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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Now is the time for all good conservatives to come to the aid of The Party

I've come out of blogging retirement to issue the following plea to small-c conservative voters:

I had dinner a few nights ago with two old friends, both libertarian-leaning conservatives, both long-time Conservative voters. One is a lawyer; his wife is the CEO of a small company. Both are highly educated, each with graduate degrees in their fields.

The conversation inevitably turned to politics and the impending election. I was surprised by what I heard from them. My lawyer friend, "Bob", went on a rant about Stephen Harper that was quite vitriolic. "He's no conservative," Bob harrumphed. "A conservative would never have bailed out GM and thrown all that 'stimulus' money down the drain in 2008. And he's certainly no libertarian. All this law and order nonsense. Shocking."  He went on and on. The one thing that got him most riled up was Harper's spat with Chief Justice McLaughlin over her public warning about the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. "A shocking attack on the independence of the judiciary," he fumed.

"Alice" got in on the act. "I can't stand Stephen Harper. I think he's an asshole."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"He's a bully and a dictator," she replied.

"That's a little harsh, calling him a dictator," I said. "A dictator doesn't run in free, open elections every four years. A dictator doesn't have to get his agenda passed by a democratically elected legislature."

"Well, he's a bully. Look at the way he treats his MPs, and how he runs his staff," she said.

"The way he treats his MPs is called 'party discipline'," I said, "and it's the way every PM since Macdonald has run his caucus. And as far as his staff is concerned, so what? The PMO is not an elected body and serves at the pleasure of the PM. It's his office, that's why it's called the 'Prime Minister's Office'. He's entitled to run it any way he wants to." I didn't add that it was the same way she ran her company; she had a reputation for being a ruthless boss, and took pride in making employees cry when they screwed up.

The exchange with Bob and Alice is an example of something I've noticed in a lot of my conservative friends; annoyance with Stephen Harper. They don't like his style, and he's not "conservative" enough. I can understand their views, but I can't support them. Conservatives of all stripes: libertarians, socons, old PCs and Reformers - we all need to come together on October 19. There's a lot at stake, and if one of the opposition parties wins, it means Canada will become in effect a one-party state run by the left for the foreseeable future.

I share some of the concerns of my friends Bob and Alice. As a gay libertarian, I've always had an uneasy relationship with the Conservative Party of Canada. I find the CPC's relentless focus on "law and order" and "family values" problematic. However, for me, it comes down to this; which party is likely to intrude the least into my personal life and allow me to keep as much of my hard-earned money as possible? There's no question that both the Liberals and the NDP would subject us to intrusive social engineering projects designed to remake the country as a left-wing utopia, while taking my money and redistributing it to those they've deemed have-nots. The Conservatives? Not so much. So, the CPC it is.

I'm also not a little disturbed by what's going on in the world, and Stephen Harper's blunt muscular diplomacy is exactly what I want Canada to be doing right now. I don't want a government that will airlift winter parkas into ISIS territory, or make our foreign policy subservient to the corrupt and impotent United Nations. I want a Prime Minister who will tell Vladimir Putin to fuck off, drop bombs on terrorists who are trying to kill us, and keep bad people out of our country. So, the CPC it is.

But the most important issue for me in this election is one that hasn't been getting enough attention. If the Conservatives win anything less than a majority on October 19, it means there will be no possibility of Conservatives ever holding power for decades to come. Trudeau has stated that the Liberals will never support a CPC minority government, and Mulcair says there's not "a snowball's chance in hell" that the NDP would prop up a Tory minority. If  the election results in a CPC minority, Trudeau and Mulcair will engineer a de facto coalition to oust the Conservatives after the first Throne Speech. A Liberal or NDP minority government would also lead to a Liberal/NDP coalition.

One of the first acts of such an alliance in Parliament would be to change our electoral system to some form of proportional representation. In such a system, none of the major parties would be able to elect an outright majority. Like Germany, Italy, or Israel, every election would be followed by weeks of negotiations between the parties, trying to cobble together a legislative majority. Since the CPC is the only right-wing party, and none of the left-wing opposition parties will ever cooperate with the CPC to form a government, the right wing in Canada will be shut out of government for a generation.

