Ideological positions pass in and out of vogue with the electorate. Support for certain policy positions, including the size of government, taxes, funding of social services and international affairs, swings frequently on the left-right pendulum. Political parties and leaders are called triumphant warriors in one election cycle, and find themselves among the downtrodden in the next.
Canadian conservatives, alas, are very familiar with this scenario. In recent months, they’ve found themselves kicked to the political curb.
The three-term federal Tory government was defeated on Oct. 19, ending a near-decade in power of moderate fiscal and social conservative policies. It was an imperfect government on some levels, to be sure. But, as Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer’s Dec. 7 Globe and Mail op-ed correctly noted, while former prime minister Stephen Harper’s “presence is missing, his ideas and influence endure: He left a durable mark on the Canadian conservative movement and federal public policy.”
Meanwhile, not a single “Progressive Conservative” provincial government remains in Canada. The only right-leaning leaders in power are Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (Saskatchewan Party), B.C. Premier Christy Clark(B.C. Liberals) and Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie (Yukon Party).
Unsurprisingly, some left-leaning pundits are chirping that Canadian conservatism is at death’s door – much as several political soothsayers pompously predicted that the Liberal Party of Canada was finished after getting crushed in the 2011 federal election.
Don’t believe the hype, folks: Canadian conservatism will recover in due course.
Today’s voters are notoriously fickle and have short-term memories. In time, they’ll get bored or frustrated with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, as well as the various Liberal and NDP provincial governments. It happens to every political party and leader, no matter how much we wish for, or against, it.
In politics, nothing is forever.
That being said, Canadian conservatives are going through an ideological crisis of sorts. The era of small government, fiscal prudence and increased personal liberties and freedoms has lost some of its charm in our country. Meanwhile, the introduction of racial/identity politics during the last federal campaign, including the controversial niqab debate, tore at the fabric of modern small “c” conservatism.
We’re seeing a divisive political environment on the right side of the political spectrum. Some conservatives are pointing fingers at the perceived culprits, and calling for their heads. Others are putting distance between themselves and the supposedly bad, old days of Tory politics (i.e. Harper era). Still others are pleading for the Red Tories, or left-leaning conservatives, to make a comeback and create a political Xanadu once more.
In all three cases, this is the wrong political strategy.
Yes, Canadian conservatism needs to have a rethink. Yes, some policies will need to be eliminated – and others will need to be modified. Yes, a big political tent for all types of right-leaning individuals is a desirable model.
At the same time, giving in to the temptation of progressive conservatism will destroy this political movement. Most Canadian conservatives are, and have always been, kind, generous and compassionate people. The way we want to get from point A to point B is different than the proposals of our liberal and social democratic friends, of course. But it would be extremely disappointing to watch my fellow conservatives go down a path that waters down our political ideology even further than before.
The right route back is a balanced program of fiscal and social conservatism, combined with strong foreign policy positions. This will help Canadian conservatives recover, rebuild and regain political power.
It’s the type of small “c” conservatism I’ll be consistently advocating in my Troy Media syndicated column, starting in January 2016. See you then.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube is also a Washington Times contributor, Canadian Jewish News columnist, and radio and TV pundit. He was also a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.