Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Future Of The CPC

Andrew Coyne made an excellent point in his column about the Manning Networking Conference that the Manning Centre is hosting in Ottawa:

So this is what a Conservative convention looks like.  After that bizarre lockdown in Calgary last fall - reporters harassed and penned in at every turn, the prime minister's defiantly empty speech, the air heavy with self-congratulation and paranoia - the annual Manning Networking conference exudes an altogether different spirit:  thoughtful, open, introspective and conservative.
...
The party that met in Calgary was not so much the Conservative party as the Harper party.  It was run by and for Harper loyalist - think Pierre Poilievre - people who are happy to do whatever the leader wants done, say whatever the leader wants said, even if that means abandoning every core conviction the party has ever held.  In its place is Harperism, less an ideology than a set of behaviours:  the nastiness, the ruthlessness, the almost universal gracelessness, of which the decision to exclude opposition parties from the mission to Ukraine was only the latest example.
If you are looking at this and wondering if I've lost my marbles - I usually don't agree with much of anything that Coyne says.  Philosophically speaking, he and I live in different worlds.  However, he is very correct in saying that the CPC has very much become "The Harper Party".  This has been emerging since 2006, and since 2011 it has become much more pronounced.
Who is not here?  No one from the Prime Minister's Office, it appears, nor any member of the party hierarchy, nor any member of cabinet, other than those invited to speak.  The speaker's list, by contrast, features Jason Kenney, the Employment Minister; Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan; Jim Prentice, the form Industry and Environment Minister; Michael Chong, the backbench MP and author of the Reform Act. 
It would be hard to categorize them as a group, except that they are all from outside the circle of Harperite hyper-partisans.  And they have not been shy about expressing their discontent with the party's direction, albeit in the coded indirect language that politicians employ when they do not want to be accused of disloyalty.
I've said for some time that Harper is a totalitarian, with healthy dashes of authoritarian and fascism thrown in good measure.
Mr. Prentice, for example, admonished Conservatives to "take back the environmental debate," saying "we cannot be in the business of providing our rivals with the opportunity to portray us as being out of touch" with environmental concerns. 
Sounds eminently reasonable, and in fact Mr. Prentice is one of the more reasonable members of the CPC.   That said while Mr. Coyne's article suggests a more reasonable wing of the party is meeting in Ottawa this weekend, there's a little more to it.

As PressProgress points out, the far right groups are very much in evidence too.  "WeNeedALaw.ca", Campaign Life (the people behind LifeSite News), Focus on the Family and The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada are all represented at this get-together.  There is no secret that Jason Kenney is closely affiliated with the "pro-life" social conservative wing of things (and was no doubt a key player in connecting these groups with the Manning Centre and its organizing committee for this conference).

Do not be fooled, once Harper's iron-fisted grip on the party weakens, I fully expect the coalition of fiscal and social conservatives that he has welded together by sheer force of will to once again start openly pushing for their particular agendas much more vocally.

Just because Harper has not been willing to open the Abortion debate, or touch gay marriage since 2006, does not mean that others are satisfied with that stance.  The far right desperately wants to push a social agenda forward that is just as insane as the Tea Party wing of the GOP is currently trying to sneak in.  I fully expect the upcoming prostitution law from MacKay will turn out to be a piece of "red meat" to the social conservative base.  It won't criminalize prostitution per se, but by criminalizing the consumption of paid sex, it will reinstate exactly the same conditions that made things dangerous under the laws the Supreme Court just struck down.

The post-Harper CPC may not be as authoritarian as Harper has been, but I would not be optimistic about it returning to the much more moderate roots of the PC party under more adult parliamentarians such as Joe Clark either.

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