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The Conservative Party's Opportunity For Real Change

02/16/2017 07:23 EST | Updated 02/16/2017 07:24 EST
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Canadian flag waving on the wind with blue sky and white clouds on the background, Quebec, Canada

While the main output of the ongoing battle for the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership has been a deluge of candidates, a few interesting policies have also surfaced. The nation's most famous libertarian, Maxime Bernier, has unsurprisingly come out with the most provocative propositions: the abolishment of supply management in the dairy & poultry industries, the deregulation of the telecom sector, and an end to what he calls the "Maple Syrup Cartel".

Michael Chong, a more progressive candidate focused on expanding the party's base, wants to privatize the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, create a revenue-neutral carbon tax (accompanied by a major tax overhaul with large cuts to both corporate and income taxes), and substantially curtail the power of the very same Prime Minister's Office he aspires to eventually occupy.

Policies put out by many of the other candidates have been less inspiring. Steven Blaney is talking about banning women from wearing niqabs in particular contexts - despite a remarkably similar law being struck down by the judiciary just two years ago. Kellie Leitch, aroused by the belligerent new occupant of the White House, has called for some form of "Canadian Values" screening for any newcomers to the country. In a salute to the status quo, Brad Trost has publicly declared that marijuana laws should remain as they stand - despite a large majority of Canadians favoring legalization.

Bar Chong and Bernier, the people vying to become the leader of the opposition and potentially Prime Minister, have generally failed to demonstrate anything resembling an enhanced vision to move the nation forward.

Yet with calling out the protectionism inherent in supply management, the ineptitude of our current environmental policy, and the excessive concentration of power in the PMO qualifying as not only daring but controversial within our political system, there seems to be little room for policies that can bring about substantial change.

On the other hand, take a look at a country like India. Despite being a good many years behind us developmentally, they've proven themselves far more willing to (seriously) consider bold new ideas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's implementation of a radical demonetization policy, which saw almost 90% of the nation's currency lose its value overnight (in an effort to combat mammoth corruption, tax evasion, and counterfeiting), may well be the most glaring example. With Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen having called the policy a "despotic action", and the distinguished University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University, Jagdish Bhagwati, having called the very same policy "a courageous reform", the merits (or demerits) of this policy will continue to be debated for some time to come.

A better example, which has, unfortunately (albeit understandably), received less attention from the media, was seen in the annual Economic Survey put forward by India's Chief Economic Advisor, Arvind Subramanian. Released on the 31st of January, the document paid a great deal of attention to the viability of Universal Basic Income in the Indian context. It called for a roll-out of UBI across the country, initially targeted at the poor, and went on to acknowledge that "even if not ripe for implementation, [the idea of UBI] is ripe for serious discussion".

Meanwhile, most Canadian political parties persist in resisting a frank and open discussion about issues ranging from our archaic protectionist structures to the ever-increasing concentration of power within the executive. Victor Hugo famously said, "On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idéesic". Bernier and Chong are offering a chance for innovative ideas to finally infiltrate our political system's fortress of perpetual complacency. Whether or not this rare opportunity will be seized upon, or allowed to slip by unheeded, will ultimately be up to you and me.

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