FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

WE ON THE RIGHT HAVE NO VOTE

BASIL DEAN June 30 1962
FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

WE ON THE RIGHT HAVE NO VOTE

BASIL DEAN June 30 1962

WE ON THE RIGHT HAVE NO VOTE

FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT

BASIL DEAN

A VOTER LIKE ME, someone who adheres to the right in politics, has no party to support in this election. I believe there are a lot more of us than there appear to be. or than politicians are apt to think. We go to the polls because, in our old-fashioned way, we believe that citizens in a parliamentary democracy have a duty to exercise their franchise. But when we enter the polling booth, all we can do is choose the least obnoxious of the available evils.

1 find the largest part of all the programs presented by all the parties in this election distasteful. I am convinced that public policies in Canada have pointed us in the direction of grave trouble and possibly disaster, and that the voters’ real choice lies only in how fast he wants his country led to ruin.

If you believe, as I do. that family allowances in their present form are a shameful and deceptive piece of political bribery; that the Unemployment Insurance fund has been bankrupted through abuses encouraged by official improvidence and perpetuated by politicians' fears of the consequences of correcting them; that the thrifty among us are being systematically defrauded by inflation; that our position as a trading nation is being destroyed by the trend of costs and wages: if you believe these things, you are without a political party. Individual politicians may agree with you in private, but when these same politicians are in office you need expect no action from them.

There was a time when politicians more concerned for the future of their country than for the safety of their seats might have been heard speaking up sternly against such developments as I have described. But they have not been audible in public life in this country for at least a generation — and their voices were becoming both rare and muted long before that. I suspect that if any politician today voiced opinions remotely resembling those contained in the last paragraph, the women and children whose interests he was trying to protect would be trampled to death beneath the stampede of his party leaders, intent on dissociating themselves from his remarks.

Who, then, speaks today for the right — the political and philosophical right — in Canadian politics?

Not the New Democratic Party; it doesn't claim to.'

The Liberals with their plans for wider and ever more expensive welfare benefits? Hardly.

Social Credit? This is the party which nationalized British Columbia Electric — an action w hich speaks more eloquently than Premier Ernest Manning’s frequent endorsements of free enterprise.

The Progressive Conservatives? Their name alone is a dead giveaway, even if we didn't have their record of the last five years to guide us.

All these are parties of the left or the left-centre. Their hue comes in varying shades of pink. If they cherish any rightist notions (such notions as the belief that the way to raise your standard of living is to

work harder), they manage to keep them extremely well hidden, especially during election campaigns.

But if they — or you — doubt that there is a substantial body of right-wing opinion in Canada, and in the United States as well, it is time to consider what has been happening in recent years. We have an assortment of right-wing political associations outside the main parties, some of them (like the John Birch society) perilously close to the lunatic fringe. We have rightist sentiment coagulating around such figures as Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. And. perhaps most surprising and striking of all, we have the upsurge of right-wing political movements in our universities.

It is normal for university students to be rebellious against the existing order of things. In my day I was as rebellious as the rest. But at that time, at the English university I attended, our rebellion assumed the shape of pacifism, a cheerfully illogical position that Britain should (a) refuse to rearm and (b) institute sanctions against Italy on the question of Abyssinia, and, since we were all socialists, a vague belief that if socialists, communists, Trotskyites and if necessary anarchists would only work together, we could drive the old guard from public life.

Nowadays, however, I gather that rebellious university students join an organization known as the Radical Conservatives, whose political position seems to be somewhat to the right of King Louis XIV. I suppose there is no point in rebelling on the left, since the whole left-hand side of the political spectrum is fully occupied by the existing political parties. Being a communist is, to say the least, unfashionable and perhaps not very rewarding; and short of communism, the left is full up.

WHY ALL CANADIAN PARTIES STAMPEDED TO THE LEFT

How' did things come to this pass? Why did every political party in Canada veer to the left — in such a blind rush that the doctrines of the CCF, the Liberals and the Tories suddenly began colliding all over the place?

