Canada’s Conservatives have taken their greatest strength and bulldozed it to the ground: this will not end well for them

Posted on December 21, 2016, 1:44 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander and Brad Trost get ready for their next debate on how best to Make Canada Great Again. Actual CPC leadership candidates may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Former Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach, Alberta PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney, and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Alberta’s most extreme right-wingers are not just talking these days as if it’s only a matter of ticking the weeks off their calendars until they automatically defeat Premier Rachel Notley and the province’s NDP Government, but as if the same thing is bound to happen soon in Ottawa as well.

Soon enough, they seem to reckon, prime minister Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander or Brad Trost will be Making Canada Great Again.

stelmachWhile what’s left of the mainstream media in Alberta does its best to push this narrative along – all the while being lambasted as “elites” by the principal beneficiaries of its hard work – all this hopeful certainty has the sharp sound of someone whistling past a graveyard late at night, especially when it comes to an honest assessment of the state of federal politics in Canada.

Given the hard economic knocks the Alberta government has faced, an NDP re-election has always been something of a long shot. Still, there is definitely a path to victory for New Democrats here, especially if so many of the right’s supporters continue to publicly slip into racism, homophobia, sexism, bullying, harassment and general hysteria. Plus periodic death threats, of course.

If there’s a prevailing theme in the Alberta Right’s noisy bravado of late – and it is related both to their fury at NDP’s successes on the pipeline file and their noisy insistence that the future belongs to them – it is that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and, by God, the same thing is bound to happen here!

You can read this message in many of the 200 or so comments made in response to my commentary a week ago on Rebel Media’s recent rallies in Edmonton and Calgary. Trumpism, they keep telling us, is coming to Canada.

Well, it always pays to stay alert to clear and present dangers, I guess, but, no, it isn’t.

There are several reasons for this.

kenneyFirst, while the three Conservative creepy clowns mentioned above might each aspire to be the Donald Trump of Canada, neither the federal Liberals nor the New Democrats are likely to run under a standard-bearer as egregiously bad as Hillary Clinton. An economic loon like Maxime Bernier might do slightly better for the federal Conservatives, but not enough to matter.

Even if one of the federal Liberals or NDP did so fumble – and that would have to be the New Democrats, since they’re the ones looking for a leader again – both of them wouldn’t.

And even if by some malign miracle both of them did, the Westminster Parliamentary system, warts and all, does not work the same way as the U.S. two-party presidential system, a point that seems to be lost on many of Alberta’s right wingers.

To put this another way, just for starters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is no Hillary Clinton, and that is not going to change.

Second, no foreign secret service is likely to bother hacking the NDP or Liberal mail servers looking for embarrassing emails.

But even if they did, Canadian provinces do not run federal voting within their jurisdictions. And even if that were true, there are still only a couple where the local governments would be inclined to game the system in favour of their national brethren as several important Republican states did.

trudeauThird, as the palpable relief in this country after Stephen Harper was sent packing in 2015 so clearly illustrates, Canadians are not Americans and our national character is not the American national character. One way or another, coming or going, there is a profound reason their constitution emphasizes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while ours promises peace, order and good government.

Canadians are not, it is said here, going to elect governments run by bullying loudmouths, as much as some of the most odious figures on our own domestic right would love to see that happen. So if a conservative government wins in most jurisdictions here, it will have to do so by presenting an image of maturity, steadiness and common sense.

Which brings me to my final point. One of the great successes of the Harper Government was that, even as it pursued a fairly radical policy agenda, it did so incrementally while presenting an image of quiet competence and a steady hand on the tiller.

Remember “strong, stable, Conservative government”? Mr. Harper remained in power for a very long time by projecting just such an image. It also took quite a long time for the message to sink in with Canadians that something rather different was actually going on.

Other than Michael Chong, can you imagine any of the present crop of would-be federal conservative leaders projecting such an image? And Mr. Chong, of course, stands very little chance of winning because, here in Canada as in the United States, the federal Conservative Party is now dominated by its own radical fringe, past which any credible leadership candidate must tippy-toe. But that is where the similarity ends.

If the planets all aligned, I could see Jason Kenney pulling something like that off in Alberta – after all, he learned at the feet of the master.

But even so, I doubt Mr. Kenney can succeed without projecting the sort of steadiness manifested by the Alberta PCs’ most successful recent leader with actual voters, Ed Stelmach, who was on his way to undoing much of the damage done to the party by Ralph Klein’s mismanagement when the party’s radical fringe persuaded him throw up his hands in despair.

For Mr. Kenney to project the same quality would require a big struggle to keep the worst of his supporters in line, not to mention to suppress his own instinct to fire off volleys of childish and offensive Tweets, as he did on Monday when he tried to use the tragedy in Berlin to score points against the CBC.

