Hurt me, baby – I’m conservative
written by Connie Wilkins
May 19th 2003
One has to wonder if the primary qualification for being a conservative in Canada is an inclination toward masochism. Quite honestly, it would be far less painful to pour lemon juice in a paper cut, or to shave one's head with a cheese grater, than to listen to the inane ramblings of the conservative leadership in this country today.
For those of us who watched Preston Manning step away from the Progressive Conservative Party and boldly advocate his grassroots democratic principles, it was the pure torture to then watch him become willing to sacrifice his own movement in his lust for political power.
The United Alternative was nothing more than a raw power-grab. The top-down political maneuvering that birthed the Canadian Alliance flew in the face of the very grassroots democratic principles on which the Reform Party had been built. Manning was so blinded by PM for PM, he sold out out his principles and betrayed the very people who had stood behind him since the beginning of the Reform.
The Canadian Alliance has been wandering in the political wilderness since Manning’s minions took it upon themselves to depose the party's democratically elected leader and replace him with someone who was more to their liking. Preston’s actions - or, more precisely, his inaction - during the palace coup to overthrow Stockwell Day showed the membership they had been taken in by pretty words and their strongest grassroots advocate was more interested in power than in representing their interests. When Manning helped stage the coup to usurp the will of the party rank-and-file, many members voted with their feet.
So, here we are. The party that had so much potential is now faced with the fact its core constituency is leaving in droves and it is losing the confidence of the voters.
This fact was brought home last week by the election in Perth-Middlesex. It was obvious the record of Liberal negligence and corruption was finally reaching the hearts and minds of Ontario voters. Unfortunately, for the CA, its record of contempt for the grassroots was also a contributing factor in the election results.
Don’t get me wrong, the Progressive Conservative win in Perth-Middlesex was actually a win for Canadian conservatism. It showed that Ontarians are not pre-programmed to vote Liberal in every election and that conservatism is becoming an attractive option. But the election also showed Ontarians would rather put their trust in the Progressive Conservative Party than in the Canadian Alliance.
The problem is not our policies, the policies of the Canadian Alliance are excellent, and our constitution is the thing that keeps me faithful to the CA. But I have no illusions that what we aspire to be, compared to what we actually are, are worlds apart. If we are to reach our full potential, then we must get past the top-down political games that have plagued us since Preston Manning fell to the lure of the ring of power.
Canadian conservatives feel betrayed and disillusioned with the Canadian Alliance. They want a voice and they want to vote for a party that will give them what they expect. The CA has failed to supply evidence that they will provide either. This is the reason members began to leave; and why the Canadian Alliance lost in Perth-Middlesex. We can blame the media, or political dirty tricks…but the truth is there for all to see.
Next weekend, Preston Manning, Mike Harris, and several other conservative policy wonks will be meeting to discuss the state of the conservative movement in Canada. Their conference is called, "Towards a Common-Sense Vision for Canada".
I would like to present my common-sense vision for Canada.
1. The leadership of both conservative parties needs to immediately abandon their quest for the Holy Grail of a United Right.
2. Preston Manning needs to be told by the membership of both parties that he no longer has the credibility to represent anyone in any kind of merger talks.
3. The grassroots members of both parties need to work in a parallel and bipartisan effort to defeat the Liberals in the next election.
4. When the time is right to talk about merging or cooperating, it should be a grassroots-led initiative, and the leadership needs to step aside and allow the members to decide where they are willing to compromise to achieve such unity.
The Canadian conservative movement has been a dismal disappointment. But there is hope. It is up to us, as members of the Canadian Alliance or the Progressive Conservative Party, to stop our navel-gazing and insist our leadership do the same.
Whether he believed it or not, Preston Manning encouraged us to believe that individual voices could make a difference. We must now use those voices, and turn our attention to the task at hand. The Liberals have gotten a free ride for far too long, and it is our own fault.
I intend to write letters to Preston Manning and Mike Harris telling them they do not speak for me, and I do not need them to use their time and energy to create another ill-advised top-down pseudo-solution for the Liberal problem. I am also going to tell Mr. Manning his credibility went out the window when he threw his leader to the wolves in his quest to become Prime Minister and that any hope he might have of rising like a Phoenix from the smoldering ashes of his career is misguided and futile. He has shown his true colours, and Canadian conservatives are not going to forget it.
After I write those letters, I am going to talk to some Progressive Conservatives about how we can increase public awareness of the Liberal problem…and discuss ways we can stand beside each other and turn our guns in the right direction for a change.
I believe that someday the right in Canada will once again be united. But I believe it will only happen when it becomes the will of the grassroots membership…and we have a long way to go building trust between us before those doors will open.
So, Mr. Manning, please go back to wherever you have been hiding since you sabotaged our party. We have a lot of work to do and your political posturing is only hindering it.
We may be masochists, but there is a limit. Give me the bamboo splinters or a bucket of hot tar, but never again force me to endure Preston Manning with political power.
I couldn't bear the pain.