So, we’re conservatives and we didn’t like the budget. What are we going to do about it?

“Well, what the hell else do you expect us to do with a gun to our head” remarked one ministerial staffer at Hy’s last night when I delivered the verdict of conservative ideologues to a budget which increased special project spending, established an ugly deficit, and indicated that hopes of small government would be shelved, at least for the foreseeable future.

A minority government is like a constant job interview, and the employer right now is a glutton. Pass the antacid and bring more pork; 62% of Canadians voted for those without a predisposition to sound economic sense, while the rest voted for those that know better.

If they know better, something else holds them back. “You have no idea how much I bled for this budget… this made me sick” another staffer told me. It was certainly a policy delivered in the context of a deficit pushing $1 trillion in the US, where every other government in the industrialized world is running deficits and whereas Canada is a rare exception in that we’re one of those jurisdictions that is receiving permanent tax relief. But for ideologues who moonlight as paid partisans in government, this budget policy is as much dyspeptic for their stomachs as it read dyslexic to their instincts.

A political party’s first and last job is to get elected. If you thought that the Conservative Party should have held its ground, flipped off the opposition, delivered $30 billion in tax cuts and went out in a blaze of glory then you have the benefit of layering fantasy on a wholly incongruent political landscape where the pragmatists thrive. A political party, in practice, is not much more than a marketing machine to sell ideas to an electorate looking to buy them. However, elections span a meager 36 days and unless a voter is conditioned to think conservatively, they won’t vote Conservative. If a Conservative party does form government — especially a minority government — the long term goal is the same: keep the upper hand, survive when strategically beneficial, and win elections.

Let’s be clear. A majority Conservative government would implement a conservative agenda that would satiate the conservative base. In such fortunate circumstances, government action would unreservedly reflect conservative principles because this government would act comfortably without violating objective #1 — re-election from a plurality of conservative-minded voters. The underlying ideology would fortuitously overlap with winnable conditions.

How is a sustainable conservative majority-government-electing voter base in Canada achieved? While the party is focused on doing their job to win elections and form policies that are within Canada’s (ie. its electorate’s) interests, those of us who aren’t pre-occupied by such distractions must look at change as a long-term goal rather than a short-term fix. If the Conservative party is the election-winning machine, the conservative movement must be the one to give it a meaningful mandate.

By all means, we need a strong Conservative party because it is our vehicle. Do not punish the party for doing its job. However, we must also have a strong conservative movement. It is foolish to depend on an organization to change the ideological culture of Canada when its current success is inextricably bound to it as it presently exists. The political party that wins the election will always reflect the plurality of Canadian voter intent. Whether the blue team or red team wins, success is simply a jersey switched by the same central swing voters. In every election, the ideological and purist cynic bemoans the pragmatic and victory-focused party strategist that moves to capture the centre. Leave the party to appeal to the most voters and win elections, it is the job of the conservative movement to move the centre to the right.

We can lament the budget delivered by our Conservative Party and complain that it goes against our instincts as conservatives. But yesterday, the Conservative government did its job, it presented a survivable budget in the current political climate. However, the conservative movement failed because it was unsuccessful in creating the conditions of ideological survivability for what should have been a sincerely conservative budget.

So what are we going to do about it?

UPDATE: Some are reading this as a condemnation of the conservative movement. It is rather a call to action. The Conservative party is what we make of it; our model is bottom-up, not top-down. Let’s get to work at making more Canadians conservative.

Comments

comments

  • Westcoast Jim

    it is comments like this:

    “Your statement displays incredible naivete. If the Conservative Party has any hope at all of dragging this country’s centre more to the right (or, realistically, political middle as things go in Canada), they have to actually be in power to make that happen.”

    that lead people to believe that the Conservative Party has a “secret agenda”. The Conservative Party should run on the principles and platform that it wants to achieve not on a false platform that can get it elected and then do something else. If you believe in the princiles then the Conservative Party should run on them. That is how a Party should act not on some switcheroo once in office.

    Further during the campaign it was obvious to every leader of every country in the world except for Harper that there was an economic crises. McCain suspended his election campaign to work on the solution. Harper merely said that it was a good time to get into the stock market. I am not saying he should be held accountable for the financial collapse but I am saying that he clearly should be held accountable for either lying about it during the campaign or not understanding the consequences of what was happening in our economy. For a self proclaimed economist his performance during the election was unforgivable. Tragically it has deteriorated since then.

