Politics & Policy

Are Canadian Conservatives NaÏVe?

Part I of this debate is here.

 

Michael Taube is unduly pessimistic about the proposed

merger of Canada’s conservative parties.

He is correct that the two existing parties (the Progressive

Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance) do have policy

differences. However, these differences are minimal

and there’s no reason they can’t be reconciled. Taube

might dispute this, but the proof is in the pudding.

During the last national election, held in November

2000, the party platforms were very similar. Both

were pledging to: cut taxes; legislate repayment of

the national debt; spend more money on health care;

create a national sex-offender registry; reform the

federal student-loan program; increase defense spending

and bring democratic reforms to parliament.

The issues where the platforms differed were minimal:

the environment, unemployment insurance, the future

of native Canadians, and agriculture policy being

the most prominent.

Additionally, the two parties have different views

on how the Canadian federation should be constituted.

The Alliance and its predecessor, the Reform party,

saw the country as a collection of ten equal provinces

while the PCs adhered to what’s known as the “two

founding nations” policy–viewing the country

as a partnership between French-speaking Quebec and

the rest of (English) Canada. The Alliance is also

seen as more socially conservative.

Many would say the gulf is widest on social issues,

but even they shouldn’t be impediments to merging.

Pro- and anti-abortion members as well as pro- and

anti-gay marriage advocates coexist already in both

parties. If U.S. Republicans can keep everyone in

one tent, so can conservatives in Canada.

Taube says that votes between the two parties are

not interchangeable, because polls show that the “second

choice” of Alliance and PC voters is Liberal.

These polls prove nicely Benjamin Disraeli’s conclusion

that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies

and statistics.

The “second choice” argument is fallacious

because it omits the fact that voters would be asked

to support an entirely new entity that does not now

exist. And the best refutation of this point is that

when given the chance, these people chose not to vote

Liberal! So there are no grounds to assume that they

would if a more attractive right-of-center choice

were to present itself.

Indeed, the new party should be a case of sum of

the whole being greater than its two parts. Conservative

voters who have either a) stayed home because they

knew neither party could win, or b) voted Liberal

because they saw the divided right as evidence that

conservatives weren’t fit to govern, will support

the new party.

A previous attempt to unite the parties (in fact,

there were several) failed, Taube says. True, but

the cause wasn’t lack of will–it was because these

efforts were perceived as being disingenuous takeover

attempts by one side. This time, the leaders and members

of both parties are solidly on board.

Lastly, fringe elements from both sides will be pushed

out of the new party; creating a single, powerful,

mainstream entity able to form a government.

Adam

Daifallah is a member of the editorial board at

Canada’s National

Post.

Adam Daifallah believes Canada’s right-wing merger

must succeed for the sake of our political movement

and the good of our country. He feels Canadian conservatives

“understand the need to find common ground and

put their differences aside.”

Does Daifallah really feel the merger is being conducted

in an effort to find common ground? As I alluded to

yesterday, the ideological and cultural differences

between the CA and PCs are quite dramatic.

Unfortunately, this merger is occurring for the worst

of all possible reasons–fear and desperation. Fear

that the Liberals will continue to maintain their

historical stranglehold over Canada’s political and

economic fortunes. And desperation in that these two

fundamentally different political parties must merge,

or both face the possibility of political extinction.

That’s not the way to create a new political entity.

Daifallah also believes Canada’s Conservatives should

work in “one big tent” like the U.S. Republican

party. Without getting into the intricacies of trying

to compare a stable two-party system (U.S.) to a perplexing

multiparty system (Canada), the big tent philosophy

already exists in Canadian conservatism.

The CA brought together fiscal conservatives and social

conservatives. It brought together conservatives,

libertarians and classical liberals. It even brought

together Reformers and right-leaning Blue Tories.

The one group that wasn’t invited to the party (so

to speak) was the left-leaning Red Tories. This large

faction, in many ways, caused the right-wing split

in Canada in the first place. From policy proposals

to political agendas, the Red Tories have one dogmatic

philosophy–my way or the highway.

Therefore, bringing the Red Tories (or worse) back

into the fold–which is seemingly the only point of

this merger, since most true conservatives support

the CA–would serve to create a Conservative Party

that resembles the old, divisive PC Party that collapsed

in the 1993 federal election (dropping from 157 to

2 seats). If the goal isn’t to bring back the Red

Tories, then the merger’s sole purpose is simply to

recapture the few remaining Blue Tories that either

initially refused to join the CA or left in frustration.

Meanwhile, Daifallah believes Canadians want this

merger, since they “want to see that conservatives

are capable of running the country.” But that’s

not accurate–polls have only shown that Canadians

want an alternative to the Liberal government. The

word “conservative” doesn’t seem to be a

part of their vocabulary.

In fact, the excitement level for the CA-PC merger

has barely reached a whisper among potential Canadian

voters. Neither CA leader Stephen Harper nor PC leader

Peter MacKay have generated enthusiastic responses.

Even the heavily touted former Ontario Premier Mike

Harris (who has decided not to run) only registered

about 30 percent popularity against the Liberal juggernaut.

In fact, with Harris out of the race, the Conservative

Party has an uncertain future. PC supporters would

find it difficult to support Harper, the acknowledged

front-runner, as a leader. And CA members would find

it equally difficult to support MacKay, or former

PC leadership candidates Scott Brison and Jim Prentice.

I’m afraid that neither scenario bodes well for the

struggling Canadian conservative movement and the

questionable CA-PC merger.

Michael

Taube is an editorial writer for the Windsor

Star.

 
 

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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