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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Canadian Politics
According to BlogPatrol, someone performed the following search on my website recently:

2004 Progressive Conservative representative for Ontario

My apologies to the searcher who was under the impression that this blog was a fount of knowledge for Canadian politics. The information that he or she wanted can probably be found here.

Question for Canadians: to me, "Progressive Conservative" sounds like an oxymoron. Does it seem like an oxymoron up north?

P.S. After further research, this has been addressed in this October 17, 2003 blog entry by Todd on holycola.net. Emphasis mine, but I couldn't resist quoting the remainder:

Check out the happy couple. The predominant term used to describe the merging of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative political parties has been marriage, and to a similar extent, union....Since the merger is really the work of the two party leaders, both male, I think this must qualify as a same-sex union. Congratulations, Stephen and Peter. May your man-to-man coupling of interests be fruitful and long-lived....

The Canadian Alliance is usually described as the voice of the far-right in Canadian politics. It's quite a young party, as parties go, with roots no older than 20 years or so. The Progressive Conservative party is usually described as the voice of the moderate-right in Canada. They might be well-described as fiscally conservative and socially progressive. Hence the apparent oxymoron for a name. Since the elder statesman Joe Clark stepped down as PC leader, the party has veered sharply to the right under its fresh-faced wunderkind, Peter Mackay....

The Canadian Alliance has traditionally been a bit scary, with the super-right elements that seem to keep surfacing in their party, what with embarassing comments about immigration, homosexuality, and so on. It's the usual list for rednecks at the microphone. When those unsightly elements do pop up, they are quickly polished over with apologies and the odd resignation....

But the real value in this union is that neither Harper nor Mackay will be the leader of the new party. The merger isn't a done deal, and the so-called Red Tories (typically softer on social issues) have deep and old connections - they just might flatten the tires before anyone can slap the Just Married sign onto the back of this new car. However, should it go through there may be older, more moderate voices to take the leadership. These days that isn't popular, but the possibility is there. And if that does happen, Mr. Martin will problably want to change his Depends.

So, if these two parties merged, how come I could find a Progressive Conservative website? According to Wikipedia:

A powerful force in Canadian federal politics, the [Progressive Conservative] party suffered a decade-long decline following the 1993 Canadian election. It was formally dissolved on December 8, 2003, when it merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada. Several loosely-associated provincial Progressive Conservative parties continue to exist in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. As well, a small rump of Senators, party loyalists also opposed the merger, continue to sit in Parliament as Progressive Conservatives.

In 1942, Manitoba Premier John Bracken, a long-time leader of that province's Progressive Party, agreed to become leader of the Conservatives on condition that the party add Progressive to its name. Despite this, most former Progressive supporters preferred to vote for the Liberals or the CCF, and Bracken's leadership soon came to an end.

This is probably as bad a time as any to point out that the meaning of the word "liberal" has changed over the years:

In its original meaning, the term "liberal" refers to a political philosophy, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, that tries to circumscribe the limits of political power and to define and support individual rights. In the present, a variety of ideologies attempt to claim the mantle of 19th century liberalism, from libertarianism to American liberalism to social-liberalism....

The original Enlightenment thinkers, such as John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu, attempted to establish limits on existing political powers by asserting that there were natural rights and fundamental laws of governance that not even kings could overstep without becoming tyrants. This was combined with the idea that commercial freedom would best benefit the whole of the political order, an idea that would later be associated with the advocacy of capitalism, and which was drawn from the works of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. The next important piece of the triad of ideas of liberalism, was the idea of popular self-determination. Most liberals support a combination of these ideas, although many would ascribe more importance to one of them than to the other two.

Beginning in the late 19th century, liberalism started to become the governing ideology in various countries, e.g. in the United Kingdom. At the same time, liberalism became a major ideology in virtually all developed countries. As a result of being so widespread, the term "liberalism" began to evolve rapidly, and took on different meanings in different countries. In some countries, liberalism remained in its late 19th century form: limiting government involvement in private transactions of whatever kind, with government being devoted only to protecting against threats from abroad and enforcing civil order at home, along with maintaining a stable currency, based on a "sound money" policy.

However, with the coming of industrialization, a new wave of liberal thinkers began seeing government as a tool to encourage social progress and hence supported government action as a means to this end. This was a departure from the belief that government interventionism restricted liberty and thus inevitably retarded progress. The change led to a fundamental split in "liberalism" as a broad ideology, with one wing believing that the tenets of liberalism had been set by the late 18th and early 19th century, and another believing that liberalism was an evolving commitment to progress.

These two diverging branches of liberalism are known in the United States and some other countries today as libertarianism and social liberalism, respectively. However, both of them usually claim the name of "liberalism" as their own, and do not recognize the other branch as being liberal at all.

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