Last week, Ontario’s Conservative Premier Doug Ford bragged that his government will freeze fees for driver licences, knowledge tests and road tests which had been scheduled to increase on September 1 by the previous Liberal government.
In a promotional video released by the government’s Ontario News Now online channel, Ford said, “the previous Liberal government wanted to hike up all the licence fees. We’re freezing all the licence fees, again putting a little bit more money back into your pocket”.
While some Conservative partisans might accuse me of playing semantics, I can’t help but point out that freezing licence fees is not equivalent to putting money back into the pockets of Ontarians – it’s only not taking more, and Conservative governments don’t deserve our praise for not doing as much harm as a Liberal government would have.
Conservatives like Doug Ford campaign on the necessity of shrinking the size of government and they win accolades from partisan supporters for simply not continuing policies planned by previous governments. They gloat about instituting modest rollbacks of taxation and regulation in some sectors (sometimes those instituted by Conservative governments themselves), all the while maintaining the status quo elsewhere. They distract the public with flashy surface policy moves like fee freezes and boutique tax credits for select segments of the population while they continue to write big cheques to corporate interests, and maintain protective regulatory regimes at the cost of consumers.
Conservative governments, by and large fail to do anything to change the fundamental role played by government in society, and they set the stage for the next Liberal government to continue where they left off.
All this being said, it’s no wonder that there is a growing and increasingly vocal constituent of conservative leaning voters who are disillusioned and dubious of Conservative politicians’ actual commitment to their oft repeated and seemingly empty platitudes of small government and lower taxes. As mainstream conservative parties across the country pay lip service to these ideas while in opposition but fail to put them into practice in government, there certainly seems to be a role to be played by a more radically principled free market conservative party, as recently suggested by Maxime Bernier.
Just as the NDP has for decades put pressure on the Liberal Party to adopt increasingly progressive policies, to the point where even the Conservative Party must acquiesce to socialist public sentiment that is becoming the norm, so too can a seriously principled free-market libertarian party help to shift the accepted dialogue back from authoritarian socialism toward limited government and individual liberty.
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