Christian Conservative Christian "Independent"

I'm an evangelical Christian, member of the CPC, but presently & unjustly exiled to wander the political wilderness.
All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Friday, October 02, 2009

On the verge of changing the game

A really interesting article by Michael Bliss in today's Globe & Mail... and a good summary of what I've been trying to tell the nervous nellies for years now.

Rather than trying to ram "conservative" ideology through an unstable House, and upon Canadians who aren't ready to trust us yet, the correct strategy is to build our brand such that Canadians are willing to give us the reigns of power not just for a couple of years, but for generations to come. What's better, two years of trying and failing to get our agenda passed in a minority, or ten years of solid governance in which we can steer the country back onto the right track?

Personally, I vote for the long incrementalist game...
Has Harper found his tipping point?
In a historic shift, the Tories have seized the centre and are set to become the natural governing party
Michael Bliss
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Friday, Oct. 02, 2009 08:49AM EDT

In this autumn of our usual discontent with politics and politicians, we do not seem to be noticing that the balance between Canada's major parties is at or very near a historic tipping point. Stephen Harper's Conservatives have seized the central ground of the political spectrum and are poised to become the country's natural governing party. The Liberal Party is floundering in uncertainty and disunity, unsure of what it stands for and badly led. We appear to be on the verge of the great historic shift in party fortunes that Conservatives have hoped for, but have regularly failed to achieve, for more than a century.

It's a truism that Prime Minister Harper has abandoned his Reform Party dogmatism and is trying to govern Canada from the centre. In one area after another – stimulus spending, foreign policy, support for the arts, economic development, co-operative federalism, as well as naked pork-barrelling and shameless self-promotion, the Conservatives are implementing policies that might have been drawn from the Jean Chrétien-Paul Martin songbook. Particularly on economic policy and their response to the recession, the Conservatives hold the political centre so thoroughly that Liberals have no idea whether to attack the government from the right (for spending too much) or from the left (for spending too little). The government's policies are broadly acceptable to Canadians, it continues to inch upward in the polls, and it would very likely eke out a majority in a general election today.

The Official Opposition seems to have lost its way. No one has the foggiest idea of what Canada's Liberals stand for, save for a return to Pearsonian diplomacy and Team Canada missions. Having so badly bungled such policy issues as the carbon tax in last year's election, the party is literally afraid to advocate new initiatives. Having committed an act of transcendent political lunacy in agreeing last winter to a coalition with the NDP, with separatist support, the Liberals have left themselves far more vulnerable to the “hidden agenda” card than Mr. Harper's Conservatives have ever been.

Most strikingly, having seen how ill-suited an intellectual/academic, even with significant cabinet experience, can be to the job of political leadership, Liberal grandees then handed the leadership to an intellectual/academic without any cabinet or any other kind of managerial experience. We are seeing the consequences of this in the very negative assessments of Mr. Ignatieff's leadership, by Liberals as well as outsiders, and now in the opening of potentially volcanic fissures in the façade of Liberal unity. Under Mr. Harper, the Conservatives have learned the discipline of power. Under Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals are dissolving into the dreary disorder of the powerless.

Sooner or later, the contempt that many in our chattering classes still seem to feel for the Conservatives in general and Mr. Harper in particular is going to begin to give way to the realization that he is on the verge of becoming the next Mackenzie King. Neither colourful nor lovable, Mr. Harper is emerging as a master strategist. He learns from his mistakes and is growing on Canadians as Prime Minister. King was widely dismissed as an unattractive lightweight in 1921, when he became the leader of a minority government. For the next five years, he held his party and government together, navigated through a series of political crises and, in 1926, emerged with a majority, launching him (still colourless and unloved) as the dominant figure on our political stage for the next quarter of a century. His brilliant, witty, learned opponent, Arthur Meighen, was consigned to the dustbin of history, where he wrote memoirs insisting that he had always been right.

Three previous Conservative prime ministers have failed to achieve the success that is almost in Mr. Harper's grasp. Sir Robert Borden's Conservative government was ground up in the muck of Great War battlefields and conscription. The most charitable interpretations of John Diefenbaker's squandering of his majority involve hard times – a very long recession – and the dilemmas of Cold War politics; another view is that he self-immolated in paranoia and ineptitude. In the late 1980s, Brian Mulroney's attempt to forge a permanent Conservative majority floundered over Meech Lake and Canadians' resentment at transparent pork-barrelling, sleaze and his government's overriding image of phoniness. So far, there is no evidence that Mr. Harper will fall into similar pits – although it would not hurt for Conservatives to remind themselves these days how easily power and spending corrupt.

