Conservatives need not look at last week’s election as a defeat, but rather an opportunity. An opportunity to take back their party from the boys in short pants, the youngsters in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) office, who welded immense power under Harper’s regime. It’s an opportunity for the Conservatives to give power back to their sitting MPs and to the extent possible in a parliamentary system, back to the grassroots.
Right now there is a lot of hurt and battered Conservative MPs, defeated MPs, and faithful members of the party. But I believe with a little time and a lot of reflection, there will also be a sense of freedom and relief.
Harper expanded the PMO to over 100 staffers. These unknown, unelected and unaccountable people were the ones who de facto ran the Conservative Party and the Canadian government while Harper was prime minister.
Harper largely distrusted his caucus with the exception of those two or three ministers who were Harper clones (e.g. Paul Calandra, Chris Alexander, Jason Kenney). Every other elected member was forced to memorize the script and use the talking points concocted by the boys in short pants.
There was a reason that so many high profile former cabinet ministers quit politics, John Baird of course being the most noteworthy.
Every negative defining moment in the election campaign was entirely the making of those arrogant boys in short pants. I don’t believe for a minute that the majority of Conservative candidates felt good about having to say no to all-candidate debates because the PMO didn’t trust them to speak in public without supervision. It’s basic to a strong democracy, pitting candidate against candidate in an open, unscripted forum.
The Duffy mess rested solely in the hands of Harper and his staff who made the inane decision that a $4,000 cabin in PEI constituted residency and then completely botched their series of cover up schemes.
The blow up over the inaction of the Canadian government towards Syrian refugees was another PMO debacle. Their decision to vet individual refugee claims themselves, rather than trust the Immigration Department to do their job blew up in Harper’s face at the most inopportune time—during an election campaign.
I choose to believe that most Conservative candidates and supporters cringed when the boys in short pants came up with the “barbaric cultural practices” hot line idea or when Harper hugged the infamous crack cocaine smoking, foul-mouthed former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, in the waning days of the election. Surely, neither could be seen as proud Conservative family value moments!
But alas, this too will pass. Conservatives now have a choice. They can choose to believe that the electorate got it wrong and that Canadians will wake up next election and realize the errors of their ways. That’s when the Conservative party elects a Ford brother or similar buffoon to take the party forward, similar to the Republican Party flirting with the likes of Donald Trump as their next leader.
Or the Conservative Party can acknowledge the Liberals won a huge majority because they best articulated the values and hopes of the majority and rejected the Americanization of Canadian politics.
I’m optimistic after listening to re-elected Conservative MPs like Michelle Rempel from Calgary and Lisa Raitt from Metro Toronto.
They get it — tone matters.
Respecting elected MPs matters.
And last but not least, every Canadian matters, whether First Nation aboriginals, ‘old stock Canadians’, or brand new immigrant Canadians.
All governments get arrogant and all governments need to be replaced on a regular basis. Let’s hope the Conservative Party choose their next leader well so they will be the logical choice when it comes time to dump the Liberal Government.