Saturday, May 19, 2007

Me in the Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun columnist Barbara Yaffe has an interesting column in today's paper examining unrest among Canada's conservatives.

And I'm not just saying it's interesting because it quotes me.

Yaffe rightly notes all the reasons small "c" conservatives are growing increasingly upset with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government: the spending, the Emerson affair, pandering to Quebec etc.

But she then argues all this conservative anger is playing into Harper's plans.

He wants conservatives to attack him because, says Yaffe, this makes him more palatable to mainstream voters.

Here's how she puts it:

That those on the right of the party would be fussing about Harper's unconservative record in government serves to assuage prevalent fears more mainstream Canadians have had about Harper being too much a conservative ideologue.

They're bound to see him as more centrist and electorally acceptable now that he is increasingly unacceptable to more doctrinaire segments within his own party.

Maybe Yaffe's right (Although the polls certainly show Harper is not gaining any ground -- despite the fact he is facing a weak opponent in Stephane Dion.)

Maybe the Tory strategy of moving to the left will eventually help boost his poll numbers.

But that would only be a short term success. Over the long term a political party needs a strong base to be successful.

The base is made up of people who contribute money, who hand out brochures, who go canvassing, who put up lawn signs, who help get the vote out on election day, and most importantly who vote.

Who does that kind of stuff? Motivated people. People who believe in what a party stands for, who believe in the vision the party is promoting.

Non-motivated or angry people won't do all these things. They might just stay home.

That's why if the Tories continue to alienate and anger their base it will hurt them, maybe not today or tomorrow, but sooner or later the party will pay a price for betraying its supporters.

Just ask Kim Campbell.


Ace said...

Kim Campbell attacked Harper for being too socially conservative during the 2006 elections.

She later endorsed him according to her Wikipedia article but make no mistake - she IS a Red Tory.

The Liberals won three elections and their base has never been motivated.

Nobody is thinking about an election at this time, so polls are not particularly meaningful unless taken in 15-point jumps.

Wonder Woman said...

Right you are. Unfortunately, it's beginning to look like our Conservatives have taken a few too many lessons from the Liberal playbook on empire building.

I will not stay home on election day, but I am seriously considering spoiling my ballot, if they keep this up!

Sean Cummings said...

Not that I am a huge Harper fan, but Canada generally doesn't elect blue tory governments... we do red ones. It's part of that whole "governing from the mushy middle" thing and Harper is doing what he must do in order to somehow obtain a majority. (Which, I believe, he will never obtain because he's about as cuddly as a porcupine and Canadians sooo want to feel loved.)

Blue tories like yourself are welcome to start another party and spend another decade or more in the political wilderness.

Anonymous said...

So, what you mean, Gerry, is that Harper has a plan to get conservatives to attack him?

Well, his plummeting popularity would indicate that this plan may not be working. At least, not very well.

It certainly isn't with me.

Unfortunately, Harper will not be able to shake his Staussian neocon roots. Neocons are premature dinosaurs. I agree with Sean that Harper will never win a majority government.

None of these mainstream parties deserve or should get one so I think reforming a "Progressive Conservative" party that sticks to its principles would actually be a great thing.

NB taxpayer said...

But that would only be a short term success. Over the long term a political party needs a strong base to be successful.

No question, Gerry. However, political parties also need their strong base to remain loyal to the longterm success of their party and the country.

A big reason why the Republican party in the US has remained in power long enough to change the landscape of their country and the Tories in Canada have not.

In other words, the conservatives in Canada would rather reduce themselves to weak, ideological and unpowerful political factions all in the name of internal battles. Say what you want, but I just don't see the point of acting all righteous, especially when the end result places us on the outside looking in at another default Liberal regime.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone else brought the GOP up!

I was south of the border recently, and was surprised to find out that people knew our PM. They referred to him as mini-Bush -- this was not meant in a complimentary way.

A lame duck president equates to a lame duck PM.

jema said...

You people have not studied the parliament of Canada, IMO. PMSH and the Conservatives are not a majority, the Liberano/Dipper/Blochead lump of left wing ideologues hold the MAJORITY of the votes. Nothing sane can be accomplished in such a situation. PMSH is the best PM Canada has ever had - just imagine for a moment life in this country with French citizen DeYawn as PM with his prop up gang moving us to the realm of State slavery?
This country has been run by the left for most of the century - the Reform Party saved us from Dictatorship. PMSH has to take baby steps with the state babies, the education system has spewed out thousands of 'entitled to ' citizens who cannot think for themselves. Stop blaming the Conservative government, thank them for the sanity that has not made the 'babies' quake in the state stables and blame the citizens of Canada for allowing our country to list to the left in such a dangerous fashion.

Steve said...

Frustrating as it may be, the political reality is that Harper must attract enough voters from the centre to form a majority. There are two ways of doing that. One, is to move to them, which seems to be what he is doing. Or two, pull them to you.

I'm all for the second option, particularly because you don't have to twist yourself into an ideological pretzel to do so. Still, it is not easy to pull people right when they have been conditioned to think in Liberal terms for so long.

Maybe we should just play along if a little sniping from the right makes more people comfortable with the Conservatives. Then, once we get a majority we can start tugging.

This is not going to be easy. Just think, there are substantial numbers of Russians and east Europeans who pine for the communist days. What makes you think Canadians are any different? I wish it wasn't so. Still, a left-wing "Conservative" government is better than going back to a Liberal one.

Anonymous said...

"I agree with Sean that Harper will never win a majority government."

...I don't think that any party will.

Are majority governments a thing of the past?

Roundhead said...

hello Gerry

But look what happened when conservatives abandoned Kim Campbell in droves – presumably to vote either for Preston Manning or Jean Chretien: we got ten years of Jean Chretien.

It is a fool’s quest to attempt to re-form Reform, or whatever it would be called. It’s just a matter of fact that the Harper government has to rule over a parliament in which its members are a minority – and I despise the light-bulb ban as well. Here’s my guess: once the news gets out how dangerous and expensive the “alternative” light bulbs are, the ban will be rescinded.