I can hear leftist trolls right now saying, "So what? That's a feature, not a bug. Imagine a world without conservatives!" Well, let's, for a moment, imagine a world where conservatives can never form a government. A properly functioning parliamentary democracy operates under the assumption that the ruling party can be turfed out of office by the voters periodically. It keeps political parties honest if they worry about being defeated every election cycle. If one whole side of the political spectrum is excluded from ever holding the levers of power, then elections in Canada will simply become a matter of who gets what cabinet positions and who gets to live at 24 Sussex; the governing coalition will never change. Is this what Canadians really want?

The last time a political party formed a government in Canada with an absolute majority of the popular vote was in 1984, when Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives took power with 50.0%. Before that, the last time it happened was in 1958, when John Diefenbaker's PCs won 53.7% of the popular vote. Absolute majorities are rare in modern Canadian history.

A structural change in the electoral system, which is inevitable in any scenario other than an outright CPC majority, will mean permanent government by the left for the foreseeable future. The two or three leftist parties will compete for control of the governing coalition by pandering to the electorate with ever more outlandish promises of  expensive government programs, knowing that they need not fear being turfed out of power. Is that what Canadians really want? Is that what leftists even want? Who will hold the government accountable if there is never a possibility that the political culture in Ottawa will change after an election? What's the point of even having elections if all they ever produce are endless NDP/Liberal coalitions, with the leaders horse-trading among themselves for the top jobs?

In my opinion, Canada would be best served by having two main parties competing for power, one on the left and one on the right. Each party would theoretically be capable of forming a government. I would be delighted if the parties on the left went through the same "Unite the Left" process that the right went through between 2000 and 2003, when the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party united to end vote splitting on the right. The left and the right would coalesce around two main-stream national parties with broad appeal.

This is what I earnestly wish for on October 19: the Conservatives win a majority, and the two main opposition parties get off their high horses and negotiate a merger. The right did it a decade ago when they faced being permanently shut out of power; it's time the left felt the same pressure. The result would be healthy for Canadian democracy and, coincidentally, would put more pressure on the CPC to remain accountable.

I have an urgent plea for disgruntled conservative voters. We need to put our differences aside and come together, libertarians, socons, old Tories, whatever. We need to stop worrying about the media's obsession with Stephen Harper's alleged control-freak personality and brush off ivory tower debates about parliamentary procedure. Forget the minor-league scandals about robo-calls and Mike Duffy. Stop caring about what Naomi Klein and Blue Rodeo think about our party. Hold your nose if necessary, but get out and vote Conservative. The stakes are really high this time.


Anonymous said...

I'm a libertarian as well and will be staying home instead of voting.

Bec said...

THIS is EXACTLY what happened in Alberta and these people need to get a grip. In Alberta, 5 months later, a movement against the NDP is taking hold because so many people are affected by what has been and what will be.

To not support Stephen Harper is ridiculous but especially careless. To refer to him in the way that you have referenced these folks did is so far from the truth, it's frustrating. He united the right for goodness sake and for him to do that, concessions on his part were necessary.

Let's all just keep this country healthy, vibrant, rich and safe.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of religious Conservatives not voting for Romney because he is Mormon. As a result the U.S. got four more years of Obama.
Don't forget the next government will also be picking supreme Court judges.

Anonymous said...

Good points and I certainly fear changes in our electoral system but considering it was rejected in three provinces, it is possible any change without a referendum might experience a strong backlash. In addition in Europe, parties on the right win quite often and in fact are in government in most countries right now. If you think of the centre as the median voter, I could easily see the Tories moderating slightly and the NDP/Liberals being too left wing so they come back. In BC where I am originally from, we have a two party system and more often than not the centre-right wins. Some old PCs who cannot stomach the current Tories might comeback and likewise many Blue Liberals might find the new left wing party too left wing for their liking.

