The yellow brick road

Two columns by (moderately conservative) columnist John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail bear consideration:

  • First, he says, a column headlined “In Andrew Scheer, Conservatives elect Stephen Harper 2.0 – with a smile” that Conservative ~ in surprisingly large sQtNj06Unumbers ~ made the smart and safe choice. “Conservative voters,” he says, “concluded, by the narrowest of margins, that Andrew Scheer’s sensible conservatism was a safer choice than the dogmatic libertarianism of Maxime Bernier. They are probably right … [because] … The genial former Speaker of the House of Commons, despite a seasoning of socially conservative policies, is likely to be more saleable against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next election – much more a Stephen Harper 2.0, but with a smile.” Mr Ibbitson goes on tot say that: “Common sense won out over ideology, organization and fundraising. In a mature party, it usually does … [and] … “here’s a message for anyone who believes that grassroots Conservatives are intolerant, poorly educated and out of touch: Saturday night, almost 50 per cent of them voted for a libertarian lawyer from Quebec … [but] … In the end, though, Mr. Bernier’s proposed elimination of a federal role in health care, the planned savage spending cuts, his wish to eviscerate the CBC and CRTC, not to mention ending supply management, were too much. He simply could not attract enough second- or third-ballot support through the 13 rounds of voting.
  • Second, in an earlier column, entitled “The new Conservative leader must look beyond the party’s rural roots,” he asks question that echoes something I have said over and over again: “Will [the new] leader propel Conservatives to victory over Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next federal election? That will depend on one thing above all: whether the party is willing to turn away from its rural roots and embrace the suburban … [just as] … Stephen Harper expanded the Conservative Party beyond its Western and rural Ontario base, making it the party of suburbs, of immigrants, of contemporary Canada. To succeed, his successor must do likewise.” Mr Ibbitson says, “first, the good news. The Conservative Party of Canada is remarkably healthy. The solid contingent of 99 MPs has been ably led by interim leader Rona Ambrose. Almost 260,000 Conservative Party members are eligible to vote for the next leader, thanks to strong membership sales in recent months. The party surpassed the Liberals in fundraising by almost two to one in the first quarter of this year … [and] … Veterans of Tory civil wars marvel at the party’s unity today. If you’re old enough, you may recall the bitter fight in the 1960s to unseat John Diefenbaker as leader, or Brian Mulroney’s efforts in the 1980s to undermine Joe Clark. And everyone knows about the schism that created the Reform Party, which dominated the right in the 1990s before its successor, the Canadian Alliance, merged with the Progressive Conservatives to create the Conservative Party of Canada.” There is, as one of his sources says, a very real sense that the COC can replace Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2019.  Mr Ibbitson concludes that “The next leader will need to assuage the bitterness of those who supported defeated candidates, unify the caucus, and prepare to do battle in the House of Commons with Mr. Trudeau. But the greatest challenge will be to make the party attractive to the suburban middle class, including suburban immigrants.

I said, late last year, that I was concerned about both the place and influence of the social conservatives in The Conservative Party of Canada. Andrew Scheer was a self declared social conservative and I concluded that “If the Party picks a declared social conservative (Andrew Scheer) then I am convinced he will lead us to another defeat for the reasons Michael Den Tandt explained: Canadians are socially moderate and they do not want to turn the clock back to the 1950s … [and] … We, Conservatives, should want to keep our social conservative wing, but it would be a serious mistake to allow it to lead us on policy issues. If we are serious about offering Canada good, fiscally responsible government then we must be a socially moderate party.” Mr Scheer played down his “so-con” leanings during the campaign and all candidates promised to stick with the party’s approved position … and we all should remember this:

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