The Conservative Party of Canada, meanwhile, has already taken conservatism’s greatest strength and bulldozed it to the ground, replacing it with hair-on-fire wackiness.

This may please the Conservative Party’s base. It is not going to please Canadian voters. You can take that to a solid, law-abiding, federally chartered Canadian bank.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

25 Comments to: Canada’s Conservatives have taken their greatest strength and bulldozed it to the ground: this will not end well for them

  1. Reynold Reimer

    December 21st, 2016

    Another defense we have against the hair-on-fire wackies is a voting system that’s pretty well free of Jim Crow vote suppression, hackable voting machines, or other unfairness. ( For a taste of what happens in the country that bills itself a model democracy, see https://democracynow.org/2016/12/13/greg_palast_by_rejecting_recount_is) While we’re trying to figure out how to move to something like proportional representation, the people to the south are still trying to figure out how to count votes.

    Reply
    • Chris

      December 21st, 2016

      In 2000, the Americans voted on November 7, while the federal election here in Canada was on November 27. I remember a talking head on CNN, the day after our election, lamenting that 20 days after their vote they were still counting chads, whereas in Canada, millions of people put pencil to paper and the votes were counted that evening. I’m usually up on the technology, but I’m happy taking my graphite pencil and marking a piece of paper when it comes to something as fundamental and simple as voting.

      Reply
  2. TENET

    December 21st, 2016

    The mainstreet media is but a memory, our floundering CBC is under constant enemy fire, social media is besieged with vitriol, often violent. At least one loudmouth reality show lunatic is prepared to give voice to the dark side. There is presently more dark then light.

    The first foreign stop for a prolific Trump surrogate was?

    I believe we are every bit as vulnerable to our own Brexit apocalypse, or our own version of a lunatic like Trump.

    We are even more vulnerable when we think we are not. I will put my wish list under the tree.

    Reply
    • Dave

      December 21st, 2016

      Having lived in the People’s Republic of California for 20+ years, I think the idea that “it can’t happen here” is very much analogous to hearing “this time its different” with respect to stock market bubbles and oil booms. Complacency inevitably leads to its own natural punishment.

      I say this not because I think anything untoward happened to facilitate Trump’s election, aside from the Russians and the Trump campaign sending data to Wikileaks (an act worse than Watergate, because the burglars succeeded, were caught, and then their material published) and Clinton’s own history – she hasn’t done anything provably wrong except irritate a bunch of wealthy white guys, and even what she has done is significantly no worse than common practice.

      I think the issue is that the authoritarians among us are emboldened. People who used to have a filter, who felt embarrassed to hold delusional and racist thoughts, are no longer afraid. The racist uncle has his own TV channel. The cultural norms that permitted stable democracies for 70 years have been hollowed out. Fascism is viral, like the Spanish Flu, and its back until another generation develops a resistance to it.

      Reply
    • December 21st, 2016

      You are so correct.
      There are plenty of Trump folks in Alberta.
      We voted NDP to get rid of the PCs.
      The NDP are behaving just like the PCs–as the NDPCs.
      We’re tired of not being heard.
      Wildrose will be elected in Alberta in the next election.
      I doubt that the federal Conservatives will win simply because they aren’t as canny without Mr. Harper.

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        December 23rd, 2016

        You are wrong!

        Rachel Notley’s NDP are not behaving like PCs. For proof just count the number of scandals since they were elected – none. PC’s were guilty of nefarious behaviours and stupid public statements on a regular basis.

        Second, the Wildrose will not form the government in power in the next election. All the redneck wishful thinking won’t change that.

        Reply
  3. Tim

    December 21st, 2016

    Along the lines of my comment last night about Lee Richardson one thing Alberta Conservatives seem to be forgetting is there are a lot more alternatives to hard right Reform Party style conservatism today than there was in King Ralph’s and Preston’s 1990s heyday. Given that the Federal Liberals already have two seats in Calgary the idea of adding a third or fourth is not necessarily as far out as it seems even if the seats they are contesting used to belong to Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney(and in the Harper seat Preston Manning).

    At the provincial level unlike during the Stelmach years the alternative is not simply trying to fight the Morton/Wildrose crowd wanting to pull the PC government to the right internally but simply keeping in place the existing non Conservative NDP government. Thus as a purely political matter Sandra Jansen’s decision to cross the floor to the NDP as actually a lot easier today than it would have been during the Ralph Klein.

    Reply
  4. Andy M.

    December 21st, 2016

    Well argued piece, Blogger David. I wish I could be as optimistic as you about lack of future for hard righters. Call me Chicken Little, but I have sense of fundamental change in political landscape, not only across world but in Canada. From the sheer vehemence (and, from my perspective, loony quality) of political discourse, the sheep may be led who knows where. Or, I may be falling for the fear the hard right want to instill in populations everywhere. Or, have I been watching too much Fox and Russia Today?

