August 24, 2015

He's not the perfect conservative leader, but Stephen Harper's not in politics to lose

Joshua LiebleinRebel Blogger

Hark! Is that the call of the pissed-off conservative I hear? The lonely voice in the night that cries, “We need a new Conservative Party?

I have to thank Mr. Doughart, because when I wrote about how conservatives waste time fighting one another over nothing, I completely overlooked the most pointless of all the non-controversies. If you are a conservative and want to dominate the conversation for the next five minutes, announce that you are done with the CPC or PC Party of Wherever and that it’s time for a new party, one that is REALLY about conservative ideas.

Everyone will think you’re some kind of bold heretic bucking the status quo, and will mutter aside to you that they, too, are *this* close to being done with those jerks running the show and if it weren’t for the fact that the Liberals and NDP were so much worse, they’d be right there with you.

At no point will you have to answer any tough questions about your new conservative party, the ones that never get answered. What are/aren't “conservative ideas”? Who will be allowed and not allowed to join? How do we recruit competent people away from the other parties? How do you plan to challenge the PMO and all the other powerbrokers currently directing traffic? Where is all the money going to come from?

Fictitious Principled Conservative Parties are built on the assumption that ideas are going to make up for all the other practical problems, and that they’re somehow going to be different from all the other fringe parties out there, and – this is the big one- that their supporters and volunteers and donors, whoever they are, will somehow never get tired of losing.

You want to know why Harper is the way he is? Why he made a deliberate point of making enemies of so-called principled conservatives? Because he got tired of losing. Putting 1997 Harper next to 2015 Harper and pointing out how the 1997 model would be campaigning against the 2015 model implies that Harper should have stayed a principled loser. And despite what the “We Need A New Conservative Party” crowd thinks, nobody respects a loser no matter how personally honourable they are. Just ask John Tory.

The only reason this problem exists is because there quite simply aren’t enough principled conservatives to win and to advance the agenda.  Principled conservatives do not have to demonstrate the correctness of their ideas in op-eds. They have to win, and dominate the discourse after they win.

Rob Ford got the winning half of this formula right, and movements like the Tea Party and Team Trump get the controlling the discourse part right, but no conservative has been able to do both. The CPC, flaws and all, is and will remain at the high water mark for conservatism until someone proves they can do what they did without compromise.  

How will we know when a conservative has been able to do both? When it’s people on the left calling for a new progressive party. When the Liberals and the NDP get over themselves and merge, for example, or when a vengeful splinter group takes over one of the parties like what’s happening to Labour in the UK.

This is Harper’s ultimate test, the ultimate determinant of his legacy. He must drive progressives in Canada to the point of madness, to the point where they utterly abandon the centre. If he succeeds, he will have achieved his goal of breaking the Liberal consensus. If he fails? Only then will the principled conservative critics will be vindicated. 


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commented 2015-08-26 17:57:06 -0400
Hi Jay, I think Sun News tried to change that culture and I at least thought they did a great job, sometimes just at covering interesting stories no one else even bothers to consider. But it just couldn’t get viewers.
commented 2015-08-26 12:51:07 -0400
Since Ezra won’t cover this:

Harper Has To Go By Senator Patrick Brazeau

Time To Throw Harper Under The Bus

Stick to the lines, repeat the message, don’t expose any weaknesses with the hope of believing that anything Canadians don’t know won’t hurt them. That’s been Harper’s strategy in the first three weeks of this election campaign. As suggested by many people thus far, either the Prime Minister knew about the Wright payment or he was lied to by his entourage.

On August 20, 2015, when asked if he still had the confidence of Ray Novak, he responded, “…there is one person on trial here. It is Mr. Duffy because Mr. Duffy took taxpayers money that I believed right from the onset he should not be taking, and I told him so.” He later states, “and in this case I have held the two people accountable who are responsible: Mr. Duffy, who did not repay his expenses, and Mr. Wright, who allowed him not to repay his expenses.” Wait a second, is it Stephen Harper who investigated and laid charges? I have one piece of advice for the Prime Minister: let a judge decide if any person(s) are responsible or accountable. Canadians are tired of a Prime Minister acting like a judge, jury and executioner. Harper’s record with the Supreme Court speaks for itself. Stay out of the judiciary.