Still I agree it is an important point and I really wish any changes to the electoral system went to a referendum. After being shot down in three provinces, it's quite arrogant to say this is what most Canadians want.

onefineguy said...

The Conservatives are the only party to support an increase of the Tax-Free Savings Account limits. So I'll be voting for the Conservatives.

Whatever happened to Ted and Carol, btw?

Anonymous said...

I'm anon1, the libertarian. There are certainly many, many things I like about the Harper government. But his constant, unconstitutional attacks against libertarian values is too much for me to handle. I'm not a devout libertarian, more of a strong streak running through my veins. But I'm a more devout to libertarian views than I am to any partisan political party. I voted for Hudak, while other conservatives sat at home. I might vote if it looks like a Liberal or NDP majority. Even then, I'm reasonably resigned to not vote. I hope the new leader, because a loss will force Harper to resign, throws a bone or two to us libertarians. But Harper will never do that if he stays in power.

newcenturion said...

The popular trend in my area is for homeowners to put both a Liberal and NDP sign on their lawns. Talk about bipolar, but I get the sentiment behind it; ABC. Their strategy, if you want to call it that, is really just encouraging vote splitting, and will allow the CPC to run up the middle. Perfect. What's really surprising is my province just voted the Dippers in 5 months ago, you'd think they would have learned. Notley is going to screw this place up royally in Oct after the election when she introduces her first budget.

Eric said...

Anonymous(2:43): I understand your sentiments, and in fact share them. It's tough being a libertarian in the CPC sometimes. I'm not a doctrinaire libertarian either - more of a way of thinking that animates me than a rabid political philosophy. In fact, I prefer to call myself a "classical liberal" in the spirit of John Locke and John Stuart Mill. However, I'm also a realist. I know that a libertarian party will never be elected in this country, and that government by either the Liberals or the NDP will be much, much worse than another CPC turn at the helm. Either way, this will probably be Harper's last election. I'm willing to go to bat one more time for the CPC; the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. to the radio said...

Libertarians who don't vote tacitly volunteer to pay higher taxes and GST.
As well, Harper will not finish his term if he's re-elected with a majority so really a voter for the Conservatives is a vote for his resignation.

meadow said...

Wow, your dinner conversation sounds exactly like the one we had when we were out to dinner with our liberal friends last week. I could have kicked myself for making a stupid off the cuff remark about the election. The wife was not quite screaming at the top of her lungs but everyone in the restaurant knew how she feels about the PM. The crazy things is that it was like listening to a CBC broadcast word for word with the same outrage and issues as the ABC group. It never became a discussion it was more like, "Shut the fuck up and listen". This is the problem. The universities brainwash the young with such idealogy and what has been produced this time around is a crazed radical, anti-establishment bunch who promote absolute hatred and vitriolic attacks on Mr. Harper and any conservative voter. They say the older generation is selfish and entitled. How old are we talking about. Some indications that they mean baby boomers but I think they mean anyone that isn't their age. Being taught to disrespect their parents and seniors seems to me the beginning of a breakdown in a social society, not a terribly social minded agenda. I could care less about Mr. Harper's style of management nor do I care about Duffy's dive into the trough face first. I care about who is qualified to move this country forward. Justin Trudeau is clueless and if his only mentors and support behind him are Chretien and Martin, well enough said. I am appalled that JTs main platform is to build "roads and infrastructure" and then he announced last week several billions to Montreal, Quebec the corrupt construction industry that is a known fact and a right of passage. His popularity increased after the announcement. JT will be a laughing stock on the world platform. People need to realize that we are a global community. Like it or not. Mr. Harper is the only one qualified at this time to move us forward. The world will move forward with or without us, we will not only be left behind but we will be moving backward. Look at NDP Alberta. Having the right last name is not qualification, especially when we talk JT. Who decides at the age of 43 to take a whirl at PM because of his dad? Where has his devotion been to public service, let alone talk about his lack of experience and education. Abstaining is not an option. Voting is not just a right and privilege, it is a duty!

Anonymous said...

I'll have to diffuse some clear wedges that keep some from voting CPC.

