In the last election, we basically had a choice of liberal party A (the Liberals) and liberal party B (the Progressive Conservatives). Or, as George Jonas put it in the National Post, "we'll now have a Liberal government carrying out half-baked Liberal policies under Dalton McGuinty, instead of a Conservative government carrying out half-baked Liberal policies under John Tory." Only the NDP is an ideologically consistent party that offered an alternative to the existing government.
So, let the blood-letting in the PC party begin. Over the next four years, the PCs have to figure out what the hell they actually stand for. Why would any conservative vote for the PC party when they occupy the exact same policy ground as the Liberals and offer nothing by way of a credible alternative? I presume that the brain trust that runs the PC party will now embark on a process of existential soul-searching. To give them a clue, here are my suggestions for a Conservative platform for those of us on the centre-right who want to vote for a real centre-right party.
First of all, let's get some basics straight. There are a few things that most conservatives agree on, and in my opinion these principles should be front & centre in any conservative party platform:
- personal liberty is sacred, to the extent that the exercise of personal liberties does not harm others
- the ownership of private property is a fundamental human right
- the principles of free-market capitalism should guide economic activity
- government regulation, intervention & taxation should be kept to a minimum
- the law applies equally to all citizens, and governments should ensure that the rule of law is administered firmly, fairly & efficiently
- promotion of consensual democratic government & opposition to dictatorship should guide our relationships with other countries
If I ran the PC party in Ontario (or the Conservative Party of Canada, for that matter), my platform could be summed up on one sheet of paper. I wouldn't list the various programs the government would tinker with, or the marginal tax rates that would be tweaked, or the myriad of struggling sectors of the economy that would be propped up.
Here's what it would say:
- When faced with a policy decision, the policy that maximises personal liberty without harming others would be the policy of this party.
- The policy that offers the least amount of government intervention, regulation & taxation would be the policy of this party.
- This party supports free market economic principles.
- This party believes in the rule of law, applied equally & fairly to ALL citizens.
- This party supports foreign policies that encourage the spread of democracy, human rights & the free market.
- We believe that the government has an obligation to look after its most vulnerable citizens, but where possible these programs should enable these citizens to be full, independent participants in the economic & civic life of our society.
There. That's it. Gay marriage? We don't believe the state should be involved either way. Morality issues? These are best left up to the individual & the state has no business sticking its nose in your affairs, whether you're a lesbian pot-smoking wiccan or a Baptist preacher. Education? The state should run one public education system open equally to all & get out of ALL religious schools. Health care? It should be available free to all, but the system should be run in accordance with free-market principles and incentives. Law-and-order issues like Caledonia? The law must be applied to all citizens (including natives) and the police must enforce the law firmly but fairly.
So there you go. I'll see you again in 2011 & we'll see what the PCs have come up with. It's not like they haven't been warned.