I don’t have a personal agenda here, as I have enough personal issues to deal with but I feel it necessary to share some views on the Stephen Harper I know. Now I know the vast majority of Canadians have very little sympathy for the Senate and perhaps rightfully so, but I’m hopeful and I trust Canadians have strong views on principles of natural justice, the presumption of innocence and democracy – three concepts Harper ignores.

Section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees every Canadian citizen the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. Fact is, Harper has done the contrary. With his public comments, he wants Canadians to believe we are guilty until proven innocent because he has decided as such. I suspect this is the reason he denied Senators Duffy, Harb, Wallin and myself an independent and impartial process to plead our cases in the Senate in 2013. It’s no great secret that Harper despises the Senate yet uses it for his own political gain. When he throws mud at the Senate, he knows many Canadians will sympathize with him because we’re all a bunch of “crooks” right? I ask you to keep an open mind and let us have our day in a real court of law – not Harper’s court of law. After all, has the Prime Minister been honest? Has the PMO? Has the RCMP been just in their investigation or is this all political?

The principle of natural justice, in its simplest form, can be summarized as fair play, ensuring that people have a right to be heard, decisions made being free of bias and based on evidence. Yes, actions were taken and decisions were made by the Harper Conservatives but did they take into account the principles of natural justice? With all the information and testimony coming out of the Duffy trial thus far and the alleged number of people involved in the Prime Ministers Office and other Conservative Senators in the “Senate scandal”, do you believe decisions were made free of bias and purely on evidence? I will let you decide but in my case, the answer is no.

Harper’s democracy is simple: it’s his way or the highway. As former Senator Segal once said, “Some folks think the best way to deal with these problems is to throw everybody under the bus…well guess what you’re going to run out of buses and you’re going to run out of people.” Ain’t that the truth! I don’t know this to be fact but I’m starting to think Harper must have been a young kid who was made fun of at school and to him, image was and is everything. Who knows, he may have been bullied for the way he looked, dressed or for what he said. If that’s the case, it surely explains how vengeful this man is. Think of people such as Bill Casey, Helena Guergis, Bev Oda, and Nigel Wright. Senators Duffy, Wallin, myself and perhaps others to come. Think of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverly McLachlin. Think of unions, First Nations people, and interest groups. Think of those that we don’t know about. Don’t forget our Veterans. Are all these people wrong and only Harper is right, honest and accountable? Think of the 40+ Conservative MPs who are not seeking re-election under Harper. Think of high profile Cabinet Ministers such as John Baird, Peter MacKay, James Moore and Christian Paradis. They may all have great reasons for not running under the Harper banner but I suspect it is much more than that.

One thing is certain; from what I know, Harper is a control freak. When I was in caucus, very few challenged him. Those who did were shut down, those who had differing opinions were silenced. One can assume this is not inherent to the Conservative party but it is ironic many MP’s are not seeking re-election under Harper. Let me just say that many of those were often not in agreement with Harper. Is it possible Harper promised between 2011-2015 that he would not be running again but decided otherwise? Did Harper’s command and control approach disengage some of his troops? Did PMO’s control and hand in every single decision, caucus, House committees, Senate committee’s piss off some people? I would lean on the yes side.

In fact, I most likely pissed off the Prime Minister long before my personal struggles began. I stood up to Harper in the fall of 2012 and shamed him in front of caucus for not having an Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. In that same time period, I was successful in having the Senate committee on human rights study the rights of off-reserve Aboriginal people for the first time in Canadian history. The PMO, the office of the Aboriginal Affairs Minister and some of my own colleagues were against this study and gave me a hard time. Why were they against this project? It would have meant claiming jurisdiction of the federal government towards off-reserve Aboriginal people…meaning money and lots of it to correct the wrongs of the past. Once I got kicked out of caucus on February 7, 2013, Marjory Lebreton pulled the study out of the Senate. I was gone, out of their way. That’s how they operate.