  • Westcoast Jim

    it is comments like this:

    “Your statement displays incredible naivete. If the Conservative Party has any hope at all of dragging this country’s centre more to the right (or, realistically, political middle as things go in Canada), they have to actually be in power to make that happen.”

    that lead people to believe that the Conservative Party has a “secret agenda”. The Conservative Party should run on the principles and platform that it wants to achieve not on a false platform that can get it elected and then do something else. If you believe in the princiles then the Conservative Party should run on them. That is how a Party should act not on some switcheroo once in office.

    Further during the campaign it was obvious to every leader of every country in the world except for Harper that there was an economic crises. McCain suspended his election campaign to work on the solution. Harper merely said that it was a good time to get into the stock market. I am not saying he should be held accountable for the financial collapse but I am saying that he clearly should be held accountable for either lying about it during the campaign or not understanding the consequences of what was happening in our economy. For a self proclaimed economist his performance during the election was unforgivable. Tragically it has deteriorated since then.

  • http://www.bluelikeyou.com/ Joanne (T.B.)

    That's what I'd like to know too. How do we convince Canadians to become more conservative? How do we grow the movement?

  • http://www.bluelikeyou.com/ Joanne (T.B.)

    I like how Monte Solberg phrased it in today's Sun:

    ” This budget isn't a conservative document so much as it's a political document; a document that will give the Conservative government the room necessary to craft a compelling conservative vision for the future.

    They must craft that vision without hesitation, and they must do it in a way that makes people want to be a part of it. “

  • Joe Smalls

    The number one job of a political party is not to get elected.

    It's to get it's policies based on it's principles enacted.

    And it doesn't have to be in power to do this, the reform alliance got the Liberals to balance the budget in the first place and the Liberals just got the Conservative to run massive deficits. You cowardly, unprincipled so-called conservatives are going to find that if you continue along this hard line socialist path, in the end, you will neither be in power or ever have any truly conservative policies enacted.

    Don't tell me you had a gun to your head, you had a choice, and you choose to tuck your tail between your legs, stain the carpet and hide under the bed whimpering.

    I am through with you people.

  • manny

    Thanks to The Pied Piper of Canada

  • manny

    Thanks to The Pied Piper of Canada

  • Jordan

    Why do we even have policy conventions? The only thing harper is good at is hanging onto his 34 percent of the vote. The rest of the country hates us, and we are further than ever from having a majority.

  • AtlanticJim

    That’s it Stephen, tow the party line and drink the koolaid.

    Now how about you turn over blogging tories to a conservative?

    If there are any left in this country.

  • AtlanticJim

    That’s it Stephen, tow the party line and drink the koolaid.

    Now how about you turn over blogging tories to a conservative?

    If there are any left in this country.

  • Soccermom

    For anyone who thinks that three years of a Conservative gov’t would change the mindset of a nation of entitlement dependants is living in a dream world. We have a huge mountain to climb; brains need to be retrained; people need to be weaned off of their government-mandated welfare.

    You give up now and let the Libs have another crack at the can, our work will be so, so much harder. More social programs, more pork. Go ahead. See if you’re happier with all of your principles intact while your taxes go up and up and your hope for a conservative nation will never, ever have a chance. do you honestly think Harper would have brought down a budget like this if there were no recession and he didn’t have the threat of a disastrous coalition on the nation? You are dreaming in technicolour. For pete’s sakes, the Libs haven’t shut up about a national child care system. You want to be saddled with that crap forever? How about a national pharmacare program? Sure! Because the Libs wouldn’t hesitate to add more entitlement spending that goes on forever. Harper’s spending is short term and has an end date. The Liberals NEVER put end dates on their spending.

    Compared to the alternative, I’ll take Harper any day of the week.

  • Soccermom

    For anyone who thinks that three years of a Conservative gov’t would change the mindset of a nation of entitlement dependants is living in a dream world. We have a huge mountain to climb; brains need to be retrained; people need to be weaned off of their government-mandated welfare.

    You give up now and let the Libs have another crack at the can, our work will be so, so much harder. More social programs, more pork. Go ahead. See if you’re happier with all of your principles intact while your taxes go up and up and your hope for a conservative nation will never, ever have a chance. do you honestly think Harper would have brought down a budget like this if there were no recession and he didn’t have the threat of a disastrous coalition on the nation? You are dreaming in technicolour. For pete’s sakes, the Libs haven’t shut up about a national child care system. You want to be saddled with that crap forever? How about a national pharmacare program? Sure! Because the Libs wouldn’t hesitate to add more entitlement spending that goes on forever. Harper’s spending is short term and has an end date. The Liberals NEVER put end dates on their spending.

    Compared to the alternative, I’ll take Harper any day of the week.

  • http://www.nikonthenumbers.com/topics/show/75/9081#comment_9876 Taylor Cutforth

    Precisely, wilson.

