Are You conservative or Merely A Conservative?
Well – it appears that yesterday’s post rankled The Base a bit. It’s acceptable to them to criticize Trudeau or anyone else they identify as being a worthy target but for God’s sake don’t dare criticize Stephen Harper. It’s heresy and they will respond with all of the enthusiasm of the Inquisition at a heretic barbeque.
To be honest, I actually thought the post would generate more criticism than it did and the ones it did generate were pretty tepid at best. When you’ve been criticized by pros like my old grade 10 math teacher, Mrs. Jamieson, you pretty much become immune to less accomplished critics.
That woman could bounce a piece of chalk off your forehead from behind her desk thirty feet away.
That was back in the days when educators were called teachers and education was less about political correctness and ‘co-parenting’ and more about teaching what you needed to know to survive in the big world – including values. In those days education sometimes got physical.
We used to call her Dead Eye although never to her face of course.
The conservative movement in Canada is in trouble and Conservatives can bury their heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t if they like but they’re only lying to themselves. They can attack those of us who are concerned that we are heading back to another twenty years in the electoral wilderness but it isn’t going to change the obvious and the obvious is that Harper government has strayed too far from basic conservative values.
Consider this for example.
On Tuesday, the remainder of our troops returned from Afghanistan. Like most conservatives, I am immensely proud of the service provided by our men and women in uniform. They are Canadians for whom the words duty, honour and courage have real meaning.
When their nation called on them – they stood tall and answered that call.
They served with great distinction and no matter what happens in Afghanistan from this point forward; it in no way reduces their contribution to that nation’s attempt to forge a democracy.
It was right that the Prime Minister and the Governor General were on hand to greet them as they landed in Ottawa and also right that the Prime Minister announced a National Day of Honour on May 9th in recognition of their service. I have no patience with those who whine about the fact that Canadian Armed Forces Day will happen a few weeks later and that the Day of Honour is unnecessary.
Of course it’s necessary. These men and women served their nation at risk to their lives with too many paying that pricee. At the very least, they deserve a day that commemorates that service.
They actually deserve more but they aren’t going to get it.
On the same day that Stephen Harper was welcoming home the troops and announcing the Day of Honour, his government was in court arguing that Canada does not have a social contract with its vets and, therefore, they cannot bring forward a class action suit in defense of the benefits this government stripped from them.
I’m a conservative. I support our men and women in uniform and our vets. I find it patently offensive that the government we elected – and I did vote for this government – reduces its support of our military vets to little more than sloganeering and symbolic gestures. Of course we have a social contract with our serving military. It is despicable to send them into a war zone and then argue with them about benefits when they come home.
This government has treated our serving military and our vets with an unbelievable level of disrespect and supporters of this government have, for the most part, remained silent.
The Harper government’s new benefits program now pays out, on average. a one-time payment of a mere $40,000 replacing the annual ‘for life’ support that has been in place since WWI. It tried to have post-traumatic stress disorder delisted as a medical condition to reduce the medical benefits it had to pay out. It has slashed military spending to the point where fully 50% of the military’s trucks are now mothballed and there are no new ships, ice-breakers, light armoured vehicles or fighter aircraft on the horizon.
Perhaps most disturbing is the lack of an initiative to respond to the alarming rate of military suicides in the past few months. There was another just this week but the Harper government is too busy with trade deals and Ukraine to worry about it.
We’re heading into an election with a budget surplus next year. It’s no secret; people have been talking about it for months and some Conservatives are drooling at the prospect of some of that surplus being spent on entitlements rather than on debt and tax reduction or – ensuring that our military vets are properly and adequately provided for.
The simple reality is that no matter how many times some in The Base call people like me a Libard, the simple reality is that it is them, not conservatives like me who are elevating Justin Trudeau to potentially becoming Prime Minister and you don’t have to take my word for it.
A fairly significant poll was conducted a few months ago and presented at the Manning Conference last month. I doubt there are many that would question Preston Manning’s conservative credentials and he, along with other conservatives that included Jim Prentice and Brad Wall voiced their concern about what is happening to our movement these days. Stephen Harper didn’t attend. He and Mr. Manning are on the outs and Harper doesn’t handle criticism very well; no matter how constructive it might be.
And there was criticism – somewhat gently and politely stated – but criticism about the direction the Harper government has taken.
The survey confirmed what poll after poll has been revealing over the past few months. The Harper government is not only unpopular with progressives but is increasingly driving conservatives away and all the election goodies in the world isn’t going to reverse that.
