Have Canadians Had Enough Of Big Government?

If only he  could watch us now.

If only he could watch us now.

A recent National Post article had me thinking about the increasing differences between the Canada I grew up in and Canada today. Back when I was younger, people loved our then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau was righteous. Trudeau believed in big government. Trudeau believed in social care and in a just society and in protecting those who were discriminated against.

He believed, in other words, that the role of the state was to look after people, and he spent a lot of money seeing to it.

No wonder, then, that immigrants and minority members loved him. Not that they were the only ones—most Canadians seemed to revere Trudeau and what he stood for.

Fast-forward thirty years. We have a majority Tory government, and the city of Toronto, long a Liberal stronghold, just elected itself a major who, economically at least, seems to stand opposite to most things Trudeau held dear.

As if that weren’t enough of a drastic change, harsh Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak looks set to win October’s elections.

Have Canadians changed that much? Have we stopped caring for others?

Or have we simply, like the National Post article suggests, come to see the Liberal party as foreign to our beliefs? Have we had enough of politicians losing our manufacturing or increasing energy costs? (Dalton McGuinty did both.) Have we had enough of the government paying high salaries to its employees, of which there seemed to an increasing number, especially in Toronto in the days of David Miller?

Have we, in short, had enough of Big Government?

The numbers justify this possibility. According to the annual Barometer survey released Wednesday by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, Canadians now prefer to be seen as individuals rather than as members of an identity group. They also profess to believe the government’s role is to support individual initiatives first rather than always trying to find its own solutions, and that the government should focus on creating equality of opportunity rather than trying to engineer the equality of results.

In other words, many Canadians seem to be telling the government, Leave us alone. We don’t trust you anymore. We will work hard and we will only need you to step in to lend an occasional hand when it’s really needed.

It’s no coincidence then that the Tories run on prisons, jets, police, but also on telling us what to do far less often. They run on the premise that they will empower people to let them make their own decisions—be they good or bad.

So, is this change in Canadians’ mentality good for us marketers and builders?

Sure, it might mean lower taxes and reduced operating costs. But it could also be bad news. For example, conservative governments are less likely to spend on infrastructure. And as you know, we can only build when there’s a proper infrastructure in place—water, sewage, and power lines.

If we continue to have little choice but to build in further-away communities, how will we be able to do that if the infrastructure in those communities cannot be expanded upon?

Only time will tell.

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