I’ve been pretty critical of conservatism, particularly neoconservatism. That isn’t to say that I don’t see the merits in conservatism. However, I feel like the modern conservative parties are planted too far to the right for me to ever consider them. That said, I recognize the need for a strong opposition and opposing viewpoints. So, since I love speculating so much, let’s have a look from the perspective of a naive liberal.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are in the midst of a leadership race after John Tory failed to win a seat. Looking at the candidates that are running, this seems to be interpreted by the party as a failure of the Red Tories instead of a failure of John Tory. As a result, there’s no real moderate conservative running in this race. This leadership race is pretty much a fight between the various wings of the party.
Hillier has the rural vote. This isn’t terribly interesting except for the question of how such an electoral strategy would work. Apparently, he’s pretty anti-government too. I’m not exactly sure how he’s supposed to appeal to anyone who isn’t in a rural riding. Klees is in a similar situation, with the social conservatives. I wasn’t even aware that there were enough social conservatives in the Ontario PC to form a faction.
Then we’ve got Christine Elliott, who doesn’t really own a faction. Compared to all the other candidates, she’s in the best position to represent the moderate conservatives. Of course, she’s also backed by some pretty hardcore conservatives, which is a bit worrisome. There is also the fact that it’s likely that the party doesn’t want to give the Red Tories another shot after John Tory screwed up so badly. Given the other choices though, if she doesn’t go for the moderates, it’s unlikely that anyone else would appeal to them.
The most interesting thing about the race is that Tim Hudak is the frontrunner. The problem with John Tory’s failure is that the Ontario PC have seemed to take it as a sign that the electorate isn’t interested in moderate conservatism. Of course, that’s not true, since the issue that destroyed Tory was religious school funding and his decision to try and win a seat in Toronto. Yet, the PCs seem to be really eager to prop up a hardcore neoconservative and invoking memories of Mike Harris.
I can’t see any reason why the PCs would think that anyone in Ontario outside of the hardcore elements of their own party would like to return to the days of the Harris conservatives. For one thing, all those kids in school during the strikes? That’s us, and we can all vote now. I can’t say that there’s a lot of people my age who have a fondness for Mike Harris.
I don’t think that another Mike Harris can win against Dalton McGuinty unless McGuinty does something to anger the public immensely. That something could be the sales tax harmonization, but from my understanding, it was something the PCs were pushing for too. McGuinty hasn’t done anything bad enough to make the public not like him, even after he did the health premium stuff.
That leads me to believe that the support around Hudak is just the old Harris people trying to gain control of the party again rather than any special electoral strategy behind it. Otherwise, I can’t see how they think they can win against a strong Liberal government.
And into Canada proper, there’s the question of who would replace Stephen Harper when he decides to step down. This is an interesting scenario, because of the timing. Harper’s inability to secure a majority government against successive severely weakened Liberals has given the Liberals the chance to form up under a stronger, more popular leader. At this point, it’s difficult to say whether Harper will be leading the Conservatives into one more election. There’s not as much speculation surrounding this because there’s no leadership race yet. That hasn’t stopped people from tossing out names.
Among the people who’ve had their names tossed, there are two that are of particular interest to me, mostly because they’re the sort of conservative who I wouldn’t mind leading the party or the country, and if they work at it, maybe even voting for them. This is mostly because they don’t seem like they’d play the political games that Harper’s been playing and are both fairly moderate conservatives.
The first is Jim Prentice. He’s pretty big on the Internets for crafting the hated Bill C-61. For me, that is minus-points. But besides that, he seems like a fairly capable leader and a moderate conservative. He was a part of the former Progressive Conservatives and ran for the leadership. He’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative and he was the biggest pusher for merging with Reform.
The more interesting one is Jean Charest, currently the Quebec Liberal Premier, and former leader of the federal PCs. He’s definitely got the skills for leadership, he’s a Red Tory, and managed to salvage the PCs after they imploded in 1993. Of course, he’s got support in Quebec, but it’s more of a crapshoot determining if he’d be able to win over the Reform “WEST FIRST” chaps in the party.