Andrew Coyne writes that there is a distinct difference between conservatives and Conservatives. That difference was on display at this weekend's Manning Conference:
The Conservative party is supposed to be conservative. If the Manning conference has gotten more overtly partisan over the years, it may be because the party has gotten less overtly anything, other than unpleasant. Or rather, the leadership has. But looking at the contrast between this ostensibly non-partisan convention and its partisan predecessor, the thought occurs: this is the real Conservative convention. It is a gathering, if you like, of the Conservative party in exile.
The party that met in Calgary was not so much the Conservative party as the Harper party. It was run by and for Harper loyalists — 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 the opposition parties from the mission to Ukraine was only the latest example.
The two types of conservatives -- small c and big C -- have decided to part company:
Nothing was said out loud, no knives were unsheathed, but this had the feel of a group of people preparing for a post-Harper party. From the title (“Next Steps”) to the speakers, a banquet of potential leadership contenders, the tone is of serious people who want to talk about serious ideas, stripped (mostly) of the hyper-partisan rhetoric and name-calling: the grown-ups, the good faith Conservatives.
The Manning attendees were told that their numbers are headed south. And Manning himself criticized Harperian election reforms, saying that the challenge was to increase election turnout. On the environment, he said that the Harper Party was "exasperating."
All of that was as it should be. Harper threw Manning under the bus. Manning was simply returning the favour.