Perhaps the cruellest problem the Liberals face is the fading of Quebec as the crucial national battleground. Whether or not the Liberals get their Quebec act together, the Conservatives are on the verge of being able to form a majority government even without effective Quebec representation, a prospect that will be more evident in future years after parliamentary redistribution.

The dim prospects for the opposition parties suggest that we will not have an election for at least another year, possibly much longer. Given their weakness, national opinion and the constant readiness of the Conservatives' electoral organization, Mr. Harper's government can get on with the job almost as though it had a majority. Unless something quite unexpected occurs, the Conservatives' virtual majority will become a real one whenever the next election is held and a new template will be in place for the foreseeable political future.

Michael Bliss is a historian and author of Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Chrétien.

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  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 11:36:00 a.m. EDT, Blogger wilson said…

    Oh yah!

    ''The Angus Reid/Toronto Star poll showed the Conservatives at 37 per cent, Liberals at 27 per cent and the NDP at 17.

    The poll of 1,000 Canadians was done Tuesday and Wednesday and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.''

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 11:38:00 a.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I find the term "natural governing party" offensive.It is one of the reasons I despise Liberals so much. Political parties should serve the public,not the other way around.If a gov't strays too far from their agenda they get turfed.Pretty simple. Chretien was able to buy some time by taking advantage of a disorganized opposition but in the end he was forced out. Once gaining the title of "natural governing party" what do you expect? A free pass or two on corruption? An automatic assumption that only your party can speak for Canadians? Do you assume that other people are extremists? You shouldn't. The Liberals did and perhaps still do.They are finding out the hard way that Liberals are no better Canadians than anyone else and they hate it. Don't make the same mistake. It is an honour to govern not a right. Eventually, you could learn the hard way.

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 11:52:00 a.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Rather than trying to ram "conservative" ideology through an unstable House, and upon Canadians who aren't ready to trust us yet, the correct strategy is to build our brand such that Canadians are willing to give us the reigns of power not just for a couple of years, but for generations to come. What's better, two years of trying and failing to get our agenda passed in a minority, or ten years of solid governance in which we can steer the country back onto the right track?"

    Is this not an admission that you have a "hidden agenda"? Not hidden as in completely secret. But hidden as in you know that Canadians don't want your policies, therefore you should give them the more moderate policies they want, until you have the power to do what you've wanted all along.

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 12:28:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    "It is an honour to govern not a right."

    ABSOLUTELY Anon@11:38... I never implied that I would condone the sort of corruption within my own party that I saw fester within the Liberal Party when they were in power. It's my hope that by supplanting the Liberals, we'll get to show Canadians what "Good Government" really looks like... and once they see that, they'll never return to the Liberals... EVER.

    Anon@11:52... get a life. The reason Canadians have a skewed view on our policies, and thus don't "think" they want them is because you Liberals disgustingly spin each and every one of them way out of context, to your own partisan advantage. NEWS FLASH... Canadians are starting to see our policies for what they are, GOOD IDEAS, and are starting to reject your self-serving spin on them.

    And that's what really TERRIFIES YOU, isn't it... the fact that you see your "divine right" to govern slipping away. The longer we're in power, the less likely it becomes that you'll get back into power anytime soon. Perhaps now you understand why I'm enjoying your implosion so much... ;-)

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 12:33:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We've moved so far the the left to gain power I don't even recognize this party anymore! We're the highest spending government ever BY FAR! How soon until another Reform party gets started?

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 01:02:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    Oh yea Anon@12:33, let's split the right again and give the Liberals a carte-blanche chance to regroup... now there's a GREAT idea!

    HAVE PATIENCE... for the ten thousandth time, WE'RE IN A MINORITY!!! The left has FORCED us to spend, and Canadians see that. We come forward with a common sence platform in the next campaign, and we can start moving thing back to the right, as in the CORRECT, fiscal ideology that Canada needs.

    If any jokers in the Party start jumping ship, then we have only THEM to blame for any losses.


    (man, I just shake my head at how many times I have to explain that... why is it that so many of our "grassroots" seem to have a political death-wish with their "It's my way or I'm outta here!" attitude?)

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 04:10:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous Sandy Crux said…

    CC -- I just noticed this post so will link it to mine.

    However, in reading your comments regarding what a Conservative majority would mean. I disagree with your hint that something significant would change with said majority -- going from where it is now/centrist to far right. In fact, it has never been far right or I wouldn't be a supporter -- as a former PC.

    So, to hint that supporters only need to be patient and wait, only confirms the hidden agenda business.

