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The political party one chooses is not a matter of being right or wrong. I see it more as a matter of the values you hold, and it isn’t as simple as saying that one value is right or wrong.
John Stuart Mill said in his essay “On Liberty” that many pairs of values are in tension without one “right” or “wrong” value. He gives the examples of individualism and collectivism, liberty and restraint, etc. Most people cannot hold both values in equal measure and give them their due, and nor can a political party. We need political parties of opposing values to represent things like the free market as opposed to the value of government intervention, or personal responsibility versus assisting the marginalized, among many others.
Your ideology and political party is not about holding the right values, but rather about the perspective from which you search for the truth. The Liberal Party of Canada will never see the value of the free market as clearly as a true conservative, and the Conservative Party will likely have a blindspot for areas where government intervention is justified and beneficial.
Therefore, Canada needs a strong Conservative Party. We need it to make the case for the free market, individual responsibility, and to question movements of “social progress” before we test the depth of the water with both feet. Conservatism plays a role of restraint, of sober second thought, and of understanding the benefit that a free market can bring.
Under Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party isn’t playing its role. In politics, there’s a time to lead and a time to listen. Scheer has almost exclusively been listening. He hasn’t been a leader who confidently pitches a conservative vision and conservative solutions to Canada. Instead he’s relied on polling data to see which policies would be readily accepted by enough people to give him a slim advantage in the polls.
There’s a big problem with the Conservative Party leader not leading: Canada generally isn’t a conservative country. We tend to trust our government not to abuse power. We tend to think that government intervention can accomplish a lot of good. Without an articulate Conservative Party leader, we will not naturally produce conservative solutions and roll back graft and government getting too big.
The lack of a Conservative voice under Scheer harms us when we’re trying to solve the big issues of our time, because a conservative perspective is valuable to solving the big issues even if you’re a non-conservative.
Let’s take climate change as an example. How much value are we losing in the fight against climate change by not having Conservatives at the table? Every prominent voice speaks only of government solutions. We need people who understand the benefit government can bring to a huge issue like this.
But think of the possibilities of adding free market solutions to government intervention. Think of the benefit of having a strong voice for nuclear power, revenue neutrality in the carbon tax, and private sector innovation for climate change. It’s not an either-or issue solution when it comes to climate change.
But under Scheer’s leadership, these solutions either aren’t talked about, or they’re given lip service.
Think of the possibilities of addressing poverty with a Conservative voice at the table. Trudeau has contributed to poverty reduction with the Canada Child Benefit, which provides a monthly lump sum to parents (though I note that this initiative does not only target people in poverty).
What is the conservative value-added to the debate on poverty reduction? I would suggest that it’s the understanding of incentives and personal responsibility. A perfect example is the centre-right BC Liberal Party, which introduced the Single Parent Initiative in 2015. The Initiative provided single parents a way out of poverty by paying for the parent’s tuition payments for training and childcare for their dependants, all while keeping their social assistance cheque. It wasn’t just a handout. It was a fundamentally conservative policy.
Scheer never made any bold proposals like this. For affordability, Scheer did a mix of targeted tax credits providing minimal relief along with simple handouts that could have just as easily been proposed by the Liberal Party, like making EI parental leave benefits tax-free. Stephen Harper provided more leadership by proposing that parents getting EI parental leave could earn self-employment income without having their benefits clawed back. Recognizing the incentives that could get someone back to work is a conservative skill.
We can also consider the value of Conservatives on social issues. People with dangerous amounts of self-certainty are quick to sneer that you shouldn’t be on the wrong side of history, but there have been times when the forces of “social progress” ended up being complete nonsense. Forced sterilization of certain groups of people in order to improve the human race comes to mind.
The problem is, we can’t really know which progressive movements are the “right side of history” without hindsight. Conservatives can provide second thought and value for how things have traditionally been done. We don’t thoughtlessly dismiss the past.
We need that restraint in the topics of social progress today. Laws like Bill C-16 have restricted people’s freedom to speak out on the topic of gender identity. The law passed with nary a peep from the formal Conservative Party. Conservatives, fresh off of realizing that they had the wrong side of the legal marriage debate, seem reticent to weigh in on this social issue and defend the civil liberties of people who question gender identity ideology, even when most common sense people would want them to do this.
Now, people who are far from conservative, like feminist Meghan Murphy, are seemingly alone in their fight against gender identity ideology and standing up for civil rights.
Imagine the assistance that an articulate Conservative leader could bring to this debate that’s happening outside of our formal political scene. We don’t know, because Andrew Scheer never talks about this issue in public. It’s too divisive for him.
Without Conservatives at the table, our society is going all-in on one side of the ideological spectrum. We’re abandoning one side of the ideological tug of war that’s healthy for a society, and that could result in our country going over the edge of a cliff. We’re losing solutions that matter to the issues you care about.
It’s not just that the Conservative Party that deserves better. Canada deserves better. Canada deserves strong Conservatives.