What was particularly disturbing about the survey was that it went out of its way to weight the number of respondents with those who self-identify as conservatives.
The result? We’re losing ground and we’re losing it rapidly. Stephen Harper currently ranks below both Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau and that isn’t much of a recommendation about the job Canadians think he’s doing.
Blame whoever you like but at the end of the day, it comes down to what the polls are showing. More than 70% of Canadians do not like or respect Stephen Harper. They do not believe he is doing a good job as Prime Minister and for the first time, as many think the Liberals could do as good a job managing the economy as he has done.
It’s not surprising that an increasing number of people believe that when you consider that over the past 30 years, it was only the Liberals who ran budget surpluses. Both the Mulroney and Harper governments ran record deficits. The Harper Conservatives have added $160 billion in new debt since 2008. Many point to the recession as the reason but they’re wrong. The recovery was already underway in 2009 and the Harper government continued to run deficits until this year.
Even more telling, the Harper government went into the recession in better shape than governments of most countries around the world. It had its inherited budget surplus from the previous government and it benefited from the most stable banking system in the world with the possible exception of Switzerland.
Despite that, it ran up record deficits and increased Canada’s debt by $160 billion.
Supporters of the Harper government can rationalize that all day long but at some point every one of us has to ask ourselves a fundamental question.
Are you a conservative or are you Conservative?
Are we a political movement based on conservative values and principles or merely just another political party grappling for power no matter the cost; a mere personality cult unwilling to question or challenge a party leader when he violates those values? Are we free and independent thinkers who can discuss issues and even disagree with mutual respect and civility or are we little more than belligerent sheep bleating angrily in the pasture at anyone who doesn’t think like us even as the shepherd sheers us all?
Do we stand for something or are we simply opposed to progressives and anyone else who doesn’t think like us?
They just asked that question in Alberta where Conservative Premier Allison Redford was forced to resign because she strayed too far from conservative values. I commend conservatives in Alberta for standing up for conservative values rather than blindly supporting the leader no matter how often she violated those values.
We need to do the same thing nationally and that is what my post yesterday was about. I used to defend Stephen Harper from his critics but I can’t anymore. He, like Allison Redford, does not represent conservative values.
I found it offensive, for example, that he had a spare $250 million to give to Ukraine but closed 9 Vets Affairs offices to save $34 million. Why not give Ukraine $200 million and keep those offices open? We would have still saved $16 million dollars and everyone would have benefited.
Most conservatives, if not completely pro-life, support some kind of legislation on abortion but the Harper government has steadfastly refused to allow that discussion. Most conservatives believe in less government and yet the Harper government has increased the size of the civil service by 26, 000 employees – and that is after it cut the civil service by 10%.
Most conservatives believe in the right to the legal ownership of firearms for hunting, competitive shooting, protection and as a necessary tool on farms and ranches. This government has never held the RCMP accountable for it egregious violation of private property rights in High River where it kicked in doors and confiscated legally owned firearms without cause or warrant. That is the same attitude taken by the Liberal government in Ontario when Mohawks violated private property rights in Caledonia.
Just this past week, the RCMP unilaterally declared certain Swiss rifles prohibited weapons. While it is true that the Harper government reacted with its usual faux surprise and outrage; rather than order the RCMP to stand down, the government granted ‘amnesty’ to current owners of those guns as if they had done something wrong and were being forgiven. The government then let the prohibition stand on new purchases without demanding evidence of the need for the decision.
Pick your issue. In virtually every case, this government acts more like a Liberal government with a bad attitude than a conservative government aligned with our principles and values and it is alienating Canadians.
The Base can rally around the Harper government all they like. They can throw hissy fits at folks like me, repeat endlessly the Liberal records of the past as if it was a religious litany but in the end all that is accomplishing is advancing the Liberal cause.
We’re conservatives and if we can’t offer Canadians a better alternative beyond calling everyone who doesn’t think like us stupid, libtards or worse; we’ll be on the outside looking in again after the next election and for a very long time.
The bottom line for me is that if Justin Trudeau is going to be the next Prime Minister of this country, he should have to earn it – not have it handed to him on a platter by a conservative cult that refuses to hold its leader accountable for honouring and respecting our values and principles both in theory – and when governing.
If we’re going to be held accountable by the electorate – let it be for adhering to what we believe in. If we don’t have enough faith in that to defend it from our own who violate our values, why on God’s earth would expect others to have faith in it?
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