When you contradict, shame or make the PM look bad regardless of its significance, watch out because some of his soldiers are coming after you. Is that “PROVEN LEADERSHIP?” No, its “PROVEN DICTATORSHIP” and it scares me and it should scare you. I’m afraid of what Harper and his entourage will do to achieve their ends because I have lived it and they have done everything imaginable to ensure I lose my job even though I have been honest, open and accountable. For heaven’s sake, I haven’t had a fair trial yet. Luckily, that day will come for me. Unfortunately, that day will come for the Harper Conservatives.

I’m not surprised none of Harper’s former soldiers have come out yet and corroborated just how heavy-handed the Prime Minister can be although I bet many would like to. I don’t blame them because if they did, they would likely be sitting beside me with others who were once loyal to Stephen Harper and that came with a great personal and professional cost. Harper got me into trouble in early 2009 following a meeting I had with him on December 16, 2008 and I took the bullets for him. No more.

My parents, like many others taught me when you lie, you eventually end up getting caught. Even though you try to hide it, get friends to tell your version of events and/or hope the lie goes away. Then you round up those friends and supporters with the narrative that everyone else is the problem and everyone is out to get us. That’s what Harper is doing and he’s hoping his base will believe him. Well I for one don’t buy it. There are many great Conservative candidates running in this election and Canadians will have a choice to make come October 19th but my choice is made: I was once a loyal soldier to the Prime Minister and as a former Conservative caucus member, Stephen Harper has got to go for the good of the Conservative party. His time is up and the CPC needs to find a replacement yesterday. I believe Harper’s love for power and control is dangerous and he has ruined the lives of people who were close and loyal to him. I cannot imagine what he does to his enemies.

Many Canadians have made up their minds as to whether Harper knew about the Wright-Duffy payment. Who knows, he may have ordered it, he may just knew about it or perhaps he was totally in the dark. Knowing how he operated, I have trouble believing it was the latter. But unlike Stephen Harper, I will not pronounce my personal views on the matter because I am not a judge, jury or executioner. Harper owes it to all Canadians to come clean and tell the truth. He only has to follow his own words. Let’s get Harper on a witness stand under oath. If not, let’s just get him out of office on October 19th!
commented 2015-08-26 02:04:08 -0400
Joshua, sitting out here on the far left coast it seemed pretty clear that Tim Hudak could gain no traction no matter what he said. Ontario is a very strange place these days. The foreign worker issue should be a conservative issue as it should be an NDP issue. More an NDP issue really as foreign workers drive wages down. However, my point was not foreign workers, mine was that immigration from Islamic countries needs to take a breather. It is very specific.

Jason, your comment " Canada is just not a conservative country" is, I suspect, currently true. And that is partially because we have not made anything like a case for conservatism however defined. A conservative country needs, before politics, a conservative culture. But conservatives lose the culture wars because they don’t bother fighting them.

A culture is a lot of things. It’s books and movies and church on Sunday. It is about volunteering, it is about stopping the SJWs in their tracks with facts and figures, it is about taking climate science seriously and pointing out the uncertainties. It is also about pushing back steadily and forcefully on everything from radical sex ed to Islamohysteria.

Wandering around in the mushy middle hoping to cobble together a centerist majority is what the Liberal Party is for. A real CPC would be pushing into the center from the right.

When Harper loses it is going to be time to create a Conservative Party which is willing to run a serious ground game. Can’t be done? The Reform Party proved it could. The Alliance proved it could. There is going to be a realignment in Canadian politics after this election. My bet is that the left Liberals will support a Mulcair minority and, in a couple of years, the Liberal Party will be done. The business Liberals will be up for grabs.

A fiscally conservative, socially libertarian Conservative Party will have the capacity to attract young voters and aspirational voters. Yes, the socons will be shut out; but the socons are a diminishing brand. Mulcair faces serious dissention from his left which, with luck, he’ll pivot to mollify. With the Libs gone that opens a path for a serious, Conservative party to take government.
commented 2015-08-25 22:38:52 -0400

I would just ignore it. There are plenty of websites and news sources that I can go to that will tell me what I want to hear. Don’t like the CBC – don’t watch it. It’s one of a million things that tax dollars go to – that you may or may not support.
commented 2015-08-25 22:30:37 -0400
Jason – THANK YOU.

