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.
While 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.
First, 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.
Third, 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.