It's important to note that some newborn libertarians, much like zealous new convert, get obsessed with sweating over small details and litmus tests, without any sense of the wider circumstances we are in or context to how we got to this point.

"A conservative would never have bailed out GM and thrown all that 'stimulus' money down the drain in 2008."

Same people get mad about the bank bailouts but seem to completely forget the credit crunch. A liquidity crisis is a much greater & immediate risk than debt incurrence or inflation, and could halt all lending. A few deficits themselves don't do that. What matters is how the private economy is affected. The ones who don't rely on government to begin with.

There are libertarian remedies to cure and prevent these things but you can't snap your fingers to make them happen. You have to be careful not to set off any pendulums.
Which Harper has been able to ease by focusing on "ground" we can permanently win through incrementalism.
We live in a socialist country, you should expect such political landmines to be planted against future governments any time the Right takes over from the Left.

This sometimes means using socialism to get rid of socialism. Like using taxpayer dollars to give dictatorships golden parachutes to quietly fade into obscurity, and let us win. [You get rid of stubborn/nutty CEOs the same way.]
I know, we all think its silly, but the voting population didn't give the CPC the mandate to govern from the right. Look what happened to Hudak. It took this long to build up to this point, no use blowing our political capital on something that could be used against us, by the left.
[Like making Ontario "right to work". Great, but wrong time & not a hill to die on]

This is why if you had Ron or Rand Paul in charge it would all backfire, because the armies of unionize public sector workers would take a country hostage. Like they did in France over a meager two year difference in retirement age.
Ron and Rand frequently crusade for any and all things even slightly perceived as Libertarian, regardless of whether they are successful.
We don't need to piously martyr ourselves on battles we can't win, just to out "Legit" each other on whose the most "hardcore" Libertarian. Save that race for when its different libertarian parties/candidates competing with one another.

Ron or Rand, could not of pulled off what Harper has. Harper and Netanyahu are the Winston Churchill's of our day, we just need them to eventually shift into a Thatcher/Coolidge combo. Harper is libertarian enough despite what he says about Canadian Libertarians who are either newborns in terms of perspective, or part of liberal party front groups.
The need isn't for Harper to appear more Libertarian, but for the populace to first shift that way. He is not an anarcho-capitalist, and we don't need him to be. We need a Hawk, first and foremost to advance things on the world stage in favor of Liberty. You don't get that by turning inward while hostile nations plot to subvert us. The non-aggression principal doesn't apply to those who would violate our Liberty or undermine it. So there has to be a logical segregation over those who defend such liberties from the threats that seek to violate them.
John R. Bolton, who is Libertarian, grasps this. I can't say the same thing about the "Paulians", who religiously see government conspiracies everywhere. What "demons" are to evangelicals, the conspirators are to them... with what old soviet cells, stealth jihadists and all the fellow travelers in between are to me. Shouldn't stop us from voting CPC, even if I just pist off the their side of the internet.
On that point, Noam Chomsky is a lying nutbag, JFK was a Statist, and Trump is not a conservative.

Anonymous said...

Do we have an alternative to typing "Libertarians"? I do wish we could of retaken Libs and replace Liberals with "Lies", but I'm sure it would just muddy the water of an already soiled public discourse.

Eric, maybe the next time you speak with those friends, you should first bring up the situation with Omar Khadr before bringing up Harper... If they go from concerned somber tones to rage filled tirades, then they are clearly liberals posing as libertarians. Being socially libertarian is redundant. Economic liberty is the precursor to every other liberty. Anyone stuck in a social backwater can't afford to live some place else. Or above the fray. I say that as a Polyfid.

Eric said...

