By the time many of you read this, a new federal political party in Canada will have been announced to the public. Some unhappy neo-conservatives and quasi-conservatives will bemoan the possible vote splitting that this new laissez-faire, free market, small government principled party may cause with voters unhappy with the utter failure of the Trudeau Liberals.
The fact is that the creation of this new political entity was a necessary, if unfortunate, result of a series of linked events that have taken place up to, and including, the last few years of the Stephen Harper era.
Conservatives, those people who believe in basic personal freedoms instead of government controlled social and economic policies, need a voice in government. Over the course of Canadian history since Confederation, the Conservative Party of Canada (the latest iteration) has generally been the preferred conduit for the conservative voter.
Periodically, however, there is an infiltration into the Conservative Party wherein the ‘left leaning’, socialist elements of the party overrun the elemental conservative members. This is not a new occurrence – nor is it unique to the Canadian political right.
In the United States there is a common expression. To paraphrase.
‘There are Republicans who are really Democrats. There are NOT Democrats who are really Republicans’.
In Canada, there are Conservatives who are really Liberals. Far too many at this current nexus.
The consequence, in all cases, is that the basic principles of conservatism are ‘sacrificed at the alter of perceived public opinion’ in the hopes that the Conservative Party can gain power and form government bolstered by voters who are ‘middle of the road’ in their political persuasion.
The misplaced notion that ‘swing votes’ are more important than the ‘committed votes’ has caused the Conservative Party to abandon intrinsic fundamental principles on various occasions historically. Possibly, in fact probably, new members and voters are attracted to the ‘left-leaning’ wobble of the party. The new members (actual Liberals in many cases) gradually displace the conservative core of the party at the riding level as well as the National Committee level – and the Conservative Party starts to closely resemble the Liberal Party. The Conservative Party inevitably fractures.
True conservatives need a genuine conservative home. Unlike the Liberals, many genuine conservatives WILL NOT become Liberals as the Conservative Party moves closer to Version 2.0 of the Liberal Party. Instead, such ethical conservatives will ultimately determine that principle is more important than expediency and look for an alternative that meets their strict standards concerning the commitment to conservative values.
Is there evidence to back up this assertion? Of course. Unlike the Liberal Party, the NDP and (periodically the Conservative Party), most true conservatives deal in analytical, factual data instead of impassioned hype that may, or may not, be evidentiary based.
In my own riding in the Okanagan Valley in BC, there are numerous examples that back up this central hypothesis. My own Member of Parliament actually contested a provincial nomination before he ran for nomination as a federal candidate. Not unusual, you may respond. Perhaps not – if he ran as a Conservative. However, Mr. Arnold ran as a candidate for the BC Liberal Party – and lost the nomination. Only after that loss, did Mr. Arnold offer up his services as a Conservative candidate. So how Conservative is Mr. Arnold, really?
Similarly, the President of the North Okanagan Shuswap Conservative Association is currently simultaneously the Vice-President of the provincial BC Liberal Party in that same geographic riding.
Clearly, liberal and conservative values appear somewhat interchangeable with such individuals and the true strength of conservative principles within the Conservative Party of Canada is diluted at best, and displaced, at its worst.
If this (for lack of a better term) unprincipled type of member or Member of Parliament has input into national policy discussions, the tendency, if repeated in multiple electoral jurisdictions, is to move the Conservative Party of Canada to the left.
Now, we get to the heart of the matter. There are principled conservatives who believe that conservative principles are more important than party affiliation.
Mr. Maxime Bernier is currently the most visible, and most ethical, of that breed of principled conservatives.
Mr. Bernier was duly elected by his constituents in Beauce, Quebec – as a Conservative. Both a capital ‘C’ and small ‘c’ conservative. Mr. Bernier is a man of principle. The proof?
Mr. Bernier worked within caucus to the best of his ability and continued to bring forward the conservative principles that he personally embraced and the values that he felt represented fairly and honestly the wishes of the majority of the electorate in Beauce.
Because the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Mr. Andrew Scheer and his advisors, including apparently most caucus members, chose to lead the CPC in an entirely different direction unacceptable to Mr. Bernier and his constituents, Mr. Bernier did the honorable ‘last resort’ thing and tendered his resignation as a member of the CPC caucus.
