Canadian Tories come back the Gingrich way

ONLY TWO years ago the Canadian Conservatives suffered one of the worst electoral thrashings ever seen, collapsing from a ruling majority of 156 seats in the national parliament to a rump of only two. Under Brian Mulroney they had been in power for nine years and they switched leaders just before the elections, installing the sparky lawyer Kim Campbell in the hope of reversing a slump in popularity. Such was the calamity at the polls that it seemed it would take many years before they could claw their way back to political credibility.

But earlier this month in Ontario, Canada's largest and most prosperous province, the Progressive Conservative Party managed to oust from power a social democratic provincial government by offering the electorate a menu of policies very different from those that had been put forward in 1993. This was a small-is-better economic fundamentalism spiced with moral zeal, and the Ontario Tories adopted it after seeing the success of Newt Gingrich's New Right politics in the United States. Their winning slogan was a promise that they would get the government "out of your face, and out of your pocketbook".

The Ontario Tories made their pitch directly to the higher end of the middle classes. They promised less government, fewer giveaways to what was perceived as a pampered welfare subclass, and a substantial tax cut.

Ontario, with 9 million people, is effectively a state within a state, in many ways the most self-sufficient of Canada's provinces. It contains most of the country's industrial base and is the headquarters of the communications and financial industries. Its economy, hit hard by recession in 1991-92, is now booming again. Ontario is also the destination of choice for most of Canada's new immigrants.

In the election the Conservatives, led by premier-elect Michael Harris, identified and exploited a popular resentment towards the 1.4 million Ontario people remaining on welfare or other forms of social assistance. They campaigned on the promise to offer this group "a hand up, not a hand out" - a formula now familiar in Britain as well as the US. This was combined with a proposal for a "workfare" programme, under which able- bodied welfare recipients would have to work in state-created jobs in order to receive benefits.

The Conservatives also plan to attack government. By laying off civil servants as well as reducing welfare payments, they say they can save enough money to cut the provincial portion of Canada's combined income tax assessment by 30 per cent. This arithmetic has been hotly contested by opposition parties.

Highest of all on their agenda, however, is early action to overturn much of the interventionist legislation enacted by their social democratic predecessors, who had strong links with labour. The first targets will be an employment equity bill which sets quotas for the hiring of women and people from minority groups, and a labour standards law that forbids companies from hiring replacement workers when their own personnel are on strike.

All this is not owed exclusively to the inspiration of Mr Gingrich. The Ontario Tories borrowed many of their policies from the far-right Reform Party of Canada which has for some time been eroding their support.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas