Are federal liberals more progressive than conservatives?
A recent debate on strategic voting between Erin Weir and Matthew Bergbusch prompts me to wonder the extent to which liberals are more progressive than conservatives in the federal political arena.
I think we can mostly agree that on social issues, such as gay or women’s rights, the liberals do stand on the left of the conservatives. And this is not new to Harper’s era – one will recall Mulroney’s (in)famous attempt to curtail abortion rights towards the end of his second mandate.
But the line seems much fuzzier on economic issues. I would really like to hear what others think about this, but I’ll outline a few preliminary directions in which the analysis could go. In this way, I don’t want to sway the debate one way or the other, but simply raise a few of the points that are often mentioned when such an assessment is made.
(1) Income inequality
While inequality in market outcomes have been increasing since the beginning of the eighties, the tax system seems to have compensated this rise until the early nineties, at which point after-tax income also started growing more unequal. A likely culprit is the various policy changes introduced by the liberal government in the package they introduce during their fight of the deficit.
(2) Unemployment Insurance
Under the liberals, coverage went from over 80% to less than 35%, and the surplus generated was instead used in the general fund. Of course, the conservatives are not trying very hard to raise coverage again.
(3) Monetary Policy
The obsession with inflation began in the late 1970s / early 1980s and has continued unabated to this day.
(4) Reinvestment in social programs
My memory fails me, here, but I seem to recall that the liberals had negociated a deal with the NDP for reinvestment, but somehow most of it failed to be implemented (can’t recall why either). Otherwise, there has been various piecemeal reinvestments by the federal government in recent years – it might be useful to make a somewhat detailed balance sheet here.
Anyway, I hope some of you will respond and I look forward to reading the results.