By Medicine Hat News Opinion on April 27, 2021.
he conservative political movement in Canada is at a particularly difficult crossroads as it tries to find its footing in the shifting ground caused by supporting policies with wide national appeal that won’t alienate its base.
The fault line of this situation runs along what many Canadians interpret as the flag-bearer of conservatism – the U.S. Republican Party.
As much as Canadian conservatives wish to see their southern brethren as brothers in arms, they are diametrically opposite.
Federal Conservatives such as Derek Sloan or Maxime Bernier, whose political stances are much more in line with Republican conservatism, have been cast out. But that hasn’t quelled a large faction of grassroots members who’d like to see the party lean more to the US-style of conservatism.
But like it or not, reasonable gun control, universal heath care, paid parental leave, legalized abortion and now a price on carbon are all part of the mainstream Conservative policy platform. All those points are anathema to U.S. conservatives.
If anything, the policy positions of the Conservative Party of Canada have more in common with the those of the socialist wing of the U.S. Democrats when it comes to social issues.
While Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might arguably hold a different stance on fiscal and tax policy from Canadian Conservatives, they would be more than happy to have the same positions of the Tories on social issues adopted in the U.S.
The Conservative Party can raise the spectre of a socialist hoard taking over Canada all they want but a hardcore Texas or Florida Republican given the Tories’ policy platforms would likely see that as already having occurred.
The Conservatives don’t appear ready to tackle the divide in its own party – or even publicly acknowledge its existence – when it comes to defining what Canadian conservatism is. And the lacklustre federal Liberals who have a history of being brought down by scandals of their own making know it and will continue to exploit those divisions to win elections.
If Conservatives wish to win another election, they will need to be able to define themselves as a unified party which is attractive to Canadians as a whole and not spend so much time on the left versus right political rhetoric.
They need to either figure out that socialist policies are an integral part of their platform or advocate for privatized medicare, gun control policies more in line with the U.S. and dismantling of the social safety net.
While Conservatives fear splitting the party, the differences of opinion within the rank-and-file membership and many MPs might be too far apart for anything else to happen if they are to ever be a truly national party again.
Alex McCuaig is a freelance writer with the News