It’s no secret that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are admirers of John Howard’s right-wing Government in Australia. Harper and Howard even invited one another to address their respective parliaments in the last two years.
But there’s been more going on than just protocol and pleasantries. Conservative strategists have been enthusiastic students of Howard’s style and strategies. In his book about the Conservative victory in 2006, Paul Wells describes how one of Harper’s leading strategists poured over the Australian campaign:
“[Patrick] Muttart’s last election precedent was the one least known to Canadian voters and, perhaps, most useful as a model for the Conservatives: the 1996 victory of Australia’s conservative leaning coalition under John Howard, over Paul Keating’s Labour Party.”
Given that, New Democrats can be forgiven for delighting in the walloping that the Howard government has taken from the NDP’s sister Labor Party in today’s election down under.
In substance, Jack Layton and Labor’s Kevin Rudd have more than the Harper-Howard axis in common. Both are principled pragmatists, who “get” the market but not uncritically. Witness Rudd’s attack on WorkChoices and Layton’s push for a $10 standard minimum wage. Both have also been relentless and credible campaigners on climate change and the environment.
The mind reels to consider the lessons a sullen Harper and the gang must be jotting in their notebooks watching Howard’s debacle unfold and their mentor losing his own seat.