We, Conservatives, need to have a political (policy-platform) grand strategy before we engage in developing tactics that will help us to unseat the Liberals.
Out strategy must deal with everything from agriculture and border security through consumer protection, defence policy, energy, fiscal policy, greenhouse gas emissions … well, you get the picture: right through to and including opportunities for young people and controlling zebra mussels. Our strategy must make good sense to most Canadians ~ not all will agree with or support all of it, but most should find it broadly acceptable or, at the very least, not frightening.
We must not be, nor allow ourselves to be perceived to be, a one issue party or a party that excludes too many people.
Let’s begin with understanding just what “most Canadians’ really means …
There are just over 35 million people in Canada, almost 6 million of us live in the Greater Toronto Area, over 4 million live in Greater Montreal and 2½million live in Greater Vancouver and a further 1⅓ million of us live in each of Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa-Gatineau. In other words almost half of us live in six metropolitan areas; most of the the other half live in another 95 cities and towns; only 15 to 20% of us live in small towns and rural areas.
Five out of every thousand of us are new immigrants. The Philippines send us the greatest number of new Canadians, followed by India and China. Many new Canadians are Muslims, a few want to preserve some of their “old country” customs but most are indistinguishable from anyone else. New Canadians, by and large, are quiet, hard working, law abiding, peaceful and do not make much use of social services.
Our median age is about 40. Our population pyramid, in 2010, looked like this:
Elections Canada says that: “The National Register of Electors contains records for approximately 25 million Canadians aged 18 and older who are qualified to vote.” In 2015 over 17,500,000 Canadian did vote and the vote went up in every age category …
… and I believe that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deserves much of the credit for that. He, personally, excited and energized many, many Canadians, especially younger Canadians and Team Trudeau ran a masterful campaign, for which they, too, deserve full credit.
In my opinion Team Trudeau learned from our, Conservative, campaigns in 2006, 2008 and 2011 when we, not they, courted and then earned the votes of many, diverse, “ethnic’ and “new Canadian” communities, especially in the suburbs around Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, by showing them that we were friendly, that we shared their values and they shared ours, that we respected them, that we were interested in helping them to succeed and so on … somehow, in 2015 we, Conservatives, went “off message” and the Liberals picked up the ball that we dropped.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: we did drop the ball in 2015 and we need to find it again, to pick it up, to make it our own and to run with it. We have to rediscover Canada and enunciate polices and programmes that make sense to most Canadians.
Let’s remember, first, that while our core values are those of Main Street, not Bay Street, the shape and face of Main Street has changed from this … to this:
Most of the Canadians who share many of our values and whose values we must share, too, live in the suburbs around our biggest cities; they are relatively young (25 to 54 years old), they have jobs and families, they care about jobs, taxes, schools, healthcare, immigration and the environment. They live comfortably, in mixed race, multicultural, polyglot communities, where they and their neighbours and their children’s friends attend mosques and churches, temples and synagogues and share most of the same hopes, fears and worries.
We need to remind them, all, first, that we are a true “big tent” party: all are welcome who share at least some of our views and we respect everyone’s views and values, too. We must not be afraid to admit that we have a strong, principled social conservative wing in our Party, but, unlike the Trudeau Liberals we do not send our so-cons into some sort of exile: we allow them to run for office and speak out, too. We also have social-libertarians, like me, who believe that neither our Party nor the courts nor the country have gone far enough in making everyone equal in every respect; the CPC accommodates all fringes but, as a Party, we must be law abiding and respectful of the decisions and judgments of parliament and the courts. Thus, while we have members, including MPs, who oppose e.g. abortion and same-sex marriage on principled grounds, the Party, and a Conservative government, must be committed to respecting the laws and customs of the land.
(I know this is “old ground” that I have plowed before, many times, but I feel that too many conservatives conflate their, personal prejudices and beliefs into a view of what it means to be a Conservative.)
We need to recognize that most Canadians are not overly concerned about foreign policy, defence, grand strategy or even President Donald Trump. They are worried about steadily growing healthcare costs (about which more tomorrow) and the costs of post secondary education and mortgage rates and local property taxes, and energy costs, including, especially, home heating (and cooling) and automotive fuel costs ~ think carbon taxes, and how to balance rising food costs with stagnating wages. They know that different levels of government do different things but they also know that there is only one taxpayer and they hope for some sort of non-partisan cooperation and real efficiency from every level of government. That is something that the Conservative Party of Canada can promise: to work with provinces to make the services that Canadians need and want more effective and more efficient (cost effective), too. That’s part of a strategy, for governing well, not just a tactic to get elected.