Canada prepares for elections: Will Harper survive?

Whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper wins or loses in October, some of his policies will remain in tact


WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2015 – Canada is due for elections in October, and observers wonder whether the initiatives taken by Prime Minister Stephen Harper will survive the election.

On the domestic front, Harper will have to defend his record on the economy and on health care.

The economy will likely dominate Canada’s election discussion. The Canadian economy is less stable than it was a year ago, raising concerns among the population. This week the Canadian dollar, the loonie, hit a 10-year low against the U.S. dollar mainly due to the falling prices of commodities, crucially oil and gold.

Canada is a highly regulated economy. Competition is hobbled, and entrenched corporations dominate several sectors, such as mobile phone operators and construction. This skews the economy and prohibits a truly free market.

Health care is another important issue in Canada. The Left calls for increased spending while fiscal conservatives complain about higher government spending. There is no real move to privatize the hospitals, which would help resolve many of the problems.

Foreign policy will also play a part in the next election.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has actively supported Canada’s allies throughout his tenure as prime minister. Canada participated in Afghanistan and efforts to remove Libyan dictator Gaddafi, and it is now involved in the battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

This active participation marked a radical change for Canada. Previously, the country had shied away from active military engagement even in support of its closest allies.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rob Nicholson recently explained Canada’s position in an email:

“As Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlined in his statement of October 3, 2014, in the House of Commons, the so‑called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses a major threat to regional and global security. Left unchecked, it is also a direct threat to Canada and its allies. ISIS’s immoral ideology and barbaric tactics must be confronted with decisive, concerted action from Canada and its allies acting at the request of, and in cooperation with, the Iraqi government.

Canada is at the forefront of international efforts addressing the situation in Iraq and is contributing to the Coalition to Counter ISIS and its engagement across a variety of lines of effort that include a military contribution in support of Iraqi security forces and stabilization assistance. Canada continues to work with Coalition partners across these various lines of effort to explore ways to contain and degrade the ability of ISIS to commit atrocities and inflict untold hardships on the populations of Syria and Iraq. In addition, Canada is a top humanitarian donor in Iraq, helping to alleviate the suffering of Iraqis affected by the conflict. In June 2014, Canada identified Iraq as a partner country for bilateral development assistance, thus creating an additional channel to support Iraq’s resilience, stability and prosperity.”

Harper not only implemented a radical change in terms of military policy, but also in terms of Israel and Palestine. Under Harper, Canada moved from what was considered a neutral, impartial position to a staunch Israeli ally.

While it is unclear whether Harper himself will survive the October election, at least remnants of the dramatic changes he implemented will likely remain. Win or lose, some parts of the Harper initiative will continue.

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