    Reply
  5. Bill

    December 21st, 2016

    Excellent synopsis and comments.

    Your typo or my subliminal ?… ‘Alberta Right’s noisy bravado of late’ . I read hate. Yikes.

    Reply
  6. Sam Gunsch

    December 21st, 2016

    re: ‘ when he tried to use the tragedy in Berlin to score points against the CBC.’

    To get his delegate wins, my guess, Kenney is simply taking any opportunity to rouse the 30% of conservatives that don’t support CBC.

    CBC has strong or some support from the other 70% of conservatives, when asked their view of CBC in light of the decline of all private media.

    The data source is fall 2015 Nanos polling.

    http://www.friends.ca/Nanos-Research-Importance-of-the-CBC

    Support for CBC was over 90% among Lib’s, NDP, PQ and Greens.

    This high-level of support for CBC across the partisan spectrum, has been found in polls repeatedly over the decades. A strong majority of Canadians, left, centre, or right, appreciate that public broadcasters are important for an informed citizenry and democracy.

    And support is now even stronger, as we all see that the private media majors are forced to compete with clickbait in the online media world and have cut staff to the bone. While they pay their USA owners hundreds of millions in debt service and millions to executives.

    Despite the perception whipped up by steady attacks on CBC from the RW media and now from the loony Rebel thingy, it’s only this small minority of Canada’s hard-right conservatives that oppose public funding for our public broadcaster. But unfortunately for all of us, since the rise of the Reform Party, this minority’s pressure has managed to cut funding for CBC to less than half of the international average for public broadcasters. Of course, Harper’s cuts to CBC may not be fully restored for years, if ever. CBC’s local staff for coverage in Alberta were among the biggest losses in 2015.

    Kenney and others like Leitch are tapping into a minority view on CBC to win their leadership campaigns. And Levant’s nutty opposition to CBC has ramped up that

    Reply
  7. David

    December 21st, 2016

    I hope the conservatives are not counting on the support of the mainstream media to help them in Alberta in the next election. If things keep going the way they are, Postmedia will be in its post existence phase by then, unless the Federal Liberals decide to bail them out.

    The only potential conservative candidate in Canada who compares remotely to Trump is Kevin O’Leary. Unfortunately he is not bilingual and, unlike the US, that is an important consideration here in Canada. Kenney seems to be a bit milder, less spicy Canadian version of Ted Cruz – perhaps not so disliked by his own party, but definitely from the economic and social conservative side of things. Kenney seems to be comfortable getting the anti-abortionists and anti gay rights people to support him, but I am not sure he can broaden his appeal as his former boss Harper did. Harper was definitely a fiscal and economic conservative, but it didn’t seem the social conservative issues were as important to him. This helped him maintain an image of reasonableness and keep support from those moderates who were turned off by the social conservative message.

    Reply
  8. concerned citizen

    December 21st, 2016

    But we have already elected Rob Ford.

    Reply
  9. Lars

    December 21st, 2016

    Canadians are not, it is said here, going to elect governments run by bullying loudmouths…

    Not even when they’re named Ford?

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 21st, 2016

      The example of Rob Ford is an interesting one, raised by two commenters and relevant to some of the points made in this commentary. To wit (1) the electoral district, Metro Toronto, had been subject to electoral manipulation by a senior government inclined to try to rig the system to the advantage of its of its favourite ideology. In this case, the Mike Harris government and the forced amalgamation of distinct municipalities into a metro government that inevitably pitted local interests against one another. (2) The traditional use in Canada of a U.S.-style voting system to settle municipal representation. DJC

      Reply
  10. Athabascan

    December 21st, 2016

    LOL

    David you might not of thought about this when you wrote it, but “…to a solid, law-abiding, federally chartered Canadian bank.” is a hilarious statement. Did you have a specific bank in mind? I’m at a loss to name one that fits your “solid, law-abiding” parameters.

    Perhaps, we can encourage readers to deal with provincially regulated credit unions instead?

    Reply
  11. Student

    December 21st, 2016

    Why do conservatives fight so much?

    How much do you want to bet that even with a ‘united’ conservative party there will be another right wing fringe party that pops up and refuses to cooperate.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 21st, 2016

      Actually, Student, I am expecting it to be a moderate conservative party that refuses to cooperate. Assuming Jason Kenney is successful in his endeavour, I think there will be some moderate remnant of the Progressive Conservative Party (possibly forced into a new name) that will refuse to follow Mr. Kenney down the rabbit hole of alt right ideology.

      Where I think things could get really interesting is if such a party held the balance of power in a minority government. Who would they support – Kenney’s Frankenparty or the NDP?

