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Election 2015

Some Kindly Advice for Conservatives

Ponder your loss. Search your souls. Perhaps even hear an adversary's view?

Crawford Kilian 6 Nov

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

A major Canadian journalistic genre is media's advice to the losing parties after their latest defeat. While the Liberals have had a lot of advice since 2006 (and especially since 2011), the New Democrats have been advised to the point where, if the advice was worth anything, they'd now be the natural governing party.

Now it's the Conservative Party of Canada's turn. The survivors belong to a tribe that sought and gained power by studying their adversaries' weaknesses, not their own. Introversion is not a Conservative talent, or they wouldn't have chosen an old guard ideologue like Rona Ambrose as interim leader. She will doubtless let both MPs and grassroots vent a lot, but they're likely to blame Stephen Harper and carry on in their old ways. So they might benefit from an adversary's advice, at least as much as from those within the tribe.

You're a radical party, Conservatives, so consider your roots. If the Austrian neoliberal economists like Friedrich Hayek charm you, consider that you may have been misled. The Austrians, like Ayn Rand, were so upset by the Russian Revolution that they thought every government would follow the Reds' example. Therefore, they decided, government itself was the enemy. But the Reds have been gone for a quarter of a century. Get over it.

Sure, stay radical. Every country needs dissenting views. But try to keep it positive.

If you value the individual over the collective, then promote that value. You'll do better if you don't ignore the benefits the collective has given you: public health, public education, public infrastructure that enable individuals to maximize their talents. Like it or not, the collective made you the rugged individualists you are.

In fact, by taking care of basics like education and healthcare, the collective gives you more time and money to pursue your individual concerns. So focus on those individual concerns, and prod us into making the most of our time and freedom.

Go green, your way

Put the "conserve" back in conservatism. Real conservatives don't live on their capital. They grew up in North America on old sayings like, "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations." In other words, Grandpa makes a fortune, Dad pisses most of it away, and Sonny wastes what's left.

The old conservatives' real heirs are the tree-hugging hippies, not the high-living rip-and-shippers who funded you and your last master. But the point of getting rich to is stay rich, not just party until the bubble bursts. Put your energy and organizational skills at the service of environmental issues, and you might even outflank the NDP and Liberals.

Get really tight-fisted. The whole point of pooling our tax money is to save on costs we can't afford individually. The problem with public services isn't that they cost money, but they cost too much for what the public gets. Never mind the deficit; most corporations are up to their chins in debt, but they borrow to invest. So will taxpayers get back more than they borrow?

Well, education results in way lower costs for courts and penitentiaries, not to mention way higher tax revenues. So consider a get-tough policy on dropouts as the skinflint's way to get tough on crime.

Similarly, you squandered untold billions on Afghanistan and then on fighting the Islamic State. What's your business plan for foreign wars? What are they going to make us, and if they don't make us anything, why fight them?

Tax your funders; it's your brokerage fee. Not one Conservative-supporting CEO went to business school wearing a halo and catching cash falling from heaven. The one per centers grow up in the economic environment the rest of us create. If they make fortunes in that environment, they should pay high taxes just as a cost of doing business. If they don't, they're genuine corporate welfare bums, living on the public teat.

A genuine reflection

Don't seize today; seize tomorrow. We've gone through half a century of convulsive economic change. The big companies of 1965 are transformed or vanished, done in by new technologies and upstart geniuses. Be talent scouts for still newer technologies, younger geniuses -- not for their immediate donations, but for the taxes they'll pay if you can lure them to set up shop in Canada.

If you can get the next Elon Musk to build 3D organ printers or home fusion reactors in Mississauga or Burnaby, you'll be set for life as Conservatives on the cutting edge.

Support the arts. They earn billions -- according to the Canada Council, $46 billion yearly, 3.8 per cent of our GDP. By comparison, Canadian NHL hockey generates a lousy US$1.2 billion in yearly revenues.

So how come you can't bring out actors and musicians and hip-hop artists to your rallies? Does the progressive devil have to have all the good tunes? You got your knickers in a knot about the "Media Party" and the evil CBC, which only made matters worse.

Just remember the Medicis of Renaissance Italy: they were gangsters, but Italy has long since forgiven them all those poisonings. They poured their ill-gotten gains into patronizing the arts, and millions of tourists still flock to Italy to see what they subsidized.

Every party that takes a kicking goes through a period of blaming others for its failure. Then it can either stop and decay, or go on and re-examine its basic premises -- and genuinely rebuild itself as a party based on reality, not on ideology and not on expediency. The more realistic future Conservatives are, the more options Canadians will have for a turbulent future.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Election 2015

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