OK, I hope the few people who follow my ramblings understand how I use the terms liberal and conservative. As a reminder: neither Justin Trudeau nor Hillary Rodham Clinton are liberals, in fact both practice the politics of playing special interest groups off against each other, so both M Trudeau and Ms Clinton are, really, conservatives. Maxime Bernier, on the other hand, is a pretty straight up and down liberal but he’s running to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, which is the most liberal of Canada’s three main parties. Ditto, I expect, for e.g. Tony Clement and Dr Kellie Leitch.
A canon on any sort is about shared views and values, and a Conservative can, even a very modest, Canadian one must be about our shared, Canadian, Conservative views and values.
First, I think we believe in classical, 19th century, political liberalism. We believe in the sanctity of life and we reject the state’s right to arbitrarily take a life, except in war or other legitimate military operations. We believe in political liberty ~ freedom of conscience and, albeit limited by e.g. libel laws, freedom of expression; democracy; secularism; free markets and free trade; equality at and under the law, for the governors and governed, alike; civil rights; and international cooperation.
Second, we believe, firmly, in an individual right to have and use his or her own property. Property ownership is central to stable, prosperous society, and a prosperous society is, most often, a peaceful one, too. So our fundamental strategic values of peace and prosperity rest on a firm foundation of our property rights. Governments, which have included most Canadian governments, Conservative and Liberal, since 1957, have had a consistently poor record of protecting, much less promoting property rights. The Property Rights Alliance, a private US think tank/advocacy agency, publishes an annual index of property rights. Canada ranks 9th in the world, behind, inter alia, Finland New Zealand, Singapore and Japan but well ahead of Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States which rank 12th to 15th on the list. We are not as bad as many countries, (France, for example, is 22nd), but we are not as good as we could and should be.
Third, we believe in the right to privacy ~ the right to be left alone and more. An active right to privacy is more than just not being bothered by intrusive government agencies, it extends to our absolute right to do as we please with ourselves and our bodies, subject only, of corse, on not doing any harm to others. This includes, of course, a woman’s right to procure an abortion … it doesn’t mean that the state is obligated to provide her with an abortion, but it does mean that a liberal, democratic state may not deny her the right to have one if she she can find a willing doctor, etc.
Fourth, Sir John A Macdonald called his political party the Liberal-Conservatives, and it was a good name for what was, in many respects, a “court party” (as opposed to a “country party”) that represented the (very conservative) vested interests of the governing elites but did so while advancing a very liberal agenda on rights and liberties. We, over 70% of Canadians, are still, mainly, liberal Conservatives or conservative Liberals. Some conservative values are absolutely necessary for the management of a civil society ~ starting with a general agreement that we should all, for example, drive on one side of the road or another. We, sensibly, surrender a bit of liberty (choice) for the general good (safety). Almost all of us pay our property taxes without too much fuss because we actually want well trained, well equipped, professional fire and police departments and good, local, public schools. (Even those who send their children to elite private schools want ~ if they have the brains the gods gave to green peppers ~ a good public school system which will ‘train’ good citizen-workers.) But most of us worry that many, many laws and regulations go too far ~ we all want to take lethal firearms away from drug dealers and so on, but how far do we ‘push’ the farmer or sport shooter or hunter with regulations that have the effect of criminalizing his/her very normal behaviour even as we fail, miserably and completely, to deal with the criminals? We know those farmers and hunters are not, in any way, criminals, but our own Laurentian Elites have told us that the real criminals are not to blame for their crimes because they are disadvantaged and we must go after the gun, not the person who uses it to commit a crime ~ we want to take the guns “off the streets,” but all we do is invade the private homes of law abiding citizens because of a conservative bureaucracy gone wild. (By the way, I am not a gun owner; I no longer shoot for any reason, mainly due to a combination of lack of need and failing eyesight.) Our conservative instinct is to make our community safer and, at the same time, our liberal analysis of the problem tells us that the root causes of most violent crime is tied to socio-economic and opportunity issues: poverty and poor education being two factors. But the fact that many criminals are ‘victims’ cannot be an excuse to ignore what they do or to try to interdict them. We need, Conservatives, need to enunciate two parallel lines of action:
- A “law and order” line that targets the people who commit crime and hands out swift, just, exemplary punishments; and
- An “opportunities” line that aims to break the poverty/welfare dependency trap which, for so many young men, especially, seems to have only one exit: violent crime. The solutions are simple: better schools, school meals, jobs (which means lower, not higher, minimum wages) and choices.
But the problem, in Canada, is hideously complex, because we needs city mayors and councillors, provincial legislators and the federal cabinet to all get behind a single, comprehensive programme at the same time. We need, in other words, good liberal Conservative city councils; good, liberal Conservative provincial governments and a good, liberal Conservative national government in 2019.
That is why a Canadian, Conservative canon must be both liberal in its commitment to protect the rights of the individual against any and all collectives, including churches and the state, itself, and conservative in its commitment to provide good, albeit minimalist, government for all Canadians.
More to follow …