Before I get to the topic of why 2018 matters, I suppose I should comment on the past week’s news, especially “Bloody Sunday” in Toronto and the impact of #MeToo. First, let me say that I agree with and support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: the women coming forward are brave and they must be supported, protected and believed … until, as I suspect someone will, almost inevitably, go too far and make an untrue, unfounded, malicious accusation ~ think of the recent false complaint about an “attack” on a hijab wearing student in Toronto.
On another note I must accept some responsibility; when men of Patrick Brown’s age were growing up my friends and I were in leadership positions in academe, in business, in government, in the military and in politics ~ we, clearly, failed to set the right examples. Some of us, ourselves, are likely guilty of misconduct or, at least, of a lack of appropriate conduct. While I know I never assaulted anyone, I also know that at least some of my words and deeds and attitudes were not what I would wish to be displayed towards my daughter. I could have done better … I should have done better.
For now, we must all welcome a necessary “clean out” of some people who failed to uphold the standards.
Now … why 2018 is a critical year:
Jamie Watt, a noted Conservative insider, has written an interesting and thought provoking column for the Toronto Star. Under the headline “This year a critical one for all federal parties,” Mr Watt says that:
- “Last year was, comparatively speaking, a tough one for the governing Liberals. While they maintained a comfortable lead in many opinion polls, their numbers were down from the previous year. And so they know that 2018 will be a critical year … [but] … The Liberals have a number of things going for them. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is an incredibly popular leader — a global superstar even — who connects with young Canadians like no politician in Canada in recent memory. The economy is growing, job numbers are strong, interest rates low and the Canadian dollar stable. And, at the time of the writing of this column, NAFTA was still intact … [while] … At the same time, the Liberals face some challenges. The limousine liberal critique is starting to hold. They have failed to deliver on promises made to Canadians, including electoral reform and restoring home mail delivery to everyone. In December, the CBC reported that the Liberal government had passed only half the number of the bills the previous Conservative government did by the same point in its mandate;”
- “The Conservatives have a different priority list, one that looks harder to execute. The party has yet to introduce leader Andrew Scheer to Canadians … [and] … Scheer’s attacks on the prime minister are not working. Trudeau was elected in 2015 largely because he was not Stephen Harper, but a majority of Canadians have wound up liking what they got when they voted for Trudeau;” and
- “Meanwhile, the NDP, whose leader is without a seat in the House of Commons, is in an unorthodox position. The party needs to find a way to capitalize on this … [however] … With the Liberals currently occupying a significant segment of traditional NDP policy territory, the NDP needs to decide how far left it can go without risking what support it gets from centrist voters.“
Based on those diagnoses Jamie Watt offers these prescriptions:
- The Liberals, he says, “need to deliver — on legalizing marijuana and on getting money out the door and shovels in the ground on significant pieces of infrastructure. They need make progress on campaign promises, such as eliminating the need for boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves … [and] … they need to strengthen their ability to manage issues — for instance, to limit stories about Trudeau’s visit to the Aga Khan’s personal island, and about offshore accounts held by wealthy Canadians, and settlements with former Guantanamo Bay detainees … [in short] … The Liberals need to focus on their strengths,” and, I would add, get rid of their “losers:” both policies and people;
- Andrew Scheer “needs to focus on developing an exciting piece of policy, a policy that will create a debate, a wedge issue that will increase Scheer’s relevance. Think a flat tax or an increase in the GST alongside a significant income tax reduction … [thus] … Sheer needs to move away from simply criticizing Liberal policy and begin to find a way to differentiate himself … [because] … We know that Conservatives connect with Canadians when they talk about lower taxes, family-friendly policies and even a pragmatic but fiscally responsible plan for the environment;” and
- He says that “The NDP should attempt to capitalize on what it sees as the failings of the Liberals, including climate change targets that mirror those of the Harper era, the continued existence of boil-water advisories on reserves, the lack of a national daycare strategy, and the shortage of affordable housing and transportation in urban centres … [and] … NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has the luxury of travelling the country without worrying about being in the Commons, should spend the next year in major cities and small towns, telling people how he will make life better for them. When a national leader comes to town, the local media follows. Without a seat in the Commons, this is the best way for him to make an impact … [but] … He needs to appoint someone in Ottawa to be a strong presence in the Commons, someone who can find tactical ways to keep the NDP in the national conversation on a day in, day out basis. This is a very challenging task for a third party.“
Jamie Watt concludes, and I agree, that “The fact that Trudeau is both a popular and divisive figure makes for an interesting time in Canadian politics … [and] … While he is the odds-on favourite to win in 2019, a successful 2018 for either opposition party could change that. As we saw on Wednesday night at Queen’s Park, anything can happen in politics.”
