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The Conservative future, Part 3: The movement

With the right ideas and the right leader in place, Canadian conservatives can start thinking about renewal within the movement - and we're not exactly starting from scratch. As I've noted previously, the Conservative Party of Canada continues to be blessed with a large and motivated membership base, a wealth of politically salient policies, and a very effective Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. While it’s important not to conflate the movement with the party, it’s important to note the movement is a critical engine for political change. What we mean by renewal within the Canadian conservative movement, or political movements more broadly, is the promotion of those activities and actions performed by grassroots conservatives to mobilize support for conservative principles and political goals, all of which ultimately facilitate the election of a conservative government. Big Tents, Small Minds In the weeks after October 19, many self-titled "progressive conservatives" came out of the woodwork to argue for more left-leaning policies within the party. In fact, many have speculated the upcoming leadership race will expose the alleged rifts between the progressive conservatives and the reform conservatives within the party. The strength of the conservative movement in Canada is reliant on unity, otherwise known as "big tent conservatism", where everyone shows a willingness to work together on those issues which matter most to conservatives of all stripes - lower taxes, balanced budgets, and getting government out of the way of success for Canadian families and businesses. While many Conservatives want to get rid of the perception of the movement as bigoted and exclusionary, it would be even more small-minded for certain groups to purge the rich diversity and engagement found under the existing big tent of Canadian conservatism. After all, it was the philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt who noted “freedom and a… Read More

The Weekend File: Jan 16, 2016

1. Noticed Trudeau’s PMO The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski wrote a long piece on the new composition of the Prime Minister’s Office in the early days of the Trudeau regime. Radwanski explains that the Trudeau PMO is an attempt to create a flatter structure with a “free-flowing and casual environment”. This would stand in stark contrast to the regimented, disciplined order of the PMO during the Stephen Harper years. However, Harper was a student of the failures of Paul Martin, whose freewheeling style was regarded as a disaster. The piece also profiles twelve key Trudeau team members. A common theme among these people is their connection to Queens Park and the McGuinty/Wynne Ontario Liberals. Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, and Gerald Butts, Principal Advisor (read: de-facto Prime Minister) both worked at Queens Park during the McGuinty years. Several of the other key players came directly from McGuinty or Wynne’s offices. Conflicts in the Media With a new government inevitably comes a bunch of new staff, new positions, and new roles. I was interested this week to learn that MacLean’s columnist Scott Gilmore is the husband of the new Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna. Besides Gilmore and McKenna, there have been at least two other uncomfortable scenarios with media personalities of late. Bruce Anderson resigned from CBC’s At Issue panel after his daughter Kate Purchase was named Director of Communications to the PM. This is the same daughter whose wedding was officiated by the CBC’s own Peter Mansbridge. Further, Katie Telford is Trudeau’s Chief of Staff. Her husband, Rob Sliver, resigned as a commentator on CBC’s political coverage following the election. There are two ways to look at this. Are these inevitable conflicts that should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis? Or is this the Liberals going back to their… Read More

Leo DiCaprio and the Usual Suspects

Didya’ like Leo Di Caprio’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes last weekend? You know, the 2:30 ode to his virtuous self? Like the good culture warrior he is now, Leo had to let the world knew that he is a towering champion of the current zeitgeist. Climate. Natives. Energy. Watching one wondered what George Carlin would have thought of Leo’s preening. You remember George Carlin? In case you don’t, here’s George’s take in 2007 on the beautiful people, their beautiful feelings and the their beautiful place at the centre of the universe. To sum up his attitude about the Leos: “White bourgeois liberals who think the only problem with this country is that there aren’t enough bicycle paths, who want to make it safe for their Volvos… environmentalists don’t care about the planet… you know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. They're worried at some point in the future that they might be inconvenienced.” Sort of like Di Caprio and his fellow sensitivity trainers flying jets to Paris to complain about air pollution. Of course, Carlin would never be able to say any of this now on a college campus or in a progressive newspaper, because climate science is “settled”. The L.A. Times won’t print any more letters to the editor that mess with this orthodoxy. CBC has swallowed the David Suzuki kool-aid. The prez says everyone agrees so shut up. It’s too bad, because the Leos and Sean Penns used to think George was their guy. Before they dressed in tuxedos to talk about indigenous cultures, they knew that Carlin would call people out on their BS. But now he and author Michael Crichton, who also dared to dissent, are gone.It’s safe to strut your virtuous pap. And we’re left with cultural hall monitors like… Read More