It happened, I think, for a number of reasons. Before the rise of the Radical movement in England, which led firstly to the great reforming movement of the Liberal government which came to power in 1906, and later on to the rise of the Labor party, the political left in the Englishspeaking world was as vacant as the political right is now. Power alternated between two parties of the right, who differed in the second half of the nineteenth century mainly on the questions of tariff reform and Imperial expansion. Their philosophies changed only slightly in the course of crossing the Atlantic; an election (won by the Tories) was fought on the question of tariffs in Canada in 191 I. But Free Trade vs. Tariffs had ceased to be an issue by the mid-thirties, leaving the Liberals and Conservatives in Canada with very little to fight about.

The Tories had the misfortune to come back to power in Ottawa

at the very beginning of the Depression, which left an indelible mark

on a whole generation of Canadian voters.

Basil Dean is vice-president and publisher of The Edmonton Journal

CONTINUED ON PAGE 32

Continued from pope 24

ARGUMENT

“Bennett led the Tories to the left — for good”

They were no more clever at grappling with it than Hoover and the Republicans had been across the line; neither, for that matter, were Roosevelt and the Democrats, except that FDR’s public relations were belter. In early 1935. Bennett, with an election looming and the awful lesson of the Republicans’ fate in the Presidential elections of 1932 to guide him. made his famous left turn, largely as a result of the persuasive eloquence of his brother-in-law. W. D. Herridge, and led his party swiftly but fruitlessly across the Rubicon which divides left from right on the Canadian political map. It has never, in my opinion, recrossed the river.

Mackenzie King who, as his diary makes clear, nurtured an emotional hatred for the Tories and was afraid of the threat from Woodsworth's CCF. came back to power after the 1935 election and was nicely settled into office when Hitler entered the Rhineland and the threat of a Nazi war overshadowed everything else. It cannot be said that he, any more than Bennett. Hoover or Roosevelt, grappled successfully with the Depression, which was finally driven away by the war; but his observation of the CCF’s growth had convinced him that the Liberals, too. must veer to the left or disappear from office — perhaps into perpetual eclipse.

King’s bribe to Quebec

Out of this conviction of King's, which even his preoccupation with the conduct of the war never blunted, grew the Liberal welfare measures of the war and postwar years. Perhaps King had strong convictions that these measures were, in themselves, a good thing; it is equally likely that he was frightened by the impressive performance of the CCF in the 1943 Ontario provincial election, when the CCF won 34 seats to the Tories’ 37 and the Liberals dropped from 62 seats to 15. Simultaneously, the public opinion polls showed that, as things stood, the federal Liberals were headed for certain defeat.

It was now King’s turn to make a dramatic left turn. Characteristically, he made it with considerably more skill and incomparably more success than Bennett had experienced eight or nine years earlier. He began systematically to legislate a whole series of welfare measures, of which the most daring, dramatic (and in my view foolish) was the baby bonus.

He did not make his turn without opposition from within his cabinet, but with his unique blend of stubbornness and procrastination he wore the opposition down; and as the war was drawing to a close the family allowance scheme was presented to parliament.

The initial Tory reaction was an instinctive one — the reaction of a group which had forgotten that it was no longer a party of the right. George Drew contemptuously described the baby bonus as a “bribe to Quebec” — an observation which, however tactless politically, had the merit, in my view, of being substantially accurate. But the Tory caucus in due course made Drew eat his words. When the bill cant«, to a vote, not a single lory entered the division lobby against it. It is said that one — just one — Tory MP (Dr. Herbert Bruce, then member for Parkdale-Toronto and a former lieutenant-governor of Ontario) insisted that he would vote against

the measure on principle, but he was persuaded to be absent from the House when the division was called.

The Liberals were now firmly established on the left of centre, leaving very little space for the CCF to occupy. The Tories, having declined to stand up and be counted on an issue as politically popular as family allowances, were faced with the necessity of occupying precisely the same space as the Liberals. They did not succeed in doing this for another twelve years — and then not because the voters liked their political tint better but because. I suspect, the electorate felt the Liberals had grown arrogant and it was time for a change anyway. For a few months after the 1958 election (I do not count the thin-margin term of office which the Tories enjoyed from June. 1957 to March. 1958). I convinced myself that Canada had veered somewhat to the right. But this was wishful thinking: 1 had forgotten the lessons of history.

