The New Reality: The Politics of Restraint in British Columbia
Greg Turko is a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and
This collection of essays by various authors is devoted to examining critically the Social Credit restraint program in British Columbia under a series of broad headings.
The criticisms of restraint are based on three major premises: 1) The cutbacks devised by the Social Credit do not make economic sense, since the savings are often inconsequential. When the savings are material, the funds are often diverted into money-losing projects such as B.C. Railway, resulting in no net saving in public expenditure. 2) The social costs of unemployment resulting from restraint are great and are often cushioned by welfare or increased pressure on charitable organizations. 3) The restraint program is as much a social restructuring (e.g., decreased power for organized labour, more reliance on the family, etc.) as it is an economic restructuring.
These essays occasionally go beyond the simple critique of Social Credit policy into more fundamental areas of concern such as the crude use of parliamentary majority to pass legislation, the “need’ for extra-parliamentary opposition, and the apparent suppression and manipulation of news and public issues regarding government policy. These issues are of paramount concern to the liberal democratic state as it now exists. Unfortunately, the essayists examine economic matters in greater detail than these issues.
The economic and social arguments are well presented and compelling, yet, in the context of many western liberal democracies, strangely irrelevant, given the present mood of the population. The New Right on New Conservatism is popular not because it is Right on Conservative (socially or economically) but because it is New. A population that has gone from taking Big Government for granted to actually resenting it, and that has been tortured by inflation and recession, is open to radical new ideas.
The New Reality makes for interesting reading (though the essays are, in some cases, of uneven quality). It talks about very real issues in present-day society that go beyond provincial policy in British Columbia. A debate of New Right social thinking is essential regardless of where on the political spectrum the debaters may be located. One cannot, however, help thinking that if the Left is to mount a credible challenge to the New Right, as exemplified by the B.C. Social Credit, we must have a New Left as well.