An Academic Study Asking the Wrong Questions

Blog, Commentary, Les Routledge

Leave it to academics to wrongly phrase the research question to be asked….

In Saskatchewan, there is still a very strong “Communitarian” ethic throughout the province. That is a very different set of values than a “Social Democratic” ethic.

What the CCF and Tommy Douglas did in the past was to marry the two into a very successful government coalition. However, as the system aged, the communitarian element of the coalition was gradually replaced by statist, social-democratic overlords, i.e. a class of elites that were objectionable to the communitarian ethic.

The Reform movement may have been the most significant transition that the NDP missed over the years. That movement was able to capture the hearts and minds of the small business, communitarian community and place their vote firmly in the camp of the Conservative movement. That process started in the countryside, but with the spill over effect of the Tea Party movement into Canada, last year it reduced the NDP coalition to a very small minority.

As the Sask Party ages in office, I fully expect it to be also captured by elite power players who offend the sensitivities of the Communitarian population. What the NDP in Sask needs to do is re-brand itself as the party of this population and dramatically downgrade its ties to the union movement and moralizing statists who want to control every aspect of a person’s private life.

In Manitoba, we face the opposite challenge. The PC party needs to get back to the small business, farmer, and entrepreneurial base that forms its equivalent of the communitarian base. After our last election campaign, I have a tough time finding any small business person who believe a Tory government would serve their interests any better than the NDP.

In both cases, the parties on the outside need to get back to their grassroots and build support from there instead of backroom discussions.

While it may sound crazy for a Libertarian like me to be offering communitarian advice, my time spend in communities tells me the two movements are not in opposition. Indeed, I can find much more connections to the communitarian values of self sufficiency than I can to the social conservative perspective that the state should dictate my social values and practices. To me, there still is a place for the old Joe Clark vision of a community of communities where people are freely allowed to move from one community to another.