Andrew Scheer’s keynote speech yesterday on his party’s climate policy should spark a conversation among Conservatives on whether there is room for an environmentalist or “Green Tory” position within the big tent which is the Conservative Party of Canada?
“Because protecting the environment is a core conservative principle. Whatever we inherit from those who became before us we must leave in better shape for those who come after us, and Conservatives have a proud legacy when it comes to managing Canada’s natural environment and improving Canada’s environmental performance,” said Scheer.
As Scheer points out, Conservatives have been a historical driving force behind environmental conservation efforts as evident in the figures of John A. Macdonald, John Diefenbaker, and Brian Mulroney. Not only was Macdonald a pioneer in Canada’s National Parks system as Scheer mentions but he was also a patron of the Geological Survey of Canada and the Botanical Society of Canada.
Conservatism is not only historically and etymologically linked with “conserving” the environment, but it is also a matter of principle and political philosophy.
As a political orientation conservatism has a tendency towards natural order, harmony and tradition. Whether it’s found in the prairies of Alberta, or the rolling farmlands of Ontario, Conservatives should on principle be beholden to preserving a way of life that is close to the earth, and by extension with the very heart of this great country.
Even the philosophical father of conservatism as a political theory, Edmund Burke, devoted time to speak in favour of the need to steward the environment which he called “the kind and equal mother of all” and to argue against the effects of over-industrialization on the planet.
Arguably, “Green Conservatism” isn’t a new thing in Canada. It was posited by Preston Manning back in 2006, who tied it to the rural lifestyle of his home province of Alberta.
And even before that, it can be understood as a branch or reiteration of the “Red Toryism” envisioned by the Canadian idealist and philosopher George Parkin Grant (not to be mistaken for the modern misnomer “Red Tory”). Close to his philosophical foundation Grant envisioned that the environment was a branch of a greater hierarchy of being on which we so necessarily depend on and Conservatives frame their world view around.
“Just like the English Romantics, who opposed the way the captains of industry were destroying the environment for a crude and short-sighted notion of profit, Tories hold a deep and abiding respect for the land and natural environment,” writes the George Grant Society.
Conservatives of all stripes (especially the staunchly blue) need to stop treating the environment as the elephant in the room.
After all, Scheer’s green technology directive is an authentically blue-conservative idea. The policy would effectively get rid of the federal government as a middle man in the process of expanding the green sector.
Without the carbon tax, emitters will have more freedom to invest in the kind of research and technology which might be of a mutual benefit to their own industries while still contributing to new ways to address environmental issues.
Of course, staunch free-market types won’t be appeased since it still requires government intervention over private entities but it is hard to argue that it’s not a better option than a federally imposed tax.
Perhaps the question should also be spun in reverse: is there room for Tories in the Green Party of Canada?
Although often spoken of as diametrically opposed parties by principle, the Green’s could be a valuable partner to the Conservatives. At least on the issue of immigration Green voters agree with the Conservative base.
According to the most recent Leger poll, the Greens were the only other party, besides the Conservatives, to have a majority of voters (57%) who wanted to see immigration levels reduced.
Not only is there room for dialogue on immigration (unlike there is with the NDP and the Liberals) but there is also much both parties can agree on with regards to revitalizing small businesses, and even anti-terrorism efforts.