roots, even if they are unfamiliar to many citizens.

Crowley, the well-known conservative thinker who founded the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, makes a compelling argument in his recently published book, Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values, that the last five decades spent as a nation with socialist leanings has been merely an aberration. Read more

Rick Peterson and the Burgundy Lunch Club

Just leaving Vancouver after a terrific event with the Burgundy Lunch Club, organised by dynamic Vancouver money man Rick Peterson.

Rick has turned a friendly regular get-together into Vancouver’s hottest lunch ticket. About once a month he invites the cream of Vancouver’s media, business and professional elites to come and hear three speakers talk briefly about issues of current concern.

Today (Oct. 30th, 2009), it was Brian talking about Fearful Symmetry, followed by Vancouver Sun editorial page editor Fazil Mihlar, and BC pollster Greg Lyle, both of whom chimed in one their thoughts about the book. The turnout (50 people, plus a waiting list of another 25) was the highest the Burgundy Lunch Club has ever seen. A local bookseller brought 30 copies of Fearful Symmetry and sold out in a trice.

Rick is a disciplined chairman who keeps both speakers and questioners to time and the rhythm of the exchanges was rapid and high energy. What fun. Thanks, Rick!

Laying the ghosts of Quebec’s past

In their critique of my book published in Le Devoir (“Les vraies origines de l’État providence”, 7th October), Jean-Luc Migué and Gérard Bélanger take issue with several of Fearful Symmetry’s central ideas. I don’t have the space here to respond to all their arguments (those who care to do so may consult an earlier post on my blog where I respond to many of the criticisms they raised in a similar article they published in the National Post:

On the other hand, in this new piece the authors offer a counter-interpretation of Quebec’s history that really demands a response, if for no other reason than it repeats a number of tired old myths that recent Quebec historians have firmly placed in the dustbin of history.

Migué and Bélanger write, “Before 1960, our social conscience owed much more to the rules laid down by our authoritarian Church than — contrary to Crowley’s assertions — to a commitment to limited government and the rule of law. For most of our history we lived, first, under the “ancien regime” and thereafter as a rural minority.”

The authors thus repeat the myth of the “grande noirceur” (Great Darkness), according to which, prior to the Quiet Revolution, French-Canadian society was essentially a backward, feudal, rural and economically underdeveloped society living under the thumb of the clergy.

This myth has mostly been propagated by non-historians who wished to blacken Quebec’s past once they became dominant politically in the Sixties, and is now repeated widely by other non-historians (such as Migué and Bélanger) who really ought to know better by now. There is no denying that there is an important debate about whether or not the Quiet Revolution in fact constitutes a radical break or “rupture” in Quebec’s history. On the other hand, to my knowledge, no serious Quebec historian today subscribes to this kind of account of the allegedly wretched and pitiful state of Quebec society before 1960.

One wonders if the authors haven’t quite simply got their societies mixed up when they talk about French-Canada as a « rural minority ». French-Canadians have never been even close to being a minority in Quebec at any point in Canadian history, while the statistics concerning urbanization and industrialization paint a completely different portrait than the one presented by Migué and Bélanger.

According to the Université de Montréal historian Professor Jacques Rouillard,

The image according to which the Franco-Québécois are latecomers to urban life, or that they rejected jobs in the industrial economy, does not correspond to reality when one compares the relevant indicators to those observable in the rest of North America or other industrialised countries. Their rate of urbanisation and of participation in industrial activities is comparable that of other highly industrialised societies. [My translation]

What about the belief in the principles of economic liberalism in Quebec society before 1960, or what Migué and Bélanger are referring to when they reject my contention that the ideas of limited government and the rule of law were guiding principles at the time?

In his book on the economic history of Quebec, Professor Robert Armstrong of McGill University wrote,

Throughout the first four decades of the twentieth century, the government of Quebec occupied a unique position among provincial governments in Canada. Provincial government intervention in the regional economy lagged behind all of the other provinces; the Quebec government practiced the strongest of laissez-faire strategies.

