Normally, I am pleased to see women emerge as political leaders. We need more women in positions of leadership in our governance. What we do not need are more free-market ideologues. And, unfortunately, we just got two of them, both elected to leadership by their parties, not by the people.
First is the new leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of Great Britain, Liz Truss. Truss began her term with a big surprise for everyone including her own party, a mini-budget whose main feature was a generous income tax cut for the highest earners.
Ordinary British people are currently struggling with the worst inflation in at least 40 years, the highest inflation rate among the Group of Seven. Energy and food prices are skyrocketing. Public health leaders warn of catastrophic effects on poorer people already struggling to afford essentials. So PM Truss rubs it in by giving the rich a fat tax gift.
And of course tax cuts increase demand, and the last thing you want in an inflationary period is more demand. Truss’s move is a splendid example of ideology triumphing over economics. Economic stupidity to accompany the political stupidity.
Initially Truss defended her economic fumble, but after the pound fell to an all-time low, the market collapsed, the Bank of England had to spend billions to shore up pensions, and the International Monetary Fund rebuked the government, she cancelled the tax cut.
Nonetheless, Truss will persist in her tax-cutting but perhaps with a tad more discretion. And this will lead to cuts in social services. Indeed, her government’s levelling up secretary, Simon Clarke, has predicted big cuts to welfare spending. As if lower-income Brits didn’t have enough to contend with, including inflation and stagnant wages, now they face reduced social assistance.
And then there’s Alberta’s own Danielle Smith, now leader of the governing UCP and provincial premier.
Smith, a libertarian whose hero like Truss’s is Margaret Thatcher, talked about unity in her acceptance speech but like her hero, unity is not her forte. In her first foray into politics, on the Calgary Board of Education, squabbles and acrimony among the fractious members left the board so dysfunctional that the provincial education minister stepped in and fired the lot.
Her next effort was as leader of the Wild Rose Party. This ended with one of the most ignominious events in Alberta political history when she led a fraction of the party across the floor to join the Conservatives neglecting to get permission from the party members. One result was the election of the NDP after 44 years of Conservative government. Nonetheless, conservatives of the now united parties have obviously forgiven her, unbothered apparently by her, shall we say, impulsive nature.
Smith, like Thatcher, is devoted to neo-liberal ideology. Among her first promises are firing the board of Alberta Health Services and getting rid of “socialist” public servants. She is also an enthusiastic devotee of the classic Alberta dogma that insists the great Satan—Ottawa—is out to ruin us by destroying our oil industry. Indeed this was the centrepiece of her leadership campaign. I’m not sure which dogma bothers me the most.
Or maybe it’s just her flakiness. She honestly admits that her staff once told her she had no “crazy radar” and she surely doesn’t. During the pandemic, she extolled quake medicines as cures for Covid apparently following the sage advice of Dr. Trump. And then there’s her proposed sovereignty legislation which will allow Alberta to pick and choose which federal laws it approves of. So much for the rule of law.
I believe we need more women in government not only to ensure that both halves of the population are represented in the corridors of power, but because humanity needs a great deal less of the male ego and its urge to power and control. So here we have two fresh female faces assuming political leadership and they are both committed to individualistic greed-driven, one might say macho, dogma. How disappointing.