Why The PPC And FCP Matter

January 1st, 2019 | R. Rados
ppc bernier

Maxime Bernier and Derek Fildebrandt can be described as two apples from the same tree. Both are sore losers who either got kicked out of their parties or left because they didn't get their way. Fildebrandt's situation deserves a bit more empathy because he was kicked out of the UCP caucus and barred from running. Bernier's only reason for leaving the federal Conservatives was that his panties were in a bunch. However, when it comes down to it, both of their new parties serve a valuable purpose that all disgruntled voters should appreciate.

Maxime Bernier, in my opinion, is an incompetent flake. Derek Fildebrandt has too much personal baggage that undermines his entire goal. With that said, I would like to see their parties have moderate success. I won't ever vote for the PPC as long as Bernier is the leader and the FCP is a bit too risky in my own riding, but if these parties maintain a Green Party level of success—as in, they stay strong enough to continue existing but weak enough to never win a lot of seats—they would serve as viable future alternatives for voters who lose faith in the establishment.

As two recent polls have shown, Andrew Scheer's Conservatives are doing great without Bernier and the PPC hasn't damaged Conservative numbers. One of the reasons is because many PPC voters were never politically engaged until Bernier became a leadership player. If you watch clips and interviews from those who attend Bernier rallies, they all say similar things: this is their first foray into politics. For those who value democracy, that's a good thing.

As a voter, I'd like the option to vote against the established parties when they become too out of touch or corrupt. To Maxime Bernier supporters, that time has already come. I disagree with them, but I can see where they're coming from—especially if they are first-time voters who have always felt disenfranchised and disengaged. If the PPC is giving them a reason to vote and be politically involved, all the power to the PPC. It's when the PPC starts dividing the right that it becomes a problem, which hasn't happened yet and probably won't as long as Maxime Bernier is in charge. Even as a leadership hopeful for the Conservative Party, Maxime Bernier attracted those who were disengaged and never really cared much for government. His anti-establishment message brought people into the fold and increased CPC membership numbers, so if he takes a lot of the same people away, it won't be too detrimental for Andrew Scheer. Chances are, a lot of them might stay with the Conservative Party if they hate Justin Trudeau enough.

For me, I like having parties like the Freedom Conservative Party on standby in case Jason Kenney tries to take Alberta back to the old PC era of decay, cronyism and arrogance. So far, it's looking like he might. As for the PPC, if they build a solid base, grow past Bernier and elect a leader who is more competent and genuine, I would consider them as an option if Andrew Scheer or any forthcoming CPC leader makes all the wrong moves.

Essentially, parties like the PPC and FCP are good not only for disengaged members of society, but for all voters. For people like myself, whose political loyalty only goes so far, having other options on the table is better than being stuck. Pledging unbounded loyalty to any political party is not only stupid, it's impractical. Unbounded loyalty means sticking with a party or organization that has gone off the rails or become corrupt to the core. Those who blindly support a party like that are the real perpetrators of corruption.   

With that said, it's important to acknowledge that Andrew Scheer's Conservatives are not that kind of party. If you're a Bernier supporter, you're disagreeing with me, but there isn't a single bit of evidence to show that the CPC is corrupt, out of touch or taking conservatism in the wrong direction. Just because your guy lost by a fraction of a percentage doesn't make the Conservative Party corrupt. The vote wasn't rigged and the party has still proven to be more ideologically diverse than ever. Furthermore, Scheer's support for supply management and the Paris Agreement don't make him a liberal. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to accommodate the electorate—these decisions are more strategic than ideological.

Democracy Is About Winning

Democracy requires strategy. On its own, small C conservatism is diverse, uncooperative and individualistic. Small C conservatism as a movement could never win an election in Canada's current political environment. It would be impossible for any conservative political party to meet the needs of every faction of conservative in Canada. The Conservative Party is still home to free-market capitalists who support smart pro-immigration policies, reasonable amounts of ethnic diversity and an array of more conservative social policies—things Bernier's PPC seems to be against.

