The domination of the Liberal Party in the 20th century has been remarkable. It’s obviously not just a series of a flukes or the fact that John A MacDonald hung Louis Riel. Since the Great Depression, the Conservatives have had only two breaks from Liberal rule (or, as they say in Alberta, “Liberal oppression”). Well, Joe Clark had a week or two, but I think that was more because Pierre Trudeau needed a vacation and people across Canada needed comic relief.
John Diefenbaker won in 1957, and Brian Mulroney won in 1984. In both cases, they ran to the left of the Liberals or, at the very least, in the same general vicinity of them on the political spectrum. One of the main reasons Diefenbaker succeeded in ’57 was because he indirectly promised people “Liberal government, without Liberals”. He was a Red Tory, in every sense of the word. He was seen as progressive because he was the only Conservative to vote in favour of family allowances when the Liberals brought it in. Sure, he was a paranoid ditherer, but he was a left-leaning paranoid ditherer.
So why is this relevant? Two reasons. First of all, there’s this head-scratching article in the Globe and Mail (slogan: “No headline too sensationalistic!”) under the headline “Harper faces split in party”. Apparently, Harper is trying to pack their leadership convention with right wing conservatives. I’m going to assume this is sloppy journalism because Stephen Harper is a lot smarter than this. I know some people feel Harper can win with a clear, right wing platform, but I don’t buy it. That might work for Bernard Lord or Belinda Stronach, but Harper is still associated with his reform-alliance days and if he doesn’t look moderate, there’s no way Ontario (or Quebec for that matter but we’re more likely to see Liberal seats in Calgary than Tory seats in Quebec, so why even worry about it?) will ever elect him. The absolute worst thing the Conservatives could do would be to say anything about abortion at their policy convention or in their platform. I don’t care if it’s a reasonable policy against late-term abortions than 70% of Canadians would agree with if they took the time to think about it. We saw what happened last time they mentioned the a-word: “STEPHEN HARPER WILL TAKE AWAY A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE! CHARTER OF RIGHTS!!!! OVER MY DEAD BODY!!! COME HELL OR HIGH WATER!!!! LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR – HARPER IS GEORGE W BUSH!!!!” That will happen again, if they so much as touch the issue.
Despite this, we saw Calgary MP Jim Prentice announce he’ll vote in favour of Same Sex Marriage. I don’t think Jim Prentice will ever amount to much politically, but keep an eye on Belinda Stronach and James Moore. If we only get 3 or 4 Tories supporting the bill, the few who do will be see by Canadians everywhere as “moderates”. You don’t think when gay marriage has been around for a decade and the fabric of society hasn’t collapsed that those who opposed it will look backwards in the eyes of the majority? Just like Dief made a name for himself supporting family allowance, Stronach and Moore will be launching future leadership campaigns of theirs when they get up to vote for equal marriage this spring. Belinda’s a tough one to predict, but I’m absolutely positive that James Moore is going to be a future Prime Minister of this country. Maybe in 10 years, maybe in 20, but it will happen.