Forgive my rhetorical short hand, but the election of a Conservative minority government can best be understood as "the type-A bourgeoisie wants in.'
The kind of bare-knuckled conservatism represented by Stephen Harper is often linked to geography and Western regionalism, though it's easy to forget that the province that produced the National Citizens Coalition and elected Mike Harris was Ontario, and that the Fraser Institute is from British Columbia.
Geography plays its role mainly by concentrating plentiful exportable resources like oil, gas, ranchland for beef, uranium and boreal forest in a region, making it the ideal stomping grounds for type-A capitalists.
The fact that type-Aism has now asserted itself in Ottawa represents the rumbling of a shifting tectonic plate in Canada's political economy. However much Harper is able to restrain his own inner lunatic, this is where he's coming from.
Until the last 10 years, it was something of a standing joke that the two major parties of Canadian politics were Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Both Liberals and Conservatives were "big-tent" parties, and members of both went the spectrum from right to left, establishment to populist, sectarian to secular, east to west, continentalist to nationalist.
That political era, which lasted from Confederation into the 1990s, mirrored the rise of industrial capitalism. From about 1945 to about 1975, monopoly corporations enjoyed protected markets and profits, and in turn shared some of the wealth with the toiling masses so they could consume enough to keep the "virtuous cycle" going.
A graph of the social structure took on the shape of a beehive, with a big bulge in the middle. This was fertile ground for red Toryism, left liberalism and other engagements with members of both dominant parties who were tickled pink with the welfare state.
But beginning in the mid-1970s, corporate monopolies, though bigger than ever, found their size no longer protected them from competition. They started to pitch to customers from around the globe, stopped relying on domestic markets, and no longer gave a damn whether homeland customers made enough money to buy their products.
Our income profile now looked like an hourglass, with a larger top and bottom and a smaller middle. This was the economic architecture for neo-conservatism, almost always strongest in resource-based economies that push minimal environmental regulation at home and maximum sales abroad.
Neo-conservatism, originally a purely economic and political platform, successfully linked with theo-conservatism.
Fundamentalist religious dogma, as Thomas Frank shows brilliantly in his book What's The Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won The Heart Of America, serves as a proxy for populism among displaced and disgruntled members of both the working and middle classes, allowing them to spew out their anger against the chattering classes instead of the ruling classes.
The media, mostly owned by type-As - think of the National Post, Maclean's, Global and the Sun chain, as well as the small-town empire of the once-powerful Conrad Black - splashes stories in ways that cater to displaced populism.
Consider the scandal treatment doled out to federal government corruption covered by the Gomery Commission - dealing with the misspending of less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of federal expenditures over a decade, and therefore an indication of minimal corruption in government. Compare this to the one-day specials and low-balling of corporate corruption stories.
The neo-conservative trend has been bipartisan. Former federal finance minister Paul Martin bragged in his February 1995 budget, his journalistic critic Murray Dobbin reminds us, that social spending was being cut back proportionately to 1951 levels.
But full-frontal neo-con economics is expressed most unreservedly in Harper's Conservative party.
It's not just economic shifts that have facilitated the rise of type-As. We have to look to what's happened to our citizen groups. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when government social programs were expanding and the lives of ordinary people improved in unprecedented ways, the number of non-governmental organizations was quite small. They were mainly churches, a few animal clubs (Moose, Elks, Lions and so on) and a few body part and disease charities.
Social advocacy came from unions, which were major supporters of pensions and medicare, and from a kaleidoscope of rough-and-tumble voluntary orgs.
As the boomers looked to settle down in modest-paying jobs that expressed their values, the NGO sector burst onto the scene. I'm a huge fan of the sector, but two things have to be conceded. NGOs have to chase money from foundations that prefer innovative projects over long-standing campaigns, and they have to play by Revenue Canada rules barring political advocacy.
These limits disqualify the NGO sector from ever being a match for type-A capital.
Neither is the positioning of the NDP much help. The party was created out of the old CCF in 1961, when the federal Liberals were in disarray and it was hoped that Canada would become a two-party democracy with one big-tent conservative party and one big-tent social democratic party.
This hope has no foundation in reality. Despite 50 years of efforts, the NDP (especially during the 15 years before Jack Layton's leadership) has come closer to disappearing than the Liberals.
The hope is founded on a false allegation, namely that there is no difference between Liberals and Conservatives. Worst of all, the effort to displace Liberals from their centrist space leads the NDP to neglect edgy social and environmental issues: homelessness, child poverty, global warming, lack of good jobs for youth and the disappearance of local foods, to name a few that get minimal profile.
These issues are a precise index of the wreckage produced by type-A conservatism.
The recent election featured a lot of rhetoric about Canadian values of sharing and caring. Aside from being more hopeful than accurate, such statements dangerously imply that such values are universal and a given.
Not. We're going to have to do a lot of retooling to take on type-A's federal debut.