The Harperites have undergone some plastic surgery. They believe Canadians will like Rona Ambrose's face and her soothing tone of voice. But Andrew Coyne writes that it will take more than a new face and a new voice to reboot the party:
Conservatism is not just losing elections. As a political movement, it has — let us not mince words — ceased to offer a coherent or attractive alternative. On the most pressing questions of the day, from the environment to social justice, it is either unwilling or unable to present any serious answer to the prescriptions of the left, or even to offer much resistance.
At best it can hope to profit from the left’s miscues, but even in power it lacks the self-confidence to define an agenda, let alone pursue one. The nastiness of the Harper government may have been peculiar to it, but in its aimlessness and timidity, its unwillingness to invest political capital or confess to an ideology, it has its counterparts in conservative parties across the country — in sharp contrast to the robust self-confidence of the left.
Under Stephen Harper, power trumped policy. The most glaring example of Harper's failure was on environmental policy:
A generation of environmentalists has grown up fully versed in the potential for market solutions to be applied to environmental problems; markets, they realize, are social institutions, like governments, each with its own proper sphere. Conservatives could have seized this opening, and run with it. If you like what the market can do for you in the environment, they could have said to voters, can we interest you in what it can do for your schools and health care?
I don't agree with Coyne. Conservatives have regarded the market as sacrosanct -- a glaring misunderstanding of the complexity of life. And I suspect that most Canadians -- when push comes to shove -- would also disagree with Coyne. Canada is a huge, sparsely populated country, where the market can't solve some intractable problems.
But I take Coyne's point: It will take more than plastic surgery to revive the Conservative Party.