It is an open secret in Canada that the Conservative Party is dead in the water or, at any rate, in total disarray. Its last two leaders, Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole, were political duds who would not recognize a conservative principle if it held a gun to their heads, and both had to resign in disgrace for scuttling the Party’s electoral chances. Over the last two electoral cycles, the Party itself has posed no threat to the governing Liberals or to their petulant, adolescent leader Justin Trudeau—whom Jordan Peterson aptly called a “teenager”—a prime minister who, though triply vaccinated, tested positive for Covid while hectoring others to get vaccinated. The contradictions escaped him perfectly. The Conservatives had as little to say about this glaring instance of mental scotoma as they did about the fact that the nation’s leader went into hiding rather than face the truckers’ Freedom Convoy when it arrived in Ottawa. (Trudeau only recently emerged from his bunker.)
The Conservative Party was not in opposition but in cahoots. Every Liberal measure, whether the imposition of a carbon tax or, in the words of John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the legislating of Bill C-8 prohibiting what is called conversion therapy “and making it a criminal offense for parents to help their own gender-confused children,” or most significantly, the two-year suspension of the country’s Charter rights, passed with barely a whisper of protest. The Conservatives became a national joke.
Most of the principled individuals in the party have either been thoroughly marginalized or have decamped. Max Bernier, following some extremely shabby treatment by the Party elect, left to found the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). Conservative stalwart Derek Sloan and the more popular Pierre Poilievre were both demoted for breaking ranks. Sloan formed the Ontario Party and Poilievre is considering a run for the vacant federal Conservative leadership position. Independent MP Randy Hillier, ousted from the Ontario Progressive Conservative provincial caucus in 2019, heads the Ontario First Party with the blessing of Bernier. A New Blue Ontario party is also in the works.
The fracturing of parties at both the federal and provincial levels guarantees continued conservative weakness and must be remedied. Splinters are not beams. The answer lies in collaboration, the merging of interests in an amended and rebuilt national party or a new caucus we might call the True Conservative Party of Canada, the TCPC. Fractions should not be factions. Bernier and Poilievre belong together and Sloan should be an important figure on the federal rather than provincial stage. They should be pooling their resources rather than competing, coming together as a single political entity, without acrimony or resentment, meanwhile working to recruit or persuade certain members of the currently moribund Conservative mothership who are skeptical of the party line but have been reluctant or afraid to buck the consensus and jeopardize their careers. The Party, after all, had been silent as the Liberals ran roughshod over the Constitution. I suspect there might be a number of defectors who may put principle and decency above expedience and career. Others, no doubt a majority, will sense the direction of change and rethink their political stance. It may be late in the game, but better now than not.
The truckers’ Freedom Convoy, whatever the immediate consequences of its courageous sortie, has changed the playing field. It reveals the Liberals with glabrous clarity as budding totalitarians and its leader as a corrupt and cowardly, hate-spewing incompetent. As noted, it also sounds the death knell of the Conservative Party as we presently know it, a collection, with only a few exceptions, of morally invertebrate politicos without a core, unifying philosophy and, no less crucially, minus a killer instinct.
This is the historical moment for true conservatives to seize the opportunity and unite as a coherent political force. There is precedent. Founded in 1987, the Reform Party of Canada, which morphed into the Canadian Alliance in 2000, ultimately merged with the Progressive Conservatives in 2003 to become the Conservative Party of Canada. The last stage in the process of political affiliation among conservatives is now at hand, and there is no time to waste. One way or another, a disorganized party must be rebuilt or it will become permanently irrelevant. It should be clear that the Party as it now stands cannot be modified, it must be transformed.
Some have placed their hope in interim leader Candice Bergen, who delivered a stirring pro-trucker, anti-Trudeau speech in the House of Commons; she has since changed tack, saying the protesters have made their point, should “take down the barricades,” that “the economy we want to see reopened is hurting,” and that the Conservative Party will take up their fight in the House of Commons instead. In so doing, she has disqualified herself as a unifying candidate for Party renewal. Her position is not much different from that of Liberal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who asserted that the convoy members are not above the law. “They pose serious dangers for the economy, and they are breaking the law.” Mendicino seems unaware that it is precisely the federal government and its provincial allies whose lockdowns and mandates have posed serious dangers to the economy and who, in suspending the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have placed themselves above the law. The hypocrisy is mind-numbing. Conservatives should be paying attention rather than riding shotgun.
My own preference for the role of leader would be a co-opted Randy Hillier for his bluff, no-nonsense outspokenness or a co-opted Max Bernier, who is both decent and bilingual, the latter a major qualification for high office in Canada. (The PPC is at present the only genuine Conservative caucus in Canada.) Hillier and Bernier appeared together at a recent press conference advocating on behalf of the truckers and demanding the end of vaccine mandates. I am not so sure about current favorite Pierre Poilievre, who was largely invisible over the last two years and touts the virtue of vaccination, which the world’s leading epidemiologists know to be counterproductive, if not downright harmful. His endorsement of the vaccines is a Liberal talking point, not a scientific assessment.
In pursuing the venture of renewal and renaming, career calculations must be neutralized, personal ambitions put aside and a sharing of political responsibilities put in place. The party must coalesce under strong leadership and an authentic conservative platform. Allocations in a hierarchy of functions and duties must be reasonably and rapidly agreed upon. This scheme may appear implausible—and realistically speaking, likely impossible—but there is really no alternative. Indeed, this is the only strategy that has any chance of revitalizing the Conservative side of the aisle and differentiating it from its political rival. Otherwise, it’s Coke or Pepsi.
As a cross-border postscript, it might be said that such a proposed initiative is reminiscent of the way Donald Trump has consolidated and regenerated the Republican Party, primarying out RINOS, supporting members and postulants loyal to the Constitution, and thus assuring a vigorous rebuttal to the official and administrative forces intent on tearing the nation apart. Democrats in the U.S. and Liberals in Canada are scheming bedfellows whereas patriotic Republicans and True Conservatives are cut from the same cloth as defenders, respectively, of a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Unity and principle are the pillars that support a rejuvenated and patriotic party edifice, and sitting Canadian Conservatives can learn from their American counterparts in the quest for democratic revival—assuming they are capable of learning. Such allegiances and convictions are the Party’s only hope, and, failing something like a newly formed Truckers Confederation fighting an election, perhaps the country’s as well.
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