The historian Fernande Roy, in her book on the history of ideologies in Quebec, explains the extent to which values such as private property and individual liberty found fertile soil in Quebec. She writes,

This liberal credo was widespread in the Quebec society of the time, and is to be found well beyond the confines of the business world. It is quite wrong to suggest, as some have done, that these ideals were somehow limited to the English-speaking community either. It is an abuse of history to attribute to all Quebeckers the ultramontanist point of view, which certainly endorsed a different set of values. [My translation]

Just a few days ago, Le Devoir published an interview with Éric Bédard regarding his latest book, devoted to the “reformers” of 19th century Quebec, people such as Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, Étienne Parent, Pierre Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, François-Xavier Garneau and others. Mr Bédard is one of the many historians who rejects the suggestion that Quebeckers lived through a “grande noirceur” in the years prior to 1960.

These reformers were powerful and remarkable personages who contributed mightily to Quebec’s progress and development. Nor should we forget the “rouges”, an even more radical group of reformers whose focal point was l’Institut canadien. To reduce the ideological ferment and diversity of this period to a blind adherence to the “rules of our authoritarian Church” is nothing more than a caricature with no basis in the historical record.

I am all the more mystified by the assertions of MM. Migué and Bélanger because Jean-Luc Migué knows better : in a book he published a decade ago, he contradicts the assertions he makes today and instead adopts a line completely in accordance with the one I defend in Fearful Symmetry. In particular he draws a portrait of a traditionally liberal Quebec society which was developing rapidly until the fateful moment when, in the 1960s, the province abandoned its commitment to freedom and the rule of law in favour of an unhealthy reliance on the state. In his Étatisme et déclin du Québec : Bilan de la Révolution tranquille, Migué wrote,

Throughout its modern history, from the end of the 19th century until the end of the 1960s, Quebec enjoyed a period of strong growth, which paralleled that of Ontario… The period immediately before the Quiet Revolution, namely from 1935 to 1955, a period that coincides with the high point of the rule of Maurice Duplessis, is also a period that distinguishes itself as one of the most prosperous of our entire history. Industrial production rose by 10.2% annually, a rate higher than that of both Canada and Ontario, who themselves enjoyed vigorous growth of 10% and 9.6% respectively. Between 1946 and 1958, personal income per capita grew by more than five percent per year, again a growth rate greater than Canada’s or Ontario’s… [My translation]

And how does Migué explain this economic dynamism ? He attributes it to the fact that “the political authorities of the time applied to their work the first principle of the Hippocratic oath : Do no harm.” In other words, this economic success was due to an adherence to economic freedom, limited government and the rule of law!

The unjustified blackening of Quebec’s past before 1960 has for half a century reinforced the policies that, as I explain in Fearful Symmetry, have deeply and unnecessarily damaged Quebec society. It is more than time that Quebeckers read their historians and that they reconcile themselves with their unjustly vilified past.

Bélanger and Migué on Fearful Symmetry

Economists Gérard Bélanger and Jean-Luc Migué have an interesting piece in the National Post of 5th October arguing against some of the case I make in Fearful Symmetry attributing the rapid growth in government in Canada to a combination of the rise of the Boomer generation and a separatist Quebec nationalism.

One of the main points they raise against my argument is that growth in government was occurring all over the world, and especially in the western world, and therefore to attribute the growth in government in Canada to these two factors in Canada is to miss the larger picture of change affecting all western societies.

This would be a fair criticism, if it were true. But of course it isn’t. Indeed I spent an important part of the book tracing the growth of government spending in Canada, comparing it to our counterparts in the US (with whom we shared almost identical patterns of government growth for over a century, until the 1960s), and demonstrating that there were in fact two “camps” among Western industrialised societies. One was essentially the US, Canada and Australia, the other was much of Western Europe. The first group proved remarkably more resistant to the growth of government than the latter. But Canada in the Sixties and Seventies essentially changed teams. After a century of following in America’s footsteps, we suddenly and brutally changed camps. Over the ensuing few decades, America’s share of GDP devoted to government rose 6 percentage points. Ours rose over 20. As I say in the book, the zeitgeist in favour of larger government no doubt explains part of the growth in Canada. But it is the speed and size of the change over such a short period, that requires supplementary explanation in Canada, especially since the political class remained committed to small and limited government right up until the early 1960s, as I again show in the book.

