Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Michael Bliss on the Failure of All Three Political Parties

October 1, 1988 -

Michael Bliss, professor of Canadian history at the University of Toronto, minces no words about what he thinks is wrong with Canadian politics and particularly with the current election campaign. He predicts the triumph of conservatism in keeping with the prevailing mood of our time. There is a growing skepticism among voters about the big government solutions so popular in the 1960s. And most importantly, Bliss writes, there is a steep decline in anti-American sentiment, despite continuing attempts by anti-free trade activists and the Toronto Star to whip it up. He thinks that the real conservatives in this election are the Liberals and New Democrats because they staunchly oppose free trade and virtually every other change brought in by the current government. They seem to think that the current good times can last without any adjustments and changes.

Against this background Bliss predicts victory for the Progressive Conservative Party in the November 21 election, but the irony of it, he writes, is that it may not mean very much. Canada is facing monumental problems in the 1990s relating to our economy and our Constitution, but no party, including the Conservatives, is inclined to contemplate or discuss them. Bliss then concludes:

When the next recession comes, Canadians are going to wake up to find that a generation of short-sighted politicians, Liberals and Conservatives alike, with New Democrats as cheerleaders, have burdened our country with a debt load of staggering proportions. The problem of financing the debt we have built up in the boom years of the 1980s will menace our social programs, our ability to compete in international markets and our national unity. If by that time we have implemented the Meech Lake constitutional accord, turning Canada into one of the world's loosest, most balkanized federations, our paralysis will be nearly complete.

The 1988 triumph of Mulroney conservatism, if it comes, may not mean much except on the trade question. With none of our leaders—not Mulroney, not Turner, not Broadbent or any of their followers—willing to address our country's internal economic situation or its constitutional prospects, we are having a strange campaign indeed. The verdict of history may be that our politicians, so full of sound and fury on the hustings, are being tragically irresponsible—the whole lot of them. (Michael Bliss, "Tories Are Riding a Broad, Social Trend," Toronto Star, October 16, 1988) 

Professor Bliss's comments are like a breath of fresh air. It's too bad there are so few who dare to say it like it is.

This article originally appeared in Comment magazine, a journal founded by Harry Antonides. Find all of Harry’s pieces, and thousands more, at http://www.cardus.ca/comment