observations and opinion
Those conservative coyotes are really crazy clowns. When will they learn that they never can mow him down?
On this summery weekend at the end of May, Canada’s two main political parties are simultaneously engaged in holding conventions. The Liberals, flush with victory atop their thoroughbred leader, have chosen to chew on their own legs a bit with some divisive inside baseball. The Tories, convening for the first time since their traumatic loss in October 2015, are remarkably chipper and have managed to endorse same sex marriage. Maybe.
Yet the character of the two groups came into sharp relief with remarks from their respective leaders. Rona Ambrose, interim darling of the disgruntled Cons, managed to make unnecessary waves by snidely and obliquely criticizing Justin Trudeau’s wife – and if that isn’t tone deaf and weird enough, by comparing Trudeau to, of all things, a woman.
The following day (today) Mr. Trudeau returned the favour, by ordering his audience to applaud the loathed and reviled Stephen Harper, and by saying nice things about Harper’s family. The contrast could hardly be sharper.
Now, you might say that it’s easy for the Liberal leader to be magnanimous – he won, after all. But the truth is, it is equally easy for the Conservative leader to be magnanimous. All she has to do, to be magnanimous, is to actually BE magnanimous. But that seems beyond her and many of her comrades, still.
Stephen Harper tried for years to mock, sneer, guffaw, and generally demean the Liberal leader, on the premise that Trudeau the Younger was a jejune, entitled, dim-bulbed dilettante. It made Conservative crowds happy (it also jibed with many Liberals’ and New Democrats’ opinion) but it had all the political impact of peeing on granite. Curious then that his heirs would repeat his folly.
And yet they do, still. And it is right there, in the yawning chasm between good will and sour grapes, that the Tories will continue to trip and fall, like Wile E. Coyote, to ignominious and repeated defeat, while the cheery Roadrunner Justin skips off to be mobbed at another summit.
The Conservatives have huge structural advantages for an Opposition party: lots of members, money, bedrock support, 99 seats and a generally small-C conservative populace which is wary of big government and willing to swing at election time. Yet they will not get themselves elected until they do things: (1) overcome their hopeless obsession with bagging the Roadrunner and (2) actually become worthy of governing.
What that means is dispensing with the idea of a glamorpuss leader and instead, turning their brains to the questions of what Conservatives have to offer, intellectually and emotionally, that will not only appeal to Canadians but also earn Canadians’ trust. The fact that such calculus seems beyond the Tories right now is dispiriting indeed.
What do conservative-minded politicians have to offer Canadians now, in the aftermath of the Harper era and during the high noon of Sunny Ways Liberalism? Here is a modest list:
The Tories are unlikely to abandon their unhealthy obsession with the Prime Minister. He is something of a magical figure at the moment, after all. But they will not beat him by being mean to him, or about him, or about his wife. Nor will they out-haircut him, out-cute him or easily out-fox his rather brilliant brainstrust. They will beat him in one way only: by offering better policy and better administration than the Liberals, and far better than that dished out by the departed Harper regime. They will get elected by saying, credibly to Canadians: we are the ones who truly speak for you.
If they do that, they have a chance not only to win, but to deserve to win.