    Rather, I think former Reformers need to get a grip and realize that being in gov't means staying in the middle. There is no hidden agenda in that view.

    Just my opinion.

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 09:01:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    Hey Sandy, not what I meant at all... I just mean that in a minority, we can't get more true "conservative" ideologically driven legislation passed. In a majority, I also would hope for a centrist bent, but just a better ability to move on Canadians priorities with truly "conservative" solutions.

    No worries, I'm not a hard-core Reformer either... never was. ;-)

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 10:15:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear CC,

    I am (or was) Anon@1152,

    1. I am not now, nor have I ever been a "liberal" (at least in the context of the Canadian party system). If I seem more critical of the Conservatives, it is no doubt (at least in part) because they are in power. Please do not assume that because I am critical of one of your comments, or many government policies, that I am necessarily to be counted amongst your political enemies. Trust me: they don't like me either.

    2. I do not now, nor have I ever felt that I had a "divine right" to govern. In fact, until Obama, I had never managed to see any candidate I voted for win. I was starting to think I was bad luck.

    3. I am often in a state of "implosion", but since that has nothing to do with party politics, I'm rather offended that you are enjoying it.

    (I hope the tongue-in-cheek nature of this comment comes through in the written text...)

    4. It appears that I am not the only one who noticed the "hidden agenda" feeling. I was being critical of your second paragraph. To be critical of my second paragraph, I should say that, on reflection, I would not have used the phrase "don't want your policies". It was too broad/sweeping and too belligerent. And it sounded as if I was presuming to speak for the Canadian people. Perhaps I did. But I heard how it sounded, and don't like it. At any rate, please accept my apologies.

    5. "The left has FORCED us to spend"?
    That is not what the government's "action plan" website(s) suggest. The government seems happy to take credit for the spending.

    6. Speaking of the action plan... I'm not sure how sound conservative policies are or would be. For example, the website says
    "The Harper Government also acted to fortify Canada's real-estate sector against a U.S.-style shock by lowering the maximum term of a mortgage from 40 to 35 years and requiring a minimum down payment of 5% for government-backed mortgages." (

    I worked for a subprime lending company for the first few months of Harper's first government. It was during this time that mortgages, typically 25 years, were extended to 30 years, then 40 years. Minimum down payments were also lowered significantly. If they needed to lower the maximum mortgage term from 40 years to 35 years "to avoid a US-style shock", why did they raise it from 25 years in the first place? And doesn't that sound just a bit like Münchausen syndrome by proxy?

    Seriously, though. I would like to see a response to this specific point (# 6). Harper and the Conservatives have been happy to take credit for Canada's economic policies that shielded us from the worst of the credit meltdown, but took actions that most likely made it worse for us than it would have been otherwise. And they spent years being against the economic policies that they are now so proud of.

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 10:39:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous jgriffin316 said…

    Question: Is the Conservative party more left wing than it used to be or is the country more right wing than it used to be? I think it's more the latter than the former. For example, I can't think of the last time I have seen a person openly mocking someone's Christian beliefs and those around him joining in the laughter.

    Our growing intolerance to intolerance is a sign of a shift to the right in my mind.

  • At Fri. Oct. 02, 11:53:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    Anon1152, thanks for your reply back! Just the sort of dialouge I appreciate. Let me chew on it and get back to you... after some sleep, I'm dropping here. ;-)

  • At Sat. Oct. 03, 12:23:00 a.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dear CC,

    Thank you very much!


    I discovered your blog months ago, and, even though it seems obvious that we have very little in common in terms of our political position(s), I can't stop visiting; in large part because you seem both extremely partisan (which on its own I do not consider a bad thing) but also very willing to listen to and think about other points of view.

    (I do not think that you do this perfectly, 100 per cent of the time... but neither do I, and coming here helps me realize that).

    I can't stand it when people think that a moderate/reasonable/fair/truthful position is located equidistant between two points (e.g., between the far left and far right). What matters is a willingness to take other views seriously, and think about them honestly. And I suspect/hope that you might feel the same way.

    I'm looking forward to your response.

    Anon@(or should I say "from"?)1152

    I should pick a pseudonym. I'm leaning towards Thomas Hobbes. But I digress.

    I acknowledge that I would not be surprised if I saw another political party doing the same thing I complained about in my last post. It's hard to distinguish, sometimes, between who is doing X, and what it that is being done. (I don't think that one should necessarily choose between the two options... just be clear on the distinction).

    Apologies for rambling. I need some sleep myself.

  • At Sat. Oct. 03, 03:13:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    Hey "1152" (that's your name now, LOL), here's the response to your questions....