The CPC is a mixed bag that won't ever be able to satisfy everyone. It's a mix of pro-immigration and anti-immigration members. It's a mix of socially liberal and socially conservative voters. To make it more complicated, the CPC is also home to members who support a less ideological management style for economics—which can include supply management when needed. Take Jason Kenney as an example. He recently called for Alberta to mandate a cut in oil production in order to increase prices and drive more cash into the province's oil patch. As Soviet in style it may be, some conservatives support temporary measures like this to help the greater, economic good.

The fact is that if Alberta's oil cuts work to drive up prices and improve economic conditions and investments in Alberta, no one will be able to argue against it. The fact is, sometimes things like this work—even if they are based on socialist principles. Managing (or not managing) an economy can solely be based on ideology, but if the going gets tough like it has in Alberta, people start to throw their ideological principles aside for the sake of prosperity. Libertarians scoff at this, but a part of functioning as an individual or society means having to take control of certain situations for survival. Letting the economy sink and damage individual prosperity and the livelihoods of citizens in the name of free-market capitalism doesn't always work—especially in a democracy.

Throughout history, humans have taken control of things in order to survive or make life easier. Had we let the wolves and bears eat us without fighting back, we'd be dead. No one stands by and lets their own house burn down for the sake of letting nature run its course.

Sometimes life requires intervention. This can be done without going full retard. When it comes to democracy and party politics, it's about winning elections. Winning elections requires strategic thinking over blind ideology. Without winning elections, conservatives have no hope of changing any policies.

This isn't an argument in favour of socialism. This is an argument for balance, reason and prosperity. Full socialism destroys stable societies and turns individuals into dependent, inefficient wastes of skin. However, on the other hand, the unmitigated capitalism envisioned by Ayn Rand might not work either. Without law there cannot be freedom and if we are looking to protect certain rights and freedoms, unmitigated capitalism won't do it. Take the recent censorship within Twitter, Facebook and Youtube as examples.

Balance: Government vs. Corporation

Libertarians will tell us that platforms like Twitter and Facebook can do whatever they'd like. Unfortunately, corporatism and monopolies are consequences of unmitigated, free-market capitalism. Unless government steps in to legislate against monopolies and corporate takeovers, we will always end up with fewer choices and more monopolies.

Facebook has consumed Whatsapp and Instagram, forcing its censorial policies onto what were two separate platforms. Google consumed Youtube, Twitter consumed Periscope and Disney consumed Marvel. How long do we have before every remaining media platform or enterprise is consumed into a larger whole? Libertarians love to hate government, but they seem to be less hateful when it comes to big, bureaucratic dictatorships that exist under the moniker of corporation in a so-called free-market economy.

The only way to protect individual freedom and things like free speech (where it is actually law) is with a fine, complicated balance.

Libertarians might argue that we don't currently live in a true free-market, capitalist society. They're right, but we never have. There have been several times in North American history when governments have intervened to prevent or break up monopolies. For the most part, the results of these interventions ended up being beneficial to the greater good and the greater economic prosperity of society. Due to the heavy influence of corporatism in politics, these kinds of interventions have been happening a lot less.

The bottom line is that unmitigated capitalism hasn't been proven to protect individual rights or overall human rights. Since socialism hasn't either, the answer is balance.

Balance And Diversity In Democracy

Democrats and Republicans have competed and achieved a strange kind of balance in America for more than a century. Despite seeming like a duopoly without any real choices, the United States has managed to be a more politically balanced and diverse country than Canada. There is evidence for that in the internal primary systems of both parties.

If you disagree, just think about how Canadians have voted compared to Americans over the past one hundred years. Despite being a political duopoly, the United States has maintained more political diversity than Canada. Even looking at voting records in the US Congress compared to Canada's House Of Commons reflects a diversity not seen in Canada. The election of Donald Trump and the amount of diversity seen in America's political primary systems makes Canada look like a one-party system.

More often than not, elected Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats in Canada vote along strict party and ideological lines. Looking at the US Congress reveals a strange kind of diversity in which Democrats sometimes vote with Republicans and vice versa. A recent example is Trump's border wall, which is failing to pass a Republican-controlled Senate. Another example is Obamacare, which had resistance on both sides of the aisle before it was eventually passed. In Canada, we can barely get Liberals to trip up on the talking points that were given to them by Gerald Butts.