As for the rise of a separatist Quebec nationalism only emerging in the 1970s, Migué and Bélanger must have lived through a very different history than I did. The Sixties were a time of radical nationalist ferment that was frightening the life out of the political class in Ottawa. The B&B Commission was named in response. The PQ was formed in the late Sixties from the merger of two other separatist political parties that had been agitating for some time. This was the time that mailboxes were blowing up in Montreal and the FLQ was issuing manifestos. Jean Lesage won the 1960s election on a platform of Maîtres chez nous, and Daniel Johnson won the 1966 election on the slogan of Égalité ou indépendence. The federal Liberal Party went and recruited les trois sages (Trudeau, Marchand and Pelletier) in the mid-Sixties as an attempt to strengthen their response and Trudeau was clearly made leader of the party because he was seen as the man able to respond forcefully to what was happening in Quebec, as indeed he did in the FLQ crisis in 1970.

It is historical revisionism pure and simple to say that because the PQ only made its entrée into the National Assembly in 1970 with a quarter of the vote or because the first referendum only occurred in the late Seventies (with half of French-speakers voting to give the government a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association) that therefore nothing had happened in the decade preceding or that politicians in Quebec City and Ottawa were not already responding to the rise of a separatist nationalism in the province.

Tom Courchene responds, after a fashion

One of Canada’s most respected social thinkers and a man who has been a great inspiration to me personally, Tom Courchene of Queen’s University, wrote an op-ed in The Globe responding to my own. Mine was a summary of some of the arguments in Fearful Symmetry, focused in particular on the recent news that Ottawa was about to expand the number of seats in the Commons to reflect the growth of BC, Alberta and Ontario. Quebec and all the other provinces would gain no seats, implying a relative loss of not only population but political influence as well. Professor Courchene’s article was clearly intended to be a rebuttal to my piece, but like Andrew Coyne and several other readers who wrote to me, I found its arguments to be a bit mystifying.

OK, he spends the first third of the article agreeing with me. But the place where apparently he and I diverge is when I wrote that the shifting distribution of seats was a symptom of a larger malaise, especially for Quebec, which I described as “a society that cannot pay its own way or reproduce itself, that is highly dependent on transfers from the rest of the country, and that is losing its political influence.” Professor Courchene felt called upon to defend Quebec’s honour.

In so doing he said, for example, that while obviously Quebec’s weight would fall in the Commons, it would remain the same in the Senate. True but, as the French say, quel rapport? Is Professor Courchene seriously suggesting that the ultimate backwater in Canadian political institutions, our unelected Senate, will suddenly become the new avenue through which Quebec will exercise the kind of powerful political influence it has enjoyed in recent decades? If that were the case, I think you’d find Senate reform, giving Quebec the same number of seats as all other provinces, would rapidly move up the public agenda. He argues that falling seats in the Commons for Quebec will mean an abandonment by Quebec voters of the Bloc and a return to the fold of one or more federalist parties. But part of the argument I made in my op-ed is that as the Commons expands, and Quebec’s representation remains static, their ability to cause minority governments (as is the case today thanks to the Bloc) or to bestow majorities (as in much of the previous century), will be heavily diluted. It won’t disappear. It will just become less and less decisive. It is just arithmetic. Michael Bliss makes a similar point about Conservative Party electoral fortunes in today’s Globe.

But what really mystified me, coming from the father of the argument about “transfer dependency” which Professor Courchene helped to popularize in Canada in the 70s and 80s, was his attempt to make it appear that Quebec was the source of many highly desirable changes in Canada, most of which were only made possible by big, and badly designed, transfer programmes. Now far be it from me to deny that Quebec has been a valued and welcome member of Confederation, and I agree with him that the legal and linguistic diversity that Canada enjoys is in large part due to our perfectly legitimate efforts to accommodate Quebec and French-speakers. But as Professor Courchene quite well knows, because he has read my book and I have discussed it with him, many of the changes he singles out as gifts Quebec has bestowed on Canada, I argue have been the result of a sordid bidding war between Ottawa and Quebec City to keep Quebeckers from voting to leave Canada. Moreover this bidding war, by putting huge piles of cash on the table for Quebeckers to quarrel over, has created a society deeply mired in rent-seeking, or what I call PUPPETRY (people using political power to enrich themselves by plundering you).

