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Here's How The Conservative Party Can Secure Its Future

02/02/2016 01:27 EST | Updated 02/02/2017 05:12 EST
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference where he conceded victory on election day in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party has swept into office with a surprise majority, ousting Prime Minister Stephen Harper and capping the biggest comeback election victory in Canadian history. Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomerg

Last October sucked. 

Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party lost 60 seats, the Liberal Party gained 148 and Justin Trudeau became the 23rd prime minister of Canada. 

My local Conservative candidate ran an efficient, well-organized, losing campaign. I took my well-deserved lumps from Liberal friends. They won fair and square.

But during the election I'd heard the opinion that former Liberals shouldn't be in the fight. That Conservatives shouldn't welcome those who cross over. 

Certain parts of the Liberal Party exhibit elitism, nepotism, Central Canadian-favouritism and a general distaste for Western Canada and our industries. (I'm looking your way McGuinty, Trudeau.) I understand the Western reflex, especially with a Trudeau in the prime minister's office.

In Saskatchewan, however, what's left of Prairie liberalism is more right-wing to begin with, favouring the natural resource sector and smaller government. This allows for the Liberal/Conservative alliance that the Saskatchewan Party harnessed in order to electorally dominate the province. 

"Through respecting provincial autonomy Harper built national unity. Prime Minister Trudeau will depart from his predecessor's style of federalism and return to that of his father, Mulroney and Chretien's."

In contrast to the Liberal Party, a federal Conservative Party that advocates for smaller government, personal liberty, keeping taxes low and respecting provincial jurisdiction will continue to appeal more greatly to the Saskatchewan electorate. But within the greater conservative movement, the question of ideological purity arises. 

There are those within the conservative movement who insist on it, particularly on social conservative issues. I respect the social conservative viewpoint but believe an insistence on it alienates a new generation of conservatives and winning potential. The conservative movement cannot afford to sacrifice the added value of this generation in lieu of social conservative ideological purity. To do so confines the movement to its base, and opposition. 

In addition to the broad conservative coalition that forms the party's base, former Liberal voters contributed to the Conservative Party forming government. Let's preserve the core principles of the conservative movement -- smaller government, lower taxes and individual freedom -- while leaving the door open for a new generation of conservatives. 

Here are a few ways I propose we do that.

First, the two lines within the party's social policy that deal with same-sex marriage. Those have to go. As interim leader Rona Ambrose stated the Conservative Party welcomes all conservatives regardless of sexual orientation. Continuing to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman prevents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender conservatives who support the movement's principles from fully coming on board. 

Second, if there were ever a time for conservatives to take up former MP Monte Solberg's green conservatism, it's after Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Trudeau's Liberals give Montreal permission to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean had the right idea. I'm not saying we go full-Green Shift, of course, but there is no question that the conservative movement needs a positive message on the environment. 

Finally, the conservative movement needs to highlight and continue former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's legacy of open federalism.

As a result of Harper's open federalism, David Akin noted, separatist sentiment in Quebec dropped to an all-time low. "Contrast that with one dumpster fire after another on the national unity front through the Pierre Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien years," he wrote in the Toronto Sun.

Through respecting provincial autonomy Harper built national unity. Prime Minister Trudeau will depart from his predecessor's style of federalism and return to that of his father, Mulroney and Chretien's. Witness Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre reject the Energy East pipeline and Prime Minister Trudeau, as Rex Murphy put it, "act as a disinterested referee."

When Canada's prime minister fails to acknowledge and respect the country's constitution, Canada's conservatives would do well to remind those with Laurentian tendencies that natural resources are within the jurisdiction of the provinces and that interprovincial transportation projects are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. 

In a series of tweets, University of Waterloo professor Emmett Macfarlane noted that "Everyone loves 'collaboration' in federalism so much that they seem to forget there are benefits to competition/experimentation. Harper's no strings, fiscally responsible but stable/predictable approach to the Canada Health Transfer was a great example."

Macfarlane continues in stating that "My worry is we return to intergovernmental relations that hinge on how much money the provinces think they can squeeze from the feds instead of, you know, innovating or --  god forbid  -- bringing a little fiscal responsibility to bear in their own affairs."

Mcfarlane's right to worry. The country's left-wing premiers know it's open season on the novice prime minister. When the chickens come home to roost, conservatives have the opportunity to demonstrate national leadership in comparison to the Liberal Party and outflank the prime minister without diverting from their core principles.

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