Justin Trudeau's majority government and Stephen Harper's majority government both passed new legislation, reforms and laws without any real push-back. Both governments have changed course on some things, but not because they couldn't muster up enough votes in the House Of Commons. Despite being a rare occurrence, both governments backed off of new policies because of public backlash, like Trudeau's recent info-grab using StatsCanada.

Canada has an homogeneous political landscape made up of milquetoast politicians and stale personalities. Minus the rare uprising of anger, Canada has been heading in one direction for the majority of its existence. Despite being a duopoly, the US has managed to maintain a healthy level of political diversity and balance, while successfully reversing and changing course on fundamental policies.

Canada is not only lacking in political diversity, it's lacking in balance. Canada's conservatives would be considered Democrats if they were transplanted South of the border. Canada has been on an imbalanced, left-leaning political course for more than a century and even elected conservative governments have failed to change that. This is a consequence of the electoral reality, not the ideology within the Conservative Party. It was a Progressive Conservative government that implemented a national sales tax called the GST, and Canada has had a fully left-wing policy on abortion for more than fifty years—even under Conservative majorities. To this day, Canada has free, taxpayer funded abortions and a public healthcare system for everyone. This is a reflection of Canada's imbalanced and seemingly permanent left-wing trajectory.

A part of being a balanced democracy involves changing policies and changing course. Attitudes, opinions and flavours change—meaning that policies evolve, change or get repealed and replaced by new things. In Canada, nothing has really changed on a deep, fundamental level in more than seventy years. Even talking about private options in healthcare to improve a struggling public system is considered sacrilegious in Canada.

In the United States, the first ever single-payer healthcare system was put into effect, a thirty-year-old free trade agreement was renegotiated, a long-standing interventionist foreign policy was reversed with the election of Donald Trump, net neutrality was introduced and then repealed, historic prison reforms passed with bi-partisan support and long-standing international alliances came under scrutiny. This all happened within two decades, all while Canada stayed the same, except for the legalization of weed—which can be considered, by some, to be yet another step to the left.

The only real level of political diversity in Canada exists in the country's conservative movements. Unfortunately, none of them can get along to win elections. On a national level, this has resulted in a complete lack of diversity and—therefore—a complete lack of balance.

Canada currently has only one official, national conservative party and four official left-wing parties. The Liberals, Greens, NDP and Bloc in Quebec have inhibited Canada's imbalanced, left-wing direction without much resistance from conservatives. Before the Conservative Party, there were two competing conservative parties that had no chance of ever forming government due to the left-wing proclivities of Canadian voters. When they merged and eventually formed government under Stephen Harper, nothing really changed over ten years. This was a conscious strategy to get Canadians to trust the Conservative Party and to make it a viable option for a long time to come.

If parties like Maxime Bernier's People's Party can gain traction in Canada without beating down Conservative support, it would be a sign that Canada is in the process of achieving some kind of balance.

The NDP, Greens and Liberals have co-existed in Canadian politics just fine. If other right-leaning parties can take shape and compete similarly with the Conservative Party, without shifting the balance in the complete opposite direction or maintaining the current left-wing tilt, we will have achieved some semblance of balance and diversity. As of now, we still have a lot of work to do.

This is why the PPC might play an important role in future elections. If the party can truly bring new and disenfranchised voters into the fray, without damaging other right-wing parties, the balance of power in Canada could slowly begin to tilt toward the middle. Although countries like the United States shift from left to right over the course of eight years, we see balance on a longer timeline. Left and right-wing policies come and go over decades, only to balance out in the end. This hasn't been happening in Canada. Canada is still a left-wing country at its core.

Canada has been heading in one perpetual direction for a hundred years, but with some luck, that could change over time.

Political balance isn't about the short haul, it's about the long haul. If the PPC is in it for the long haul, there will definitely be a place for it in the House Of Commons, if—or when—Canada finally achieves the balance and diversity it has been lacking.