The whole reason that Quebec is losing political and demographic weight is because its vast expansion of the state and its shift from being a society concerned with productive effort to one concerned with PUPPETRY have caused the emergence of that “society that cannot pay its own way or reproduce itself, that is highly dependent on transfers from the rest of the country, and that is losing its political influence.”

Among the many social dysfunctions that have emerged in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution, let’s list a few: low employment rates, low productivity per capita, low investment rates, low in-migration, low fertility, low family formation rates, high welfare dependency, high out-migration, high taxes, high debt, high divorce, suicide and abortion rates. Now why ever would you describe that as “a society that cannot pay its own way or reproduce itself, that is highly dependent on transfers from the rest of the country, and that is losing its political influence”?

Yes, as Professor Courchene points out, Quebec has been an innovator in social policy, although my gloss on that is that the innovation helps to create dependence on the state and is part of the problem. He cites cheap daycare as an example. On the other hand, that is a policy so far looked on in much of the rest of the country with scepticism, is very expensive and by no means an unalloyed blessing to parents and children, and is only possible in Quebec because of large transfers from other provinces who do not offer such services, when the transfers are supposed to guarantee that less well-off provinces can offer reasonably comparable services to richer ones. I think our history of transfers has been an unhappy one that has fuelled Quebec’s economic and population weakness and Professor Courchene’s defence of them makes him, in my view, a defender of a system that has done Quebec little good and much harm.

He attributes our “multiculturalism” to Quebec. Again, I disagree. In fact multiculturalism was opposed by Quebec as a dilution of their preference for a narrower and old-fashioned two-nation Canada, and the debate over the extent to which cultural minorities should be accommodated has been loudest and most ill-tempered in Quebec, leaving aside the extent to which Quebec has used its provincial powers under the constitution to marginalize the English-speaking population, a stain on Canada’s record of linguistic tolerance and diversity which I document in Fearful Symmetry.

And that brings us to Professor Courchene’s last point: Quebec has been the spear-tip of a movement in favour of “collective rights” that helps to distinguish us from the United States. Well, as a Laurier liberal, a believer in individual liberty, responsibility and accountability under the rule of law, I personally think that “collective rights” are harmful to democracy, are an unwelcome departure from our legal, moral and political tradition, and are unnecessary to distinguish us from the United States. Canadians were different from Americans before e.g. Bill 101 allowed the French-speaking majority in Quebec to oppress the French-speaking minority that wanted to send their kids to English-language schools (an example of how collective rights are really code for majorities oppressing minorities). Surely we only need to distinguish ourselves from American on points where they are wrong and we can do better. Anything else is difference for its own sake, an unworthy prize and one for which we should be unwilling to sacrifice our freedoms and moral tradition.

Is Saskatchewan the counter-example?

In response to my op-ed about the addition of new seats to the House of Commons in the Globe of 26/9/09, one reader wrote in with a familiar objection:

Brian Lee Crowley, in attributing Quebec’s loss of national political influence to its pursuit of a “big state strategy” , conveniently chooses to overlook a province that does not support his thesis. Saskatchewan , with its family of crown corporations and large public sector, is currently a national leader in economic growth, investment and in migration. Even the recently elected Conservative government has chosen not to interfere with this arrangement, recognizing that its low cost infrastructure and public services provides the province with an economic advantage.

Busted! My whole thesis has just been disproved and my career is in tatters because I forgot about Saskatchewan.

I don’t think so.

Back when Saskatchewan was a bastion of Canada’s founding values, a vigorous work ethic, small government and low taxes, it rapidly grew to become the third largest province in Canada by population. Alberta was its poor cousin. Both provinces have magnificent resource endowments. Both provinces faced the same commodity-based economies, boom and bust cycles, etc. Tommy Douglas used the provincial government to broaden access to health care and to build infrastructure, but made it very clear, as I show in the new book, Fearful Symmetry, that he had no interest in creating big social welfare programmes that might create dependence. He was a vigorous advocate of workfare. When equalization was first put in place in the late 1950s, Alberta was a recipient, as was Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan, not Alberta, was tipped in the early days to be the centre of the western oil and gas industry.

Then what happened?