That was, in fact, the ethical and the responsible response considering the direction that the current iteration of the Conservative Party of Canada is heading.
Supply Management. There is no economically analytical, demonstrable reason to create a special interest group for certain classes of farmers, including dairy, poultry and egg producers. The taxpayer supported artificial market for these producers is not universally shared by other farmers or indeed other industries – and the concept of supply management is not a ‘free market’, laissez-faire principle.
Not only does Mr. Scheer proudly and openly profess his support for supply management, he reportedly entered into a complicit agreement with the Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby (as evidenced by verified documention) to ensure that the matter of Supply Management did not even make it on the agenda as a discussion item at the recent Halifax Policy Convention.
NAFTA. The public support that Mr. Scheer and the CPC has thrown to the Liberal Party of Canada regarding ‘sacred cows’ including Supply Management is further evidence that there is virtually nothing discernible between Liberal economic strategy and Conservative Party of Canada strategy. Not only is Canada suffering from a tremendous decrease in foreign investment and overall investor confidence, a NAFTA failure is estimated to impact up to 20% of the overall Canadian economy. Notwithstanding, Mr. Scheer and his caucus are publicly supporting the Trudeau-Freeland led NAFTA negotiators in their efforts to seriously compromise a precarious successful outcome that will benefit Canada in these sensitive negotiations.
There are numerous other examples that can be cited but the direction is clear. The current direction of the Conservative Party of Canada led by Mr. Andrew Scheer is leaning further left – and is becoming almost indistinguishable in some respects from the governing Liberal Party of Canada. That self-same Liberal Party that is making horrific regulatory, economic and social decisions that will negatively, and immediately, have severe consequences for many, if not most, Canadians.
Enter Mr. Maxime Bernier and his new political party.
Mr. Bernier has provided a new opportunity for genuine conservatives who value basic personal freedoms (with personal responsibility), free trade, laissez faire economics, reducing unnecessary government bureaucracy/bloat and a tendency to look at alternatives from a libertarian perspective rather than a socialist point of view. That is to say, the individual takes responsibility for decisions and has the freedom to make those decisions rather than those decisions being a privilege – only at the discretion of the State.
An example of why I believe Mr. Bernier is indeed a man of principle?
Mr. Bernier today refers prospective members and the voting public to watch a panel discussion on The Agenda with Steve Paikin from eight years ago. Mr. Bernier demonstrates that his principles and positions on key issues have not changed in that entire period of time.
Similarly, Mr. Bernier refers to another interview with Mark Steyn a year and half ago. Again, his views and principles are straightforward and consistent.
The Reform Party of Canada was formed in 1987 as a direct result of the discontent of a large plurality of members within the then existent Progressive Conservative Party.
Thirty one years later a new conservative entity is born from the same dissatisfaction shared by a large number of current or recently resigned Conservative Party of Canada members.
No one should forget that Mr. Bernier lost the 2017 leadership of the CPC by less than two percentage points. In fact Mr. Bernier’s first ballot preferential support was far and away the highest of any of the dozen or so aspirants. Had the straight up ‘first past the post’ voting system been utilized, Mr. Bernier would be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada as he garnered 28.89 percent first ballot support to Mr. Scheer’s 21.8 percent first ballot support.
Inexplicably, Mr. Scheer and the ‘victors’ of the 2017 leadership race were unable to keep Mr. Bernier and a significant plurality of conservative supporters within the CPC. In retrospect, a pyrrhic victory at best.
Mr. Scheer is from a new generation – a generation that has already forgotten the lessons learned from the earlier division within the conservative right.
Resultantly, today we herald the arrival of a newly minted Canadian federal political party and with it, a new, but familiar, champion.
All hail Maxime Bernier. A goodly number, a surprising number, of small ‘c’ conservatives and disillusioned non-aligned voters will be attracted to the concise, consistent and credible free market, common sense approach to Canadian politics that Mr. Bernier will bring with the new party.
I, for one, am on board and looking forward to the journey.
Glen Walushka, ba, AICB