If the Progressive Conservatives were genuinely a party of the right, they would have done a number of things which they have neglected to do. They would, for one thing, have made a decent stab at balancing the budget, instead of piling up the most staggering series of deficits in Canada’s history. They would have made a serious effort to cut down the weight of bureaucracy which the Canadian taxpayer has to support, instead of substantially increasing it. Even on the assumption (which as a right-winger I am prepared to accept) that some strictly controlled expansion of the money supply is permissible to ease the economy through periods of recession like that which began in I960, a genuinely right-wing party would do this by reducing taxation, especially at its more punitive levels, instead of by increasing welfare payments and public-works expenditures on enterprises of dubious economic value.

In short, if the Liberals had stayed in office from 1957 onward, it is unlikely that their policies would have been very much to the left of the policies the Tories have pursued. It is even conceivable that the Liberals would have stayed somewhat further to the right.

It is hard to guess what the CCF-NDP might have done if it had been in power, but it is a safe bet that its policies would have differed from Tory policies only in minor degree. A few' more dollars on the old-age pension, perhaps, or a few' more percentage points on the corporate income-

tax, and maybe a medical care plan a year or two earlier. These are not significant differences in terms of political complexions.

I believe that our hope of salvation — that is to say, our hope of avoiding being swallowed up by the United States — lies in carving our own place in the world by enterprise and hard work, and in accepting. as the price of Canadian sovereignty, a standard of living substantially lower than that of the wealthiest nation in all history — even though that nation happens to be our next-door neighbor. I believe

that we must get back into the world’s markets on our osen feet, asking no special favors, seeking no handouts, relying on our ability to produce things people want at prices they are prepared to pay. We occupied such a position once. It was based on hard wheat and it made us, per capita, the biggest trading nation on earth. We sacrificed that position because we were unwilling — or rather we elected governments which were unwilling — to accept the harsh facts of competitive trade. And we are not even within reaching distance of getting it back.

We have lived for years beyond our means, concealing a looming national insolvency by borrowing fantastic sums of money from abroad. We have permitted our government to shake foreigners’ confidence in our future so badly that our currency, once the strongest in the w'orld, is now viewed with marked suspicion in the world’s markets. The largest private employers of labor (conspicuously our railways) have received precious little support from government in their efforts to hold costs in line: indeed, the effect of frequent government intervention in the

railways' almost continuous labor dispmcs has been quite the opposite, and the consequences have seeped through virtually every industry in the land.

Perhaps worst of all, no government within my memory has taken any serious step to show the electorate that money simply does not grow on trees; that living standards are a result of productivity and of absolutely nothing else; that somebody, somewhere, must either work harder or accept a lower living standard to provide every dollar paid in family allowances, every dollar handed to the farmer for wheat that has been neither consumed nor sold, every dollar paid in wages to civil servants. And because the price of infla-

lion resulting from budget deficits is exacted imperceptibly though relentlessly from the savings and pension contributions and life insurance policies of those who would rather look after themselves than seek handouts from governments, the politicians of this country who have chosen inflation as the easy way out never find it necessary to name the price of their policies.

There is room on our political scene for a party and a leader to represent this frankly old-fashioned point of view. There is not only room, there is a crying need, for a government which would act to alleviate genuine suffering and view the hardships of the poor with compassion, which

would ensure that the strong (whether in management or labor) did not oppress the weak (whether in management otiabor). but which would sternly refuse to buy political popularity with handouts of public funds or bribe the voter with his own money. The philosophical home of a right-winger is not. as I have said, to be found in any political party today; he is more likely to find himself at home in the Tory Democracy of Benjamin Disraeli, who ruled Britain at the very pinnacle of her greatness. But Disraeli is dead and Britain, partly because of her politicians, is no longer as great as she was, and I do not expect to see a party of the political right in power in Canada

in my lifetime. I am confident there are many, many Canadians who think as I do — but by and large we don't belong to trade unions or any of the other organizations which politicians feel they must listen to.

It is quite conceivable that there were in Rome, in the days of the later emperors, when the wealth of the Empire was being squandered on bread and circuses for the mob, a few' people who tried to warn the rulers of Rome that this profligacy could not go on forever.

They probably came to a sticky end; and the barbarians who sacked Rome in 455 had never heard of the welfare state. *