    Good to see people understand how politics in this country works.

  • http://www.nikonthenumbers.com/topics/show/75/9081#comment_9876 Taylor Cutforth

    Indeed.

  • http://www.nikonthenumbers.com/topics/show/75/9081#comment_9876 Taylor Cutforth

    “Problem is, he doesn't have the movement backup he needs.”

    Yep.

  • http://www.nikonthenumbers.com/topics/show/75/9081#comment_9876 Taylor Cutforth

    Prime examples.

    Don't force ideals onto others but rather lead by example.

    Do things that aid the person in being able to do so if they so choose.

    Don't let mistakes, mishaps, troubles hold them back from being able to recover from consequence…

    Otherwise it'll more often than not just lead to more problems.

    The first line kinda nips the rest in the bud before the issues even sprout in the first place.

    The latter makes for a decent contingency plan.

    If your completely lost on what I'm on about than this isn't likely directed at you.

    Gonna leave it at that. Use your own discernment on how to apply what I mean.

  • James

    So conservatives have to trick the Canadian public to gain power, at which point they can actually do something productive… Smells like a hidden agenda to me.

  • http://www.conservatism.ca Paul Holmes

    Stephen -

    You just put words to what I have been feeling in the pit of my stomach for the past month or two … thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Stephen, you are correct in calling the liberals an election machine but to infer they have no principles or issues is patently false. The thing the libs have going is to generally understand the electorate better than any other party going. There is nothing wrong with that approach because generally the electorate is correct in their wishes, apprehensions and aspirations.

    You’re too far down the tory pipe to understand flexible politcal movements like the Libs as there are several other social/Liberal democratic parties like them in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    Stephen, you are correct in calling the liberals an election machine but to infer they have no principles or issues is patently false. The thing the libs have going is to generally understand the electorate better than any other party going. There is nothing wrong with that approach because generally the electorate is correct in their wishes, apprehensions and aspirations.

    You’re too far down the tory pipe to understand flexible politcal movements like the Libs as there are several other social/Liberal democratic parties like them in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    Jordon, you are correct in your assessment. I do beleive that Harper will not be around after this summer as he will resign knowing he cannot win a majority and thus cannot fulfill his right wing agenda.

  • Anonymous

    Jordon, you are correct in your assessment. I do beleive that Harper will not be around after this summer as he will resign knowing he cannot win a majority and thus cannot fulfill his right wing agenda.

  • http://www.bluelikeyou.com/ Joanne (T.B.)

    So Taylor, you're saying to quietly espouse certain philosophies… A hand-up rather than a hand-out. No criminal coddling, etc.

    Did I get that right, or am I 'completely lost?'

  • slgam

    A principled conservative government reluctantly doing liberal things does not make me happy, but it's far better than an unprincipled Liberal government doing Liberal things enthusiastically and gleefully. More important, it is far preferable than doggedly sticking to principles like the NDP or even the Marxists, and being reduced to defiantly standing outside the tent, pissing in through the screens. Being in power and getting a portion of what you want beats being perpetually in opposition and getting nothing.

  • LogicallySpeaking

    He didn't introduce a cancellation (public) funding for political parties, he cancelled the aspect of it which benefits his party, relatively speaking, the least. I'm constantly amazed by people who claim to want a democracy, but then are upset by what a democracy gives them.

  • John

    Pretty sure the Conservative party is now top down as the national council which is supposed to represent members largely accepts any demands that come from the PMO

  • Brrr

    The Conservative Party of Canada only exists because of the conservative movement. If one fails, they both have.

    The movement had better success getting conservative things done in opposition than they have in power, I really could not care less what the name of the party in power is, as long as the cause is furthered. PMSH is taking us backward.

  • Brrr

    The Conservative Party of Canada only exists because of the conservative movement. If one fails, they both have.

    The movement had better success getting conservative things done in opposition than they have in power, I really could not care less what the name of the party in power is, as long as the cause is furthered. PMSH is taking us backward.

  • Alberta Girl

    “The thing the libs have going is to generally understand the electorate better than any other party going”

    Huh! Last time I checked they have been out of power for three years and got decimated in the last election. That’s some understanding.

  • Alberta Girl

    “The thing the libs have going is to generally understand the electorate better than any other party going”

    Huh! Last time I checked they have been out of power for three years and got decimated in the last election. That’s some understanding.

  • aa

    So what you are saying is: $30 BILLION IS A SMALL PRICE FOR CANADIANS TO PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF A CONSERVATIVE PARTY MINORITY.

    Well, no one wil accuse you of being an ideologue. Cling to power at any cost! YA!