Saskatchewan largely lost its way. Oh, it didn’t go badly wrong, as Quebec and much of the Atlantic provinces did. But it didn’t get things right either, as its very similarly situated neighbour, Alberta, largely did. Saskatchewan rubbed along for years, no economic out-performer, but no basket case either. Some years it was on equalization, some years it was off. The anti-business attitude of the government scared off the oil and gas industry, which set up shop in Alberta, which had a much more encouraging tax and regulatory regime. When the CCF became the NDP, policymaking soon became more heavily dominated by public-sector unions, who naturally favoured big government, high taxation and high levels of public sector employment. For an economic model that the Globe’s letter writer celebrates, it hardly created an economic powerhouse. Most years Saskatchewan’s population barely grew, the province lost population relative to the rest of the country and it attracted no immigration to speak of.

Over the last 35 years (1973–2007), the population of Saskatchewan has
grown from roughly 912,000 in 1973 to its current level of 997,000 in 2007
(9.3% growth). This stands in stark contrast to the population growth experienced
by Alberta (101.4%) and British Columbia (85.0%) over the same
period. Even neighboring Manitoba (17.8%) managed to post population
growth that exceeded that of Saskatchewan. Indeed, Saskatchewan’s population
growth of 9.3% (1973–2007) ranks ahead of only Newfoundland &
Labrador, which actually experienced a decline in its population of 7.2% over
the same period.

Private investment levels were poor:

In terms of net business investment per worker—the accumulated
investment by business (adjusted for the number of workers and inflation)—
Saskatchewan fairs [sic] poorly for the period between 1978 and 2007 when
compared to the western provinces and the national average. As of 2007,
Saskatchewan ranked 9th among all Canadian provinces in terms of net business
investment per worker. Indeed, Saskatchewan’s performance was only
49.4% of the national average as of 2007.
The results for the more narrow measure of business investment,
namely net business investment in machinery and equipment (adjusted
for the number of workers and inflation), are equally as poor. By 2007,
Saskatchewan had the lowest level of accumulated per-worker net business
investment in machinery and equipment among all Canadian provinces.
Indeed, Saskatchewan’s performance of $7,175 in accumulated net business
investment in machinery and equipment in 2007 was only 38.1% of the
national average, 73.0% of that achieved in Manitoba, and just 15.8% of that
achieved in Alberta.

Saskatchewan suffered from  many of the dysfunctions of Quebec, with the happy exception that, being next door to BC and Alberta, it could export its unemployed and many of its retirees.

Our letter-writer now claims that Saskatchewan’s big government model explains its current economic success. But then that model was the one that was in place during the years of relative economic under-performance as well, and so he must accept that the model is responsible for that under-performance. He can’t have it both ways. The really interesting question, then, is why are things different now, because it is certainly true that Saskatchewan is enjoying a bit of a boom and may be the only province to grow in 2009.

No doubt many things could be mentioned, but here are two that I think are key: lower taxes in Saskatchewan and policy fumbles in next-door Alberta.

Since 2001, Saskatchewan has been converging on the low tax policies of its neighbours to the west after years of high taxation. In 2001 the province reduced personal income tax rates and raised the thresholds at which those rates kicked in. In 2006, the NDP government our letter-writer praises for their left-wing bent, took a leaf from the copy book of nasty neo-cons like Ralph Klein and Gordon Campbell and cut corporate taxes. And not by a little. The CIT rate went from 17% to 12% (i.e. dropped by about a third) and those particularly nasty corporate capital taxes were largely eliminated.

Next door in Alberta, the government launched a review of the royalty regime in the oil patch just at the moment of the collapse of prices. The certainty and good business climate the industry had enjoyed for years were badly damaged. Exploration and development activity has fallen sharply. Premier Wall of Saskatchewan went out and made it clear to the companies that his province was now open for business, and they have come in significant numbers to check out the new business climate. Ed Stelmach is celebrated in Saskatchewan as the province’s biggest supporter.

Other decisions are helping. The removal a few years ago of the restrictions on non-residents owning Saskatchewan farmland have increased investment in the province. A few minor changes to the interprovincial-trade deal throwing open cross border trade between BC and Alberta (the so-called TILMA), has made it possible for Saskatchewan to sign on in just the last few days.

