I've been listening to CBC's Sunday Edition program, and the topic du jour was Conservative party chances in the next election.
They had two people on - Conservative Senator Hugh Segal and Tasha Kheiridden, co-author of Rescuing Canada's Right: Blueprint for A Conservative Revolution.
Philosophically, I'm not likely to agree with either of them. I'm simply not a conservative (small-c or big-C). However, the discussion was very revealing. If one looks at Segal as "old guard" conservative, and Ms. Kheiridden as the next generation, it underscores the yawning chasm between the party and many people.
According to Mr. Segal, the party is doing a good job of differentiating itself from the Liberals. However, he made several statements that tell me that the CPC hasn't figured much of anything out yet. First, he thinks that the party has a clear policy set that differentiates them from the Liberals. Yet, when I go reading what passes for policy on the CPC website, it's all focused on the "evils of the Liberals".
Clue number two from Mr. Segal as to the cluelessness of the CPC came out in a statement about "poking the pinata of anti-Americanism". What a clueless twit! I know a lot of people who are terminally opposed to current American foreign policy. They don't support war in Iraq, they don't support the Bush Administrations pugilistic approach to world affairs, and they don't like the rising "faith-based" model of social services that BushCo. is pushing. Now, having said that, criticism of the American government is not 'anti-Americanism'. News flash for CPC members - Canada is not the United States, and most of us don't especially want to see Canada blindly tie its wagon to the US. Grow a spine and start telling Canadians how you will represent Canada as a nation, not the "next US state".
Ms. Kheiridden made a number of points that reflect my comments elsewhere on this blog in the past. First and foremost, she kept on hammering at the point that the CPC has done little to convey to Canadians any kind of vision for the nation.
Of course, they both tried to skate around the problem of the radical social conservatives that make up a rather powerful faction in the party. For a lot of Canadians, including me, this group is the key problem with the party. Until the CPC distances itself effectively from these people (and having Stephen Harper as a leader doesn't help - his roots are in that very group), there will always remain a lingering sense of doubt in voters minds about the direction and intentions of the party.
While I don't agree with the philosophy of either of the speakers this morning, if a few people like Ms. Kheiridden can make their way into the circles of influence, there's a chance that a version of the CPC may emerge in five or ten years that might actually be viable. It requires the party to make some big changes though. Policy has to become somewhat more than "we aren't the Liberals" combined with "Let's follow the United States". Show Canadians a vision for Canada, and make it clear that you aren't tied to the utterly insane extremist elements that have held sway in the past.