  • aa

    So what you are saying is: $30 BILLION IS A SMALL PRICE FOR CANADIANS TO PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF A CONSERVATIVE PARTY MINORITY.

    Well, no one wil accuse you of being an ideologue. Cling to power at any cost! YA!

  • aa

    So what you are saying is: $30 BILLION IS A SMALL PRICE FOR CANADIANS TO PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF A CONSERVATIVE PARTY MINORITY.

    Well, no one wil accuse you of being an ideologue. Cling to power at any cost! YA!

  • aa

    So what you are saying is: $30 BILLION IS A SMALL PRICE FOR CANADIANS TO PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF A CONSERVATIVE PARTY MINORITY.

    Well, no one wil accuse you of being an ideologue. Cling to power at any cost! YA!

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    AtlanticJim, you must have very poor reading comprehension… you missed the point entirely. Here, read this:
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    The movement will always outlive parties. We need to do more to make give our parties the foundation to work.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    aa, you need to read my article again. And read this one where this blog post is quoted:
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    John, the movement is bottom-up. There is no Liberal movement. The only time Liblogs got upset was when Dion had no chance of winning and when Canada was supporting Israel instead of condemning it. That's not a movement.

    Blogging Tories is an element of the movement and we need to influence the party from the right so that the party isn't only hearing the eternal whining on the left.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Ted, you obviously do not understand movement politics because you are a Liberal. For the movement, the glass is always half empty; a declared “failure” is rather a call for action to do better and to do a lot more.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Are you really trying to score points on “hidden agenda”?

  • Zorpheous

    Stephen,

    You use to be a principle political wonk, but you really have lost your way. You can tap dance all you want around the issues and the subjects, but in the end you are still trying to put lipstick on a pig and take to prom and declare you have a hot date.

    You need to stop trying to make the conservative kool-aid, while trying to serve it to a crowd that isn't willing to drink any more, all at the same time you pounding back glasses of the stuff to try and keep yourself properly medicated.

    Face it Stephen you sound exact like Jason of Liblogs, mixing and drink your kool-aid doesn't work.

    Just my observation and opinion

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Zorpheus, you fail English? That's unpossible!

    Now, class…
    Q: what is Stephen Taylor's thesis?
    A: The Conservative party is just a vehicle. The movement is what drives it. Stephen Taylor is encouraging conservatives to invest their time and effort into the movement (like Blogging Tories and the Fraser Institute, for example) to provide a sound ideological foundation for real conservative change. Our vehicle needs gas.

    My opinion is the opposite of Jason's. The party takes orders from the movement. The movement doesn't take orders from the party. Though as movement conservatives we need to get to work and must know that simply voting for a party every few years isn't enough of an investment in it's success. We need to change the ideological landscape to allow a truly conservative budget to be presented by any party.

    There have been many versions of the “Conservative” party in the past… the conservative movement will outlive each and every one of them by their nature.

    Though if we want real change, we need to invest in the movement.

  • Gabby in QC

    Good one, Soccermom!

  • http://thewingnuterer.blogspot.com Zorpheous

    Errr, yes, I did fail English, so it is truelee pissible ;-)

    As to the rest of comment and argument Stephen, you are trying to people tosuck and blow at the same time ;-) You can't do both at the same time and not expect people to passout for the lack of fresh air. How was the prom?

    Our vehicle needs gas.

    Gas will do you no good when Harper drives you to the ditch and you need tow truck.

    Oh BTW, I have some juicy inside Liberal news for you,… It seems that Iggy is not going to anointed liberal leader without a challenge. It seems that there is new up and coming liberal star who is going to challenge iggy for the Liberal Party Throne after all,… Yup Stephen Harper is now positioning himself as the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada ~giggle~

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    2004 called and they want their talking points back

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    2004 called and they want their talking points back

  • Joe Smalls

    The only kind of a movement the conservative party is a part of today is a bowel movement. And boy are they stinking up the place.

  • Joe Smalls

    The only kind of a movement the conservative party is a part of today is a bowel movement. And boy are they stinking up the place.

  • Kirkhill

    I'm reminded of Ralph Klein's mantra about getting out in front of the parade.

    You can't stop a stampede. You will get run over.

    You can only get out in front and try to divert if where you want it to go.

    The military analogy is giving an unpopular order and discovering a grenade with no pin beneath your cot.

  • Conservative for Now

    One could probably accept the budget if there was any vision behind it. The only destination presented was DEBT. First leader to present a vision (eliminating/beating the Liberal party is not a vision) and the confidence that he can lead us there wins. Right now, my money is on Ignatieff. I keep waiting for one from Harper, but all I get are short-term tactics.