Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The "Coming to the Light" of the Conservative Party?

If you have followed the last few months in #cdnpoli, one of the most fascinating topics has been the Conservative Party of Canada's adjustment to the post-Harper era.

Indeed, interim leader Rona Ambrose and members of the party's younger generation, such as Michelle Rempel, Michael Chong, and Lisa Raitt, have practically fallen over themselves in an effort to exorcise the party's past positions on marijuana, same-sex marriage, useful data, and the MMIW inquiry.

This has arguably led many to ask what these people were doing when they were in government and their opposition to these government and party policies would have been useful. The answer to that is probably somewhere between "Harper made us do it" to "we kept getting elected on these positions," both cop outs but nevertheless true.

Regardless of what their reasons were before, they are taking steps now to realign the party in the direction they believe Canadians have gone. This is a good thing even if it is transparent as hell, but it shows the political maturing of a party whose basic attitude during their time in government can be summarized as mean-spirited. I think everyone can and should welcome the change of heart.

However, the question that should be on everyone's mind is whether the party's elites will be the ones to decide where the CPC is going. Its great to see the party's heavy-hitters seemingly come to the light, but are the party members going to follow suit?

As we've seen with the revolt against the party establishment to the south or the Wildrose Party's rejection of elite-driven moderation in 2014, the members of political parties are not necessarily ones to co-operate, especially when many are of the angry type.

Will members of the Conservatives fall in line with their leadership's moderation in the coming policy convention, where the same-sex marriage issue and discussion of the party's new stances will come up? Will members get revenge on the moderating elites by electing someone like O'Leary, the nutty outsider, or Jason Kenney, the socially conservative Harper protégé?

The moves made so far are all well and good, but the elites within the Conservative Party are not likely to have the last say. These sudden, jerky movements in directions very different from the previous leader, who like it or not was popular among the party's base, will create a backlash. If Ambrose and her cohorts go further, and start reversing course on hot issues like the Syrian refugees or the fight against ISIS, the backlash will take the party down hard, much to the glee of the Liberals like me but to the benefit of no one.

The Conservative Party, like their cousins in the Republicans or our cousins over in the UK Labour Party, are saddled with a nasty core that will not hesitate to lash out against what they perceive to the be spineless leadership. It hasn't worked out well for either party, and it won't work for the Conservatives.

Its up to Ambrose and this new generation to convince their core that their direction towards moderation is where the party needs to be - but can they? That is the question that needs to be answered by her and others in the months to come.

Moving the party away from the Harper era will take a lot more than the party elites making nice on various issues. It will take the entire party shifting its core away from the aggressive, dog-whistling paleo-conservative message of the last government and into the mainstream of Canadian society.


  1. So you think that Rona will say or do things she doesn't believe in to get power ?

    1. No, I didn't say that - I'm sure Rona and others may have indeed had a change of heart on several issues, or had those opinions the entire time but were unable to express them openly.

      However, what they're doing now is pretty obviously an attempt to move the party away from its harsh image. True, they may believe in what they're saying, but there is also naked motivation for them to act on it now. That's politics of course - I think all politicians are willing to give and get a little to obtain power.

  2. It is the Con base that are the deciders on Con. policy, because that's where the Cons. votes are.It is their base that Ambrose and her gang speak to and for. This neoliberal/evangelicalchristian base is what Harper built and it was built to last. Mainstream Canadians are just being appeased by the Cons and it is a very thin veneer of appeasement. Harper did not govern for all Canadians. He governed for his base. Nothing has changed. The present Cons. are focused only on winning in 2019. Their hoping their base will get them that win.