The Conservative future, Part 2: Politics

In my last piece, I spoke generally about the types of ideas we need to see coming from successful leadership candidates in the Conservative Party. Now I want to take some time to examine the politics of a leadership race for the simple reason that what makes a leadership candidate successful is not just his philosophy, but also his political instinct or "political gut" if you will. Those who wish to run for the top job may have the greatest intentions and smartest ideas in hand, but if they do not possess that necessary internal compass to perceive political realities, they will quickly find themselves looking at the tail ends of their competitors. Out with the Old, In with the New In a leadership race, there is always a delicate balance of respecting the contributions of your forebears and distancing yourself from the less salient parts of their time in office. This is no less true for our favourite political party. It would be a mistake for any leadership candidate to ignore the rock-solid 30 per cent support for the Conservative Party which did not waver throughout 2015 in the lead up to Election Day. Internal polls showed the former Prime Minister's personal brand was extremely strong with Conservative-leaning voters. Despite how loud his critics were inside and outside the party near the end, Harper is revered and respected for many of the changes he brought about during his tenure and leadership candidates would do well to keep this in mind. Furthermore, any candidate who openly attacks Harper or fails to show the appropriate respect for our former Prime Minister (who pulled off a majority government in 2011) risks alienating this support base. On the flip side, anyone who hopes to run as Harper 2.0 will do no better because,… Read More

The Conservative future, Part 1: Policy

A respectable period of time has passed since the events of October 19. Canadian Conservatives have been through the five stages of grief. As we do with every loss, we prepare to tighten our belts and face the grim prospect of a country led again by a party which enjoys racking up debt for our grandchildren and touting progressive ideals without plans for their practice. As we close the door on the year 2015, let there be a fresh start for the Conservative Party of Canada going into 2016. Over the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to use our 20/20 hindsight vision to reflect on the results of the 42nd federal election and to distill from our experiences and (late night) rants with fellow partisans those actions which we must now take to reinvigorate our party. This three-part series will share some personal reflections on what Conservatives should be looking for in developing a solid small-c conservative platform, identifying a strong, capable leader for the party and rejuvenating the right-wing movement in Canada. En Garde! – The Sword Issues The first quintessential item deals directly with the policies and "debates of substance" we need to have among our members. More importantly, these new or refreshed ideas need to be the bread and butter of our leadership candidates’ platforms. A good leader should be able to discern those issue areas where our philosophy and record have the upper hand and those areas where our voice is drowned out by more credible voices. Dealing with the first, many Conservatives agree there should be return to ideas of small government and tax reform as key pillars of the party platform, in addition to being champions of economic development and free trade agreements. Income tax reform is long overdue for the… Read More

Patriarchal songs

When reading Tom Kott's article "Quebec's paternalistic married-name prohibition" about the Prime Minister's wife having to legally keep her maiden name in Quebec, I couldn't help but think of songs about marriage, whose basic purpose is what Samuel Johnson called "identification of progeny". For example, next year will mark the hundredth anniversary of the wedding song "[The bells are ringing] For me and my gal," made even more popular when Judy Garland and then Dean Martin sang them in movies. Those words may be out of date now that countless wives follow the dictates of feminism by keeping their father's surname. It's telling their husbands, "I'm not your girl, I'm Daddy's girl." I am sure that the Prime Minister's father-in-law Jean Grégoire is a fine gentleman who had the usual mixed feelings about seeing his daughter be married. He knew he would be losing a portion of the joyfulness that comes especially to the man fortunate enough to have daughters. I often think that the happiest moment of my own life was sitting in an easy chair reading a newspaper when I stopped and listened to my wife and daughters chatting about everyday things. Sooner or later a father accepts that his girls will grow up to become women. A phone call once in a while and Christmas and grandchildren's birthday celebrations have to suffice. He accepts that they can't remain girls for the rest of their lives, so their keeping his surname does nothing for him; indeed is faintly ridiculous. To recap: a woman's maiden name is not "her own" but her father's, over which she never had any choice. Unless she is the victim of forced marriage, a woman freely accepts her husband's name. That's the appeal of another song about marriage that begins I'll be with you… Read More
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