Core values do not make a government

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the peak core values illustration

Principles are a much more valuable means of holding parties accountable

By Brandon Taylr (University of British Columbia Okanagan)
Illustration by Ben Buckley

Mohammed Sheriffdeen’s Feb. 18 article, “What are ‘values’ anyway?” asks perhaps the most contentious question in modern politics.

Values are the foundation upon which entire representative bodies are built. The Conservative Party of Canada values small government and the continuation of the status quo for the sake of societal stability. The Liberal Party favors a balanced government that is meant to free the middle class from intrusion, thus empowering them to succeed and create a prosperous nation. The NDP want to socialize certain institutions to maintain their public integrity and balance the playing field for the economy. That’s what the big three parties want, but it is not necessarily what they end up delivering.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s back-office spending has increased by eight per cent, to the tune of $5.3 billion, while cutting “front-line” services that actually benefit Canadians. Countless lawyers, judges, and police officers have highly criticized the removal of vital funds from the federal prison system, meant to rehabilitate prisoners and decrease recidivism. Each move they have made is meant to placate their core voter base. Conservative values are seen in the short-term, where they can point to manageable and incremental change to appear like they are moving forward with their party’s stated agenda. The Chinese National Offshore Oil Company takeover, imported and federally subsidized labor, as well as their nearly tyrannical omnibus budget bills, have all challenged the foundational merit of Canada.

The Liberal Party of Canada is newly revitalized with a strong leadership race. Justin Trudeau has made the empowerment of the middle class his top priority. Despite growing up as part of a dynastic Canadian family, he has modeled himself as a class warrior, out to preserve the driving force of the Canadian economy: the single-home family. However, he has provided no details on how he will tailor policy to answer these claims. It is, again, a more rhetorical than pragmatic response to the needs of Canadians.

The New Democratic Party of Canada has similar issues now that they have lost Jack Layton to champion their cause. They have responded to waning poll results — likely due to the rise of Trudeau — by criticizing the pro-business agenda of the Conservative Party. If the NDP were to rise to power and business was not entirely stifled by tax increases and a laissezfaire foreign policy, the rise of organized labor will threaten the stability of the working class jobs currently available in Canada.

Politics in Canada have become the local strip mall. Each party has its own storefront with catchy colours and slogans on the front window, but their stated values are in no way indicative of their actual policy.

We have to be more critical and skeptical of our government to evoke any real change beyond the incremental tediousness that Harper’s Conservatives have offered. They have maintained a stable economy in trying times and, right now, that’s all people really care about. But, as the world economy
continues to move forward, so must we. If nondescript values are our calling card, we stand to lose our identity entirely. Instead of asking for values, which Sheriffdeen mentioned are highly fluid, we need to start asking for principles.

If we continue to chastise the government for not having consistent values, we have entered a war of prominent ideologies. Principles, which are not fluid, need to guide the policy of a party. Let us make Canada a nation of principles, not values, and face the world with pragmatism and problem solving in mind, instead of playing to the voter base for the sake of the next election.

The Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP could stand to learn a few things when it comes to the ideals of governance, and should realize that values are meaningless without core principles to guide them.