This should be posted on every thread. Canada is just not a conservative country.
commented 2015-08-25 22:10:41 -0400
Joshua, further to the veterans’ issue: my problem is likely with whatever genius told Harper to look the other way when the issue was first coming up. I can’t help but think that someone in the CPC would have started to notice a lot of complaints, very public complaints, and getting some press. There ARE people in the party who’s job it is to do these things, doncha think? A political leader’s job is to head off these types of things, IMHO. I find it hard to believe that nobody saw this bad news coming because it looks like it has to be one of two things: either they just dropped the ball, which implies incompetence; or they deliberately ignored some veteran’s issues, which implies malice.
I’ve got to admit, I can’t rule out the malice option on the face of it. I haven’t done a ton of research on the issue, but it’s possible that it comes from a small group of loud and left of center veterans, perhaps guys who have had a history of some kind of public activism in the past (I’m thinking of the idiot from Edmonton who can’t seem to express an opinion about our Prime Minister without adding profanity to his car window sign). Maybe the whole issue is just mud that a select few veterans are throwing because they can. I don’t know, but if that’s the case I can see the government being the way they have been in the past regarding citizens who are thorns in their sides, politically. Like Marc Emery, for example. However, this issue just doesn’t feel like that. It’s more likely, to me, that it’s just incompetence. Which leads to it’s own set of problems. Either way, the boat’s sailed and the CPC’s just going to have to deal with it. Maybe the party should just focus on good governance instead of turning everything into a political issue.
commented 2015-08-25 21:55:52 -0400
Jimmy, we’ve got to keep the pressure up, or that network will just become the de facto Ministry of Truth. Yes, everyone gets that Harper can’t just cut the CBC, but to just bury our heads in the sands and accept it just isn’t possible. You’re left of center, how would you feel if one of the major networks routinely lied about your party, your ideology, and actively covered up problems with it’s own parties and ideologies? While claiming neutrality, despite blatant bias in almost everything produced? In soviet Russia you didn’t have the option of calling for truth from Pravda (see what I did there?) because it would mean your freedom, but here in Canada we still have the right to publicly demand that our broadcasters adhere to some kind of moral code to not get involved in politics. It’s how I was trained for the media, it’s how I carried myself when I was a member of the trade, and it’s how every reporter and/or journalist who claims to be unbiased should do their jobs. You want to express an opinion? Write an opinion piece. If it’s news, it’s unbiased. If it isn’t unbiased, it isn’t news. It’s propaganda, and if it’s presented as unbiased news then it’s bullshit, pure and evil. The CBC can’t just call itself the Liberal network, not when it’s a Conservative government. What it can do is lie about it’s very existence, cover up it’s bias with lies, and do everything possible to bring the natural order (Liberal government) back. It’s like Harper’s got his very own fifth column, embedded right in the heart of government, working against him at every step. And you wonder why he stopped the hallway ambush interviews.
I say the solution, to be implemented should Harper win again, is to put the hammer down at the CBC. Start with extremely tight controls, and force them to open up their books. See to it that their own skeletons are exposed to the other networks (really no honour among thieves, there). Find some way to fire that dictator at the top, and put in someone more likely to not run the network like a 5th column working against the governing party. I’m available! This would ultimately turn into reduced funding, and relieve some of the political pressure on Harper. But really, the situation as it is is ridiculous. Something has to be done. That is why we keep up the pressure. Or, we could just bury our heads in the sand and hope it all works out. I know that’s what you would us rather do, Jimmy.
commented 2015-08-25 18:31:41 -0400
There are more reasons than I can count lately to not vote for the CPC. I will never give money to the party, or actively promote them, but I will likely vote for them this fall. The reason I will vote for them is it has taken many years, but I have finally concluded that Canada is just not a conservative country. People tried. National Post was created as a conservative alternative, but that fell apart, and now it is barely right of centre of the Mop and Pail. Sun News was tried but no one was interested. We are a small group clinging on by our fingernails. Once the left merges it is truly game over, as the only way to get former Liberal votes will be for the CPC to drift even further left. Look at Britain. What many call a success is truly just a capitulation. Cameron is a carbon copy of Edward Heath, a man allergic to conservatism, having all embraced of the milquetoast region what they call the “centre”. The true conservatism party UKIP was soundly defeated.
commented 2015-08-25 13:29:22 -0400
As was stated in the thread link below – any more conservative than Harper and conservatives will NEVER win elections. It’s the same thing in America. Someone like Rick Santorum will NEVER be President. If a Republican wins – it will be someone who is center right. Maybe socially liberal on some issues.

