A couple of weeks ago a youngish Progressive Conservative MLA from Alberta named Derek Fildebrandt wrote, in an opinion piece in the National Post, that Maxime Bernier’s campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada was “unlike any other for high national office in the modern history of Canada. It was not a traditional campaign focused on his likeableness or on minor ideological differences from other candidates, but rather one that proposed wholesale reform and sweeping policy changes. Max’s campaign was not simply about a candidate. It was a movement to revolutionize Canadian conservatism … [and] … That movement can broadly be described as liberty-conservatism. Max fused traditional conservatism—patriotism, respect for civil and family institutions, a strong national defence, and fiscal responsibility—with an aggressive, no holds barred libertarianism that would end conservative inconsistency on issues like corporate welfare, supply management, equalization, micro-tax cuts, and federal overreach into areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is a ‘get off my lawn’ conservatism that believes that the government’s power should be sharply restricted—from intruding into our wallets, our televisions (CRTC, CBC), our dinner tables, our speech, and our bedrooms … [and, further] … The liberty-conservative movement broke all the moulds of traditional, Laurentian-dominated, consensus politics. It was young, it was online, and it was aggressive. It took on sacred cows that no major, national candidate had been willing to talk seriously about before.“
Now, I said, several times, during the CPC leadership campaign that I like a lot of what M Bernier had to say; I, and some (apparently many) other Conservatives, have a pretty strong libertarian streak but I couldn’t support him for party leader because, as I said, “My aim is to restore good, sound, honest, effective and efficient, responsible, prudent and principled government to Canada,” and I do not believe that enough Canadians understand or support or share M Bernier’s (and my) libertarian socio-economic views. I think M Bernier had a lot of support but my guess is that, at the moment ~ when it came time to fill in the ballots ~ a great many Canadian Conservatives opted for a safer choice …
I’m guessing that Mr Fildebrandt may have arrived at a similar conclusion because he has, just last week, launched a new political group ~ a ‘wing’ of the new, united, conservative party in Alberta, I suppose ~ called United Liberty that, according to a CBC News report, “aims to convince members of the Wildrose and PC parties to vote in favour of forming a new party next month … [and] … He says the organization will also raise money and issue position papers that should guide the new party’s policy.” Since I think the unity issue is pretty much decided I’m guessing that he wants to focus on policies and, perhaps, even at leading the new party himself.
Maxime Bernier and Mr Filderbrandt, at ages 54 and 32 respectively, represent one “new” face of Canadian conservatism even, as we can all see, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at age 46, is just the face of old, recycled middle of the road policies …
… in fact it was Pierre Trudeau, in 1968, who upended the Canadian political system and tossed aside the “principles” based politics of St Laurent, Diefnebaker and Pearson and replaced it with a selfish “entitlement” system that, in effect, bought our votes with our own money ~ it worked: Canadian liked it and Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and others all followed suit. But, as we saw, many, many Canadians, especially many young Canadians do not “buy in” to the Trudeau system: they know that the current, 50 year old, course is unsustainable and some of them ~ not a majority but, certainly, not just a fringe, either ~ want radical change … the sort that some libertarians offer.
Is this the “new” conservatism?
No … but the “old” politics, the “buy my vote with my own money” politics, the only sort that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really understand is on the way out. I don’t believe that all or even most young, urban and suburban voters are instinctive libertarians … but they know that some things need to change and they are figuring out that Justin Trudeau does not represent “real change,” in fact he is just more and more of the same old, same old … Maxime Bernier offered real change and, it appears, Derek Fildebrandt may be offering real change to Albertans.
I just hope that the Conservatives of a libertarian inclination remember that the process is not revolutionary … they must move one stone after another ~ it will be a long, hard struggle and they will never get everything they want. But they are not voices in the wilderness. Maxime Bernier demonstrated and Mr Filderbrandt understands that Canadians, including many, many young, “hip,” urban Canadians can accept some of the libertarian message IF it is presented within a broadly acceptable, moderate, middle class friendly, socially responsible platform.
I’m not a libertarian, although I do share some of what I understand their views to be, and i don’t claim to speak for them … but I believe that they are an important and growing faction of the Conservative Party of Canada.