    1. Thanks for the clarification on your party status, and I'll take this opportunity to apologize for my way over the top and personal insult to you... calling you a "Liberal", wow, I must have been really cheesed off to pull out such a big stick. ;-) [I hope you'll also note the tongue in cheek humour in my reply] In all seriousness though, as you noted yourself in your Question 4, it was indeed the "don't want your policies" quote that caused me to assume your "official" party membership. Now that we've got that cleared up, I suppose we can move on. ;-)

    2. LOL, so I'm not the only one who seems to back only losing candidates? Actually, that's not entirely true, I've voted Federally for the winner in my riding only twice... in this most recent election, and in my first ever vote... when I voted for a Liberal. ;-)

    3. Ha ha... I wish more political "partisans" had a sense of humour!

    4. Gladly accepted. I can see how the "hidden agenda" could be read into my post, but it's not what I was conveying. I was merely discussing the issues of putting forward "genuine" Conservative agenda while in a minority situation... where it's being spun and pretty much opposed by leftist ideologues, NOT the Canadian people per se. Yes, they're the elected representatives of many Canadians, but I doubt that most Canadians would feel the same way about the agenda we'd put forward... one that would be centre-right, which is where I suspect more Canadians than the general polls tell us really are.

    5. On this one, I'll take a modified page out of Ignatieff's quotebook... "Taking credit for spending if necessary, but not necessarily spending to take credit". ;-) See the difference? If it was purely up to us, I doubt we'd have spent so much money... however, with the clear rejection of that stance we saw from the Three Amigos last year, we had to put together a reasonable "stimulus" package. One which, for the record, I pretty much am in agreement with. With all the other G20 nations spending, we would have fallen behind, so we put together a limited, both in dollars and time, package. Were the Liberals in power with the support of the NDP and Bloc, there would have been even more debt, and it would be on an ongoing basis, as Liberals tend to like implementing new long-term and permanent spending programs, whereas we prefer to limit that sort of spending by setting specific goals, and then end the programs once those goals are met.


  • At Sat. Oct. 03, 03:13:00 p.m. EDT, Blogger Christian Conservative said…

    6. I can see your points on point 6, and pretty well agree with your views on it. To me, 40 year mortgages are an INSANE idea, and while the zero-down is dangerous, however, I think their intent was to encourage more first time buyers to get into the market. I can attest to this fact, because my wife and I were able to take advantage of that last year. We could have spent 5 years saving for a down payment, or jump in and start building equity, rather than building someone else's equity in paying them rent. We worked the numbers, and even with the higher interest we pay overall, we still come out ahead in the long run, especially with today's fantastic interest rates. But I can see why this was a big risk, as many who really couldn't afford it may have jumped in too, so they closed that one up. As for the 40 year terms, again, BAD idea, I'm glad they closed that one up too. (and NO, we didn't go anywhere close to that long a term!!!)

    To conclude though, I don't agree with your analysis of how our Government views these things. Yes, we're against deficit spending in principal, but now that we're in that boat due to the global recession, I think we've taken the prudent and necessary steps to keep us on the right track. With the prior years of cutting our debt, we're in a stronger borrowing position, and are able to better keep our head above water than most nations. I also think we've been wiser in planning to end our spending sooner than many countries, thereby keeping us out of too much red ink. I think it's a "best of" selection of a whole bunch of bad options.

    Put it this way... there's no way I'd want anyone other than Mr. Harper at the helm right now. That's not talking points, that's my honest opinion. Besides... I'm not an economist, money matters aren't really my bag!

    One more thing... don't ever take offense to what I say, most of the time, it's just off the top of my head. (I pretty much just write in a "stream of consciousness manner) As such, sometimes I write things that don't quite come out the right way, at least not on my first attempt. I'm always happy to try and clarify something for those who want an honest discussion of the issues!

    Thanks again for restoring my faith in reasoned dialogue, CC.

  • At Sat. Oct. 03, 05:20:00 p.m. EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The 'Natural governing policy' concept is a fallacy some Liberal hacks believe in, but not most Canadians. In order to rule you need to be trusted by Canadians and to do that you will inevitably move towards the true majority of opinion in this Country which is the broad centre, even centre-left. Chretian-Martin kept power for so long because they got that balance perfect for a while. If the Conservatives are gaining power to push their Conservative agenda by pretending to be something else then the long term strategy you speak of will be meaningless. The only way to get Canadians to trust you is to be what they want, and that somethign similar to Chretian's Liberals or slightly left of Mulroney's Conservatives. If you think you can 'seem safe' and convince Canadians to let Conservative rule for ten years whilst moving the country to the right you are foolish.


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