Why Canadian Conservatives Are Doomed To Fail

December 1st, 2021 | RR

Canadian conservatives are doomed to fail because they can't unite. The blame doesn't just rest with the stubborn grassroots conservatives who throw up their hands and organize boycotts whenever their party of choice does something they don't like. There is just as much blame to be directed at the big parties and the career politicians who run them. Case in point, the blowback against big parties that have ousted their own members in provinces like BC, Alberta and Ontario.

In Alberta, Jason Kenney booted two MLAs from his caucus after they criticized him. In Ontario, Doug Ford booted an MLA who openly challenged his policies. In BC, the provincial Liberal Party, which is considered a right-of-centre conservative party with no affiliation to the federal Liberals, barred Aaron Gunn from running for its leadership. The same has happened with the federal Conservative Party, when a committee barred more than one candidate from running for the party's leadership.

In most of these cases, the ousted members went on to form their own rival parties, or to become fierce and vocal opponents of their former parties.

Overall, partisan conservatives in mainstream parties have contributed to their own failures by rejecting their own members. By ousting their own colleagues, they have effectively divided their own voters and created new enemies. If you've ever read The Art Of War  by Sun Tzu, you'd know how foolish it is to make enemies of your own troops.

Combined with the stubborn attitudes of grassroots and rural conservatives, Canadian conservatives have faced setbacks of their own making. As long as the elites and grassroots continue to make enemies of each other, there won't be a chance for victory on any horizon.

Here are some examples of how conservatives across Canada have shot themselves in the foot.

The Elitism Of Career Conservatives

In their last federal leadership race, the Conservative Party barred Richard Decarie and Jim Karahalios from running. Using the weakest of excuses each time, they cast the two men out into the wilderness to fend for themselves. Then Erin O'Toole ousted Derek Sloan. Before that, in the aftermath of their previous leadership race, the party chastised and cast out Maxime Bernier—who has gone on to form a rival party that captured 5% of the popular vote. Each time, by turning on its own generals, the big C party alienated a portion of its own base.

This is the kind of stuff that would make Sun Tzu cringe, but the Conservative strategists responsible for all of it (they, and we, know who they are) are convinced they know better.

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The big C party lost worse in 2021 than it did in 2019. Despite numerous Liberal scandals and a wrecked economy, the party had done so much damage to itself that winning was impossible and losing was inevitable. Rather than give themselves the ability to capitalize on low Liberal turnout, the party dashed an opportunity to unite its factions, to rally its base and to inspire ordinary Canadians.

On the provincial level, partisan elitists are no better.

In BC, provincial Liberal Party strategists barred Aaron Gunn—who threatened to overhaul the party with his conservative principles. On the first weekend of November, Gunn announced that he had cancelled his membership and will proceed to start a new party.

In Alberta, Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen have become two of Jason Kenney's harshest and most vocal critics after being thrown out of the party for criticizing their leader. As a result, a healthy portion of voters that were once united under the UCP banner have drifted away to a new reincarnation of the Wildrose Party. At the same time, Brian Jean has announced that he will run in a by-election for the UCP in Fort McMurray—only so he can help oust Jason Kenney in an obvious coup for the leadership.

In Ontario, Belinda Karahalios (wife of Jim) was expelled from the Ontario PC Party and caucus after voting against Doug Ford's emergency measures. Her and Jim have since decided to siphon conservative votes with their own party, New Blue.

In all of these cases, the partisan elitists inside mainstream conservative parties made enemies of their own friends. As a result, they lost voters and supporters that could have helped them win future elections. Rather than dealing with the criticisms in their own ranks and embracing the differences, they took their conservative critics to the train station.

These actions have hurt all of the parties mentioned here.

With an election coming up in June, the Ontario PCs are poised to lose 5% of the popular vote from 2018, when Doug Ford trounced Kathleen Wynne by 40-20. If the same number of people vote in the next provincial election, the PC Party could lose upwards of 245,000 votes, putting the NDP within sniping distance. Even if the New Blue Party siphons off only 5,000 votes overall, that could hurt the PCs in certain urban ridings.

The Alberta NDP has out-fundraised the UCP for four straight quarters in 2021. According to opinion polls, the numbers are grim for Jason Kenney. Although I think Kenney is a highly competent and Machiavellian politician, he could be in trouble. He has a good chance of pulling off a slim majority, but only if he pulls his pants up before the spring. With the Wildrose Independence Party exceeding 15% in some polls, the UCP may be forced to make amends with the grassroots.

The BC Liberal Party has barely raised more money this year than the BC Greens. Consistently, the governing NDP have out-raised the BC Liberals in 2021 by worrying margins. In the latest poll from Angus Reid, the BC Conservative Party has breached 10%. Once Aaron Gunn's new movement emerges, the BC Liberals will face more competition on the right.

Overall, things aren't looking good for conservatives in provincial politics. With the exception of Saskatchewan, most of the West is setting itself up for NDP rule. Even in Manitoba, the governing PC Party has been trailing the provincial NDP, which is being led by an indigenous rapper who has been accused of misogyny.

If things keep going how they are, every Western province in Canada will be under NDP rule by the end of 2023. By then, even Saskatchewan might have turned.

The Stubborn Grassroots

Not a single conservative should be expected to vote for a mainstream party that spits on them. However, when it comes to the stubborn ways of grassroots conservatives, their refusal to vote for mainstream parties stretches far beyond what has been talked about here.

Even before Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and the misguided ways of the federal party, grassroots conservatives have thrown hissy fits over single issues. Long before, and absent of the tactics being used by elitists inside the big parties, small C conservatives have boycotted big parties for having one or two policies they disagreed with.

Grassroots conservatives have a tendency to overlook the big picture when their parties make a decision that goes against one or two of their fundamental beliefs. As a result, their parties lose and they win nothing. Instead of getting a conservative government and a few good conservative policies, they get the opposite—all because they had a conniption over a single issue.

"Overall, things aren't looking good for conservatives in provincial politics."

Whether it be abortion or climate change, small C conservatives have handed the reins to leftists because they disagreed with one or two big C policies. This has happened repeatedly for as long as I have been an eligible voter, much to my dismay.

Compounded by the actions of mainstream conservative parties, the difficulties faced by conservative voters are about to get worse.

Not only are we going back to the Reform era in federal politics, we are going there on a provincial level as well. Factions are breaking and forming in almost every province, threatening to divide the electoral odds of conservatives across the country. In Saskatchewan, the separatist Buffalo Party took third place. In Alberta, the Wildrose Independence Party is polling at 15%; and in BC, the provincial Conservatives are rising, while Aaron Gunn comes back with a vengeance.

On all sides, conservatives have doomed themselves.

From the arrogance of big party elitists to the stubborn ways of the grassroots, there isn't a single election anywhere in Canada that conservatives can easily win at the moment. Conservatives have no chance in BC, their prospects are grim in Alberta, their numbers are sliding in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and Doug Ford is facing a likely minority. Furthermore, Blaine Higgs is unpopular in New Brunswick and Tim Houston's approval rating is cratering after less than four months on the job in Nova Scotia.

Federally, Erin O'Toole hasn't been able to crack 35% in popular support and likely never will.

Until conservatives of every stripe get on the same page, we don't have a chance in hell at winning or getting our policies implemented. Liberals and socialists will keep sliding into victory by default, all because we're too stubborn and arrogant to unite. When every big C strategist realizes they can't win without the grassroots, and when the grassroots realizes how elections work, things might change. At the moment, all we can do is reflect and look in the mirror, because winning elections is totally off the table.

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