Think Anew, Act Anew

observations and opinion

Wile E. Conservative and the Trudeau Roadrunner


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:

  • An unflinching commitment to personal liberty.
  • With that, the understanding that personal liberty is impossible without communal consensus and effort. I cannot walk a free road that is not paved, I cannot have money if the banks aren’t guarded, I cannot offer my best at work or to society if I am too sick or hungry to contribute.
  • The knowledge that individuals generally live more satisfying lives by their own wits and efforts, and that nanny statism often suffocates us while sucking our wallets dry.
  • A recognition that Canadians, even the most conservative ones, are utterly intolerant of abandoning the weak and vulnerable to bad luck. And with that, a choice of policies which enables the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the insecure to make the most of their lives and contribute the most they can.
  • A commitment to fiscal continence. Not inconsistent with the previous concept.
  • The necessary, if difficult for modern Tories, decision that the human liberty they so prize includes variations of liberty which would make their mothers uncomfortable. Like LGBT rights, for example.
  • A brave and honest assessment of our First Nations’ circumstances, an abandonment of sacred cow-sim and a commitment to actually DO something different for, and with, our beleaguered aboriginal fellow citizens.
  • A grittier and more realistic view of the world, recognizing and fiercely biting into threats (Islamist terrorism and environmental degradation, for example).
  • Judiciousness, competence, caution and care.
  • And most of all, unyielding humility. The daily re-statement that whatever power they may have as government, is entrusted to them temporarily and on a tight leash. This is necessary because it is true and also, because it points at the real weakness of Prime Minister Trudeau – not his brainpower, but his hubris. Elbowgate was not, after all, about sexism or violence or whatever – it was about a guy who Acts Like He Owns the Place. That is the soft underbelly of the new Prime Minister.

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.


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This entry was posted on May 28, 2016 by in Canada, Conservatism.
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