The Conservative Dilemma

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy ask the question, “What if the Conservatives had a ‘centrist’ leader?” like Rona Ambrose or Peter MacKay. To their credit Graves and Valpy recognize that while a centrist Conservative party would appeal to the media and various elites in Canada it would effectively maroon the 30% of Canadians who might loosely be described as “populist”.

I think Graves and Valpy are right and I can’t wait for that exact outcome.

Scheer managed to hoodwink a lot of natural populists with a combination of Liberal-lite policies and some goofy socon gestures (I am not sure Pride Parade non-attendance really counts for much with the serious socons.)

Graves and Valpy maintain that this was enough to avoid “orphaning the party’s biggest lump, and he more or less cut off oxygen to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC).” It might have been last election but if the CPC goes centrist with its next leader, the lump will be looking elsewhere.

I am fairly certain that the CPC will go for a centrist leader if only because there are really no populist candidates available to it. Pierre Poilievre might fill the bill but it is not obvious that the CPC will be willing to support an MP who is as “direct” as Poilievre.

Which will leave “the lump” looking for a home. Graves and Valpy give a rundown of the lump’s core issues,

“Like the United States, the United Kingdom and sizeable chunks of Western Europe, Canada has a significant portion of citizens—about 30 per cent—who are attracted to the current psychographic and demographic binge of ordered populism. They are profoundly economically pessimistic and mistrustful of science and the elites. They have no interest in climate change, they don’t really see an active role for public institutions and believe there are too many immigrants. Of those immigrants coming to Canada, they think that too many are not white.”

Other than the dig about thinking “too many are not white”, that is a pretty good summary. (On the “not white” thing, I suspect it is more nuanced than that: more along the lines of the current Quebec government’s desire to preserve its culture in the face of immigration.)

I would make only one other correction and that is that they are not economically pessimistic, rather they are deeply worried that the current government has no clue what it is doing economically. There is a difference.

I would also add that the 30% lump tend to take a “leave me the fuck alone” with respect to gay marriage, trans rights, abortion and a host of other social justice causes. They are not so much opposed as annoyed to have gay pride parades and Drag Queen story hour as touchstones of moral correctness. They are not so much social conservatives as people entirely fed up with the hectoring of assorted minorities.

The lump tends to look at “climate change” in much the same way. They may accept the consensus “science” but they are annoyed at the BS virtue signalling of not having plastic grocery bags and being dinged for a “carbon” tax which will make no difference at all to world CO2 levels.

All of which add up to the Conservatives’ dilemma. The brain trust of the CPC is pretty sure that the road to 24 Sussex runs through 25 marginal seats in and around Toronto. These are seats which may have significant immigrant populations and lots of nice middle class ladies who don’t like that mean Mr. Trump or that vile Doug Ford. The logic is that to win those seats the Conservatives need a leader who is the very opposite of the Bad Orange Man, in fact, a leader very much like that handsome Mr. Trudeau. Who cares about the planet, loves Pride Parades and embraces multi-culturalism and family class immigration as “the one, true path” to national salvation.

The fact that such a leader would be anathema to the Conservative heartlands in the West and even in smaller places in Canada does not matter to the CPC brain trust because, well, who are they going to vote for?

Graves and Valpy edge up on the answer to that question, ” The danger, of course, is that the positions of those in the ordered camp are so dramatically offside the centre on issues like immigration and climate change that they may either stay home or perhaps consider the PPC. The People’s Party is now at nearly five per cent of total voters, and they could be a magnet for this segment if the Conservatives went too centre.”

Yup. And it would not even be a hard decision if a screamingly Red Tory like MacKay became the leader.

Here’s the thing: in the last election “the lump” voted CPC because it was generally believed that Bernier and the PPC had no chance of winning seats and “the lump” was desperate to see Trudeau defeated. Next election, if the CPC picks a centrist, “the lump” will have no real reason to vote CPC. Especially if Max continues to barnstorm the country.

Trudeau won with 33% of the vote. The wholesale collapse of the CPC vote under a Trudeau-lite leader and a rapprochement with the Bloc could put Max into contention.

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8 thoughts on “The Conservative Dilemma

  1. […] Jay Currie offers his analysis of the Conservative dilemma (but he’s also a known PPC sympathizer, so good Canadians must pay no attention to what he says): […]

  2. I told the CPC three years ago who they should draft to be their new leader: They ignored my advice and suffered the consequences. As it so happens, this man lost his job of forty years standing a month after the last Dominion election. Perhaps the time has finally come.

  3. John Cross says:

    “I would make only one other correction and that is that they are not economically pessimistic, rather they are deeply worried that the current government has no clue what it is doing economically. There is a difference.”

    Interesting statement Jay. So what economic models do you think would be better to use?

  4. Jay Currie says:

    At this point, John, an economic model which took deficits seriously would be a start. And one in which economic growth was a serious value.

    Our current models seem to treat government debt as an essentially limitless resource. The idea that an economy needs to grow in real terms seems to have been entirely forgotten. (And it is much worse in the US.)

    I would like to see a model which takes as a bare minimum a 2-3% real growth in GDP (with all of its flaws) and a serious commitment to a 1-2% reduction in the actual deficit. Oddly, the Chretien model.

    Wealthy, debt reducing, countries will do well over the next few years. Look for a sound currency, increasing exports, increasing in-country production. This is not hard to do but it takes a disciplined approach.

    • John says:

      Sounds good Jay. But I must point out that if those are your requirements, then climate models are well ahead of economic models.

    • Cytotoxic says:

      This is quite hilarious because those populists down south clearly do not care at all about spending or deficits or actual serious economic growth (US GDP growth is mediocre).

  5. Terry Rudden says:

    Definitely time for you to weigh in with some thoughts on the slate now shaping up.

  6. Cytotoxic says:

    I don’t buy for a second that 30% of the country is some coherent populist set that is going to march off to Bernier if they don’t get everything they want. They can and will be held in line by a CPC leader that is serious and offers them some of what they want ex an end to the CHRC.

    BTW this 30% is probably demographically similar to its America analogue which is to say, boomers and old people. They’re going to die off and get replaced with lots of immigrants.

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