      Reply
  12. Farmer B

    December 21st, 2016

    When I look at the success of Trump or of Brexit it is obvious to me that the failure of modern government policy to deliver meaningful economic gains to certain segments of our society due to their jobs being exported is the reason. As a financially conservative farmer I see the possibility of the carbon tax doing this again. One example of this is I was talking to my concrete supplier yesterday. He said due to the carbon tax his supplier of concrete powder(which makes up 65% of the cost of making concrete) was going to go up between 20-30% in the new year. A cubic metre of concrete is about $220. With a 20% cost increase to concrete powder, the price per cubic metre will rise to 248.6, a net increase of 13%. Imagine how that will affect the cost of the new infrastructure our Premier and Prime Minister are always promoting. I was talking to my local backhoe operator after he did some work for me, he said his rates would have to go up 10% in the new year, reason given, the carbon tax.

    Windmills maximum efficiency if properly situated is between 35 and 40%. So if we built enough windmills to supply 100% of our required capacity they would only supply 35-40% of our needs. Green energy makes for interesting math.

    The point I am making is that if the promise of all these new jobs due to our imposition of the carbon tax and the changes in our government policy don’t materialize than both the provincial NDP and federal Liberal are vulnerable. These policies of eliminating coal and encouraging renewable energy didn’t create jobs in Ontario, will they in Alberta? Only time will tell.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 21st, 2016

      I can definitely see how some unscrupulous business people will use the carbon tax to raise their own rates, then blame the increase on the carbon tax. When the backhoe operator increases his price by 10% because ONE of his costs has gone up by less than 10%, he is gouging, and blaming it on the carbon tax. Look for another operator.

      I am looking forward to the carbon tax finally arriving, because then the right wing media will have to quit their ‘sky is falling’ editorials. Given the current price of gasoline, it will still be cheaper with the carbon tax than it was before the price of oil dropped.

      Reply
    • anonymous

      December 22nd, 2016

      “So if we built enough windmills to supply 100% of our required capacity they would only supply 35-40% of our needs. Green energy makes for interesting math. ”

      Or perhaps they would build more windmills to account for inefficiencies? You wouldn’t, by chance, be growing Substance D on that farm of yours?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seP2DPqd0o8

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        December 23rd, 2016

        Anonymous this quote was taken from an article written by John Miller on theenergycollective.com. “Wind and solar power have average capacity factors of 33% and 20-25% respectively. This means during a given period of time(day,week,etc.),renewable wind/solar is only capable of supplying full design power generation capacity to the grid on-average about 20-33% of the time. Since wind and solar are variable and unpredictable, peaking power must be on-line 100% of the time. Peaking power must be on-line at some minimum rate and available to quickly adjust to variable renewables power supply changes as required to continuously control power grids supply-demand balances within operating safe limits.”

        So building more windmills wouldn’t work. To be able to have electricity whenever our modern society needs it takes a great deal of design and management.

        Reply
        • anonymous

          December 25th, 2016

          “To be able to have electricity whenever our modern society needs it takes a great deal of design and management.”

          True enough. But I think we’re up for the challenge.

          Reply
  13. Tim

    December 22nd, 2016

    One other thing to keep in mind is the Canadian “establishment” is actually a lot better at its job than say the British or American establishment. For example Canada’s decision to stay our of the Iraq War and Jean Chretien’s refusal of bank deregulation and mergers(Decisions that at the time were vehemently opposed by the Reform party BTW). Now one consequence of this is it might force the Conservatives to go even more radically to the right given they can’t run against bank bailouts or middle eastern wars in the same way as Trump did.

    Reply
  14. Tim

    December 22nd, 2016

    I will also add that Canadian Conservatives may want to tone down their Trump love as Trump has just announced he is considering cancelling US Air Force purchases of the F-35 Fighter Jet for guess what new CF-18 Super Hornet jets instead like “another” head of government has just done.

    http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/2016/12/trump-is-taking-aim-and-playing.html

    Laurie Hawn, this is the Edmonton International Airport information desk please pick up the white courtesy phone.

    Reply
    • Tim

      December 22nd, 2016

      Another though that came to my head that I will probably get in a lot of trouble for saying is that Trump in my mind also shows some very distant parallels to another former head of government who lives a few houses down from him Palm Beach named Brian Mulroney. Yes I know very this a very BIG leap but all this Trump wheeling and dealing reminds of me of Mulroney. I know today many Manning/Harper types abhor Mulroney but once upon a time there was actually a bit of populism in the Mulroney government. Think the debate with the Hillary Clintonesque John Turner. Then of course after Mulroney got elected he loaded up his government with patronage just like Trump is doing now.

      Plus Trump and Mulroney are both married to women from Yugoslavia(both Melania Trump and Mila Mulroney know each other quite well from what I have been told)

      Reply

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