A sailboat is said to be in irons when the sails are unable to generate power and have stopped in a no-go zone. The wind is at that point working against the boat.
It is critical to look at the dynamic demographic change of our country and where the Conservative Party of Canada and our base is in relation to this change. It is clear we may soon be in such a position as irons, sailing directly into the winds of demography. However, if we are able to effectively expand our base and gain new Conservative voters, we will be able to turn our party around and use the demographic shifts to fill our sails. I am not an identity politics advocate. What I am concerned about, and the purpose of this article, is to make the point that regardless of one’s background, faith, gender, sexual orientation, generation or ethnicity, Canadians must feel welcome on our big Conservative boat.
But there is a bit of a problem with diversity and inclusion in our party. Currently, one only need look at our caucus during question time to realize that the party does not reflect the composition of modern Canada. Considering the shifting national demographics, this is a serious issue. Following the result of the 2019 federal election, it is evident that we cannot form a government as a party unless we win more seats in the Greater Toronto Area (the “GTA”). The GTA is one of the most diverse regions in the country. According to Canada’s 2016 census, 48.76% of people living in the GTA identify as a visible minority. Having grown up in a diplomatic background and having lived in several different cities and countries, I appreciate how the diversity of the GTA enriches all our lives in ways that can only be experienced in a few other cities in the world. I believe this diversity presents a wonderful opportunity for our party. By expanding, deepening and diversifying our base, we will indeed gain more votes. Just as importantly, we will acquire new volunteers. We will be able to raise more funds. More diverse perspectives will enable us to craft stronger and better policies.
Many people from immigrant backgrounds are in fact conservative in outlook and so are more closely aligned with the values of our party such as fiscal conservativism, opportunity, self-reliance, faith and family. Moreover, many new Canadians have escaped political tyranny and economic injustice that is the antithesis of conservative tenets such as: respect for the rule of law; robust capitalism; fairness; and personal freedom. Our principles are inherently Canadian values and are the reason that for so many generations, people have sought to build lives here.
I am a proponent of ‘one-nation’, inclusive, conservatism that originated under former Conservative British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. ‘One-nation’ conservatism involves a strong commitment to social, political, and economic inclusion as well as the preservation and promotion of traditional national principles and established institutions. This combination of ideals was fostered in Canada by notable conservatives such as John Diefenbaker and Robert Stanfield. I know that today, these beliefs are held by most Canadians also.
Another former Conservative British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was defeated after his first run for parliament in 1997. Upon reflecting on his loss, he realized that the Labour Party landslide victory was an indication of how much the UK had changed and that the UK Conservative Party needed to adapt. I was studying in Durham, England in 2009 when after 12 years in the political wilderness, the UK Conservative Party finally came back to power by forming a minority government. This breakthrough was partly due to the fact that the party had become more representative of Britain. This success and strategy were built upon over the years. Common sense conservative policies were adhered to and “one-nation” Tory themes were employed. As a result, in December 2019, the party under the leadership of Boris Johnson secured its best election result since 1987. Seats were won in some of the staunchest Labour Party ridings. For example, the UK Conservative Party won in what was the very safe Labour Party seat of Sedgefield. This was the former riding of Tony Blair, the Labour Party’s longest-serving prime minister.
So, how do we ensure that more Canadians not only cast their vote for the Conservative Party of Canada but also become part of our base? First, we must persistently and actively pursue inclusion. We cannot win hearts and minds if diverse communities are seen as only passengers; they must also become part of the crew of our big Conservative boat. Second, as a millennial, I believe we must work to reach out more, particularly to younger people who overwhelmingly voted for progressive parties in the 2019 federal election. This is important. Millennials comprised the largest voting bloc in the last election. Young people must be persuaded that Conservative ideals have everything to do with tolerance, inclusion, diversity and opportunity. Opening doors of opportunity has always been crucial to building wealth and generating economic growth. Young people understand this and want the opportunity to do better than their parents.
Therefore, I believe that most Canadians are “one-nation” conservatives: they believe in greater social, political, and economic inclusion for all; they believe in our core national principles as a country such as peace, order and good governance; and they have a healthy respect for our national institutions. As Conservatives we win when we successfully sell our values, as the victories of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper show. With full sails that are powered by the vibrant and diverse make-up of our country, our big Conservative boat will be propelled forward. Our destination will be victory.
William Luke is the principal lawyer of Luke Law Firm, a Toronto, Ontario based criminal defence firm. He stood as a nomination contestant of the Conservative Party of Canada for the 2019 federal election in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.