Anonymous (2:33) Thanks for your comment - very well put. I share your sentiments. It's funny - the argument I use with my conservative/libertarian friends who complain that Harper isn't conservative enough is the same one I use with my gay friends who complain that he's TOO conservative and has a hidden agenda: Harper is an incrementalist, and Canada is not a conservative country politically. To alter the political climate in Canada is going to take decades and require many years of moderate incremental changes that limit the power and influence of the state. When this happens and the sky doesn't fall, the economy chugs along, and people enjoy having more freedom and more money in their pockets to spend as THEY see fit not how the government decides, then "clasical liberal" free-market ideas will be seen as a true alternative to the statist/big government model we've had since WWII. A drastic overhaul like the kind that my gay friends worry about just isn't in the cards - it would never sell to the voters. Harper is above all a pragmatist, and he's playing the long game. Conservatives need to quit bitching about his supposed faults and get with the program.

Eric said...

Anonymous (2:45): Yes, terminology is a problem. I tell my friends that I'm not a conservative but a libertarian who votes for the Conservative Party, and they look at me like I'm speaking in tongues. "Classical liberal" is my preferred term: socially liberal, fiscally conservative; but that gets everyone confused since the Liberal Party has appropriated the word "liberal".

I agree that "social libertarian" is redundant, and that all freedom flows from economic freedom. Ultimately laws designed to regulate social behaviour reduce freedom by restricting economic options that are not approved by the state, or by taxing citizens to subsidize optiona that are. Adam Smith's "unseen hand" of the free market is the power of mutual self-interest; interfering with it limits the freedoms of all parties involved, economically and eventually socially.

Robert Tripp said...

Well-said and well-explained, Sir. I realize that the pandemic hatred for Mr. Harper has no justification. For quite some time, it has been a phenomenon of fire stoked by the media, and now it is also a putrid cream at the top, as fomented and openly-proclaimed by the leaders of the opposition parties. It is so contagious that even some longtime Conservatives of varying proportional shades of blue and red, have jumped onto the bandwagon of branding the PM as some sort of dictator, incompetently leading Canada down some wayward road of eternal deficit and lost human rights. I find that this attitude expresses itself in the ugliest fashions, in almost any location within our society. So, I do find it challenging to keep the faith. It's difficult and sometimes even unhealthy to try to mount a meaningful defense, so I heartily commend you for your worthy effort in standing your ground among the disgruntled. I realize that the flip-side to our Lefty vote-splitting advantage is the threat of a coalition. I also agree that the Majority is necessary for stabilization and the enhancement of a long-awaited unification of the Left, and a coveted 2-party system. If common-sense doesn't prevail against this tide of Harper hatred, which is more detrimentally organized and publicized than ever before in this cyber world of ours, we may find ourselves with empty pockets, grooming the Beard, the Empty Suit, or both.

barnsworth said...

Brilliantly said, as usual. Glad to see you writing again. Both your article and the responses are thought provoking. Eric, you should be advising the CPC. It is election morning and I'm feeling creeping despair. But off I will trudge to cast my ballot and with it the slight hope that the quiet old fart vote will come out of the woodwork. But the polls are depressing... they would have to be way off. Yes, they've been wacky this year and they could be off, but.... we'll see. Is it possible that a nation like Canada could end up with a Wynne govt. and a Trudeau govt. at the same time? I will look forward to your post-election analysis.

By the way, have you noticed how those of the left, that may not really know you, assume you are a fellow traveller? And talk to you as though, of course, you know the "truth". Have had that happen a few times.

Eric said...

Thanks, Barnsworth. I too am feeling creeping despair. I've stopped watching TV news altogether; it's too depressing. The thought of that vapid airhead Trudeau representing Canada at the next G7 meeting makes me want to slit my wrists. I guess I'll just go down with the ship and concentrate on Patrick Brown and the Ontario Tories in their battle to turf the appalling Kathleen Wynne out of the Premier's office.

I appreciate your comments about my writing. I don't blog much anymore because the political debate seems to have moved to Twitter; the forum for a spirited debate and exchange of political ideas on blogs seems to have largely disappeared. That's a shame; Twitter can be a sinkhole of idiocy, and no one says much that's insightful and analytical in 140 characters. I'll try to rouse myself out of my misery after the election and do my traditional "Advice to the Party After Losing an Election Big Time" post - the one I've been writing to the Ontario PCs for as long as I can remember.