Like Peter said:

A further right leaning Conservative leading the Conservative party will not get into office. Canadians always tend to vote for centrist parties, not far left nor far right. I would rather have a centrist/slightly right leaning PM such as Harper than Justin or Thomas.

That is the reality of it.
commented 2015-08-25 13:00:55 -0400
the immigration / migrant issue taking place (especially in eastern Europe), is the result of inaction on ISIS, the ‘stay away and it will go away policy’, has developed into how do we control the “here they come” result…
commented 2015-08-25 04:35:37 -0400
Paul: I’m saying that the precedent for winning without courting the middle has not been set yet, and until it is, lots of people, even conservatives, will oppose cutting funding for the CBC. Prove you can get away with it and those objections will disappear.

Jay is quite right in that lots of people seem indifferent to the CBC, but a lot of people must have seemed indifferent to the government’s treatment of veterans (to speak to your other point), or else the CPC must have thought that it wouldn’t cost them any seats, or something. The veterans’ protests show that we can’t make armchair generalizations about what the consequences of this or that cut are. That’s why I say we need to prove, conclusively, that more people will vote CPC if Harper puts forward a Principled Conservative position.

Jay: Here in Ontario, Tim Hudak campaigned against “foreign workers” in 2011. He was pretty blunt about it. It bombed disastrously. Is it time to try again, in your view? If so, what changed between 2011 and now?
commented 2015-08-25 01:53:15 -0400
Joshua, you write " Show me a constituency of people who will switch their vote or will get off the sidelines and vote for a party who calls for privatizing the CBC and halts immigration. " Let’s start with the CBC. there are a tiny minority of Canadians who are wildly onside with the CBC. There is a huge, indifferent, never listen to it, middle and there are a goodly number of people who would love to see it vanish. Privatize? Maybe. Or defund. However, the political pitch is that this edifice costs a billion dollars a year. We can use that money for better things. Then give a list. A billion dollars buys a lot of soccer fields, scholarships…. The politics of the CBC are that a bunch of elitist fat cat vice presidents are sitting in downtown Toronto looking down their noses at the ROC rubes who didn’t get how awesome Jian was because racism. Go after the culture.

On immigration: I did not say all immigration. I said immigration from Muslim countries. At the moment there is no particular reason we need Muslim immigrants and many Canadians are seeing what is happening in Sweden, Germany, France, the UK and the rest of Europe and realizing that if we insist upon bringing an alien and apparently hostile culture to our country we can expect much the same result. Actually talking about this could be a huge vote winner because it is standing up for Canada. <a href=“”">">70% of Canadians support restrictions on immigration. </a> I bet limits on immigration from Islamic states would enjoy even greater levels of support. And, more importantly, it would be a sensible thing to do while the Muslim world is in a state of incohate rage against all things Western. A ten or twenty year moratorium on such immigration would make sense from a security perspective and from the perspective of needing to assimilate the Muslims who are already here. As such I suspect it would enjoy significant political support.
commented 2015-08-25 01:10:39 -0400

If you acknowledge that Stephen Harper would lose the election if he pulled funding from the CBC – then why aren’t conservatives taking that into account when they spew all their defund the CBC demands.

It would happen for any election, since most Canadians – which include some conservatives approve of the CBC. Harper is one of them. I don’t think he is faking here.

