Inside the Current IssueA major section of this issue looks at the aftermath of April’s Quebec election, with special emphasis on the question of secularism — still a live issue despite the demise of the Parti Québécois’s Charter of Values. Elsewhere, Garth Stevenson portrays Stephen Harper as a cautious pragmatist in the mould of Mackenzie King, and Tom Courchene makes the case for exchange rate stability as a major goal of Canadian monetary policy. A lively book review section takes the form of a conversation on the interrelated subjects of immigration, inequality and taxation.
The Bank of Canada needs to pay more attention to exchange rates
by Thomas J. Courchene
The Bank of Canada’s policy of “inflation targeting,” which seeks to keep the rate of inflation between 1 and 3 per cent, has the support of an overwhelming majority of Canadian academic and business economists. The monetary instrument to deploy when the inflation rate is outside of this desired range is short-term interest rates – raise them when inflation is above the target range and lower them when below. A key if unstated corollary is that the value of the loonie is to be allowed to float freely – the exchange rate is ignored in calibrating monetary policy.
In contrast, Robert Mundell, Canadian Nobel laureate in economic sciences, argued that the exchange rate is the most Read more
The Parti Québécois lost Quebec’s election on April 7 – and it deserved to. A year and a half into its term, having passed a law setting a four-year fixed-term electoral cycle (see box), the minority PQ government dissolved the National Assembly. Facing an untested new Liberal leader and buoyed by polls in its favour, the party convinced itself that a majority was in sight.
As a minority government it proved competent, in part because it could not get the more extreme parts of its program, on further English-language restrictions and on the undiluted Charter of Values, through the National Assembly. In calling the election, however, the PQ mistakenly interpreted its popularity as a moderate minority government as Read more
by Gareth Morley
As the April 7 election showed, there are no sure things in Quebec politics. If the Parti Québécois had won, and if – as originally announced – the National Assembly had enacted Bill 60 (the “Charter of Values”) without using the notwithstanding clause, it would have been challenged in the courts, and would likely have been struck down.
With the victory of the Quebec Liberal Party, it is harder to make predictions – especially about the future, as Yogi Berra would say. The Liberals promised a more moderate version of the Charter of Values. Kathleen Weil, the new Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, has been vague about what the legislation will contain.
Scope of any challenge
While the PQ’s Bill 60 had 52 articles, three in particular seemed Read more
The 2013 German federal election produced some surprises
by Philipp Harfst
The Bundestag election in September 2013 produced both stability and astonishing change in the German party system. While neither the relative vote shares of the two major parties nor the east-west divide in the party system have seen any alteration, the 2013 election still witnessed historic change: the plummeting of the Free Democrats (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) and the amazing rise of a new formation, the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD). The AfD is a unique mix, combining pro-market economic orthodoxy, traditional values and opposition to immigration with an academic style of argumentation.
The upsurge of the AfD and fall of the FDP can be understood Read more
Skilful, cautious and uninspiring, Stephen Harper resembles Canada’s longest-serving prime minister
by Garth Stevenson
On February 6, 2014, Stephen Harper celebrated (or at least one presumes that he celebrated) his eighth anniversary as Prime Minister of Canada. Although not an unusually long time in office by Canadian standards, this milestone places him ahead of several prime ministers who left their mark on the country: Mackenzie, Bennett, Diefenbaker and Pearson to name a few. By the end of 2014, on the fairly safe assumption that he is still in office, Harper will rank as the most durable Conservative prime minister since John A. Macdonald. Assuming that the next election is in October 2015 and that Harper leads his party into that election, he will have been Prime Minister for nine years and Read more
by Reg Whitaker
In recent years, a number of journalists have published books on Canadian politics. Some are forgettable, some quite good, but one stands out from all the others. Susan Delacourt’s Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them1 goes beyond the usual journalistic staple of anecdotes, personalities and prognostications to offer an intriguing explanation of a tectonic shift that has taken place in recent decades in how both politicians and voters see the political process. What she finds is not good news, but she does help us understand why things have taken the turn they have.
Delacourt begins where Stephen Harper, John Baird et al. love to be seen hanging out: Tim Hortons, where doughnuts, double-doubles Read more
A Canadian play and a Palestinian film offer similar insights about war
by Arthur Milner
In Hannah Moscovitch’s This is War, four Canadian soldiers recount and relive the events that led up to a horrific mass killing. This is a story of Canada’s participation in the Afghan war, and the soldiers, whose places of origin range from Hamilton to Red Deer, seem properly and believably Canadian. But This Is War, as one might judge from its title, is also about war. At Ottawa’s Great Canadian Theatre Company in January 2014, the staging – a patch of desert, endless shades of olive and tan, the infinite horizon – reinforced the parable-like quality of the writing.
Moscovitch is an immensely talented, still-young playwright. What makes her especially exciting is her always eccentric and brave point of view. This is War is a pretty ambitious title for a 30-something – I was not looking forward to another war-is-hell story, but Moscovitch delivers far more. This has to be the most anti-romantic view of war ever. Our Canadians are not Read more