Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What it Means to Join a Political Party ( #cdnpoli )

A lot of people believe joining a political party means getting together and advancing policies and ideas that they collectively believe in.

The truth is - the more important part about joining a political party is a willingness or a flexibility in advancing policies and ideas that you do not believe in. There's an inherit horse trading in the whole exercise - "if you support my policy, I'll support yours..."

That's a fairly simplistic take admittedly, but that's what it comes down to. What do you do when the party you support proposes something you do not believe in? This is understood by most partisans, not necessarily the public in general.

If you're currently observing the federal Conservative leadership race, you will see that Conservative leadership candidates are currently attacking each other with, what could be argued, the same vigour that they'd attack a Liberal opponent. This has some Conservative partisans worried about breaking apart the big tent.
I would argue that Michelle Rempel, represents a good example of a public Conservative partisan, and she holds viewpoints that oppose at least a couple of the leadership candidates. For example, she opposes carbon pricing - which Michael Chong supports - and I would guess she opposes just about everything Brad Trost stands for socially ...

Conceivably, one of these gentlemen could become Conservative Party leader. Does Michelle change her viewpoints and advance the policies these two individuals propose for the good of the party? They all agree that taxes on the wealthy are too high, but is that enough to hold the tent together?

That's for her to decide - and that's often a more crucial decision.

Sometimes partisans rebel - cross the floor. More often they "retire" or "resign" for other reasons.

Until 2007, I was a proud Ontario Progressive Conservative and a reluctant federal Conservative. It became harder and harder to remain a Conservative partisan when I was debating contentious social issues. I did not want to attend another convention or policy workshop where someone had to have their say on why there were too many abortions or why we can't just lock up the homeless. Private health care! Freer access to guns!

During the provincial election of 2007, I opposed the Ontario PC Party's plan to extend tax credits to religious schools in the province quietly, but publicly I supported the "fairness in education" movement. That was, until John Tory said, "evolution was just a theory" and creationism should be taught - then I was out.

Patrick Brown, in Ontario, is winning praise for bringing the provincial Conservatives to the centre. I thought John Tory had done that, but he proved me wrong. Once bitten, twice shy so the saying goes.

While I'm a fiscal conservative, I'm more flexible on support for policies around fiscal responsibility than I am about social conscience. I'd rather disagree on fiscal policy, than have to swallow and advance socially conservative policy.

To that end - I think a modern, centrist Conservative Party is a good thing for Canadian politics and for Canada in general. I think the ideals of progressive conservatism and the British tradition of Toryism is also a good thing - freedom to succeed, provided you help others.

To that end, if I were a Conservative, I'd be supporting Michael Chong. Take that for what you will.