On February 27, 2016 while the Conservative elites were at the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa, I was speaking at the smaller but not less important FreedomTalk Conference in Edmonton. Both conferences were about the same thing: how can conservatives regain the upper ground. The following is an excerpt of my speech:
In the words of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, 2015 was Annus Horribilis for Conservatives in Canada. We lost federally and in Alberta, and today we do not have one government with the name ‘conservative’ in the country. The question is why?
Let us get something out of the way immediately I am not PC. That means not politically correct, not a pretend conservative, and not a progressive conservative. I am a small ‘c’ common sense conservative pure and simple.
In my view, as expressed in my book Conservatives Dead or Alive? I start with the theory that the day that Obama was elected President of the US, it was the day that conservatism began its downward spiral. The whole world backed by a liberal mass media embraced this man as if he was the second coming , awarded him the Nobel Peace prize without any known accomplishment, and embraced his policies as if they would fulfill his promise of Hope and Change.
Conservatives around the world and in Canada got themselves boxed in on every policies they put forward, the world wanted to mirror Obama’s policies, and conservatives to their detriment, in most cases, just went along to get along. But let us get to the more pressing issue of how conservatives could get the upper hand back. First we must acknowledge that we made mistakes and eliminate our weaknesses, and identify and increase our strengths, and second get out of the habit of shooting each other.
Having said that, I am more optimistic about the resurgence of Conservatives at the Federal level than I am for our provincial parties in Alberta.
Despite people like Dandt Tent and Andrew Coyne who continuously try to lecture conservatives on how they should behave, Federal conservatives have a solid foundation to build on and they also have an inept government with a neophyte and vacuous PM to deal with. What the party must do is to take their time and choose the right leader to take us into the next election.
There are not too many changes to be made to the past policies but what is absolutely necessary is for the new leadership to articulate and explain to the public why they should be the alternative. More importantly they must attract the millennials, not with promises of more entitlements but with solid policies that will guarantee their economic future.
In Alberta the rift among conservatives is theoretically huge, but in effect the so called PC and Wildrose have more in common that they have differences. The major obstacle to any unite the right movement in Alberta is the constant and persistent attempt by members of the establishment to insert themselves into the discussions.
There are so many organizations promoting themselves as intermediaries to get the parties to talk that in effect it is causing confusion among grassroots party members. Then we have Preston Manning injecting himself into the debate; this after having taken part in the destruction of the PCs and the betrayal by many of the Wildrose members when he supported their defection to the Progressive Conservatives under Prentice. Remember that Mr. Manning has tried to unite the right in the past and failed miserably each time and in effect it took years before Harper could remake the conservative movement and govern the country for ten years. Despite accolades from many quarters, a close examination of Mr. Manning’s involvement in conservative politics shows that he has been a distracting rather than a positive force in Canada’s conservative movement. His latest foray into Calgary’s Municipal level was a disaster that left many right thinking Council candidates stranded when he folded under attack by Mayor Nenshi and apparently left for Australia in the middle of the campaign.
So what is the future of conservatism in Canada? In my view it is very bright provided we take stock and not make the mistakes of the past and fight among ourselves.
First we must remove any allusion of being Progressives but act more like libertarians
Progressive conservatism is an oxymoron. You cannot be progressive and conservative at the same time. Clinton,Sanders, Notley, Mulcair, May and Trudeau are progressives. Should conservatives adopt their policies? I sure hope not.
At the provincial level, any new name should only have Conservative in it and nothing else. We must distinguish ourselves by being compassionate conservatives not progressive conservatives.
A compassionate conservative believes in teaching a man to fish so he can feed himself for a lifetime and not be fed by government for a day and ever. This is the policy that creates dependency and entitlements, not independence.
Social conservatives should focus on healthcare, education and security as the social goals and responsibility of conservatism. As for the issues of LBGT, same sex marriage and abortion they are wedge issues that the left uses every time that they want to get conservatives off balance and divert their leftist failures from scrutiny.
As law abiding conservatives we should respect the existing laws that have been adopted on these divisive issues, but we must fight to have our alternative point of view respected. It is the freedom of speech that we should be fighting for. A religious leader has the right to express his opinion. A politician has the right to have his values respected without being hounded by self-interest groups. For individuals to oppose a leftist point of view does not make them bigots, racists, xenophobes or homophobes. It just makes us different. Isn’t that diversity?
Conservatives must fight for a better health care system. Private care exists and it should be made available to any citizen if they so wish. Canada spends a large percentage of its GDP on health and yet we still have long wait times and excessive drug costs.
Our education system has been infiltrated by union activists who now dictate our curriculum. Our children are being indoctrinated in leftist thinking without parents having a say. The Conference Board of Canada gives us a “C” for the number, just 21.2 per cent of university students studying science, math, computer studies and engineering. The bigger question is what is the other 69% studying? Is Canada going to be competitive in a technology driven economy?
What good is social security if you are being attacked and cannot defend yourself? To me a strong military and police force is at the root of a conservative government. The protection of its citizens is social conservatism.
The path to success is very simple. We must remove any allusion of being Progressives but act more like libertarians. We must embrace true conservative principles of small governments and less taxes, and free market principles. We should embrace some of the fundamentals of libertarianism such has the freedom of speech. And most of all we must adopt Reagan’s 11th commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Conservative.”
History has showed that the left always asks for compromise when there are in the minority, but never exercises compromise when they are in power. Conservatives can compromise on process and procedures but never on principles.
As I conclude, I would like to leave you with this thought and appeal. In the context of Alberta politics I would like to ask Mr. McIver and Mr. Jean which duo would you like to be remembered for : Harper/ McKay or Manning/Clark?
Remember that unity is strength; it is the only move forward.