The question for Conservatives this past weekend at their annual virtual meeting seemed pretty simple.
Do they wish to remain in opposition, or have a chance at forming a government? Despite the leader’s efforts to get a definitive statement on the books that climate change is real, that vote did not pass.
Erin O’Toole has promised to forge ahead on his own with a plan to address voter concerns about the ever-changing climate in the world around us. It will be an election issue when the time comes – the Liberals, Greens and NDP will make sure of that if voters don’t.
For Conservatives the concept of carbon taxes has long been railed against. Oil producing provinces see it as an attack on their way of life and regional commerce. Many a family has been raised on the profits of oil. Taxing that commodity through a carbon tax is seen as a punitive measure and for those with concerns about working families, the last thing we need added is yet another tax – despite Trudeau’s assurances it will be revenue neutral.
The semantics of these conversations and the debate surrounding them can be saved for another time. Many of the talking points are circuitous and for those who have taken a position on these issues, few minds will be changed here. Instead, we intend to wonder aloud about the current state of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).
In 2003 the Reform Party and Progressive Conservatives merged to form the Conservative Party. Since then, the appeal to a good cross section of Canadians has been limited by rigid views on everything from social issues to climate change. Most leadership events have included an embrace of less widely-held views to bring along social conservatives who tend to vote in a block.
It is noteworthy that a similar element of populism and backing by evangelicals delivered Donald Trump as leader of the Republican party. Our own Doug Ford in Ontario also benefited from a deal with social conservatives which was just enough votes to push him past Christine Elliott, who also ran as leader. Setting those matters and observations aside, we find it increasingly difficult to see how Conservatives intend to form a government.
Locally our MPs and MPPs from both ridings are progressive conservatives in every sense. Rather than maintain rigid positions on a host of subjects decided long ago they tend to focus on being good constituent men helping residents of all stripes. That is what the job is about.
The Conservative Party in a larger sense has an issue as long as fringe elements of the party remain caught up in conversations of the past and refusing to acknowledge issues like climate change without introducing constructive alternatives.
A viable Conservative Party with contemporary policies is keenly important to Canadian democracy in terms of giving voters a legitimate choice. It would be helpful if the CPC could find its bearings in time for the next accounting.