There's been a bit of a discussion on the future of Conservatism and conservatism in Canada of late. Paul Well's take on it is thorough, if ultimately, I think, wrong. I think his thesis is off mark because he assumes a level of political awareness and activity that is far too generous to the Canadian public. He mistakes an apathy for issues like Rights and Democracy, and Youth for Christ, as being issue specific, a tacit approval of the CPC's actions, as opposed to a more general apathy towards any policy other than healthcare and taxes. Moreover, he makes a big mistake in assuming Preston Manning's big show last week was anything other than that, a big show. Gregg's poll in particular is a bad joke, and, to my mind as a pollster, ethically suspect.
That's not to say that I think he's entirely wrong. The problem is that, when you're talking about Conservatism, you're looking at two ideologies mashed together in an unholy alliance. The CPC is made up of social conservatives and libertarians. Despite Manning's poll, with it's carefully worded statements and bizarre 7-point scale, Canadians are not becoming more socially conservative. However, Wells is at least partially right when he suggests that Canadians are becoming more liberal.
Libertatianism is the new communism on campus. The older partisans in the CPC embrace libertarianism as a protest against taxes and the gun registry, and a reaction against what they see as a Liberal government. The younger generation of Conservatives don't see it the same way. They're classical liberals. They truly believe that free enterprise and absolute freedoms are the recipe for a better nation. In this, they're far more ideologically pure than the old guard. Issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and the war on drugs will slowly take a back seat for CPC policy advisors as this new group moves up through the ranks. I know gay Conservatives. I know modern women who are Conservatives. I know pot-heads who are Conservatives. All of them have joined the Party for one reason, because they believe that individuals are better equipped to handle problems than governments.
How this happened, I'm not entirely sure. I mean there are the Westerners, well and truly indoctrinated right out of highschool, always loud, always politically active. But I can't point to where all the anger towards government actually comes from among the rest of the younger cohort. I mean, my generation was going through highschool during the Harris years for god's sake! I could be wrong, maybe they aren't really the majority, but I'm damn sure that they're the most politically aware and active, and that's enough.
So the question for old school conservatives like me and our new found partners on the progressive side of things is how do you combat this? I don't know the answer yet. The popularity of this new liberalism is based entirely on a disconnect. Government has worked too well. We're the most comfortable population there has ever been. Canadians don't know what it is to go without healthcare, without old age pensions, without well-funded public school, and without those hundreds of government funded initiatives that make life in our cities and towns tolerable. All they know is that a chunk of each pay cheque disappears every two weeks. And the Ottawa Citizen, or the National Post just told them that the government spent $1,000 on a door bell, or an executive of a crown corporation had a glass of wine at lunch, or how those damned lazy public servants have a generous pension plan. How do you offer an explanation of such a complex system when that malformed opinion of government has already taken root in someone's head?
Friday Night Beer tomorrow. I'll be making a trip out to Vankleek Hill to pick up Beau's exciting new Sleepytime Imperial Stout.
3 weeks ago