Righting the Conservative Ship


Tony Clement has written an excellent opinion piece for the Globe and Mail, entitled “How to right the Conservative ship,” in which he analyzes the October 2015 election.

His main “take away” points are:

  1. The Conservative Party must continue to stand for low taxes for Canadians and a balanced budget in fiscal matters; and
  2. Our basic message on security is one that many Canadians identified with. Whether it is fighting global terrorism or keeping Canadians safe at home.

But he asks some questions, too:

  1. Can Conservatives have a distinctively conservative policy on poverty elimination?
  2. What is the Conservative vision regarding the relationship with indigenous peoples?
  3. How about an environmental policy that is consistent with Canadian values?
  4. Or Internet rights and responsibilities?

And then he examines some campaign issues:

  1. We must also do a better job of organizing and training in our Conservative ranks, and adapt far better to the new online world.
  2. Better social media presence is just the start of the effort. 3
  3. Community is now defined not only as what exists in our cities and towns but the virtual communities of the online world.
  4. Our volunteers must be motivated and welcomed.
  5. Feedback loops from the field must be taken seriously.

Then he address two critical challenges I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog:

  1. We must also not write off 100 or more electoral districts without a fight. I would like to see an organizational unit within our party, specifically charged with how to make hard-to-win ridings easier to win.
  2. As a first-generation Canadian myself, I believe we can and must begin again to obtain more legitimacy and support with new Canadians.

The 13 points above are all direct quotes from his article.

He concludes with some good words:

“This short “honey do” list is, of course, not exhaustive. Party leadership candidates and the rank and file may add to or subtract from it. Nonetheless this process must begin in earnest. As someone who was part of the renewal of the Conservative movement both in Ontario and nationally in the past, I know the process is sometimes frustrating and circuitous. Yet, it can also be incredibly exciting and important for those who believe in the values of conservatism.”

Starting from the bottom, :

First: I agree that we need to rebuild the bridges that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and, especially, Jason Kenny built to the immigrant/ethnic communities. Some bad campaign tactical choices burned some of those bridges … as I have said our :”key terrain” or “vital ground,” in army terms, is in the suburbs around the big cities and they are often home to many, diverse immigrant communities and when we insult one we insult them all; when we mistrust one we sow the seeds of doubt in them all. We need to accept that almost all New Canadians, over every race, colour and creed are good, honest, hard working folks, just like us. Of course there are some, a few bad apples but we must not tar them all with a brush that applies only to a very few.

Second: We have to find ways to appeal to the young, diverse, socially very liberal people in the big city ridings. We cannot, as Minister Clement says, just cede 100 seats to the Liberals and NDP. Young people have hope and dreams, and fears, too, and we ned to find ways to make our priorities and policy proposals attractive to them.

Third: We have to be more up-to-date and make better use of technology. I’m over 70 and I am an experienced computer user, including being comfortable with social media. It ~ being “on-line” ~ is normal, not a novelty.

Fourth, and its is related to my second point: We need to answer Tony Clements policy challenges and many more of the same. We cannot be just the party of fiscal prudence and sound national security.

Fifth: We need to develop, promulgate, debate and refine a coherent, comprehensive, responsible national security strategy that persuades Canadians that they need to be willing to pay for a robust nation security and defence system because it is in their best interests to do so. Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative icon, said:

“…The defence budget is one of the very few elements of public expenditure that can truly be described as essential. This point was well-made by a robust Labour Defence Minister, Denis (Now Lord) Healey, many years ago: ‘Once we have cut expenditure to the extent where our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders.'”

We Conservatives all have to understand and believe that.

Sixth: We must, always, even as we ask Canadians to spend more on e.g. defence, be prudent and responsible managers of the public purse. We must appreciate, ourselves, and persuade our fellow Canadians that we, as a nation, do not have a revenue problem ~ we collect enough taxes; we have spending problems, many of them, that can be and need to be fixed.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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