My point is that I think conservatives need to just get over whole CBC thing and let it go. You are not going to win this one.
commented 2015-08-25 01:00:05 -0400
A couple of point Joshua: it sounds an awful lot like you’re saying that in order for a conservative to win he has to court the middle. Not a huge leap of logic, there. Most conservatives I talk to get why he hasn’t gutted the CBC – yet. He wins another majority, he better do something about that. The backlash would cost him this election, but maybe not the next. Also, your essay doesn’t explain Harper’s treatment of veterans. Whether real or imagined, the image in the public’s eye currently is that the CPC has pretty much totally abandoned any pretense of standing up for veterans. Trudeau’s going to feast on that demographic this election, and that’s regrettable because it should have been solid blue but for this government’s apparent lack of desire to deal with the issue fairly. It wouldn’t even have been necessarily seen as partisan politics either, for the government to come through with some of the initiatives that Trudeau is promising now. It’s not likely anyone would have faulted Harper for making some of those promises himself, the veteran vote should traditionally go right wing anyway. But now, that’s gone Liberal, and it’s likely going to be a generation before it goes back to a conservative party. My point is that he could have courted that vote, but he didn’t, and now it’s too late. That was a mistake, and with some others it might just lead to his losing his position. If you’re saying winning is everything, then why not take him to task for doing the things wrong that he could have done better as far as that is concerned? What rocket scientist whispered in his ear to very publicly ignore the concerns of veterans? Because that’s the picture his opposition has painted of him on this matter, and it stuck. It could have been handled better, it should have been handled better, and now we all might have to pay for that.
commented 2015-08-25 00:14:44 -0400
Harper is the most Honest Politician – when all you have to compare him to is Justin and Mulcair—both of whom would promise all the Souls in Canada to the Devil - for a wee bit of Power.
commented 2015-08-24 21:07:44 -0400
Jay, we need proof that those positions you put out there are vote winners for the CPC. Show me a constituency of people who will switch their vote or will get off the sidelines and vote for a party who calls for privatizing the CBC and halts immigration. I don’t see the growth potential. I see more growth potential with attracting #Gamergaters at this point.
commented 2015-08-24 15:22:17 -0400
At the moment, plus minus a few points, the CPC is running at around 30% nationally. This is down from the high water mark of 39% in 2011 and down from the two minorities where the CPC hit 37 and 36%. There are lots of potential explanations for this slippage and there is no reason to believe that, come election day, the CPC will not pick up a few points. But the reality is that the conservative interest in Canada is a minority taste and one which, after years of CPC government, does not seem to have expanded much.

Why? Mark Steyn has pointed out that culture trumps politics. I think he is right. And the problem the CPC has had is that it has been entirely unwilling to take any steps to alter Canadian political culture. There was a lot which could have been done. The CBC could have been cut to the bone, the CHRC and the Canadian Human Rights Act Section 13 could have been repealed by the government (rather than via a private members bill), immigration from Muslim countries could have be drastically reduced, the absurdities of spending money to mitigate CO2 emissions in the face of dodgy science could have been exposed, government spending could have been cut in real terms. None of this happened. Which meant that the political culture of Canada has remained rooted in the mushy middle.

Winning is certainly a useful goal for a politician. Harper won. And then proceeded to govern on the basis of not rocking the Laurentian consensus. While the progressive elites and the media party hate him, their grip on Canadian political culture has not been loosened in the five years of the Harper majority government. Because Harper has done nothing which in any way challenges that grip. Instead he has tip toed around the edges and tossed a few tax bones to the middle class.

It is early days in this election but I don’t think it is crazy to say that Harper is not going to win another majority (I note my election prediction skills are pathetic). In fact, I think he’ll be lucky to win a minority. And one of the main reasons for that is there is very little reason to vote for the CPC. What positive changes have they enacted? How have they changed the national conversation? Or, put another way, what conservative initiatives would be lost if the NDP formed a minority government? What conservative “reforms” would the NDP reverse?

The only way for the conservative interest to consistently win is to create a genuine alternative to the business as usual, mushy middle, politics Ottawa thrives on. The progressives in Canada are not going to root around for a Jeremy Corbyn, they don’t have to. They already control the high ground of Canadian politics, the academy and the media and Harper and the CPC have done nothing at all to change that.