As for the alleged superiority of the Crown corporation model in Saskatchewan, the evidence for this claim is poor as well. While the current government may have had to promise not to privatize on a large scale in order to minimize attacks by the province’s extremely well-organized, well-financed and vocal public sector trade unions, the evidence is poor that the Crown model has served Saskatchewan well. Just one example: the privatization of the Crown telephone service in next door Manitoba gave an excellent chance to compare the two models. The result:

Ten years after the Manitoba government devolved MTS, the results for company size and profitability are dramatic. Despite slight advantages to SaskTel early on, MTS today earns twice the revenue, has three times the assets and employs 20 per cent more people.

Since the telecommunications market is highly competitive and federally regulated, MTS could not have achieved such growth by gouging customers or providing a more inferior product. In fact, service levels in both provinces remain essentially similar according to a Frontier Centre analysis of prices, geographical coverage and numbers of customers served. Nonetheless, the differences between MTS and SaskTel are vast, and the only noticeable cause is their ownership model.

Saskatchewan has momentum, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the legacy of tired old policies of the past. Even the NDP was jettisoning those policies before they lost power, and the Saskatchewan Party is pushing in the same direction. Apparently the Globe’s letter-writer is one of the last Saskatchewan residents still yearning for policies abandoned even by the province’s social democrats.

Rep follows pop

Some readers of this blog will have noticed that the Globe’s front page story yesterday concerned the yet-to-be announced plans of the federal government to add roughly 30 seats to the House of Commons, taking it to approximately 340 seats from the current 308. Those same readers may have also noticed that this was immediately followed by nationalist sabre-rattling in Quebec and craven commentary by so-called “experts” to the effect that Canada might well not survive an attempt to guarantee that the votes of all Canadians might have roughly equal weight in the election of the Commons and therefore the government of Canada. Check this out from the Montreal Gazette:

Bloc House leader Pierre Paquette noted that Quebec’s National Assembly had adopted a motion unanimously denouncing the federal government’s previous attempt to redraw the electoral map. He said the issue would give Quebecers an additional reason to turn away from the Conservatives in the next election.

“I’m convinced there will be a public outcry in Quebec over the Conservative proposal,” said Paquette. “For us this is a major issue, and I think it shows once again that the Conservatives have crossed out (appealing to voters in) Quebec.”

Even Michael Ignatieff succumbed to this shameful pandering, trying to make an attempt by the government to level the electoral playing field appear to be a Tory plan to do down Quebec, a province that, like 6 others, will receive no new MPs.

Only the growing provinces that have remained closest to Canada’s founding values, BC, Alberta, and Ontario, will get new seats. And they’ll do so not as a result of some mean-spirited political plot, but because those are the successful dynamic parts of the country where more and more Canadians live. That’s what believing in lower taxes, smaller government, a strong work ethic, well designed social programmes, economic growth, openness to immigration and so on will do for you.

For my take in this issue, have a look at the op-ed I wrote in today’s Globe (26/9/09), in which I draw on research in Fearful Symmetry to show that Quebec’s loss of demographic, economic and political weight is the direct outcome of the bidding war for the loyalty of Quebeckers, and that this loss of power and influence cannot be ignored in our political institutions. Indeed I point out that this is just the beginning of the coming shift in political power. By 2031, on current trends, Quebec should expect to have only 75 seats out of 375, with virtually all of the oncrease going to the new power coalition of BC, Alberta and Ontario. They have the people — they get the votes.

The nerve and hypocrisy of the extreme elements of the nationalist movement in Quebec never ceases to amaze me. Here are Gilles Duceppe and his colleagues saying that Quebec’s weight in parliament must not fall; they promise to do everything they can to frustrate the new seat distribution. These are the same people who, in the name of sacred and inviolable democracy, say that any vote by Quebeckers to leave Confederation is final and unquestionable. Apparently, however, they have no problem with waving democracy (in the form of one person, one vote) aside when its application may be inconvenient to them. Have they no shame?

Capitalism’s death in C2C

C2C, a feisty on-line journal, has just released its new edition focused on the downturn and prospects for recovery. They have kindly included an extract from Fearful Symmetry where I talk about why markets, the rule of law and economic freedom remain the only principles on which prosperity can be based and that therefore the reports of capitalism’s demise as a result of the recession are greatly exaggerated. To read the extract (and find out more about this fine journal), click here.

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