Three Things Conservatives Need To Win
March 1st, 2020 | JH
The liberal media would have us believe that the Conservative Party of Canada has two choices. The first choice is to nominate a strident “fighting conservative” that presents all facets of conservatism much more assertively in the hopes that trad-con ideology will be clearer and more concise and maybe (but unlikely) more appealing.
The second choice is to modernize the CPC and bring it back to the centre of the political spectrum. By this they mean: move left and become another progressive party celebrating things like abortion, gay stuff and deficits. Also start pretending to worry about climate change and raise taxes in order to show it.
Neither of these approaches is going to work.
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The first approach will see the CPC just smashing its head against the wall. This approach doesn’t sell. Canadians prefer leftist governments and conservatives usually only win when leftist incumbents have run out of steam. Asserting a muscular kind of conservatism might work, or it might not; it depends on nothing more than luck.
The second approach sees the CPC losing even if it wins. What’s the point of having two Liberal parties in play? Cuckservatism is appealing only to progressives that will never vote Conservative anyway.
Here are three things to consider…
1. Big Ideas
The Conservative Party isn’t going to dislodge Trudeau’s Liberals by microwaving Harper-era policy. Scheer proved this. The party needs some invigorating big ideas. It needs some big and radical ideas for the purpose of aiming at and attempting to achieve something. Being in power isn’t enough, you actually have to do something. The big ideas should be attention grabbing and ambitious.
Harper cutting the GST from 7% to 5% won him the 2006 election. It was big, bold and ambitious. It ate up revenue which put the brakes (temporarily) on spending and gave people back more of their own money in the process. It was populist and smart. I’ve suggested repeatedly that the CPC should do it again and cut it down to 3%. People would love it. More importantly… the correct people would love it.
Who are the correct people?
Not Toronto socialists and Montreal elitists. Not downtown Vancouver left-wingers. Not the usual suspects that liberal pundits suggest Conservatives JUST HAVE TO WIN OVER IN ORDER TO WIN AN ELECTION! These people are write-offs.
The real people the CPC needs to reach can be found in the 35% of eligible voters that couldn’t be bothered to vote.
These are people who are ignorant and disengaged. These are people who will wake up only if they have a reason to do so. In the U.S. these are the people who put Trump into office. A big idea that shakes them into the game is what is needed. The GST cut in 2006 did this. Today we need something even bigger. What might that be? Use your imagination.
2. Go after NDP votes
Many NDP voters consist of non-woke folks that perceive the NDP to be “for the people”. They are personally conservative across the board, but they perceive Conservatives to be the party of rich people and big business that care nothing about the little guy.
If the CPC made some big moves to steal from and undercut the NDP, they could win a lot of votes from NDP supporters, especially with woke-Sikh Jagmeet at the helm. Imagine the CPC doing something like stealing Pharmacare as a policy. Imagine a national minimum wage of $20 an hour. Imagine being pro-union.
This stuff seems anathema to trad-con, Harper-era conservatism, but how else do you expect to win? Corporate tax cuts? Mass immigration? Prancing in a Pride parade? Get real. Conservatism in Canada needs a populist swing and by effectively conservatizing NDP policies the CPC could pick up an extra 10% support without losing any from the base. Transform socialism into Burkeanism and call it a day.
"The Conservative Party isn’t going to dislodge Trudeau’s Liberals by microwaving Harper-era policy."
3. Court the Maritimes
With some big ideas and some NDP theft the Conservatives would already be more attractive to the Maritimes. The Maritime provinces have a strange relationship with conservatism. In most of the rest of the country “Red Tory” is a euphemism for a conservative Liberal. Or more specifically…fiscal conservative and social liberal. Most people aren’t truly fiscally conservative and socially liberal… that’s just a virtue signal to let people know that they’re progressive, but have their head on their shoulders.
In the Maritimes, it’s typically the other way around. A “Red Tory” is a fiscal liberal and a social conservative. This was the historical idea of Red Tory. Since these regions are usually more insular and have deeper roots but are also economically vulnerable in terms of seasonal industry…these values tend to make more sense on the political spectrum.
By presenting some big ideas that could deeply involve the Maritimes (shipbuilding, infrastructure spending, greater protection and subsidization of the fisheries) the Conservatives could win favour in that often-neglected part of the country. There are 30 seats up for grabs, neither Harper nor Trudeau could have won their majorities without these seats. Unlike Quebec and downtown Toronto and Vancouver, the Maritimes actually have a record of voting Conservative. Grab for it.
The Conservative Party can’t keep trying to do what worked fifteen years ago. It also can’t just keep moving to the left in hopes that the party will be acceptable in the books of progressive tastemakers. The party is already to the far left of where the Liberal party was in the 90’s and this leadership race has the potential to undo the party completely.
The CPC needs some big new ideas. They need to steal some NDP populism. They need to court the Maritimes. It’s really just that simple.
Andrew Scheer barely lost the 2019 election. If 17 seats here and there were flipped, he would be leading a minority government right now. 17 seats is nothing. If the weather was different on election day Scheer could have won. So, let’s not get too radical, but let’s not wallow in the stagnant status quo either. With some big new ideas, some NDP theft and a greater focus on the Maritimes, the CPC can easily win a majority mandate next time.
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