Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Conservatives Need To Be Progressive

That's the message Hugh Segal delivers to his fellow Conservatives in today' s Globe and Mail. He begins with a review of recent history:

John Diefenbaker’s surprise defeat of Louis St. Laurent in 1957 reflected Progressive Conservative equilibrium on preserving the role of Parliament, opposing closure and championing of low-income seniors’ real needs. The 1958 Tory sweep was the largest majority in Canadian history and emerged largely because of the arrogance of the Liberals, who moved a non-confidence motion to bring down the Diefenbaker minority government. The Liberals believed that the 1957 Conservative win was simply a mistake by the voters.

Bob Stanfield’s near-victory over the unbeatable Liberal icon of Pierre Trudeau in 1972 (Mr. Stanfield lost by a handful of votes and just two seats) reflected a huge step forward for Mr. Stanfield’s moderation, integrity and concern for the disadvantaged. This surge, which produced a win for Mr. Stanfield in English-speaking Canada, was seen as a victory over the apparent arrogance and condescension of then-prime-minister Trudeau.

Brian Mulroney’s victory in 1984 over the Trudeau legacy championed by then-prime-minister John Turner was more about a moderate position on Canada-U.S. relations, less “my way or the highway” federalism, a stout defence of francophone minorities and a rejigging of Ottawa’s economic and social levers toward the centre from the bureaucratic centre-left.

Segal is delivering a warning to the members of his party who are in the throes of Trumpism:

The lessons of history seem, so far, to have had little impact. Canadians haven’t heard from any candidate about those living beneath the poverty line, the next stage of reconciliation with First Nations, a creative 21st-century federalism, a real-world foreign and defence policy, the inequities of unemployment for younger Canadians, the precariousness of areas of employment or the need for a national strategy for seniors.

They forget that Segal held an influential position in Bill Davis' Big Blue Machine -- one of the most successful political operations in Canadian history. They would be wise to lend him an ear. 

Image: Ottawa Citizen


Dana said...

It isn't Hugh's party any more. Hasn't been for quite a while now. Don't expect him to be listened to. Do expect him to be ridiculed and vilified.

Owen Gray said...

True, Dana. After all, it was Paul Martin who appointed him.

The Mound of Sound said...

I've spent a bit of time in recent years reading Edmund Burke and others, the "founding fathers" of conservatism. Their foundational ideology affords a useful yardstick by which to measure just how far to the Right today's Conservatives have traveled in the age of neoliberalism. The same holds for the Liberals. It can be fairly said that the Liberals have purged liberalism from their party from the outset of Ignatieff into the Trudeau Jr. era. The Liberal leadership debates were a tribute to the defeat of progressivism in the neoliberal era.

We have this facile notion that the Left has some proprietary claim on progressivism. That's simply not true. What I fear most is that we have lost sight of how critical progressivism is to liberal democracy which we know is imperilled just about everywhere.

Owen Gray said...

Even the NDP has lost sight of what progressivism really means, Mound. The neo-liberal disease is everywhere.