Many Conservatives will be angry at an article, by Andrew Cohen, in the Ottawa Citizen because it takes an unnecessary, nasty and false swipe at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, describing the his years in power as “a low, dishonest decade of politics.” It is, of course, quite wrong to use “dishonest” when describing Prime Minister Harper … Prime Minister Mulroney, who the article lauds for his advice, is, quite correctly, remembered for dishonest acts after he left office, but no such stain has attached itself to Stephen Harper.
But, for all that the reputation of the source, Brian Mulroney, has been sadly tarnished, by his own actions, the advice he offered to Conservatives, at a speech delivered nearly two months ago, remains sound:
Andrew Cohen says, quoting Prime Minister Mulroney: “Here is a former leader warning Conservatives that they will only return to power “when Canadians feel they are worthy of their trust, that we reflect their values and that we offer them a vision of Canada that is grand, generous and true.”“
There’s truth in that. We, Conservatives, lost the trust of Canadians. That’s it, at its simplest. Canadians trust Justin Trudeau to give them what they think they want and need. He, more than we, appears to “reflect their values”and the Liberals seem to “offer them a vision of Canada that is grand, generous and true.”
In fact, that’s what Brian Mulroney did in 1984 and, again, in 1988. It’s what Prime Minister Harper did, partially, in 2006 and 2008 and convincingly in 2011. Now, Prime Minister Harper’s “vision” was more cautious, introspective, and, generally, except for its insistence on a moral foreign policy, less than “grand.” There were touches of “generosity” in what Stephen Harper’s Conservative governments offered and more than a little “truth,” too, but, mostly, he offered what Canadians wanted: prudent, carefully focused, incremental shifts from the status quo. In 2008 and again in 2011, in the wake of the global financial crisis prudent incrementalism was good, sound, popular policy.
I’m going to repeat that I think the two primary reasons we, Conservatives, lost in 2015 were:
- Canadians have concluded, on a fundamental but unspoken, undocumented level that something like eight to ten years is “enough” for any government. I actually doubt that any “electoral reform” the Liberals might want to introduce will change that; and
- We did not run a good, well focused campaign.
The “vision” issue was part of the campaign problem. It’s something that can and should be fixed, soon. There was noting to be done about the “change” thing … except to be ready to exploit it as early as 2015.
It seems to me that the Liberals are, already, slipping and sliding back into their old, comfortable, dangerous ways … I have been using this graphic to describe it:
It’s an updated version, made by someone I don’t know but shared with me on social media, of the famous Western Standard graphic from the Liberal AdScam era.
That, I think, is the Liberal vision.
It’s “grand,” in its own way, and it’s “generous’ to Liberal supporters but it’s anything but true.
In that Toronto Speech, in November, Prime Minister Mulroney also offered one key piece of advice: we ned to be ready and able to take power back in 2019. There is a very good chance that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will have made a mess of things by then. We do, as others have said, need to take our time to rephrase out essential “generous” and “true” values and vision and to select a leader who can “sell” them to the Canadian people, but we need to be ready for 2019. That means the new leader should be in place by, at the latest, mid 2018.
My vision is for a major, national, open policy convention in autumn 2016 followed by a longish leadership campaign in 2017 and a leadership convention in the spring of 2018.