Justin Trudeau has sex appeal ~ there’s no better way to put it ~ which appeals, immensely (more than policies) to many voters; Jagmeet Singh has it too; Andrew Scheer, while undoubtedly a nice family man, the sort of fellow you would really like to have for a next door neighbour or co-worker, is, to be charitable, about as sexy as grey wool sock. That’s a problem for the Conservative Party and it would be foolish to deny it. While the Liberals can and will, without a doubt, continue to “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” as they did so well in 2015, the Conservatives must, as Mr Watt suggests, do the opposite: they need to sell innovative, exciting and popular policies and, simultaneously, they need to sell an honest, trustworthy, diverse Conservative team …
… a team with which all Canadians, young and old, male and female and transgendered, gay and straight, old stock and “ethnic,” can identify and within which each Canadian can find someone who “represents” their point of view.
To win in 2019 the Conservatives need to ignore my issues ~ a grand strategy for Canada, a strong, well funded national defence and carefully managed pruning of the social safety net ~ instead, as Jamie Watt says, they need to think boldly and to think big.
Is there scope for a Conservative guaranteed annual income? “It’s an idea that,” it has been noted on CBC News, “in some form, was championed by Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek, who wrote about “the assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or sort of floor below which nobody need fall” … and by … Noted free-market economist Milton Friedman [who] also supported a guaranteed national income — he preferred to call it a negative income tax, meaning those whose income falls below a certain level would receive cash benefits.” Even though it now seems to have something akin to “bipartisan hostility,” if Hayak and Friedman supported it then it cannot be anathema to real Conservatives, can it? I’m not suggesting that it should be the core of a new platform but I do think it is the sort of big, exiting and, I suspect, popular notion that Conservatives must embrace.
Maybe Conservatives should risk alienating some communities and promise, for example, to reintroduce proper accountability for First Nations ~ I know that First Nations leaders hate the notion because they, too, are elected leaders and the people who vote for them want to avoid the harsh glare of the auditors’ scrutiny. Perhaps there’s room for a better, more tightly focused immigration policy that rewards successes (China, India and the Philippines) and closes our borders to improper entrants. Both the Liberals and the NDP would make political hay out of those policies but they might win back the affections and respect of more Canadians than would find such policies odious.
Jamie Watt says that the Liberals need to “limit stories about Trudeau’s visit to the Aga Khan’s personal island, and about offshore accounts held by wealthy Canadians, and settlements with former Guantanamo Bay detainees;” conversely that means that Conservatives need to keep reminding Canadian that the Librano$ never really left Canadian politics and chicanery, corruption and entitlements remain firmly entrenched in the Liberal Party’s DNA …
… there is not much to choose between the stench of corruption in the Chrétien years and the sour odour of entitlement and being above the law that characterizes Justin Trudeau’s regime.
Conservatives need to believe, in the very fibre of their being, and affirm, over and over again, that ALL Canadians, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation or status are equal … absolutely equal at and under the law, governors and governed alike. The rules that apply to a political insider in Ottawa or a tycoon on Bay Street must apply, equally, to a shop clerk in Saanich, Swift Current, Shawinigan or St. John’s. Conservatives should stand against hyphenated Canadianism ~ it’s fine to honour our various and sundry heritages at folk festivals but not in official government programmes. That means that Conservatives must put their reservations about some “hot button” issues behind them. Canadians who happen to be homosexual or single parents or Rastafarian are still Canadians … and that’s all they should be to the party and the government it will form.
Conservatives need, above all, to be the party of principles.
The party needs to enunciate a principled, even selfish foreign policy that doesn’t seek to make any enemies but is willing to treat everyone ~ America, Britain and China all the way through to Zambia and Zimbabwe ~ as fair and friendly trading partners. We should, always, favour liberal democracies over tyrannical kleptocracies but we should not interfere in the internal affairs of others unless and until we are ready to fight.
The Conservative Party‘s most important principle should be that Canadians know best how to use their own money for their own benefit and for the health and welfare of their communities. While some government is aways necessary the Conservatives should, always, be committed to the notion and must promise that taxes will be kept as low as is humanly possible to meet the government’s proper (and limited) obligations to its citizens, its creditors and the world.
Conservatives should not go around
promising threatening “pink slips and running shoes” for a civil service that is, without a shadow of a doubt, biased towards the left and the Laurentian Consensus at the junior and middle levels, nor should it promise (or threaten) a free trade deal with China in six months, but the party, and that means every candidate running under the CPC banner, should be committed to and promise a government that works, efficiently and effectively for ALL Canadians, not just for the Laurentian Elites.
The Trudeau led Liberals are, indeed, still “the odds-on favourite to win in 2019,” but, as Mr Watt says, “a successful 2018 for either opposition party could change that.” It seems to me that a “successful 2018” for the Conservative Party of Canada means:
- First, playing to its acknowledged strengths –
- Lower taxes,
- Family-friendly policies, and
- A pragmatic but fiscally responsible plan for the environment;
- Second, developing innovative, exciting and popular policies that will be hard for the Liberals to either criticize, effectively, or trump, politically; and
- Third, focus on a team that can connect with ALL Canadians, not just on un-sexy Andrew Scheer.