The Harper Party has changed its name three times. First it was the Reform Party. Then it was the Canadian Alliance. And, finally, it called itself the Conservative Party. The last label is entirely disingenuous. Both Rob Ford and Stephen Harper claim they are Conservatives. Those claims are as fatuous as the name which the present federal government proclaims. Andrew Coyne writes:
So no, Ford is neither a product of conservatism, as such, nor a particularly sterling example of it; nor should Conservatives be tainted by association, except in so far as they associate themselves with him. This last is the point: It is clear that Ford, and Fordism, are very much an outgrowth of the same political culture as the federal Conservatives, a culture each has done much to create and nurture. It just doesn’t have a lot to do with conservatism.
There is a noble conservative tradition in this country. It was best embodied -- at least in my memory -- by Robert Stanfield. Many forget that Stanfield fought and lost an election on the issue of wage and price controls. In the inflation ravaged 1970's, Stanfield favoured them and Pierre Trudeau did not. After Stanfield lost the election, Trudeau adopted wage and price controls. Today's Conservative Party would have -- and has had -- nothing to do with Stanfield.
Modern conservatism is, quite simply, a fraud. Coyne writes:
The modern Conservative movement is built on two things: populism and pragmatism (sometimes indistinguishable from opportunism). Both have contributed to the Ford phenomenon: populism, with its heavy emphasis on the social divide separating Us (suburban, less educated) from Them (urban, more educated), its infantilizing insistence on the need for a strong leader to protect the former from the latter; pragmatism, in detaching the party from any principled foundation, a contempt for “purism” that too easily bleeds into an expedient disregard for principles of any kind.
Put them together, and you get a number of subsidiary traits: hostility to intellectuals (fancypants who think they’re better than us; academics who don’t understand how politics is actually played); imperviousness to facts (manufactured by a biased media elite; expendable in the pursuit of power); and so on. What is observable in the Harper Conservatives reaches its ultimate nihilistic expression in Ford, where absolutely no amount of evidence is sufficient to discredit him.
Modern conservatives canonize ignorance and promote division. Like cats marking their territory, they define their boundaries by urinating on those they consider outside those boundaries. And that, Coyne writes, "is taking our politics to a very dark place."